September 1, 2005
Angry of Addis Ababa
Could this be the longest letter-to-the-editor ever? Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia's Prime Minister, has just published the third and final installment of a 13,287-word letter to the state paper The Ethiopian Herald.
It is basically a detailed, point-by-point rebuttal of a preliminary statement by the European Union's observation mission to the Ethiopian Elections. Jut in case you missed it, the EU report on the recent election appeals process, the election re-runs and the Somali elections concluded:
The EU EOM regrets that the 15th of May post-polling 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 case their votes on 15 May.
The Prime Minister, needless to say, was not impressed. If you want a summary of his thoughts, look no further than the headings of each installment:
- Part 1: Easy to remove the garbage that has covered lumps of truth
- Part 2: Guilty until proven innocent
- Part 3: The grapes are sour
In the UK, it is relatively common to see newspaper articles apparently penned by Tony Blair or Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But no one believes that Blair or Brown actually sit down to write them. It is an accepted open secret that these 'thought pieces' are written by some scribe down in the depths of a government communications department and simply signed off by the men in question. Given the schedule of an average prime minister, it is doubtful whether Tony Blair even reads all the articles that are attributed to him.
But the amazing thing about the Ethiopian prime minister's letter is that there is little doubt that he actually took the time to compose every word of it. If it wasn't him, it must have been a highly skilled mimic. Anyone who has heard him speak first hand will recognise the Prime Minister's voice with its closely argued sentences and bursts of dry exasperation. Who else could have written:
The complaints investigation mechanism, as the EU-EOM says on page three of the statement, was a very positive development intended to address complaints "in a tense political environment". The very object of designing the system was to come up with a mechanism that can work in such an environment. It is such a system that the EU-EOM finds not only acceptable but also "a very positive development". But that of course is the EU-EOM of page three.
Three pages later the EU-EOM comes up with a radically different view. On page six, it states that the very fact that the complaints investigation mechanism operated in an environment of tension related to the elections and the June events meant that the context of the investigations was such as to make the process one that did not live up to international standards. A mechanism that was specifically designed to work in an environment of tension is invalidated because it continued to work in an environment for which it was designed i.e. one of tension. May God save humanity from observers with such perverse reasoning!
The Prime Minister is so exasperated with the EU that he even goes to the effort of correcting its grammar and spelling. He marks off no fewer than 16 errors in the EU report, pointing them out by inserting "(sic)" into the quotations he takes from the text. (Sic is Latin for 'thus' or 'so' and, according to dictionary.com, is "Used to indicate that a quoted passage, especially one containing an error or unconventional spelling, has been retained in its original form or written intentionally". Basically it means 'they said it, not me'.)
Here is one of the worst cases, taken from the EU report:
"In (sic) many occasions, the EU observers reported that opposition parties presented their cases based on poor evidence, inconsistent testimonies weak arguing (sic) The fact that in some constituencies opposition parties withdrew from the CIPs without presenting their case or before the end of the examination of the case was detrimental to the final recommendation given by the CIPs to the NEBE"
When you actually get to the detail of his text, he makes some pretty targeted attacks on the EU reasoning, most devastatingly in Part II when he takes on specific allegations of fraud during the election complaints procedure. It is a highly-detailed attack on the EU mission that will require a highly detailed response from the EU mission - a response that will be serialised, no doubt, in several leather-bound volumes.
Posted by aheavens at September 1, 2005 9:12 AM