Suppressed at Home, Neglected Abroad

The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens from harm, at home and abroad – no matter who they are, or where they are. This is the primary moral and constitutional responsibility of the EPRDF government of Ethiopia, which, as with a vast array of such obligations, they fail to meet, or even acknowledge.

In recent weeks a plethora of atrocities have befallen Ethiopians abroad: in Libya 30 Ethiopian Christians (whom we know of) were murdered (their beheadings shown on video) by demented, Islamic jihadists, marching under a black flag of hate and violence; hundreds of others shiver in fear of being discovered. Earlier this month Ethiopians (together with other African migrants) living in South Africa were dragged through the streets by gangs: burnt alive, beaten, their homes and businesses destroyed, their children attacked. Thousands of Ethiopian men and women are trapped and frightened inside Yemen as that country descends into civil war; hundreds more are amongst the thousands of desperate men and women trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe from Libya. And in the Middle East and Gulf States (MENA), Ethiopian girls, working as domestic workers, are routinely mistreated by employers; many are sexually abused, most suffer psychological violence, all are trapped into domestic slavery.

To each and every one of those Ethiopians suffering upon foreign soil, the ruling regime has offered little or no support. Not content with suppressing the people at home, violating their basic human rights and denying them freedom and justice, the EPRDF government ignores their cries for help. Unlike other nation states (Malaya, Sri Lanka, the Phillipines, for example) they provide no consular support to the vulnerable young workers in the Gulf countries; have failed to organise any major airlifts for those hiding in Yemen, have done nothing to protect migrants in Durban and Johannesburg; and have taken no significant action, save prime ministerial platitudes, to safeguard Ethiopian Christians in Libya.

The government’s neglect is shameful but not surprising, and has enraged the people, who took to the streets of Addis Ababa recently in huge numbers in a powerful display of collective grief and anger. Their peaceful protest was met – again not surprisingly, given the governments intolerance of public assembly – by baton wielding security personnel, who beat men, women and girls indiscriminately and broke up the demonstrations. According to constitutional principle demonstrations are allowed, but in practice they are all but outlawed, as are all types of free expression. The regime is paranoid, as all such totalitarian groups are.

Neither Home Nor Country

The need for a quiet centre from where to face the world is common to us all. For many that haven of security is our country of birth, it comforts and reassures us, holds us gently in its sure embrace, protecting us from the uncertainties and dangers of life. Home is where we feel safe, secure and loved. A wooden hut or a Modernist mansion, home is the refuge we turn to in times of difficulty.

For the thousands of Ethiopian migrants abroad, they have neither home nor country. Abandoned by their government they are homeless, vulnerable and alone; they make easy prey for criminals: the traffickers and the gangs of rapists, kidnappers, jihadists and thugs who patrol the pathways along which the migrants walk.

To the untrained eye, the economy of Ethiopia appears to be developing, and the country gives the appearance of stability in a region of almost total instability. But this is a misleading image of development and hides deep-seated inequalities, endemic corruption, widespread bitterness and simmering fury towards the ruling party. Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world: it is ranked 173rd out of 187 countries in the UN human development index, and unprecedented numbers of its citizens are migrating in search of opportunity and freedom.

They travel north to Egypt and Libya – hoping to make it to Europe; south to Kenya and South Africa; east to Yemen, where some stay, others continue to try to crawl into Saudi Arabia. Many head to the other Gulf states, Lebanon, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates; countries with virtually no domestic labour laws, endemic racism and sexism, where naïve, uneducated young girls from rural Ethiopia enter into contracts (the Kafala system) with employers that trap them into domestic servitude, and, for many, sexual and psychological torture. Over two thirds make the journey out of the country illegally, entrusting their lives to human traffickers.

They migrate for one of two reasons, economical or political, or should we say humanitarian, for it is the violations of their basic human rights that drive many from their homeland.

Many see no way to build a decent life for themselves and their families: others, particularly journalists and political activists see no hope of freedom from tyranny and are persecuted by the security forces for holding views that differ from the government. For them Libya, Yemen or the Mediterranean are no more dangerous than Ethiopia, Islamic state no greater a threat than the police or military, and so they too step onto the migrant road of uncertainty, in search of a new home in a more peaceful place; a place where there are economic opportunities, better education, and where democracy, justice and freedom exist. All of which, despite the duplicitous, political rhetoric from the EPRDF government, are totally absent in Ethiopia.

The regime systematically violates fundamental human rights, silences all dissenting voices and rules the country in a suppressive violent fashion which is causing untold suffering to millions of people. The upcoming May election, contrary to US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s ignorant, misjudged and widely criticised comments (that “Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair and credible and open and inclusive”), is a hollow piece of democratic theatre; a total sham, with no credibility whatsoever. The result, as everyone in the country and amongst the diaspora knows, is a forgone conclusion.

The government of Ethiopia neglects and suppresses the people at home, ignores and abandons them abroad. They are in violation of a plethora of international covenants, as well as their own constitution, but perhaps more fundamentally they are in violation of their primary moral duty: To care for and protect their citizens, wherever they face intimidation, violence and abuse.

Graham Peebles is director of the Create Trust. He can be reached at: graham@thecreatetrust.org

More articles by:

Graham Peebles is a freelance writer. He can be reached at: graham@thecreatetrust.org  

March 21, 2018
Paul Street
Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?
Mel Goodman
The Great Myth of the So-Called “Adults in the Room”
Chris Floyd
Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity
Eric Draitser
The Political Repression of the Radical Left in Crimea
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Threatens Wider War Against the Kurds
John Steppling
It is Us
Thomas Knapp
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish for, President Trump
Manuel García, Jr.
Why I Am Leftist (Vietnam War)
Isaac Christiansen
A Left Critique of Russiagate
Howard Gregory
The Unemployment Rate is an Inadequate Reporter of U.S. Economic Health
Ramzy Baroud
Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?
Roy Morrison
Trouble Ahead: The Trump Administration at Home and Abroad
Roger Hayden
Too Many Dead Grizzlies
George Wuerthner
The Lessons of the Battle to Save the Ancient Forests of French Pete
Binoy Kampmark
Fictional Free Trade and Permanent Protectionism: Donald Trump’s Economic Orthodoxy
Rivera Sun
Think Outside the Protest Box
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
John Pilger
Skripal Case: a Carefully-Constructed Drama?
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography