To the Carter Center: The silence is deafening!


"Ethiopia has always been a mosaic of linguistic groups but it has no history of internecine conflict on the basis of ethnicity until the arrival of PM Meles and his party in 1991; who to the horror of many, and for the first time in the countryís long history imposed virulent ethno-centric policies including a wide ranging bantustanization of the country along ethnic lines aimed more at manipulation of differences rather than the promotion of ethnic equality." - Kinijit, April 22, 2006
"In a few cases we have declared the elections to be illegitimate and we make this statement to the people in that nation and the international community....That is a very profound action for us to take but we donít hesitate to do that, if that should occur....My personal integrity and that of the Carter Center is at stake....I intend to make an absolutely accurate and unbiased assessment after the election is over." - Former US President Jimmy Carter calling for fair election in Ethiopia. May 13, 2005

It seems evident that these indeed prophetic words by the former president have come to haunt him and his esteemed Center. The unbiased assessment he promised is any thing but unbiased. The conclusion the Center has reached and the recommendation it has made does not follow the principle by which it pledged to be governed. For a detailed discussion, I refer the reader to the Open Letter I wrote to the Carter Center on April 25, 2006.

The purpose of this letter is not only to hold the Center accountable for the former presidentís ringing promise but also to remind it of its moral responsibility to come clean with the Ethiopian people. I believe this should begin by the Center taking the initiative to publish its observation, assessment and recommendation officially. Posting it in its website is not, by any stretch of the imagination, making it public and official. In this regard the Center has chosen to remain silent verging on stonewalling. In contradistinction, the European Union Election Observation Mission has been efficient. It unveiled its preliminary report on August 25, 2005 and its final report on March 14, 2006.

The Carter Center has to explain why it reached an absolutely illogical conclusion and made a recommendation that not only contradicts its findings but also is well beyond its mandate. What ever happened to the ironclad promise the former president gave Ethiopia and the international community? Could it be because the Center reached a biased conclusion that has the effect of violating the trust which the Ethiopian people were happy and honored to bestow upon it? The Ethiopian people are preparing to celebrate their first year spiritual freedom if not their physical liberation from tyranny. It is unfortunate that they will be reminded of the betrayal committed by the Center.

The Center, by its conclusion and recommendation has misled the Bush administration. The administration has based its policy toward Ethiopia on the Centerís recommendation made regarding the outcome of the election. Deputy Assistant Secretary Donald Yamamoto told the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations, March 28, 2006, that the State Department agrees with the Carter Centerís assessment. He observed thus:

"We commend the work of the Carter Center and note the important work that the European Union carried out under difficult conditions. On the overall assessment of the elections, we agree with the final report which noted that the elections had credibility and that majority of the constituency results based on the May 15 polling and tabulation are credible and reflect competitive conditions. Our own assessments support this view. (Statement by Secretary Yamamoto to the Sub Committee, page 4)

Only he and God knows how their assessments will support this view when in fact neither the State Department in particular, nor the government in general, had fielded or deployed their respective observer team. It is obvious why the Secretary chose to agree with the assessment and recommendation made by the Center and not with the one made by the EU EOM. Logic dictates, however, that if Mr. Yamamoto agrees with the Centerís assessment, then he should also agree with that made by EU EOM for both the Center and the EU EOM have made more-or-less similar assessments. Where they defer is in the conclusions and recommendations. The administration used the parts of the Carter Centerís report to justify its support for the government of Ethiopia. Its choice of the Centerís assessment and recommendation over the comprehensively done, objectively argued, undergirded by facts and most importantly governed by the principle it pledged from the outset by the EU EOM is, in this writers view, an outrageous act and an intellectual crime.

It is an open secret that the TPLF led government is its lynchpin in the fight against terrorism in the Horn of Africa. In this connection, the Centerís report is Godsend to the administration. Here are the Centerís and EU EOM respective observation and conclusion in their own words.

The Cater Center reported that "....Irregularities in procedures were observed, but many of these were relatively minor particularly in Addis Ababa. More serious irregularities were seen in other part of the country , including instances of failures to check identification cards and of underage voting. Our observers received and in some instances were able to confirm credible reports of election-day and post-election intimidation and harassment. In several constituencies at the polling station level we found evidence that ballot boxes had been improperly moved, were improperly secured or that party agents had been barred from polling stations or not allowed to watch the entire count..." The Center recounting what its observers witnessed in Hossana, Soro, and Bure said "....Officials were not checking ID cards or voter cards, and crowds became agitated with the poor management of the process....In Soro observers witnessed a large number of underage voters. There also were unconfirmed reports of vote buying. In addition the bags that the ballots were delivered in were opened one day before voting commenced...." ( C. Center 19 May 2005)

After having said all this the Center in its conclusion said "... the elections suggests that the majority of the constituency results based on the May polling and tabulation are credible and reflect competitive conditions....it is important to note that the CRB/CIP processes were ad hoc mechanisms to review electoral complaints and that the prescribed legal recourse to challenge these decision is via an appeal to the High Court. It is incumbent upon the dissatisfied political parties to file appeals to the High Court in an expeditious manner....If parties decide not to file court appeals, the NEBEís announced results should be accepted as final and legitimate..." Need the Center be reminded that it had deployed only 50 international observers to seven regions and largely urban areas?

On the other hand EU EOM had more than 200 observers and had visited 1034 poling stations in all regions of the country.

EU EOM made the following observation:

The EU EOM regrets that the 15th of May post-poling day irregularities, delays and opacity of the counting and aggregation of data, plus the subsequent flawed handling of complaints and re-runs of elections in some constituencies, and the poorly organized electoral process conducted in Somali Region, did not live up to international standards and to the aspirations of Ethiopians for democracy, clearly manifested by the record number showing up to cast their votes on 15 May...

Should we then be surprised by why Mr. Yamamoto chose to agree with the Carter Centerís observation and recommendation and not with the EU EOM? Should we be surprised by what Charge, Ambassador Vicki Huddleston and EU representative to Ethiopia Tim Clarke are doing to get some disgruntled CUD elected officials to join the rubberstamp parliament and also assume the administration of the city of Addis Ababa? What the US administration and others are doing, consciously or otherwise is appeasing the worst type of Machiavllian who had concocted and fabricated charges against those who challenged and defeated him. The Prime Minister follows Machiavelliís rule of power by isolating leaders he fears most. Robert Green in his book The 48 Laws of Power observed:

"Trouble can often be traced to a single strong individualĖthe stirrer.... If you allow such people room to operate, others will succumb to their influence. Do not wait for the troubles they cause to multiply, do not try to negotiate with themóthey are irredeemable. Neutralize their influence by isolating or banishing them. Strike at the source of the trouble and the sheep will scatter." ( law 42 Page 358)

The incarceration of the CUD leaders and some of the outstanding journalists is an eloquent testimony of what this Prime Minister is about to do if he has his ways. That is not only the destruction of the party that trounced him at the polls but also the purging of the qualified and competent journalists thereby intimidating others. What he told Congressman Chris Smith, and what the Congressmanís take is, is very revealing. The Congressman observed thus:

"During my visit to Addis last August, I met with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and I asked him why he had not investigated the June shootings of demonstrators by agents of his government. His

response was that the investigation might require the arrest of opposition leaders, and he didnít want to do that while by-elections were still scheduled. He went on to tell me that he had dossiers on all the opposition leaders and could arrest them for treason whenever he wanted. Thus, their arrests were all but certain even before the events that ostensibly led to their being incarcerated...."(Chairman Smithís Opening statement to the Subcommittee... March 28, 2006)

In conclusion I will say the following to the Carter Center. The Ethiopian people trusted and confided in your Center. The 26 million or 85 % of the eligible voters came to cast their vote because of two reasons. The first one is the emergence of qualified and competent political groups and parties that dared to challenge the incumbent, and the second one, perhaps equally important, is the commitment shown and the ironclad promise given by the international community, including former President Carter, to hold the government accountable and the election up to international standard. We await your urgent response. Whatever flimsy legitimacy the Ethiopian government has comes from your ill-fated and ill-advised recommendation. As I have said in my Open Letter to the Center, history will not forget this. Do not betray the trust of the people!


Solomon Terfa (Ph.D.) is Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Mississippi Valley State University. He can be reached for comments at st2151@bellsouth.net


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