A modest proposal for Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi

Dear Prime Minister Zenawi –

I realise this letter is arriving at a particularly busy time for your administration. Simply keeping track of the more than 100 opposition politicians and activists (including a 15 year old boy) you’ve detained on charges of “treason” and “genocide” would keep most leaders busy. While overseeing violent crackdowns on dissent in rural areas of your nation, you’ve managed to make time to illegally occupy territory granted to Eritrea by the UN’s mediation committee, to intimidate or imprison the independent press, and even to sue Ethiopian dissidents in a US court. You’re a busy man.

It’s easy to understand, with such a busy schedule, that you might not be able to keep up with recent developments in non-lethal crowd control technologies. While not an expert on this topic, I was able to perform some Google searches and locate some pages that might be of interest to you. To my great surprise, it seems that most experts don’t advocate firing live ammunition in crowded city streets to disperse opposition protesters. According to Globalsecurity.org, a number of other options exist, including “malodorants and irritants“, designed to make members of crowds uncomfortable and disperse, or non-lethal munitions, which include sponge or rubber bullets, as well as alternative projectiles like beanbags, which are designed to be less likely to cause serious injury than conventional shells. (Of course, allowing non-violent dissenters to protest, unmolested, is always an option as well.)

You’ll be pleased to hear that many of these technologies can be purchased online and are surprisingly affordable – Security Safety and Supply of Brunswick, Maine offers several different options of nonlethal shotgun shells for $4.95 apiece. (They also offer free shipping for orders over $100!) While that’s significantly more expensive than arming your security forces solely with conventional weapons, it’s worth noting that violent suppression of dissent has caused donors to withhold over $375 million in support to your government – that’s almost 20% of the aid your nation receives per year, or slightly over 4% of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product. A modest supply of 7 million non-lethal shells – one for roughly every ten of your fellow citizens – would cost only $35 million and might encourage former donors to unfreeze their aid to your government.

(Or you could simply wait for other national leaders to follow Hillary Benn’s lead and move their financial support from the “unrestricted” column of your budget to the health and water columns – perhaps you can now move some funds from those columns into the “rubber bullets” column.)

I appreciate your time and your consideration of my modest proposal.

Best regards,

Ethan Zuckerman

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25 Responses to A modest proposal for Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi

  1. fontaine says:

    So much for Meles being hailed as one of the new generation of African leaders. I’m sure he and Yoweri Museveni are best buddies.

  2. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » From the Ethiopian blogosphere

  3. Pingback: …My heart’s in Accra » Ethiopia Updates

  4. Manuel says:

    What is art is which humans arranges or humans arrange art??

  5. nuna says:

    Dear Ethan,
    what an articulated letter you have writteen, thank God for people like you who take interest in people every where in the world, i wish your letter was published in every major news paoer, ofcourse it won’t happen in ethiopia, because meles owens. i wish the west and the african union leaders that are meeting in sucdan read it.And if you read the simple 8 points put to the prime minister by the jailed opposition leaders, you would say, and meles zenawi declined to answer those and still considers himself to be democratic???
    Thank you friend!!!!,

  6. Ulga says:

    I really enjoyed reading the article, well articulated. But the writer assumes meles interested in saving life of citizens. Meles interest is to keep him self as leader at all cost. Firing live ammunitions discourages Ethiopian citizen to take their demand to the street. Which rubber or other form of crowd control will not achieve Meles goal: discouraging street protest or any other challenge in turn remains a leader for as long as he can. Once again thank you for the article.

  7. gebru says:

    Ohhhh my poor Ethiopia… I cry for thee …. When you are failed to be respected by your own…. outsiders join in.

  8. berker says:

    I really enjoyed reading the article, but I think a new leader couldn’t change such a lot of problems.

  9. Robert says:

    A exemplary commitment at Africa.
    I hope, it was not a waste of time.

  10. Erde says:

    Im with berker, often this is not a bettering…

  11. Baris CAN says:

    […] Global Voices’ own Ethan Zuckerman joined in with a barbed modest proposal for Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on his personal site My heart’s in Accra. The proposal in question was for Meles to stock up on non-lethal munitions – including sponge bullets and beanbag projectiles – for the next time his forces have to control crowds of protesters in the nation’s cities. […]

  12. Nixon says:

    I really enjoyed reading the article. It´s everytime the same. China Keitetsi is a highlight in this world.
    Once again thank you for your time.

  13. argplywood says:

    I really enjoyed reading the article, well articulated. But the writer assumes meles interested in saving life of citizens. Meles interest is to keep him self as leader at all cost. Firing live ammunitions discourages Ethiopian citizen to take their demand to the street

  14. daso4 says:

    Well written article, i have to applaude.

    It seems that nobody´s realy interested in what´s going on in Ethiopia as long it´s not economical or strategical motivated – it´s a tragedy.

  15. desta says:

    there is a lot of diaspora propaganda, so it is understandable that the ethiopian government will be busy trying to stop diaspora propaganda

  16. seble mekonnen says:

    I was born in Addia raised in europe and live now in the US. It is a pity that the devil(Meles) cannot let go, but soon the whirlwind of God will descend and he will vanish. every empire met its downfall, it is just a matter of time. I hope Dr.Negga and friends live to see change and I hoep he God will sustain him until then. International pressure will not do anything to Meles becasue he is a pompous, arrogant, son of a bitch so he should quietly await judgement from God.

  17. Plywood says:

    I was born in Addia raised in europe and live now in the US. It is a pity that the devil(Meles) cannot let go, but soon the whirlwind of God will descend and he will vanish.

  18. daniel b says:

    Who are you? And, what do yo know of ETHIOPIA? I am afraid you have been misled by sympathisers of the opposition. It is unfortunate your dedication to Ethiopian issues served the interst of those who care the least to Ethiopa.Fasists,rasists and chauvenists.
    Read more about ETHIOPIA.

  19. SHEWANGZAW says:

    There is no one who is 15 years old.No legal scholar accepts an allegation that Ethiopia occupies the territory of Eriteria illegally.
    This only shows who you are:Afreind of Ethioia’s enemies.

  20. Getahun says:

    How much did Essayas paid you.As he is a sponsor of Kinjit,It won’t surprise me if you find common intersts with him.

  21. korarima says:

    I am really really unto what getahun has said. u are quite right just tell us “how much?”

  22. yemane T. says:

    Talking sitting on a comfortable sofa or chair is very simple ,why don’t we contribute our effort to the development of our country?

  23. Nazrawit says:

    I thik to have Dimocracy stablished it takes time maybe decade.Since there were 85%percet of people pured,and not Edicated in Ethoipia,of course the old system are not going to like Dimocracy plus Mr Zenawi Meles is form Tgiray Axum, which Queen sheba’s Land

    The Amharan people always had been in power, they realy liked what Meles Zenawi doing for the people of Ethiopia, But the Amharan people wished Mr Zenawi Meles was from Amharan, for that reason which is not smart they welling to distroy,and to tray to take the presidences from Dimocracy. Just like the” watergate” We can tell or see from the past to the present how much changed has been in Ethiopia. Imagin If Mr Zenawi stays in peliticies, All those forgotten pured children in Ethoipia will have the test of Dimocracy, and they’ll be free slavery from those old rich Ethiopin.

    Atleast now everyone have food in thier table, and everyone have the chances to go to school to be able to read and write, so Mr Meles Zenawi should stay in palitics,Just like “Mr Hussin Mebarek” the president of Egypt.

  24. Genet says:

    if you say Meles Zenawi is dictator,what would you say,or called Haile sillasie,and Mengastu Halemarim?
    If you don’t feel safe visitting Ethoipia why would you take your money to Ethiopia and open bussinses and buy manishes houses,or villa around Pole and Hayat?
    would you do it during Mengastu Haile Maryarim,or Haile Silasie? if you do you must be one of the 15% percet favor rich people than.

    if you don’t you must be from those being forgotten 85%percent pured people of Ethiopia, if so why not supporte Dimocracy? I thought wewanted to be in U.S.A.and Europe instead in saidu Arebe,or Middl East.

    I thik this is all about you guys love Dictatorship, you love useing your own people as slave, leaving 85% precet of people pured not Edicated and starved to dead.
    Baby now Ethiopia are overweight,and they have the choises to be,or do Whatever they want too be.

    If yourealy care for Ethiopian people you should help to clean Mengastu’s and Haile Silasie’s Mess,just like American,and Europen helping Ethiopian to be in their feet.

  25. Jessica says:

    How many ethiopians like you?

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