Ethiopia : Meles Zenawi Threatens to Jam VOA, U.S fires back

By Oromsis Adula*

Last month, the Voice of America, a “multimedia broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors”, complained that its Amharic broadcats were jammed in Ethiopia. Speaking to reporters in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian tyrant Meles Zenawi, threatens to jam the broadcast completely while comparing it to Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM). RTLM is a radio station best known for inciting and excerbating the Rwandan Genocide.

Meles Zenawi likes to use Rwandan Genocide as a scare tactic. During the 2005, he used Interahamwe referring to opposition protesters. Interahamwe was the government backed Hutu militia mobilized to massacre their Tutsi counterparts.

Apparently, although this could just be a war of words, the State Department is fighting back. Clearly, the sun is shining on Meles Zenawi’s repressive rule. It is up to the United States and other donor countries to take note and stop financing a dictatorial regime.

It is also to be remembered that following the contested 2005 Ethiopian election, the minority regime in Ethiopia effectively muzzled out independent press in the country. Many of the journalists who were instrumental in bringing to light the brutality of Ethiopian government were either in prison or forced to flee the country.

For the last eighteen years, despite the rhetoric of democratization, the Voice of America Radio and Germany’s International Broadcasting Station, the Deutsche Welle Radio, served the people of Ethiopia as the only media outlets not controlled by government.

In a country of seventy plus million people, there is not a single free press to speak of. Afan Oromo, the lingua-franca of Ethiopia and the third most widely spoken language in Africa,  is relegated to a limited propoganda service. Jamming the VOA broadcats will leave the whole country with vitually no voice or an alternative news source apart from the government controlled agitprop.

One can only wonder, what good does writing annual human rights reports and complaining about jammed radio broadcats do for the American government that continues to support the authoritarian regime in Addis Ababa. A powerful nation such as the United States, has the power to tell Ethiopian authorities, “they are on the wrong side of history” and also they have a stated will to stand “with those who seek justice, freedom and liberty”

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