USAID’s embarrassing meddling in the Ethiopian media (transliterated from Amharic)

By Dilwenberu Nega
August 29 2009

I had become so fascinated by Nessibu Taye’s “Assafariw Ye USAID Talka Gebenet Be Ethiopia Media” ( that I decided to transliterate it for the benefit of non-Amharic speaking netters. It’s a great eye opener!

The May 2005 Election started in our history as the harbinger of a great hope for the establishment of democracy. However, because of the blatant and sinister support given to the Opposition by foreign forces that had breached the letter and spirit of their remit as well as because of the ensuing chaos by power mongers, The Election was, instead, made to leave a scar in the annals of our history. It was an interventionist episode which clearly demonstrated: the source and goal of proffering vast sum of cash to the Opposition and to the private press, how in the name of respect to human rights foreign forces were witnessed shedding crocodile tears, how the same forces were writing fabricated stories and circulating news and how even at times they had no qualms in culling ‘relevant quotes’ from the Holy Bible – all done to rally the public behind an impending Orange Revolution. Inebriated by emotional lunacy which led them to believe that EPDRF’s days were numbered to a mere one week, these foreign forces were seen encouraging the Opposition and the private press as they revelled in bars and speakeasies.

The truth of the matter, however, was diametrically opposed to what they were trying hard to portray because not only was the truth free from sentiments but it was based on the unadulterated prevailing condition of the state of the nation. That is why those who were ventilating hateful toxic propaganda were made to don ‘the shawl of disgrace’ and their sinister actions relegated to historical infamy. The riots in some towns and cities which were nudged and funded by foreign forces all crumbled with no chance of ever being resuscitated. The people and EPDRF prevailed.

Those who regard themselves as Ethiopians, on the other hand, were engaged in the despicable - bordering the loony - act of breast-beating to the Ethiopian Diaspora and in ceaselessly prostrating themselves on the gates of their foreign masters appealing for an immediate halt of economic aid to Ethiopia. What in essence they were doing was nothing less than waging an all out offensive on the poor farmers and their children, as well as on the livelihood of the 80 million Ethiopians in the four corners of Ethiopia. Their offensive also targeted the education, the health, the economic development and the stride Ethiopians were making in building a veritable democratic order. By their very actions, these ‘Ethiopians’ had intended to sentence fellow Ethiopians to death and darkness.

These ‘Ethiopians’ have made repeated attempts at armlocking the Government of Ethiopia via the good offices of so called super powers and powerful international organizations. The internal affairs of Ethiopia and its governance have always remained and will continue to remain for eternity the prerogative of Ethiopians and not foreign forces. And it would be futile for foreign forces to anticipate a situation where they would be stake-holders in this regard. In fact, the EPDRF Government is renowned for it’s no nonsense policy of not transferring what is in essence our national honour and pride, for firmly standing by its belief that Ethiopia’s peace and security issues are non-negotiable. Moreover, the Government’s unflinching policy stand based on the premise that the mere fact we are poor and therefore have become recipients of foreign aid, must not be misconstrued to mean we are willing to either kow-tow or become the factotum of foreign forces, had sent shivers down the spines of these ‘Ethiopians.’

It is an unfortunate state of affairs to witness that there are to be found today those to whom the May 2005 National Election has not taught them relevant lessons. There are foreign forces like USAID, who having rubbed its eyes with salt, is seen leaving no stone unturned to achieve encore bouts of chaos and instability during the forthcoming 2010 National Election. To this end, USAID is seen splashing out cash to a number of opposition parties and to a number of journalists from the private media. What is baffling, here, is the Government’s inaction in the face of naked intervention by foreign forces in the internal affairs of Ethiopia. Many expect the Government’s silence and inaction to come to a halt and for it to read the riot act to USAID.

At Embassy cocktail circuit, USAID is seen agitating the Opposition and some members of the private press on the Election which is 10 months away. It had the effrontery to “express USAID’s concern on the 2010 National Election, that the democratic space has narrowed, the Opposition cannot compete in a narrow playing field and that the ratified NGO Act would not work.” Moreover, USAID even criticised what Deputy Ambassador Deborah Malek openly supported by stating “the Press Law is restrictive and that there exists human rights violations in Ethiopia, etc.”

The funny thing is that before political campaigning had really begun, USAID is playing the role of a clairvoyant, if not Nostradamus himself, and is seen dishing out predictions willy-nilly. Well, we know the source of its survey: a motley crew of leaders of opposition parties, owners of the private press and a few journalists and those who claim to be leaders of civic societies. USAID officers are seen hobnobbing with this lot in Embassies and hotels where the topic of agenda is one and one only - what USAID predicts would be “an unfair election.” According to them nothing good has been done in present day Ethiopia. Though they, themselves, had witnessed the nation’s breath-taking achievements in the sphere of development, in education, in building democratic institutions and in the unprecedented level of freedom of thought and speech enjoyed by Ethiopians, they are willing to turn a blind eye as long as it serves their sinister design of playing havoc at the next Election.

When I observe the wayward behaviour of USAID in Ethiopia’s domestic affair, I keep on asking myself: Why is USAID more concerned about Ethiopia than Ethiopians? Does USAID really care and worry about Ethiopia? Why is USAID intent on meddling in our domestic affairs by dishing out dollars to private media outlets? Who is seen striving for the respect for democracy and human rights, who has a no nonsense policy towards the upholding of the rule of law? Who strives and cares more for speedy development and the enhancement of peace and stability? Is it the Government and people of Ethiopia, or is it USAID and its gung-ho supporters?

At a recent meeting USAID chaired at The Dome in Dembel Shopping Centre in Addis, I witnessed something that no nation in the world would dare tolerate. USAID Officer had the brazen audacity to pontificate to the invited members of the private press about the need for the press to focus on the forth-coming Election as time is of the essence. He went on to tell us that money was no object as long as a well presented project proposal was submitted to USAID. When the patriots from among the invitees questioned the USAID Officer: “as the Election is solely an Ethiopian affair, we will manage it by ourselves, why interfere in our domestic affair?” The USAID Officer replied that they had purely intended to assist in the training process only.

The big and small from the Fourth Estate flocked to Dembel as soon as they heard that USAID was dishing out cash to journalists. It really was such a despicable scene to see Addis Neger, The Reporter, Addis Admas, Sendek, Awramba, FM etc. all scavenging on USAID. What is interested, here, is that I distinctly remember attending meetings and workshops for journalists by the Ethiopian Government umpteen times when it was clearly spelled out that the current Press Law prohibits the Ethiopian Fourth Estate to solicit or accept funding or financial assistance from foreign forces.

Those scenes at The Dome will definetly go down in the annals of Ethiopian Journalism as The Day of Infamy. How could a journalist be so greedy for alms that they are prepared to betray not only the ethos of journalism, but most worryingly the sovereignty of the Motherland. Anyway, anyone toying with the idea of ‘importing’ the Orange Revolution in time for the next National Election is in for a rude awakening.

USAID may have unlimited cash at its disposal to use for its intended sinister designs and expects dividends from its ‘investments.’ But it would be naive of USAID to expect the Government of Ethiopia to stand and stare while it bulldozes the law of a sovereign Ethiopia. The Government of Ethiopia has availed itself of various opportunities in the past to crystallize its firm stand that issues related to the supremacy of the rule of law, national interest; peace and security remain its prerogative and as such are non-negotiable.

As I continue to mull over the incident at The Dome and the near stampede of journalists for what amounts to alms in return for the sale of the pride and sovereignty of Ethiopia, an Amharic saying flooded my sense of reasoning: “He who has experience in brokerage, will broker his mum.”

In summing up, let it be known to USAID and to any other force which intends to use the private media outlets for the realization of their sinister goal of mugging the democratic process in Ethiopia at the next Election that no matter how they try hard the will of the Ethiopian people will prevail. Of one thing we all can now be certain of: The people of Ethiopia are ever so determined that the 2010 National Election will be fair and peaceful. It’s time for USAID and others to take stock of what they have done, and refrain from stepping over the red-line. It’s high time, too, for the Government to bring to an abrupt end its policy of tolerance in the face of an aggression on our sovereign status. There could be no such thing as unlimited tolerance.