A SECOND CALL TO ACTION
A SECOND CALL TO ACTION
Special note and request: I am asking my readers in the United States, particularly Ethiopian Americans in the great State of Florida to join me in advocating against confirmation of Gayle Smith who has been nominated to head the USAID.
The United States Senate has independent and full authority to confirm or reject Gayle Smith’s nomination.
I specifically urge Ethiopian American constituents of Senator Marco Rubio in Florida to contact one of his district offices or Senate office in Washington, D.C. and register their strong opposition to Smith’s confirmation.
For a list of Senator Rubio’s district offices in Florida and Washington, D.C., CLICK HERE.
I also call upon all Ethiopian Americans who believe in freedom, democracy and human rights to phone, write, email and fax their Senators’ local or Washington offices and register their strong opposition to Ms. Smith confirmation.
To contact your United States Senators, CLICK HERE.
“The President…shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law….” United States Constitution, Article II, section 2, Clause 2.
As I have set forth below in my letter to Senator Marco Rubio (which I sent to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas), Ms. Smith’s confirmation to head USAID will be a disaster for Africa and an unmitigated catastrophe for Ethiopia.
Let us use the U.S. Constitution and petition our Government to do the right thing: REJECT THE NOMINATION OF GAYLE SMITH!
“You just need to be a flea against injustice. Enough committed fleas biting strategically can make even the biggest dog uncomfortable and transform even the biggest nation.”
― Marian Wright Edelman
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September 23, 2015
Senator Marco Rubio
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Rubio:
First, let me thank you for Letter dated July 22, 2015 to President Barack Obama in which you eloquently “highlighted” your “concerns regarding ongoing human rights abuses by the Ethiopian government against its own people.“
In your Letter, you stated,
I am concerned that unless you make these issues a priority during your trip, your visit to Ethiopia could grant legitimacy to a government that violates democratic principles and basic human rights… Since Ethiopia’s 2010 election, opposition members have faced politically motivated arrests, imprisonment, and torture… I [am] very disappointed by the comments Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman made on April 16th before the election that, ‘Ethiopia is a democracy that is moving forward in an election that we expect to be free, fair and credible and open and inclusive in ways that Ethiopia has moved forward in strengthening its democracy…every time there is an election it gets better and better.’
… I ask that during your meeting with Ethiopian officials, as well as in any public remarks, that you strongly condemn the arrest of political prisoners and encourage the government to respect human rights and the freedom of assembly. It is important that the United States continues to promote democracy and freedom for everyone, including the people of Ethiopia.
Sir, Ethiopians have few friends in the United States Senate who have stood up and become the voice for the voiceless for them.
We are grateful for your letter. We all THANK YOU!
As you know, President Obama visited Ethiopia and said,
I don’t bite my tongue too much when it comes to these issues. We are opposed to any group that is promoting the violent overthrow of a government, including the government of Ethiopia, that has been democratically elected.…
The ruling regime in Ethiopia claims to have “won” 100 percent of the seats in parliament in a country with some 90 political parties; and President Obama says, “the election is democratic”.
I believe it was the great American playwright Tennessee Williams who said, “The only thing worse than a liar is a liar that’s also a hypocrite.”
We Ethiopian Americans and Ethiopians in general had great hopes of promoting core American values in Africa when Barack Obama was elected President.
Our hopes were dashed.
As arguably the most ardent and vocal Ethiopian American supporter of President Obama, I finally had to come clean on Barack Obama. It was hard! Very hard!
I wrote my weekly commentary, “Shame On Me For Being Proud of President Obama!” telling my very considerable number of readers throughout the world, “I was wrong on Barack Obama!”
It was the most difficult commentary I have written in nine years of uninterrupted weekly commentaries (not missed a single week!).
It took me 4,645 words to say, “I was wrong on Obama!”
It is true, “The truth shall set you free.”
Like you, I also expressed my own shock and disappointment in Undersecretary Wendy Sherman’s remarks on Ethiopia’s 2015 “election” in my weekly commentary “Wendy Sherman and the Ethiopian ‘Election’ That Isn’t”.
I am opposed to Ms. Smith’s nomination.
On May 12, 2015, I registered my objection to Ms. Smith’s confirmation in The Hill in my op-ed piece, “The Senate should not confirm Gayle Smith”.
I believe Ms. Smith is the wrong choice for the job.
I specifically object to Ms. Smith’s confirmation because of 1) her poor record in promoting and supporting democracy, freedom and human rights in Africa, and 2) for her unwavering support for African dictators for the past three decades and 3) for her foreign policy approach which treats Africans as welfare aid recipients who must be perpetually tethered to the pockets of hard working American tax payers.
Ms. Smith subscribes to a foreign policy of welfare, aid handouts and alms-giving to Africa generously supported by American taxpayers. In 2014, American tax payers through USAID spent over $5 billion in Africa on various health and development programs.
What have American tax payers received for the billions of dollars they have spent in Africa through USAID?
What have American tax payers received for the billions of dollars they have spent in Ethiopia through USAID?
No one really knows. Not even USAID!
In 2010, the U.S. State Department Office of the Inspector General (OIG) concluded its “audit was unable to determine whether the results reported in USAID/Ethiopia’s Performance Plan and Report were valid because mission staff could neither explain how the results were derived nor provide support for those reported results.” (“Audit of USAID/Ethiopia’s Agricultural Sector Productivity Activities (Audit Report No. 4-6663-10-003-P (March 30, 2010, p. 1″).
In 2014, the OIG concluded that the USAID HIV project in Ethiopia experienced significant and undue delays and was plagued by poor planning, lack of oversight and monitoring and complete absence of quality control. (AUDIT OF USAID/ETHIOPIA’S HIV CARE AND TREATMENT ACTIVITIES, AUDIT REPORT NO. 4-663-14-006-P (MAY 23, 2014.) In one USAID-funded hospital, the OIG (with photographs) “discovered several cartons of food supplements that mice had also chewed on. There were mouse droppings in both rooms where food was stored. The rooms were damp and dirty; one had no windows or lighting, and the other had a leaky ceiling (p.12.))
According to Global Financial Integrity (GFI), “Ethiopia, which has a per-capita GDP of just US$365, lost US$11.7 billion to illicit financial outflows between 2000 and 2009.”
A good chunk of the nearly $12 billion lost in illicit transfer is American tax payer dollars given through USAID and laundered by the leaders of the ruling regime in Ethiopia and their cronies in off shore banks.
GFI concluded, “The people of Ethiopia are being bled dry. No matter how hard they try to fight their way out of absolute destitution and poverty, they will be swimming upstream against the current of illicit capital leakage.”
If Ms. Smith is confirmed, the capital leakage will be capital hemorrhage, a capital tsunami out of Ethiopia! Ethiopians will be paddling up that famous creek without a paddle if Ms. Smith is confirmed.
Simply stated, the OIG’s conclusions point to the incontrovertible fact that USAID in Ethiopia has been working hand in glove with the corrupt regime in Ethiopia and asleep at the switch, or shall I say the spigot, as American tax dollars flowed directly out of American pockets and into the pockets of regime officials and their crony contractors.
Confirmation of Ms. Smith to head the USAID will be an endorsement of USAID’s business-as-usual modus operandi in Ethiopia.
Confirmation of Ms. Smith to head the USAID will mean a “beggar’s feast” for the regime in Ethiopia.
You see Senator Rubio, Ms. Smith has been bosom buddies with Africa’s worst dictators for decades.
Ms. Smith has been and remains a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of some of the most ruthless dictatorships in Africa.
Ms. Smith was a staunch supporter and spin doctor of the late Meles Zenawi, the late bloodthirsty and ruthless dictator in Ethiopia, whose crimes against humanity have been certified by an Inquiry Commission he personally established.
It is a little known fact that Ms. Smith was an employee of Mr. Zenawi’s rebel organization the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the mid-1980s.
According to a May 1991 Christian Science Monitor report, “One of the few Westerners who speaks the Tigre language and has had many contacts with Zenawi over a nine-year period, is Gayle Smith, an American who worked for Tigre’s relief agency, REST, during the 1985-6 drought.”
Ms. Smith had long “gone native” with the brutal rebel group that is today ruling Ethiopia.
Smith was a staunch defender and spin-doctor of Meles Zenawi. She is today a protector and guardian of the TPLF.
It is ironic that the TPLF, which employed Ms. Smith decades ago is today is the official regime in Ethiopia, is today listed in the Global Terrorism Database.
The fact of the matter is that Ms. Smith has tried to humanize the late cut-throat Marxist Meles Zenawi and his TPLF as harmless ideologues.
Ms. Smith has tried to justify many of Zenawi’s outrageously radical statements as “language that goes along with being a left-of-center guerrilla organization”.
Ms. Smith has even tried to paint Zenawi as a reasonable liberal democrat who “realizes only a broad-based coalition can govern Ethiopia’s diverse ethnic population.”
Ms. Smith has long been a bulwark for a regime with a frightening human rights record.
The facts speak for themselves.
In 2003, Ms. Smith’s old comrade, Meles Zenawi, massacred over 400 innocent villagers in Gambella, in Western Ethiopia.
Ms. Smith was silent and turned a blind eye to the crimes against humanity committed by her old comrade-in-arms.
In 2005, Meles Zenawi ordered the massacre and shooting of hundreds of unarmed protesters following the election that year. In the Meles Massacres, nearly 200 unarmed protesters were killed and some 800 wounded.
Ms. Smith remained dead silent as the very graves the innocent protesters were buried in.
The Meles Massacres of 2005 were a defining moment for me, Senator Rubio.
Overnight, I was transformed from an armchair academic and pugnacious defense lawyer into an indefatigable human rights advocate for Ethiopia and Africa.
For the past nine years, I have written long weekly commentaries (without missing a single week!) exposing the crimes against humanity committed by the late Zenawi and the crimes against humanity that continue to be committed by the TPLF today. (My commentaries are available at almariam.com and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam )
In 2007, Meles Zenawi ordered the indiscriminate bombing of the Ogaden region of Ethiopia results in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent villagers. The massacres in the Ogaden have been described as “genocide”.
Ms. Smith remained silent, deaf and mute in the face crimes against humanity committed by her dear friend Meles Zenawi.
As I am sure you are aware, the TPLF, the party for whom Ms. Smith worked decades ago, this past May declared one hundred percent (100%) victory in the parliamentary election.
In 2010, the same party declared victory by 99.6 percent.
To the shock and horror of the world, President Obama in July 2015 said, “the government of Ethiopia [which “won” the 2015 election by 100 percent] has been democratically elected.”
Ms. Smith was at the side of the President in Addis Ababa when he made the absurd declaration.
Over the past few months, a few of Ms. Smith’s personal friends and associates have written op-ed pieces lionizing her and trying to reinvent her a new public image as a defender of human rights. The latest one appeared in The Hill on September 18 declaring it is “Time for the Senate to confirm Gayle Smith.”
It is time to send back Gayle Smith’s nomination to the White house stamped, “REJECTED”.
In another forum, I have presented ample evidence to support my opposition to Ms. Smith.
Let me restate my deep concerns that if the Senate confirms Ms. Smith, it will be a holiday for African dictators on the American tax payers’ dime.
I have no doubts that with news of Gayle Smith at the helm of USAID, African dictators will be rubbing their palms and drooling on their jackets at the very prospect of bleeding the American tax payer. They will be like slobbering hyenas snorting a whiff of carrion.
USAID has long been a candy store for African dictators.
When Gayle Smith takes over, USAID will be a chocolate factory for African dictators.
In 2016, USAID will have some 22 billion in greenbacks to spread around the globe. A good 25 percent plus of it will go out of the pockets of American tax payers to line the pockets of African dictators.
Gayle Smith’s confirmation will mean one thing for sure: One small insignificant event for the impoverished people of Africa, one giant money-making opportunity for African dictators.
Let me also underscore my deep disappointment over the fact that Ms. Smith believes Africa can develop and sustain itself hooked to the life-support system bleeding American tax payers.
Ms. Smith is wrong on her views on American tax dollars in Africa.
As Dambissa Moyo, one of the most respected African policy analyst has convincingly demonstrated, the “insidious aid culture has left African countries more debt-laden, more inflation-prone, more vulnerable to the vagaries of the currency markets and more unattractive to higher-quality investment.”
No one has ever escaped poverty by receiving alms or welfare payments disguised as “aid”.
What the USAID needs today is not a coddler of dictators or someone who caters to the whims and fancy of Africa’s strongmen.
The USAID needs the steady hand on the tiller.
Gayle Smith is not a steady hand on the tiller, though her confirmation will certainly mean African dictators will have their hands and fingers in the American tax payers’ till.
On the other hand, you are no doubt aware that USAID development programs have been plagued by widespread allegations of fraud, waste, abuse and corruption.
A Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that a significant amount of the nearly $10 billion spent by the U.S. in Africa between 2002 and 2012 on various health projects, including malaria and HIV control, “has been partly hijacked by organized networks that steal large quantities of donated malaria drugs and ship them from East to West Africa, where they end up for sale at street markets.”
The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction in 2013 found that USAID’s of lack of effective oversight and monitoring placed hundreds of millions of U.S. tax dollars “at risk of waste, fraud and abuse.”
USAID does not need a namby-pamby leader at the helm.
USAID needs a strong consensus builder with the proven ability to resolve serious internal administrative issues.
USAID needs a visionary leader who could envision Africa holding a plough and sickle, not an Africa with outstretched arms holding a begging bowl for American tax payer dole out.
USAID needs a leader who can clean house, not house sit.
USAID does not need a leader who will sweep out the dirt, not hide it under the rug.
USAID does not need an administrator of welfare programs for African dictators.
USAID needs a leader with the ability and commitment to root out fraud, waste and abuse in the USAID.
If confirmed, Ms. Smith will oversee the administration of billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Africa.
Ms. Smith’s long and chummy relationship with Africa’s dictators make it impossible for her to become a strong advocate of human rights, the rule of law and good governance on the continent.
Ms. Smith will be a god-send for African beggar-dictators.
President Obama often invokes the metaphor of being “on the right side of history”.
Ms. Smith is on the wrong side of history; she has always been on the side of Africa’s dictators and strongmen.
President Obama is requesting the Senate’s advice and consent for Ms. Smith to become USAID Administrator.
It is time for the Senate to withhold consent on Smith’s confirmation and advise the President to send a nominee who is on the right side of history, on the right side of the rule of law, on the right side of democracy and on the right side of human rights.
It is time to reject a nominee who is on the side of dictators, strongmen and thugs who cling to power by the barrel of the gun.
I have also written Senator Ted Cruz asking him to block the confirmation of Gayle Smith.
In a Letter dated July 16, 2015, Senator Cruz wrote to President Obama stating that he would “block all nominees for the Department of State” unless the President provided him certain assurances. The President failed to provide Senator Cruz the assurances he requested.
I respectfully ask that you join Senator Cruz in blocking the confirmation of Gayle Smith.
For Africa, Senate confirmation of Ms. Smith at this moment will be the equivalent of moving the clock of history backwards for freedom, democracy and human rights.
I trust you will remain true to your promise in your July 16 Letter to President Obama and block Ms. Smith’s confirmation.
Alemayehu (Al) Mariam, Ph.D., J.D.
Professor of Political Science &
Attorney at Law
Department of Political Science
California State University, San Bernardino
San Bernardino, CA 92402