The folly of willful ignorance

I did not vote for Ronald Reagan to become U.S. president. But I appreciated some of his witticisms before he became president. In 1964, two years after he dumped the Democrats and joined the Republicans, Reagan astutely noted, “The trouble with our Liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.”

That is exactly the trouble with Wendy Sherman, President Barack Obama’s Under Secretary for Political Affairs and the fourth high ranking official in the U.S. Department of State. Wendy Sherman is not that she is ignorant; it is just that she knows so much that isn’t so about Ethiopian politics.

On her recent trip to Ethiopia, a few weeks before the so-called May 24 “election”, Sherman  pontificated:

I came from the G-7 meeting in Lubeck, Germany and I was very glad to have a very wide-ranging discussion with the minister [Ethiopian “foreign minister” Tedros Adhanom] not only about the tremendous success here in Ethiopia, all of the development goals that have been met. Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies on the African continent. Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair, credible open and inclusive in ways Ethiopia has moved forward in strengthening its democracy every time there is an election. It gets better and better.

We also discussed all of the threats and concerns in the region which was also a major topic of conversation at the G-7 meeting as well. So whether that is strengthening Somalia or dealing with the threat in Ethiopia, everything from Al Shabbab to Boko Haram, Daesh, to of course  Al Qaeda and indeed have discussed the reality that here from the Ethiopian perspective as well as concerns about  all of those terrorists groups that Ethiopia considers Ginbot 7 a terrorist group as well. The United States believes no group, including Ginbot 7 should attempt to overthrow or speak of overthrowing a democratically elected government. And we look forward to continuing our work with the Ethiopian government to address these concerns in very serious and appropriate ways.

The world is facing a lot these days and Ethiopia is a very strong and growing country; and we want to make sure the stability, peace and the security and growing prosperity continue. And we look forward to our very strong partnership building all the platforms that we need to meet these threats, meet these concerns with all of the seriousness they deserve…

[Responding to a (reporter’s?) question] We think elections are very important…. Voting is important. I urge all Ethiopians to vote on your election day. But I was also glad to be here because in many ways Ethiopia is a young democracy and so every election, just as in our country, should be better and better and more open allowing for freedom of access making sure that every election is fair, free and credible and that opposition groups have the space to participate, that everybody’s vote counts. And in our country we make every election better than the last one in being inclusive, making sure everybody’s rights are respected and we know Ethiopia is working to do that as well.

Just for the record, before Ms. Sherman delivered her torrent of clichés and platitudes about democracy and elections in Ethiopia,  she had not bothered to meet with opposition leaders or groups,  engage members of the Ethiopian civil society and human rights communities or even drive a few kilometers just outside the capital to visit political prisoners at the Meles Zenawi Prison in Kality.

Of course, there is nothing new in Ms. Sherman’s song and dance about free and fair elections in the 2015 Ethiopian “election” theater stage-managed by the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front. Last September President Obama gave that “election” advance billing, “… the  Prime Minister [Hailemariam Desalegn] and the government is going to be organizing elections in Ethiopia this year. I know something about that… And so we’ll have an opportunity to talk about civil society and governance and how we can make sure that Ethiopia’s progress and example can extend to civil society as well…” (Emphasis added.)

Obama’s promised “talk” about civil society and governance” never took place. Sherman said she had “very wide-ranging discussion   about the tremendous success here in Ethiopia, all of the development goals that have been met and elections”.  Nothing about civil society or governance!

I am still trying to find out what it is that Obama “knows” about the 2015 election; arguably not much about civil society (which has been decimated through the use of the so-called charities and Societies law) or governance (thugtatorship).

In June 2014, Hailemariam Desalegn, the marionette prime minister of Ethiopia, proclaimed electoral perfection for 2015:  “Our institutional process and our laws and regulations are perfect. It is not the law that hinders but the implementation of these laws. Therefore, we have put in place the code of conduct of all parties. Strictly abiding by this code of conduct will help the process to be more democratic, free and fair and also credible.” (Emphasis added.) Of course, the “perfect codes” are written and enforced by the T-TPLF.

The U.S. diplomacy of pandering to dictatorship: Hear no evil, see no evil and say no evil about the T-TPLF

Last week, the Washington Post in an editorial virtually denounced Sherman for her willfully ignorant statements about Ethiopia’s “election”.

Ethiopia’s elections, scheduled for May 24, are shaping up to be anything but democratic. A country that has often been held up as a poster child for development has been stifling civic freedoms and systematically cracking down on independent journalism for several years… It was consequently startling to hear the State Department’s undersecretary of state for political affairs, Wendy Sherman, declare during a visit to Addis Ababa on April 16 that ‘Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair and credible.’ The ensuing backlash from Ethiopians and human rights advocates was deserved. (Emphasis added.)

To read the rest of the commentary, CLICK HERE


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