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DLA Piper, a hired gun for rogue nations

DLA Piper chief executive Nigel Knowles poses with Obama

A Newsweek article by Joshua Kurlantzick points out the shameful activities of some law/lobbying firms in Washington DC that are hired guns for criminal regimes around the world who are terrorizing their people. The most notorious among them is DLA Piper that receives over $50,000 per month from the genocidal junta in Ethiopia for lobbying U.S. Government officials to play down the brutal repression in the country. DLA Piper has also been trying to shut down Ethiopian Review on behalf of the Meles regime’s moneyman Al Amoudi. The effects of DLA Piper’s lobbying has been disastrous to Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa region. Its client, the regime in Ethiopia, has been committing unspeakable atrocities through out Ethiopia and the region with impunity while getting billions of dollar in assistance from the US. In Ogaden and Gambella regions of Ethiopia, the regime’s troops wiped out entire villages, as documented by international human rights groups. The U.S. Government, which is quick to point out human rights violations around the world, has said little about Ethiopian regime’s crimes, due in large part to DLA Piper’s lobbying effort.

The Hired Guns: When leaders of rogue nations hire Washington lobbyists, opposition voices get crowded out.

By Joshua Kurlantzick | Newsweek

Once the province of a few fringe players operating on the margins of Washington, lobbying for foreign countries has become big business for the most prestigious firms in D.C. According to data from the Department of Justice, the number of registrants—forms submitted by people registered to represent foreign countries—grew from about 1,800 in the first half of 2005 to 1,900 in the first half of 2009, the most recent data available. Human-rights activists say there has been a steeper rise, particularly in terms of dollars spent, among some of the most brutal regimes on earth, including several sanctioned by the U.S. for their human-rights abuses.

The Republic of the Congo spent $1.5 million on lobbying and PR firms and other representation in the first half of 2009 alone, according to reports compiled by the Justice Department. Angola, one of the most corrupt nations in the world, spent more than $3 million in that period. Teodoro Nguema Obiang, the brutal dictator of African petrostate Equatorial Guinea, who took power more than three decades ago in a coup, has hired the law firm of former Bill Clinton aide Lanny Davis to lobby on his behalf, for the annual sum of $1 million. (Davis says the arrangement is contingent on Obiang’s progress on human-rights issues.) Chris Walker, of the NGO Freedom House, says this is all a reflection of the fact that “authoritarian regimes recognize there is a greater payoff in participating in and influencing the decision-making process, rather than sitting it out.”

In the past, foreign lobbying by rogues in Washington was a relatively small game. Nazi agents lobbying in Washington before World War II had tainted the whole enterprise, a stain that would take decades to erase. Though allies like Japan or Britain could find representation, the task of shilling for the nastiest governments fell to those like Edward von Kloberg III. Wearing a cape and calling himself “Baron,” a made-up honor, he represented Saddam Hussein and Nicolae Ceausescu, among others. Many developing nations, including China, meanwhile, had little idea how to win influence in Washington through lobbying. China has built a lobby since its harsh experience in 2005, when Congress, playing upon a strong anti-China sentiment among constituents, scuttled an attempt by China National Offshore Oil Corp. to purchase American petroleum firm Unocal. Now even new regimes waste no time finding their men in Washington. After seizing power in a coup last summer, and facing immediate criticism from the Obama administration, Honduras’s new military rulers quickly spent at least $400,000 to hire powerful American firms to lobby for them.

One result is that lobbying has become less transparent. U.S. law requires lobbyists to disclose all contracts with foreign clients, but the reality is that filings about foreign clients offer little information, and some lobbyists simply don’t file. “I was so careful to document every phone call, every meeting, and then I found that some other people, they don’t file at all,” says one lobbyist who works extensively with foreign clients. “Does anything happen to them? Not really.” Since the mid-1960s, in fact, the U.S. government has never successfully prosecuted anyone for violating the disclosure rules.

The rise in foreign lobbying may have also compromised the policymaking of current and future U.S. government officials. With little oversight, lobbyists can represent the most repressive regimes and then turn around and work in government. According to John Newhouse, author of a forthcoming book on the influence of foreign lobbies on American policies, one of John McCain’s senior foreign-policy advisers during his 2008 campaign, Randy Scheunemann, simultaneously worked for McCain and as a paid adviser to the government of Georgia, which had been accused of human-rights violations. Despite McCain’s reputation as a leading champion of human rights, Scheunemann largely escaped questions about whether his lobbying might have affected his foreign-policy advice to the powerful senator. Similarly, while at Cassidy & Associates, lobbyist Amos Hochstein oversaw the Equatorial Guinea account, which required him to argue the merits of one of the most repressive regimes on earth. Still, after leaving Cassidy, Hochstein landed a prominent job on the (ill-fated) 2008 presidential campaign of Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, a politician also known for his longstanding human-rights advocacy. Now Hochstein says he helped “move the ball forward on human rights” in the country.

Lobbying can turn down the pressure on authoritarian regimes. After years of intense lobbying, Equatorial Guinea’s Obiang managed to transform his image in Washington from a venal autocrat into a solid American ally and buddy of U.S. business. In 2006 he strode out of a meeting at Foggy Bottom with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who declared him “a good friend.” Last year Obiang met with Obama for a public photo op, which is coveted by foreign leaders. Similarly, according to several congressional staffers, the authoritarian regime in Kazakhstan won support for its chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe by hiring lobbyists to help quiet congressional critics of Kazakhstan’s human-rights record. Ethiopia’s lobbying, meanwhile, has helped to defuse charges that the government has turned increasingly authoritarian. In a memo sent to congressional offices, DLA Piper, representing Ethiopia, argued, “The terms ‘political prisoners’ and ‘prisoners of conscience’ are undefined and mischaracterize the situation in Ethiopia,” and should be removed from a bill that condemned the Ethiopian regime for detaining opposition activists.

All this has taken a toll. Many democratic countries retain lobbyists in Washington to handle issues like trade disputes or intellectual-property challenges. But in those free countries, human-rights activists or opponents of the government could hire their own lobbyists in Washington and make their cases to the American government. Not so in the world’s most repressive countries. Though there are rare exceptions, like the Tibetan government in exile, most human-rights activists in authoritarian countries cannot make the close connections in Washington, or come up with the funds needed to match the lobbying of leaders like Obiang. The result: while thugs get heard in Washington, the voices of their opponents remain silent.

(With R. M. Schneiderman in New York. Kurlantzick is a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.)

DLA Piper back in London court to harass Ethiopian Review

DLA Piper goes to a London court again representing the Woyanne junta and their money launderer and fellow thief Mohammed Al Amoudi to harass me and try to shut down Ethiopian Review (see here). Last time, in 2011, they succeeded in getting the London court to award them £175,000. I took the low amount as an insult. Why not $1 million or $100 million? This time I urge the London court to award DLA Piper and its clients a much bigger amount or else I may sue them for slander.

Al Amoudi’s human trafficker in Ethiopia identified (update)

In March 2012, I posted the report below about the trafficking of Ethiopian women to the Middle East and identified one of the major players behind it. The report was a result of thorough investigations, corroborated by multiple witnesses who are residing in Addis Ababa. Several months after the report was published, the TPLF regime banned the trafficking of Ethiopian women to UAE, but not to Saudi Arabia and other countries. Meanwhile, Jemal Ahmed, Al Amoudi’s business partner who is identified in my report, has filed a defamation lawsuit against me in the United States District Court, Northern District of Georgia. The notorious law firm, DLA Piper, is representing Jemal in the lawsuit. DLA Piper has hired a $250-per hour private investigator, a former FBI agent, to follow me all over the Untied States. In a court document, the private investigator, Harold Corpus, testified that he has observed me at the balcony of my parents’ residence, among other places. Since the apartment has a security gate, he must have committed trespassing to enter inside. Human trafficking is just the tip of the iceberg of the predatory business practices that Jemal Ahmed and his partner, Mohammed Al Amoudi, are involved in with the backing of the TPLF regime in Ethiopia. In just recent months, they have forcibly removed tens of thousands of people in western Ethiopia after confiscating their land which they are using to grow flower and vegetable to be exported to Saudi Arabia and UAE. If Al Amoudi, Jemal and their allies in the TPLF junta think that they can intimidate and silence me by hiring former FBI agents and a mercenary law firm, they chose a wrong target. I will continue to expose them until they stop plundering my country and robbing my people. I am confident that the U.S. justice system will not allow them to trample upon the freedom of exiled Ethiopian journalists.

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Al Amoudi’s human trafficker in Ethiopia identified

By Elias Kifle

It’s been suspected that Sheik Saudi agent Mohammed Al Amoudi is behind the planned “export” of 45,000 Ethiopian women per month from the Amhara and Oromo regions of Ethiopia to Saudi Arabia. The women, most of whom are teenage girls, will be working in slave-like conditions, often subjected to beatings and other kinds of abuses. Ethiopian Review Intelligence Unit has now confirmed Al Amoudi’s involvement in this massive human trafficking, and also we have been able to identified the person whom he has put in charge of the operation.

His name is Jemal Ahmed. He is an Ethiopian, resides in Addis Ababa, and frequently travels to Saudi Arabia and other Arab counties as an employee of Al Amoudi.

Jemal’s responsibilities extend beyond human trafficking. He is also in charge of Horizon Plantations, one of Al Amoudi’s companies that is engaged in destructive commercial farms that are used for growing and exporting cash crops. In 2009, the Woyanne gave Al Amoudi 250,000 hectares of land in southern and western Ethiopia, in many cases forcibly removing local farmers from their lands. Because of excessive use of chemical fertilizers, the land will be totally useless in just a few years. The ground water will also be unusable

Jemal and other partners of Al Amoudi who are pillaging and plundering Ethiopia, and selling our women as slaves to Arab countries, must be stopped. Share this information and take the necessary action.

We Ethiopians currently have no government to protect us. So let’s protect each other and fight to save our country.

Meles Zenawi, America’s “son-of-a-bitch”

By Olaana Abbaaxiiqii

On August 20, following Ethiopia’s meticulously choreographed funeral for former dictator, Meles Zenawi, which was designed to buttress his legacy, a friend asked me to listen to the United States Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice’s encomium on the deification ceremony. I obliged but regret doing so because I came out a cynic.

It is no secret that US national interests trump human rights and democracy. In an oft repeated quote, Franklin D. Roosevelt said of US ally Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza: “He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

In the past, the US had pampered dictators like the Shah of Iran, Mobutu Sesse Seko of Zaire, and the CIA engineered the assassination of democratically elected leaders in Latin America and other places to install their puppets. Now that the Cold War is over, I believed those were things of the past, and that American foreign policy is, by and large, centered on the “singular greatness of American ideals, and their proven capacity to inspire a better world.” Besides, we were told, with a new dawn of “American leadership” on the horizon, America is back and ready to lead, again.

In his historic inauguration speech, President Barack Obama proclaimed: “to those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.“

On that momentous occasion, watched by millions around the world, “from the grandest capitals” to the smallest villages, little did we know that those were just words – used only for convenience and discarded at will. The more things changed the more they stayed the same. And even trivial and ill-conceived US strategic interests trump over people’s aspirations for freedom, liberty and democracy around the world.

Mrs. Rice’s encomium for the Ethiopian dictator was not only a reflection of a moral decadence of American diplomats, especially those covering Africa, but also a grand betrayal of the courageous ideals put forth by America’s founding fathers .

From her perch at the UN office, Susan Rice, does not see or feel the suffering, killing and humiliation that Zenawi had inflicted upon millions of his countrymen. Even if she did, since Meles implemented their wishes around Africa, everything else got secondary consideration.

The Oxford dictionary defines dictator as “a ruler with total power over a country, typically one who has obtained control by force.” Meles Zenawi, Ambassador Rice’s “consistently reasoned” friend, meets this definition on all accounts.

For 17 long-years, he wielded an immense power as the PM of Ethiopia and Chairman of the ruling coalition, the EPRDF. Prior to that he served five years as President of Ethiopia. He has been the head of Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front, the powerful coalition partners, since 1989. He was the Commander-in-Chief of the Ethiopian army. Oh! He also took over the reigns of power after violent overthrow of Mengistu Hailemariam, the communist boogieman.

Over the years, Zenawi, whom Mrs. Rice called, an “uncommonly wise [leader who was] – able to see the big picture and the long game” single-handedly closed the political space, dismantled the free media, enfeebled the opposition, and ruled the country by pitting rival groups against one another.

Meles was not my friend and I cannot attest to his personal qualities. But, unlike Susan Rice, I have intimate knowledge, personal experience, and direct accounts from people whom he brutalized and lorded over. Rather than his personal qualities in the abstract, I judge Zenawi based on what his policy did to my people. It is on that basis I pass judgment on Mrs. Rice’s eulogy.

So, who was Meles Zenawi to an average Ethiopian?

Zenawi had his hands soaked with bloods of thousands of innocent Ethiopians. Shortly after he joined the TPLF as a young fighter, Zenawi rose to the top of the organization through Machiavellian intrigue and his depraved actions. He allegedly ordered the execution of his own compatriots who disagreed with him. Even after coming to power in 1991, Zenawi maintained his ironclad rule by constantly purging those seen as a threat, real or imagined, to his power, including his own former comrades in arms.

True to a form of a real dictator, Zenawi never tolerated differing ideas and competitions. A typical megalomaniac, the “great leader” loved surrounding himself with equally sycophant yes-men. Unlike many other dictators, he was an ever-morphing actor. While he tormented the people of Ethiopia, Zenawi only showed his softer, caring, and smiling face to his foreign friends who adored his intellect, wicked sense of humor, and his intolerance for “for fools, or ‘idiots,’ as he liked to call them.” It is true that Zenawi had no patience for journalists, opposition leaders and anyone who dared to criticize him. That is why he institutionalized criminalization of dissent by devising draconian “laws” like “the deeply flawed anti-terrorism legislation” or the anti-NGO law.

The Ethiopian people who suffered the brunt of Zenawi’s brutality did not see his humane side, because he did not show it to them. To call Zenawi, a brute, wise, as Mrs. Rice did, is to demean the word or insult our intelligence. I agree with Mrs. Rice that Meles was a very smart man; however, this does not absolve his crimes. In fact, this is what made him all the more dangerous. Zenawi’s security forces committed crimes in the shadow of darkness. He filled prisons with opponents and ordered their torture in dark cells. Many of his opponents simply vanished – never to be heard from again in two decades.

Meles was not “selfless,” he had a depraved heart. During his guerrilla years, he devised tactics and strategies that showed his callous disregard for human life. After taking over the helm, he built a secretive regime whose existence depended on systematic repression and zeal to win at any cost.

Zenawi’s unhealthy obsession for winning became evident during the Ethio-Eritrean war of 2000. This senseless war over a barren wasteland of few kilometers took more than 100 thousand lives. He sent thousands of non-Tigrean foot soldiers as minesweepers before the well-trained elite Tigrean soldiers were deployed. The carnage Zenawi inflicted upon millions, in deadly competition with his ex-best-friend turned enemy number one, Isaias Afewarki – over a minor conflict that could have been settled through diplomatic channels – is a testament to his depraved soul. It is beyond any reasonable imagination why Zenawi spent over one billion dollars on armaments, $480 million in 1999 alone, while large parts of the country was suffering from famine.

Contrary to claims that Zenawi “lifted millions out of poverty, hunger, and strife,”he had no compassion for the suffering of others. Everything was a fair game so long as he gained from it. When he invaded Somalia in 2006, a large portion of Ogaden, the Somali-region of Ethiopia where Zenawi faced fierce resistance in recent years, was under the threat of famine. Zenawi didn’t care as long as the US foreign aid checks kept flowing.

In her hagiography, Susan Rice said, the young Meles was “spurred” to action by a “torment of terrible time” to drive out another “strongman who had turned Ethiopia into a parched field of sorrow.” But she forgot to add or deliberately ignored, Zenawi actually used the famine stricken people of Tigray for his political gains, by forcing them to flee to Sudan in thousands so that his organization could prove Dergue’s atrocities to the international community. Having successfully convinced donors that “a famine of biblical proportions” was taking place, TPLF cashed Bob Geldof’s Band Aid and Live Aid money to buy weapons.
At the time when the 1984 famine became a public embarrassment for the communist regime, Zenawi’s rebel group, the TPLF, controlled most of Tigray – an area severely affected by famine. As BBC’s Martin Plaut reported in 2010, channeling the relief aid through the TPLF “was the only way of reaching those in desperate need” in areas the rebels – fighting to take down the Dergue – controlled. As a TPLF army commander at the time, Aregawi Berhe, told Plaut: TPLF “made a policy decision that only five percent of the money received…would be spent on relief, with the bulk going directly or indirectly to support their military and political campaigns.” The remaining 95 percent “was allocated to buying weapons and building up a hard-line Marxist political party within the rebel movement.”

Mrs. Rice also forgot to mention what a senior US diplomat, Robert Houdek, who was in Ethiopia around late 1980s told Plaut, the TPLF members admitted “at the time that some aid money and supplies was used to buy weapons” – a fact also corroborated by CIA documents.
Instead of remaking “himself overnight from guerrilla to a statesman” as Susan Rice would have us believe, in the words of former Ethiopian president Negaso Gidada, whom he appointed, Zenawi became “a replica of the very strongman he replaced”– Mengistu Hailemariam. The genocide in Gambela, the carpet-bombing of villages and nomadic settlements in Ogaden, the more than 4,407 extra judicial killings of Oromo nationalists and over 900 disappearances, the 2002 Awassa killings, the 2005 killing of more than 200 people on the streets of Addis Ababa, were sufficient to land him in the International Criminal Court. However, thanks to his powerful friends and apologists like Susan Rice, Meles walked free in life and is lionized in death.

Fortunately, theirs won’t be the last word. A time will come when the peoples of Ethiopia write Zenawi’s true legacy. His historical verdict will not be based on the subjective personal accounts of a friend, but rather on the objective evidence of his victims: the voices of thousands of prisoners who languished and are still languishing in Zenawi’s dungeons and endure torture, stories of refugees who run away fearing Zenawi’s intimidation and etc.

The hopes of millions who yearned to live in freedom but instead suffered indignities by Zenawi’s policy will be told. The names of those who were killed by Zenawi’s forces would be inscribed on a stone as our heroes. We will put Zenawi’s name besides Mengistu Hailemariam, in the hall of shame, so that the future generation remembers them for the atrocities they committed against our people. Zenawi was not the father of our rebirth, but we hope he will be the end of our misery.

Susan Rice did not appear in the apotheosis drama just as a friend of Meles, but she led an official delegation to the funeral as a representative of the US government. She forgot that her words have serious implications beyond her personal feelings for Meles. Mrs. Rice’s insensitive eulogy will be remembered as the Obama administration’s endorsement of personality cult over institutional building, dictatorship over freedom, and minority over a majority rule.

Since her days as assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Mrs. Rice played a very important role in promoting the TPLF government. She remained a true friend to Zenawi until the end. She was instrumental in the Clinton administration’s naming of Zenawi as one of the new generation of African leaders. With a request from Zenawi, Rice did her best to categorize the Oromo Liberation Front as a terrorist organization, but failed. She exhibited a behavior so unbecoming of a diplomat in her zeal to defend Zenawi’s government.

It’s time for all Ethiopian-Americans to reconsider their overwhelming support to Obama during his first election. We should not be taken for granted.

The Ethiopian government spends millions of dollars to lobby the US government through firms like DLA Piper and others. It’s not clear whether Mrs. Rice’s affection for Meles was partly sustained by DLA Piper’s lobbing efforts. At the very least, Mrs. Rice’s judgment was clouded by the close personal relationship she had with Meles.

However, as a seasoned diplomat, she should not have allowed her personal feelings to run amok and take the best part of her. She should have shown a minimum of sensitivity to thousands, who were killed, imprisoned, tortured and became refugees as a result of Zenawi’s policies. Those “fools and idiots” were freedom fighters to millions or press freedom advocates who wanted to see better Ethiopia. We may be fools, we may be idiots, but one thing is for sure: we have an enduring cause, truth, and justice on our side. I am confident that in the final analysis, freedom and liberty will triumph over tyranny.

With the following wise words of Martin Luther King, until next time:

I know you are asking today, “How long will it take?….

I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because truth crushed to earth will rise again.

How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.
How long? Not long, because you shall reap what you sow….
How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

(The writer can be reached at [email protected] The article was originally posted on opride.com)

Addis Ababa abuzz over the news of Al Amoudi’s death/disappearance

Here is what we have been able to gather so far:

1. The biggest news in Addis Ababa and other cities in Ethiopia yesterday and today has been the reported death/disappearance of Ethiopian-Saudi Billionaire Mohammed Al Amoudi, even though the news has not be confirmed yet. The number of people visiting Meles’s body at the National Palace to pay ‘respect’ has dramatically decreased since yesterday following the story about Al Amoudi.

2. The Ethiopian Review main source stands by his report about Al Amoudi’s death.

2. TPLF propaganda chief Bereket Simon’s office denies the report.

3. One of Al Amoudi’s employees in Addis Ababa told Ethiopian Review that Al Amoudi was in Addis Ababa until Monday 10 AM and that he saw him in person.

4. The same employee told Ethiopian Review this morning that Al Amoudi will be back in Addis Ababa today.

5. EMF reported on Tuesday that Al Amoudi has arrived in Addis Ababa on Monday.

6. Al Amoudi’s office in Jeddah told Ethiopian Review that he is currently in Ethiopia.

7. DLA Piper office in London said the report about Al Amoudi’s death is incorrect, but would not elaborate.

8. A senior adviser told Ethiopian Review that Al Amoudi is not well but he will arrive in Addis Ababa today.

9. ETV news director refused to speak with Ethiopian Review about his report on Monday that Al Amoudi arrived in Addis Ababa.

Conclusion: Three different people who are in a position to know said that Al Amoudi will arrive in Addis Ababa today. We will see.