Zenawi Out on His Own in Africa

Posted on 17 December 2009 by editor

Meles Zenawi. Credit: Servaas van den Bosch

Meles Zenawi. Credit: Servaas van den Bosch

By Servaas van den Bosch

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TERRA VIVA) – An announcement by Ethiopia and France yesterday caused consternation among the African countries. Is someone trying to break their ranks to get the continent to sign on to a poor deal, they are asking themselves?

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is not a happy man. His head slumped in his hands, the triumphs of Ethiopian agriculture, presented at a side event of the COP, seem to escape him completely.

Twenty-four hours of confusion stalled talks in the Africa Group following Zenawi’s joint appeal for a climate deal with French president Sarkozy yesterday. “Ethiopia representing Africa” had agreed on a maximum two degree temperature rise and called on the parties to make a $10 billion dollar start-up fund available, raved the French.

In what appeared to be an orchestrated move, US president Obama congratulated the Ethiopians on their “leadership”.

But Ethiopia didn’t represent Africa’s position at all.

“This was not the result of consultation,” G77/China-chair Lumumba Di-Aping told TerraViva.

“It has seriously divided the Africa Group, we don’t even know what’s going on,” conceded Ugandan chief negotiator and minister of water and environment, Maria Mutagamba, who foresees Africa might have to walk out of the talks if no long-term funding is put on the table.

“I am not sure whether good consultations took place beforehand,” Namibian Prime Minister Nahas Angula told IPS. “I do think though that Zenawi was trying to emphasise the resources Africa needs in the context of adapting to climate change.”

Many African countries reject the two degree measure, because it would effectively mean a temperature rise of 3.7 degrees on the continent. The $10 billion quick start-up fund is generally regarded as an insult from rich nations that have yet to pledge any long-term funding.

The position of the Africa group, TerraViva learnt, is to demand 1.5 percent of the GDP of the industrialised nations, which works out to $600 billion annually for 2013 to 2017. LDCs want 70 percent of that and $2 billion from any quick start-up money.

But the Ethiopian move has complicated things. “It was extremely bad timing. There is utter confusion now and we have lost control of the process,” the chair of the Lowest Developed Countries (LDCs) bloc, Lesotho’s Bruno Sekoli, told TerraViva.

“The substance of the statement is not the problem. In the end it’s not rocket science for the world to agree here, but what really has been hampering the negotiations since Bangkok is the deep spirit of mistrust, the fear that poor countries will strike secret deals with powerful countries. The French intervention has once again lent credit to this suspicion,” Sekoli added.

And what had Zenawi to say? Did he regret his premature announcement?

“What I regret is the way my comments were distorted and the stir that resulted,” he told TerraViva. “I do not think trust has been lost in the Africa Group though, we are still united.”

He vehemently denied being pressured into the announcement by the US and France. “Absolutely not, I was trying to get the focus back on Africa. Many developed countries ignore us, they shouldn’t do that.”

(END/2009)

6 Comments For This Post

  1. Neamin Says:

    To beging with why is an ecocider and human rights abuser despot representing africa? The Africans should have chosen democraticaly elected leaders with better records on human rights, the environment, and corruption. As an organization that promotes Human rights, good governance, the protection of the environment, sustainable development, we would like to bring to your attention the abysmal environmental records of Mr. Zenawi’s regime in Ethiopia. His policies and practice have brought about monumental havoc on Ethiopia’s ecology. We are disappointed that the African Union has selected and the Climate Summit has given an opportunity to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia to represent the African continent. We believe that Meles Zenawi is the wrong person to represent Africa, since his policies are the causes and drivers for the incalculable environmental degradations currently taking place in Ethiopia. Under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s regime, Ethiopia is facing an ecological catastrophe: deforestation, recurrent drought, and desertification. Water pollution, air pollution, soil erosion are becoming alarmingly high due to Zenawi’s regime lacks both sustainable development plans and non-transboundary environmental policies. It is due to this fact that UNDP and other environmental organizations have been reporting about the alarming state of the ecological degradation in Ethiopia. Mr. Meles Zenawi’s colossal failures in environmental policies are highlighted by his regime’s land tenure policy and his relentless suppression of civil and economic rights. Millions of Ethiopians are exposed to periodic hunger and famine in part due to his regime’s land tenure policy. After almost two decades of Zenawi’s rule, in 2009 over ten million Ethiopians are exposed to hunger and malunitrition.
    As is customary, Meles Zenawi’s regime has signed numerous international and environmental treaties that it never implements. To add insult to injury, Mr. Meles Zenawi even chairs Ethiopia’s Environmental Council. It is partly due to his control that the existing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lacks the political clout to discharge and enforce the duties and responsibilities vested in it. To those who pay attention to what is going on in Ethiopia, the story of the EPA’s feebleness is a direct byproduct of profuse lip service given by the regime of Zenawi about its concern for the environment– as is the case about good governance, democracy, human rights, etc,. In addition, Mr. Zenawi’s hostile attitude towards Environmental NGOs – and civil society organizations, in general, has created enormous hurdles for those who want to mitigate the colossal environmental crisis facing Ethiopia.
    According to the government’s own Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute, Ethiopia has been losing up to 200,000 hectares of forest every year. In a very recent statement, the head of the same Institute, stated: “deforestation has continued at an alarming rate in several parts of Ethiopia as a result of illegal logging, deforestation and other human induced activities”. Forty percent of the land covered by forest by the turn of the 20th century had gone down to 5.5% in 1987 and only 0.2% in 2003. If the current trend continues, Ethiopian forest covers would be extinct along with the loss of the country’s uniquely rich wildlife, fauna, flora, and a broad and general loss of its biological diversity.
    The governance problem is one of the main causes of the environmental distress taking place in Ethiopia Soil erosion, which is linked with deforestation and Meles Zenawi’s land tenure system, continues to contribute to the drying up of the country’s lakes. Major Ethiopian Lakes such as Haro Maya (Alemaya), Adele, Awasa, and others have dried out totally. Acute shortages of water afflict major towns such as the city of Harrar and the capital city, Addis Ababa. As a result of the shortage of water resources, thousands of Ethiopians are affected by water born diseases.
    The use of pesticides, untested and unfitting fertilizers, other toxic chemicals, some of them long abandoned by the industrialized countries, are now common in Ethiopia. The excess chemicals that are being washed off from the farms to rivers, streams, and lakes, are causing a plethora of problems including the poisoning of inhabitants, increasing algae blooms, and excessive plant growth leading to eutrophication, thereby making the water bodies and vegetation harmful to humans, wild and aquatic life and polluting the underground water. The level of environmental destruction caused by the chemicals used by foreign and party owned commercial flower farms and the leather industry is among the worst in the world. The environmental destruction and its hazardous impacts on human life and other inhabitants at and around Lake Koka, for instance, are captured by a few investigative reports and were televised recently by the members of the International media such as the Al-Jazeera Television Network and detailed by an eminent British Scientist.
    Vehicular emissions in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, are alarmingly high. The presence of lead and sulfur in imported fuels, despite a ban since 2002, and the absence of emission inspection clearly indicate that the laws Zenawi passes only give lip service to clear and present dangers to the lives of Ethiopians.
    Ethiopia’s government human right abuses and suppression of press freedom are well-documented, by Human Rights Watch; The US State Department Annual Report on Human Rights, Amnesty International, the New York based Center to Protect Journalist (CPJ), Journalists without Borders, and many other creditable international and regional human rights and press freedom organizations. The organization–Genocide Watch– has called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to initiate an investigation against the atrocities committed by the government of Meles Zenawi. Wide spread corruption also adds to the malaise of ordinary Ethiopians. Transparency International’s most recent report has ranked Ethiopia as 126th most corrupt country in the world.
    Periodic ethnic conflicts in the country are destroying and weakening the institutions and these in turn are prohibiting the citizens and the NGOs to make informed decisions about the environment. The governance problem is one of the main causes of the environmental distress taking place in Ethiopia.

    We believe that in an age of Globalization humanity’s interest, wellbeing, and destiny are directly intertwined. In view of this, we urge you to take tangible steps that include the following concerns of ours:
    1. Mr. Meles Zenawi must be held accountable to the massive environmental degradtion in Ethiopia. We urge you not to ignore the environmental damages that the Zenawi’s regime has committed inside Ethiopia. For doing so sends a very bad message to all of us who care about the environment. Zenawi should not be rewarded for the seemingly non-transboundary environmental degradation he has brought to Ethiopia.

    2. Emphasize the crucial roles of a representative’s records in environmental protection, social justice, good governance, human rights, and the rule of law that are important in shaping and averting Global crisis in climate change.
    3. Ensure the appropriate use of any climate change financing package to nations with non representative leaders with bad track records on environment, human rights, good governance, and social justice by binding conditions tied to strict measures that would ensure that the funds would not be siphoned off by corrupt leaders such as Mr. Meles Zenawi and others in Africa.
    4. Refrain from giving funds to a corrupt regime such as Zenawi as doing so would be a waste of resources and tantamount to committing the same mistakes that the world community has made during the 1983/4 Ethiopian famine when., as recently revealed by Zenawi’s rebel comrades, the food aid and money was used to build his Red Army. Mr. Zenawi will use the same international funds, as in the past, to keep political and ethnic cronies to continue suppressing the Ethiopian people.
    5. Do not undermine the importance of social justice, good governance, human rights, and the empowerment of citizens, and their civil societies in shaping and in averting Global warming

    We urge countries of the industrialized world attending the conference not to write a blank check and reward dictators, such as the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, who have abysmal records of human rights and the environment.

  2. afron Says:

    I am not surprised by the move of Zenawi. He is professional gambler so he just runs for his own profit and doent care for his own people or region. This man has been selling ethiopia for the past 20 years and now he got chance to sell Africa, shame on you selfish blooless dictator.

  3. dima Says:

    This man has destroyed the future of Ethiopia now he is trying to sell the future of Africa. I hope other African leaders will not let him.

  4. Samrawit Says:

    Neamin,

    You made my point. It is just a farce to see Zenawi representing Africa in Copenhagen. He is no environmentalist. He is just after the money to sustain his fast crumbling regime. That it it! He just talks about 2 degree increase in temperature here and there. He doesn’t really care if the earth is fried from global warming to be honest. He is simply chasing the much talked about compensation fund!!!!!!

  5. Tekle Says:

    First of all the leaders of the totalitarian regimes should not been invited for this kind of international conference. I don’t think these dictators care or know about the environmental conservation and degradation. Zenawi had led 100 thousand of rebels in 1991 to topple the then dictator Mengistu. His rebel forces of destroyed the forestry and the wild endanger animals in the northern highlands of Ethiopia. After taking central power, in the name federalization Zenawi dismantled the National forestry and Wild Animals Protection organization which resulted in unchecked deforestation and killing of wild games in the southern and western pat of the country. Before Zenawi took power the city where I grew up, Addis Ababa, used to be surrounded by green mountains. Since Zenawi’s rebels invaded the country the trees of those green mountainous regions were cut down and the land given to or sold by Zenawi officials for settlement of rich and affluent people. The green field I used to play soccer given to Zenawi’s rebel leaders for construction of houses and generate wealth. His government has made no efforts to do at least its home work before pointing finger to other nations as a cause for environmental degradation. He destroyed Ethiopia and Somalia and now turned to destroy other countries.

  6. Positive Thinker Says:

    I am sorry but I can’t just read such garbage from Neamin and Tekle without responding. First all I am not sure you are an African but if you are. It is so unfortunate for me to avert to the level you can understand. African is not in a position to do anything to stop the industrial nations from keep polluting. The smart thing for African leader to do is to find enough partners and get maximum benefit from this deal. I believe that what everybody want Melles to do and that is exactly what it did. He might not be the role model for human right, democracy, etc [which most African leaders do not qualify according to the west] but that is not the issue at risk. You probably don’t know anything about the history of industrial nations promises. History will teach you that industrial nations have been promising so much for years but never delivered. For someone who followed the full content of the deal closely [not just the sound bit – by the way you are not even in this category] this time is different. Unless you are one of those killers from prior Ethiopian’s history – i.e. Dergue banda, you can not deny that he did very well in negotiating on behalf of Africa. This is a very strong accomplishment for Africa ever. Africa will have a say on how the fund is going to be spend. For people who have a good knowledge of world politics and so called development funding scheme having a full control of the fund is a major accomplishment for Africa. It never happens before. For all Africans, please note that the industrial nations do not care about Africa unless African unites and strategically find supports from appropriate countries around the world. However, it is unfortunate we have to fight with people who pretend to care about Africa. It is sad but it’s a reality we are in. However, it is one of our smallest challenges. Long live Africa unity!!!!! With God help we will keep united!!!

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