[DEHAI] FW: Ethiopia and Zenawi's gangster capitalism

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Mon Jun 22 2009 - 05:14:54 EDT

Ethiopia and Zenawi's gangster capitalism

Written on Sunday, June 22nd, 2009 at 3:35 pm by ethioforum



By Abebe Gellaw (21 June 2009) A couple of weeks ago, Sebhat Nega, the man
who is credited to be the father of the Tigray People's Liberation Front,
flew to Washington DC to inspect whether the VOA Amharic service can join
the self-congratulatory band of the tyrannical regime. In the course of his
mission, he told VOA Amharic listeners that he was disappointed with the
performance of VOA Amharic section which he referred to as a stable for

In his interview with Addisu Abebe, he told us that the Endowment Fund for
the Rehabilitation of Tigray [EFFORT], which is the multi-billion dollars
business conglomerate that pays neither taxes nor services bank loans, was
accumulating wealth for Ethiopia. "EFFORT is owned by the Ethiopian economy,
but legally the wealth is owned by the people of Tigray," he said with no
sense of shame.

Corruption or endowment?

Despite the fact that Sebhat was in command of the fraudulent enterprise
until he was recently replaced by the dictator's wife, Queen of Mega Azeb
Mesfin, he could not recollect the amount of wealth EFFORT has been
accumulating since it started monopolizing the Ethiopian economy in 1995.
But it is easy to guess when an illegal entity operates under legal cover
without paying income taxes or serving bank loans. One can do a simple
arithmetic to work out how much they have accumulated with the help of over
eighty companies and underhand affiliate businesses for decades. Funnily
enough, Sebhat told us that EFFORT, whom he admitted to be unrivalled for
wealth in the wretched land, submits audit reports not to the Inland Revenue
but to the Ministry of Justice as a non-profit organisation.

The old man, who is said to have become one of the richest public figures in
the country, also claimed that EFFORT was investing throughout Ethiopia.
Asked if he could list its investment portfolio outside of Tigray, he
mentioned Jimma, where they have set up a coffee processing and exporting
company, Akaki and no more. "It has construction projects throughout the
country," Sebhat claimed. He also did a disservice to the people of Tigray
by smearing them that they collectively own EFFORT at a time when many
decent Tigrians have been condemning the corruption enterprise.

As a flagrant Ponzi scheme, a systematic investment scam based on deception
and grand promises, EFFORT is set up to make maximum profit at a minimum
cost. But what makes the scheme so unique is the fact that it is illegally
run like a nongovernmental organisation by hypocritical senior government
officials, who punish small corner shop owners for tax evasion and poor
coffee merchants for 'hoarding' a few quintals of beans while they are using
their power and influence to extort the entire people of Ethiopia.

EFFORT imports and exports tax free, it takes out billions of birr from
banks but hardly pays back flouting basic laws, it does not pay income tax,
it has unlimited access to hard currency, it takes major federal and
regional government contracts including construction at inflated cost and it
dominates almost all sectors of the economy stifling the prospect of private
entrepreneurship. It is simply a take-it-all and never-give-back scheme, the
worst form of gangster capitalism designed to benefit a certain ethnic junta
that is hurting the economy and poor taxpayers who are unwillingly funding
one of this corrupt politically connected business enterprises swindling
billions of birr annually. If the richest criminals do business and never
pay taxes and bank loans, why do ordinary citizens have to pay to fund the
criminality and luxurious life styles of a highly racist greedy political

Albanian Marxists found a milk cow nation

During the height of political radicalisation in the 1970s, the handful of
TPLF founders who fled to the jungle to start insurgency against the
military junta in what turned out to be a protracted bloody and destructive
armed insurrection, were diehard communists that declared that private
property was the root of all evil. According to their 1976 manifesto, the
aim of the TPLF was to liberate and establish greater Tigray as a communist
pariah annexing territories from Amhara and Eritrean provinces.

Aregawi Berhe, one of the founders of the Tigray People's Liberation Front,
who was later purged and forced into exile by Meles and his inner circle
halfway in the course of the insurrection, wrote an interesting paper that
appeared in the Journal of African Affairs [2004, Vol. 103/413]. According
to Aregawi's paper, The origins of the Tigray People's Liberation Front, the
diehard Marxists even felt too comfortable with their blind extremism to
form "an ultra-left ideological brand of Marxism-Leninism (Stalinism
specifically) which culminated in the formation of a group called the
Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray (MLLT) in 1986."

As a matter of fact, the now defunct MLLT, whose chief architect and leader
was the current guerrilla leader turned despot, Meles Zenawi, based its
ideology on the teachings of the fiery Albanian communist ruler Enver Hoxha
[1908-1985], who was actually a fierce critic of Stalin. What made Albanian
communism more attractive than Maoism or Stalinism to Meles and his
followers has been a subject of debate. But whatever the case was, it is
still indicative of the fact that the clique in power is composed of
extremists that have jumped from Albanian Marxism to crony capitalism
designed to benefit the selected few.

In 1989 Meles gave a lengthy and revealing interview to TPLF's pirate radio
in which he toiled hard blabbering about the front's ideology as well as
Ethiopia's "one-hundred year" history and how Emperor Minelik committed
internal colonialism. In that interview, Meles asserted, among other things,
that the purest brand of communism was preached and practiced only in
Albania, which was then the only officially atheist pariah, strictly
pursuing a closed-door policy. In Hoxha's Albania, owning a private car was
seen as a bourgeoisie luxury and listening to the BBC was an act of
imperialistic sedition. As a follower of Hoxha, Meles believed that most
Eastern European countries and the former Soviet Union were corrupt states
ruled by revisionists who cannot be trusted during the final showdown
between "moribund capitalism" and the pure communists like him. No wonder he
still seems ideologically deluded as he has had a gruelling steeplechase in
his tumultuous political life, jumping from Maoism to Albanian communism,
from 'revolutionary democracy' all the way to embracing gangster capitalism.

As soon as Meles Zenawi and his remaining cronies, who are spared from his
constant purges that appear to have turned the TPLF into a kind of private
limited company, consolidated their grip on state power, they have
completely abandoned Hoxha's ideology. As in the era of feudalism, land has
been a means of exploitation and control for the TPLF. As there is no
government mandated to rule by the people, the TPLF, backed by opportunist
political puppets it created in every province, owns, secedes, annexes,
allots, sells and grants land to its cronies, Arab merchants and
neighbouring countries.

Zenawi's TPLF has made it no secret that military victory alone is not
enough to sustain tyranny in Ethiopia. As a result of this paradigm shift,
TPLF has now become a formidable racketeering force engaged in profiteering
that controls all kinds of businesses in every sector of the Ethiopian
economy. TPLF's top guns, who have been appointed to run the party's
companies formed under EFFORT, which enjoys unfair preferential status
putting private entrepreneurs out of business have allegedly amassed wealth
beyond their wildest imaginations. As a result of TPLF's cronyism, we have
now genetically engineered millionaires that are politically connected to
Meles and his inner circle.

To make matters worse, Meles grabbed another news headline a few weeks ago
by appointing his wife, Queen of Mega" Azeb Mesfin, aka Lemlem Gola, to head
TPLF's business empire, putting EFFORT back into the spotlight once again.
Azeb, who infamously bankrupted Mega, is also the head of the Social Affairs
sub-committee in Meles Zenawi's rubber stamp parliament that she controls on
behalf of her husband. A couple of years ago, she appeared on a community TV
show in America and told us that the Swedes called her and her husband the
"poorest of the poor." She added that her tyrannical husband, whom she
claimed to hve a brain that can be sold in any market in the world, does not
even know the colour of the nation's currency that he minted let alone
stealing money from the poor people of Ethiopia. The comical drama wasn't
actually nothing more than the Queen of Mega being poorly creative.

The origin of the legendary symbol of Zenawi's corruption and ethnic
cronyism, EFFORT, is as chequered as TPLF's history. Long before TPLF came
to power, the front had amassed a huge amount of asset collected for the war
effort through various ways. Money and assets of captured or dead Derg
soldiers, funds from external powers including, Arab countries, Libya,
Sudan, Egypt and Somalia, TPLF businesses mainly based in Sudan, relief aid,
banks and public offices raided in "liberated" territories. were among the
many sources of revenue for the ethnic front. But the greater chunk to start
EFFORT's multiple companies came from bank loans that remain unlikely to get
repaid as nobody has the audacity or the authority to send bills to Zenawi's

In his book Peasant Revolution in Ethiopia: The Tigray People's Liberation
Front [1975-1991], John Young noted that EFFORT began operations in mid-1995
"by taking non-military equipment captured from the Derg; it furthered
acquired companies established during and after liberation by the TPLF, and
also received limited financial contributions from supportive NGOs." It is
also worth mentioning that EFFORT took over public enterprises under the
guise of privatisation. John Young further pointed out that "with its
capital, bank borrowing, and a team of seven TPLF Central Committee
members," with correspondent MBAs from Open University, EFFORT was destined
to be a fraudulent economic "powerhouse." EFFORT was launched under the
leadership and guidance of Meles Zenawi [Legese Zenawi] and his trusted
cronies Sebhat Nega [Wolde Selassie Nega] Seye Abreha [purged], Arkebe
Ekubay, Abadi Zemu, Yohannes Ekubay, Yohannes Kidane, Alemseged Gebreamlak
[purged], Abay Tsehaye, Tewodros Hago, Shimelis Kinde, Atkilit Kiros et al.

EFFORT: a symbol of grand corruption

EFFORT now boasts to own a brazen list of numerous strategic companies that
are being accused of using their political connections to skew the economy,
bankrupting banks and engaging in tax evasion under complex "legal" covers
to protect their privileged status. According to informed sources, EFFORT's
business portfolio, enterprises like Addis Pharmaceutical Factory, Guna
Trading House, Meganet, Almeda Texitile Factory, Hiwot Agricultural
Mechanization Plc, Ezana Mining Development Plc, Africa Insurance, Wegagen
Bank, Trans Ethiopia, Sur Construction Plc, Mesfin Engineering, just to
mention a few among over eighty companies, owe the Commercial Bank of
Ethiopia, the Construction and Business Bank as well as the Development Bank
of Ethiopia over six billion birr. As a result of TPLF's insatiable greed,
the banks financial health has been seriously affected causing inflation. To
make matters worse, the companies do not pay tax that need to be emphasized
despite the fact that they are engaged in profiteering businesses having the
lion's share of government contracts at federal and state levels.

Meles Zenawi's decision to appoint his wife to lead the corruption giant
EFFORT bankrupting and plundering Ethiopia, has been well-calculated and
shows the intention of the dictator to closely monitor the money flow. The
first head of EFFORT, ex-Defence Minister Seye Abraha, suffered in jail
after openly challenging Meles' absolute rule during the war with Isaias
Afewerki. The main reason for Seye's predicament was not corruption as it is
an open secret that all the company running "directors" and their close
associates have enriched themselves at the expense of the hungry stricken
people of Ethiopia. Seye, along with his family members, was accused of
corruption and pilloried in courts. In his defence, Seye read a 29-page
statement in court in which he alleged that Meles was actually the one who
had committed "high treason and grand corruption." In fact, as an insider
Seye knows better than any ordinary folks. So it is very hard to dispute
what he alleged.

For now, the Queen of Mega is on the throne of her husband's gangster
capitalism that benefits the selected few at the expense of the suffering
masses who sustain their lives with food aid and compassion from afar. That
is the sad reality of Ethiopia which never goes away year after year. Meles
Zenawi's gangster capitalism is based on nothing but the economics of
looting that defies every economic principle, equity, fair play and common
sense. That obviously calls for challenge and scrutiny.

In his VOA interview Sebhat mentioned a very weird plan of the TPLF. He said
the ethnic party would dissolve itself after it establishes "capitalism." In
other words, it will ultimately commit suicide after plundering and totally
bankrupting the unfortunate nation. It may be a funny premonition but
corruption is an act of suicide that ultimately brings down any government.

Whatever they claim, there is enough evidence to boldly claim that EFFORT,
backed up by Tigray Development Association [TDA] and the Relief Society of
Tigray [REST] which are also involved in businesses though not as large
scale as EFFORT, is nothing but the ugly face of gangster capitalism whose
foundations are thievery, cronyism, nepotism, discrimination, grand
corruption, tax evasion and unbridled greed. And yet EFFORT is being
promoted as the property of Tigray with a view to further alienating and
smearing Ethiopians of Tigrian origin, the majority of whom are obviously as
outraged as the rest of the nation.

Gangster capitalism, whose hallmark is excessive greed and primitive
accumulation, enriches no one except a few repressive members of a club of
gangsters who are destined to fall into the graves they been digging for the
hunger-stricken nation. As the educationalist, Amos Bronson Alcott
[1977-1888], said: "A government for protecting business only, is but a
carcass, and soon falls by its own corruption and decay."

The myopic leaders of the TPLF, the discriminatory ethnic party trying to
impose slavish national obedience, may believe that EFFORT is accumulating
wealth but in reality it is a disastrous economic and political liability
that will remain an indelible blot which will inevitably go down in the
history books to be passed down to generations to come.

That said, it leads us to a simple question. When will we have a decent
government that works in the best interests of the whole nation? After all
the idea of setting up a government at the expense of poor taxpayers is not
to enthrone those who commit atrocities, division, discrimination and
daylight robberies against a nation but to protect and promote the public
good. It is the duty of a decent government to crack down on criminals, but
if the government is run by a gang of criminals then it becomes the duty of
ordinary citizens to expose and make concerted efforts to crack down on the
repressive regime that has made our lives too unbearable.


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