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.
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.)
UPDATE – December 28, 2012: Ethiopian Review sources are reporting that armed forces chief of staff Gen. Samora Yenus is back in a Germany hospital. In August, we reported that Samora, looking frail, returned to Addis Ababa to attend dictator Meles Zenawi’s funeral, and that he will return to the hospital.
UPDATE – August 21, 2012: Samora Yenus has been observed at Bole Airport today along with other TPLF junta officials receiving Meles Zenawi’s body. Our sources have verified that he returned to Addis Ababa two days ago from Germany, but he will return to continue his medical treatment.
The late Ethiopian dictator Meles Zenawi’s military chief of staff, Gen. Samora Yenus, is currently in Essen, Germany, receiving medical treatment.
Doctors at Essen University Hospital have diagnosed Samora with Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia, which is a symptom of AIDS, according to Ethiopian Review Intelligence Unit sources.
Samora was taken to Bole Airport by ambulance after he collapsed following a TPLF meeting last week, and flown to Germany.
Lt. General Seare Mekonnen is now in charge of the armed forces in Ethiopia, Ethiopian Review sources in Addis Ababa reported.
In the first in a series of collaborative reports about water problems around the world, Fred de Sam Lazaro of PBS reports on the shortage of potable water in Ethiopia and how the effort required to maintain existing watering points affects millions of people every day.
WOMAN (through translator): We have no choice, this is the only option we have. We’re really desperate. We don’t have strength and we don’t have donkeys. Yes, my children are always getting ill, stomach aches, stomach aches, stomach aches.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Keria Salo must balance concerns about her kids health against the perils of walking miles to what is called a community water point, or sometimes to an open pond or a river.
WOMAN (through translator): We usually go to the town to get water, but, even there, we always have to fight for a place in line. If you’re not from that area, you don’t get first preference. When you go further out, you always run into conflicts. The people with access to water are stronger.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Perhaps three quarters of Ethiopia’s population do not have easy access to clean drinking water.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It causes ripples throughout society. At a nearby school, the principal says water chores fall mostly to girls, who often come late or not at all.
ZERIHUN TEKLE, principal (through translator): It causes severe problems like dropouts, coming late, repeating classes, just regressing in terms of education. Plus, when they go further in the summer, when there’s less water, they get beaten up or abducted for marriages, which is another problem.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For years, development experts thought, if they just put in enough water points, the problem would be solved. It didn’t take long for many they did install to stop functioning, says Meselich Seyoum, who works for a Britain-based non-government organization called Water Aid.
MESELICH SEYOUM, Water Aid: In most cases, those failures happened because there was no involvement of community from the beginning. There was this feeling of, we know what’s good for the people, and then we just go in, put the system, and leave. There was — there was no ownership, and there was no capacity of the community, not knowing how to even manage the system, so that it can last for a longer period of time.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: She says her agency now works in partnership with groups based in the country and with local communities.
In the village of Falka, this well-used facility was designed by an Ethiopian non-government group, Water Action. Because it’s arid here, the well is more than 1,000 feet deep and the water pumped up has to be treated for excessive fluoride.
Under the new approach, the aid groups provide engineering and scientific expertise, but it’s the villagers who must chip in, at least with their labor. In Falka, the community was given ownership and responsibility to maintain this facility. Every household pays about 50 cents a week, a rate set by local leaders. So far, the user fees have generated a fund balance of more than $1,000.
ABARRASH MUNATI, committee member (through translator): We have seven committee members who collect the money. They also educate on health issues. They bring it in once a week. So far, we have not had any complaints.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Abarrash Munati is on a committee set up by community leaders to manage the water point. She lacks much formal education, but she knows about her community’s system and what it has accomplished.
ABARRASH MUNATI (through translator): The white tank takes water from down below. The blue one treats this thing fluoride, which we hear is bad for people. Our kids used to suffer from diarrhea, stomach aches, typhoid. It was also difficult for us to keep clean because we couldn’t get water and we couldn’t afford it. Plus, also, pregnant women would have to go a long way to get water. We had a lot of miscarriages.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The fact that Abarrash Munati does not have to spend hours every day fetching water allows her time to be productive in other ways. And her family’s relative affluence is immediately visible in this home when you see these bags, stockpiles of cereals good for months for her family.
Her husband, Muhammad Hajji Siraj, agrees life is a lot easier for him and their five children.
MUHAMMAD HAJJI SIRAJ, Ethiopia (through translator): When she was away, we had to tend the farm, as well as the household. When the kids want their mommy, we have to tend them. Also, when they are late, we have to leave home and go in search of them. Now, with water closer by, we don’t have to worry about such things.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: They also don’t have to worry about interruptions in their water supply. Several local residents have been trained to maintain it. Some day, they plan to install another water point.
The key question, why are villages like Falka so rare? Experts say there isn’t enough money to cover all of rural Ethiopia. Yet, at the same time, only a fraction of funds the government has set aside have been spent.
Adane Kassa heads the group Water Action.
ADANE KASSA, Water Action: Fund scarcity, on one hand, is a problem, but, in reality, fund absorption is also a problem. This is because of the lack of — of capacity, capacity in terms of manpower, absorption, capacity in terms manpower and skills.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: That shows up in the report card from regions like Alaba, where the village of Falka is located, says Nuredin Hassan Lamacho, a regional government executive
NUREDIN HASSAN LAMACHO, regional government executive (through translator): So far, we have 16 dug wells. In addition, with help of governments and donors and our administration, we have dug a total of 34 boreholes. But this only reaches a third of the population. Two-thirds remain without clean water access.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: At the rate they’re going, he says, it will take 40 years to get a source of clean water to every village in his jurisdiction. So, mud puddles and risky treks will continue to be a way of life.
Ethiopia can be transformed but the change we seek should start from within our own souls and hearts
Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE)
December 25, 2012
Dear Colleagues and Friends;
As many of our fellow Ethiopians of Christian faith gather with family and friends over the next days to celebrate one of the most important of Christian holidays, we in the SMNE (the Board Members, Task Force Leaders, Volunteers and Interns) want to extend our warmest greetings. Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish or of another belief, this can be a time to reflect on how we might bring good will, encouragement and help to others we know or meet as well as to those—some of whom are loved ones—who are struggling back home in Ethiopia or in another foreign country throughout the world where they may have sought refuge. The real stories of these people tell us of the great effort it takes to just survive. All of the problems we Ethiopians are facing within the country or outside of it are because we lack freedom, justice, security and prosperity in our homeland.
If we had a government which cared about all the people and gave them equal opportunity, we may not be hearing the heartbreaking stories of Ethiopians suffering throughout the world as they seek a better life outside their country that boasts of double-digit economic growth.Please open this links below to view the sad and shocking details of the numbers New Arrivals in Yemen Comparison 2009-2012 and difficulties being faced by these Ethiopians and others from the Horn of Africa.http://www.solidaritymovement.org/downloads/121221-New-Arrivals-in-Yemen-Comparison-2009-Nov-2012.pdf Those remaining in Ethiopia have a daily struggle to just provide for themselves and their families.
Ethiopia has become a country where the poor have been neglected while those with power go after the most vulnerable for the little they have. Land is confiscated in the rural areas and homes are bulldozed down in the cities. The people are displaced and forgotten. The disparity of power, voice and control has created an impenetrable ceiling which obstructs the majority from ever rising above it despite hard work, perseverance and talent.
The message of Christmas is that Christ came for all—that there is no obstruction or favoritism. This same principle of serving all people as equally valuable and worthy of justice and opportunity—rather than just ethnic group or elitist group—should also apply to the Ethiopian government if a society is going to be healthy, successful and prosperous. In fact, Christianity teaches that those who push others aside and trample on their rights will be last, at best, while the meek and poor of the world will be first.
Those of us of Abrahamic faith backgrounds—Jews, Muslims and Christians—can embrace the rightness of this kind of justice, liberty and dignity for all people. It is also a universal value. Look at the struggle of Ethiopian Muslims right now as many rise up to seek freedom to worship without government interference—a right enshrined in the Ethiopian Constitution—but also a God-given principle. God has always wanted hearts freely and wholly given to Him—not forced or manipulated. Nothing short of that really means anything to Him. This is why no genuine religious group wants the government to appoint their leaders. Now, many Muslim leaders are locked up in jail for demanding such freedom as well as dignity, truth and the respect for human rights.
Countless other courageous and principled Ethiopians share their plight. Just this week, Eskinder Nega, Reeyot Alemu, Woubshet Taye and Mesfin Negash were honored with awards from Human Rights Watch for their brave efforts to freely express themselves in one of the most repressive countries for journalists in all of Africa. The first three are imprisoned but Mesfin Negash was forced to leave the country. He is one of many Ethiopians who have left the country to escape imprisonment or other harsh consequences for speaking the truth.
We grieve as we hear repeated reports of the young Ethiopian women and men who are so desperate to support their families and to find a future for themselves that they become easy prey for human traffickers, unscrupulous maid recruiters or exploitive employers; often ending up living under such deplorable circumstances in some Middle Eastern countries that they have been driven to take desperate actions; sometimes against others, sometimes against themselves.
Just reading the news over the last few months will tell of Ethiopians detained in Yemen, Tanzania, Malawi, Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Malta, Libya, Israel, Norway, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. We in the SMNE try to do our best to help where there are problems but the need is overwhelming and is impossible to adequately address.
As Ethiopians gather together here in the Diaspora, many worry about family members at home or are feeling a loss because some of their loved ones are missing from their tables. They may not know their whereabouts or may not know about the conditions of these family and friends because they are imprisoned or have left the country. Some may have died.
Even though the situation appears grim, we can still be hopeful. When we first look, we may miss the light at the end of the tunnel, but look again. God has not abandoned us, Ethiopians. He is still sovereign over the earth. With God’s help, Ethiopia can be transformed but the change we seek should start from within our own souls and hearts, changing us and then leading us to educate those who have taken the property, opportunity, freedom, justice and dignity from others and think it is okay.
There is a penalty within the person who commits these crimes—it is a lost soul. When we lose our souls, we have nothing but darkness and emptiness, regardless of our material possessions. We should not be blinded by short-term pleasures so we lose our way in this life. Part of losing our way is turning away from the pain and misery of our fellow Ethiopian brothers and sisters when we can help do something about it. They are us—part of the body of Ethiopians, part of our family.
On the other hand, not a single Ethiopian leader or organization can plant freedom in the minds of Ethiopians where the people have cooperated in their own enslavement to fear, passivity and inaction. That flawed image of ourselves does not come from God but is grounded in the feudalism of Haile Selassie, the communism of Mengistu and the dehumanizing ethnic tribalism of Meles Zenawi—all dictatorial regimes that sought to control the people through fear, terror, division and the devaluing of others. These lies about ourselves have made us forget our God-given human worth, dignity and potential, endowed to each of us through our Creator.
Fear is a powerful but well-used tactic of any repressive regime and freedom can only emerge in Ethiopia as people begin to reclaim their God-given dignity. This includes reclaiming the God-given dignity for others; putting humanity before ethnicity or any other distinctions and caring about each and every human being for no one will be free until all are free. Hope alone cannot do the work. Neither can it be done by the SMNE or other groups alone. Instead, with God’s help, each of us can contribute our share to transform Ethiopia into a hospitable home for its people. May God remind us to see others as we see ourselves and may we listen closely to God’s call to stand up for righteousness as the best path to a New Ethiopia.
Dear Colleagues, Friends and Esteem Supporters;
At this time will you please consider making a donation to the SMNE. Part of working together to reach this goal of making Ethiopia a real home for our people is by doing our share. No matter how much you believe in this effort, we in the SMNE must raise a significant amount of support to cover the expenses of this work. Can you consider giving a regular monthly gift of $20 or more or an end-of-the-year donation to cover a budget short-fall and to launch new efforts in 2013? You may use a bank/credit card for this transaction. This is the best option for international donors. Here is the link: http://www.solidaritymovement.org/donate.php for those who choose to donation/recurrent donation and enter an amount. Please encourage others to contribute $20 a month or more. We have been trying to find 120 people who can contribute $20 a month. Is there any way you can help us spread the world? We cannot do it without you. Whatever you can do to help will be greatly appreciated. Please see our website for instructions for online giving or send a check or money order to: SMNE, P.O. Box 857, Stillwater, MN 55082.
May the light of Christmas encourage and empower us to never give up and to never lose hope like the powerful lyrics in the recent inspiring song sung by Jamaican-born and Bronx-raised Garrison Hawk, two of the most brilliant musicians of our time, Gigi and Teddy Afro, “Survival 2013!”. Here is the link to the Survive lyrics: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUAGXnUX2Wo.
Another song beautifully sung by a talented Ethiopian vocalist, Hanisha Solomon, calls us to come together not only as Ethiopians but as Africans. Here is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLOpZfJrOdo That song, “Africa Unite,” reminds us that what binds us together is stronger than what separates us. Music is a powerful weapon if used to reach our hearts and souls for what is right and good. May you have a blessed season.