Professor Alemayheu Gebre Mariam (also known as Al Mariam) is a confirmed pro-American whose “love America” speech I had heard some years back in Washington. It is, of course, his right to love or hate whosoever he pleases. Preaching it to the people of Ethiopia is another matter.
I realize that the professor’s main intention is to expose the tyrant’s jamming of the VOA and ESAT (he does not mention Finote and other radios or the websites that are banned) and to ridicule the petty dictator’s flimsy argument in his speech at Columbia University. Yet, it is one thing to argue that Ethiopians have the right to listen to any radio they wish to listen to and quite another to assert that Ethiopian should listen to or hear America’s voice. As the professor correctly states VOA Amharic service is not Radio Mille Collines (as it does not call for genocide) but its definitely an American government propaganda piece whose broadcasts are not always or often in tune with real strategic interests of Ethiopia. The professor offers the following quote:
“In 1948, Congress passed the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act with the purpose of “promoting a better understanding of the United States among the peoples of the world and to strengthen cooperative international relations.” By authorizing the creation of a global broadcast service, the U.S. sought to create goodwill and shape the thinking and attitudes of elites in countries receiving the broadcasts” This is American New Speak to say we are going to bombard you with propaganda to make you love and support America and its policies/politics. Lest we disadvantaged souls fail to grasp American English the VOA even prepared for us the news in special (slow and well articulated) English. That VOA could not function or broadcast in the USA itself was due to the notion that Americans can not/should not be subjected to official American propaganda. No other reason for making the US Information Service (USIS) restricted to programs directed at foreign countries. Professor Alemayehu, I imagine, is one of those fellows who naively believe that USAID is a selfless gesture on the part of America to aid so-called underdeveloped countries (who put them in that state in the first place if not America and imperialist greed?). The professor wrote:
“Over the years, the VOA has played a central part in the U.S. media strategy to win hearts and minds in the Cold War. One of its central missions today is to uphold U.S. foreign policy objectives by promoting democracy, peace, prosperity, human rights and other programs to new generations in countries receiving VOA broadcasts”.
Is the US foreign policy objective to promote democracy, peace, prosperity, human rights and other programs to new generations in countries like Ethiopia receiving VOA broadcasts ( in three languages in our case in accord with TPLF/Weyane ethnic concern)? Professor Alemayehu’s call for American voice to be heard by Ethiopians (it is a right of course) assumes that American VOA broadcasts promote democracy, peace, and human rights. If this is not a fantasy of huge proportions what is? Will the good professor tell us that America’s intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan is benign, noble, to promote democracy, peace and human rights? Let us come closer. Has America’s foreign policy to Africa done that? Let us come even closer: has American foreign policy to Ethiopia promoted democracy, peace and human rights? When did this ever happen? American policy towards Ethiopia during the Emperor’s time (Ambassador Korry and CIA man Paul Henze standing guard) supported the autocracy and stood against any change in the country’s antiquated system. The CIA covert and overt attempt to dismantle the Ethiopian student movement can be mentioned. During the Derg period, American foreign policy to Ethiopia was motivated by rabid “anti-Sovietism” and led to the financing of the comatose EPDA and the destructive TPLF and EPLF. The anti-Ethiopia groups assumed power with massive US help (CIA agents within the Mengistu regime committing sabotage and American pressure on Gorbachev leaving the regime without foreign help). Remember the role of Herman Cohen, the Bette Israeli (Falasha) exodus (ref the book Operation Solomon), the role of the CIA sponsored Inter Africa group, the secret meeting organized by the CIA in Stuttgart prior to the London so-called conference and more. American policy has been contrary to Ethiopian national interest. After the TPLF took power Washington stood on its side and supported it. Herman Cohen and other diplomats threatened the SPLA, Kenya, and Uganda to make them deny any support to the anti-TPLF opposition. The opposition was labeled chauvinist and Derg remnant and attacked by the US media. Washington used its influence to make European countries to toe its line and to support the Meles regime. From Mark Baas to David Shinn and Vicki Huddleston, American diplomats assigned to Addis have been a curse for Ethiopia’s national interest. Human rights? Who continued to back Meles Zenawi after he committed so many massacres (Gambella, Ogaden, Arba Gugu, November 2005, etc)? Isn’t Meles Zenawi’s stay in power dependent on American support, on economic aid from the World Bank and the IMF?
Considering all this, it is evident that the primary role of the VOA broadcast to Ethiopia is to sell American foreign policy to Ethiopians and to hoodwink them into believing that Washington stands for their interest. Duplicity. VOA American service may interview Professor Al and dubious and secessionist elements of all sorts but its main mission is not to promote democracy, peace and human rights in accord with the interest of the people of Ethiopia. This is why Ethiopians are not obliged to hear America’s voice as its voice, as is, is nauseatingly contrary to the interests of Ethiopia and her people. That Meles shouts against the VOA does not make the VOA Ethiopia-friendly, not at all. America plays several games at the same time and sometimes throws critical words at its own dictators. This is political maneuver aimed at duping people. The main point is that American policy vis a vis Ethiopia is basically and mainly pro Meles. The VOA service bears this in mind before it says good evening to its listeners. We should not be dupes. Professor Alemayehu has confessed his political involvement dates back to 2005. He needs time to learn and he must realize that his pro-American stand does not echo the interest of Ethiopians. Ethiopians need NOT to hear America’s voice (which is basically pro Meles Zenawi) but the voice of resistance and rebellion against the pro-American regime, a regime that may act like a spoiled brat and criticize the VOA but knows deep down that Washington is its savior and Godfather.