On the importance of the Rule of Law |
Ethiopia's democracy is on paper only
The Wall Street Journal, Editorial
July 18, 2007
Did you guess Ethiopia? Probably not, since this African state has often been held up as a pillar of good governance on a troubled continent. In just over a decade, Ethiopia went from military rule to a parliamentary system. But this democracy is on paper only.
The convictions are not an isolated incident, nor are the 42 defendants just any opposition figures. They include the elected mayor of Ethiopiaís capital, Addis Ababa, a former Harvard scholar and a former U.N. envoy. Theyíve been condemned to the same fate, life in prison, as ousted military strongman Mengistu Hailee Mariam, who is held responsible for the murder of 150,000 academics and university students in two decades in power.
Given the governmentís recent record, itís odd to say the least to see Prime Minister Meles Zenawi advise Tony Blairís Commission for Africa in 2005 on the future of the continent. Or to hear that the Bush Administration considers Mr. Meles a "staunch ally" in the war on terror for searching out al Qaeda suspects during Ethiopiaís messy military intervention in neighboring Somalia and makes the country a priority recipient of U.S. assistance. (The world last year sent $1.6 billion.)
America needs to work with all kinds of regimes and military cooperation doesnít always have to be tied to democratic progress. But if Ethiopia wants to become a real ally of the U.S., possibly playing host to the new African Command, it needs to take seriously democracy and human rights.
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