Open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
By Dr. Golto Aila | January 23, 2009
Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
U.S. Secretary of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20037
Dear Madam Secretary,
I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your confirmation as our new Secretary of State! The tasks ahead of you and your team are formidable, but as your former colleagues in the Senate agreed with near unanimity, if there is one person with the competence to perform the job, that person is you, and my prayers are with you!
Meanwhile, the Horn of Africa, just next door to the Arabian Peninsula is tittering on the brink of collapse! The Bush Administration had a simple policy in the Horn of Africa – to ally itself with a dictatorial regime that brutalized its citizens in Ethiopia, in Bush’s “war on terror” in Somalia! Bush’s own stated policy of spreading democracy around the world could not cross to the western shores of the Red Sea from Iraq, where more than 4,000 of American lives were lost, thousands more maimed for life, and countless billions of tax payers’ dollars spent in a dumb war that has created more enemies for America, multiplied terrorist all over the world, and to a large measure contributed to the terrible economic crisis the world has ever seen in modern times!
As you rightly stated in your confirmation hearings, the Horn of Africa is an important geographic entity! The Horn of Africa is home for millions of human beings, people who hitherto, have failed to get the respect they deserved from the many foreign powers who invariably used their influences with the rulers of the time to the detriment of the ordinary residents of the region. It is a matter of important national security interest to the United States and the world at large that the Horn of Africa is peaceful and stable! This can only happen when the rights of ordinary people are respected and protected so that they can peacefully go about their tasks of national and regional building in harmony with each other. The strategy of shilly-shallying with the dictators in the region, while ignoring the needs of the ordinary people have repeatedly failed and have proven extremely expensive in terms of human lives, human suffering, and wasting of resources which could have been used for developments which would have benefited all for all time!
To the credit of President Clinton and Tony Blair, they tried something different - they tried to create true democracy by giving support to the leaders of Eritrea and Ethiopia. An experiment was launched in Ethiopia to govern by creating regional autonomy based on ethnicity! The fundamental problems with that effort were: a) communists, masquerading as budding democrats and capitalist were entrusted with the task of introducing the Western style of governance in the countries which had no democratic traditions (it is like trusting wolves to look after sheep!); b) both the Eritrean and the Ethiopian leaders were heads of secessionist movements, and even now, 18 years after taking power in Ethiopia, Meles, who had often declared himself to be an Eritrean, is still the head of a liberation movement (TPLF); and c) division of a nation into pseudo-autonomous tribal entities is a classic divide-and-rule model of colonial powers, and Ethiopia had a neighbor to the south and another to the west each of which had that kind of administration! The recent political history of Kenya and the on-going mess in Sudan are direct results of the divide and rule colonial model of governance!
As a person who has roots in Ethiopia with family members still living there, I took a lot of comfort from President Obama’s inaugural speech. I am particularly encouraged by the following passage:
"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."
Ethiopia, as you know, has been under brutal dictatorships for nearly four decades now. The first dictator was unsophisticated and plain brutal and the current one is a sly, smooth-talking, ruthless political chameleon, who, to the outsiders, is the very congenial person. This quality has allowed him to dupe many, including heads of state and diplomats around the world. I hope 18 years after his rule in Ethiopia and the devastation that his rule has caused and the catastrophic inter- and intra-ethnic tension his rule has created will give those of you who will deal with him in the coming days, weeks and months (hopefully not years) a critical look at Meles.
You have now known Meles for nearly two decades, and probably are on first name basis with him! You were, of course, quite involved with the regimes in Eritrea and Ethiopia, and now are heading a department with many staff members who were responsible for crafting the Clinton era US policy regarding Ethiopia. I am told many of these people, have very good personal relationship with Meles and his officials. Madam Secretary, the President’s public statement yesterday notwithstanding, personal relationships between Meles and staffers of the Department you head, is a source of profound worry for me and many Ethiopian-Americans who have consistently found themselves left out and completely disregarded, by the successive administrations while life is literally squeezed out of millions of Ethiopians in our Motherland and the country systematically dismantled by a thuggish regime which has absolutely on interest of the people or the integrity of the country of Ethiopia.
I know you have to work with Meles to encourage a peaceful democratic change in Ethiopia, but it is time to help the people of Ethiopia get from this yoke of oppression! And the way to do it is by demanding all the opposition party to come together and form a non-partisan coalition and support such a coalition with the view of forming an Administration of National Unity. It is unrealistic and a futile exercise to let Meles conduct any form of reconciliation with Ethiopians – he does not know the meaning of the word reconciliation! Internationally supervised negotiations are the more realistic approach. America owes to the ordinary people of Ethiopia to help the disparate Ethiopian politicians to come together and present a credible coalition. Because of the diverse backgrounds to the Ethiopian politics, there has been such a profound mutual suspicion among the separate groups, to the point where, in spite of the obvious need of solidarity, this has failed to materialize to the detriment of the causes of all concerned. This has allowed Meles to treat the people and their country with utter contempt! Recall the re-arrest and imprisonment of Birtukan Mideksa, the real beacon of democratic hope in Ethiopia, on the lamest of charges conceivable!
With this I remain, most hopeful that the millions of Ethiopians who have endured four decades of tyranny will, at last, be allowed the kind of dignified life we take for granted here in the United States and around the civilized world.
Golto Aila, M.D.
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