Famine Rides a Light Train in Ethiopia

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famine rides a light train in Ethiopia
Ethiopia’s annual harvest of famine. The Black Horseman of the Apocalypse is showing his fearsome face once again in Ethiopia. This time he is riding a light train.

By Alemayehu G. Mariam,

Does the Black Horseman ride in Ethiopia? No, famine rides a light train in Ethiopia!

In February 2014, I wrote a commentary entitled “A Glimpse of the Creeping Famine in Ethiopia” based on an NBC investigative report in the same month on the creeping famine in Ethiopia.

NBC reported:

[Ethiopia] is the face of the world food crises. In a village in Southern Ethiopia, mothers cue with their malnourished children for emergency rations of food. They can’t afford to feed their babies and now it seems neither can the outside world. The distended stomachs, a symptom of the hunger so many here are suffering after two poor harvests in a row, and there are more new cases everyday…

They have been given a stark option [by regime representative Omar Abdi] ‘I have two options for them: to die or do the land.’ But across this country just now outside help is keeping millions alive. Malnutrition figures continue to rise and show no signs of slowing. This global food crises may be raising food bills in the West but the people here [in Ethiopia] are paying a far higher price.

In August 2015, the U.N. issued an emergency alert for food aid:

Food insecurity [in Ethiopia] is widespread and rates of acute malnutrition are growing now above the international thresholds that define an emergency. Due to under performance of two consecutive rainy seasons (Belg and Meher), the food insecure people dependent on relief food assistance (2.9 million people beginning of the year) is expected to increase now significantly. (ECHO, 13 August 2015) (Emphasis added.)

An ignorant clown named Redwan Hussien, “minister of GCAO” in Ethiopia, acknowledged there is a critical food crises in the country “but dismissed the need for international food assistance.”

Redwan said, “We are able to feed ourselves and hence the magnitude of the problem has not been felt by the majority of the public including in areas affected by the shortage of rain.” Is he saying the starving people don’t know they are starving?

Redwan’s demigod, the late Meles Zenawi, over two decades ago declared at one of his first press conferences that he would consider his government a success if Ethiopians were able to eat three meals a day.” (See video here.)

Today, 5 million Ethiopians are facing “acute malnutrition [which] is growing above the international thresholds that define an emergency.

In January 2010, Mitiku Kassa, Meles Zenawi’s agriculture minister declared,

In the Ethiopian context, there is no hunger, no famine… It is baseless [to claim hunger or famine], it is contrary to the situation on the ground. It is not evidence-based. The government is taking action to mitigate the problems.

Meles was equally dismissive: “Famine has wreaked havoc in Ethiopia for so long, it would be stupid not to be sensitive to the risk of such things occurring. But there has not been a famine on our watch — emergencies, but no famines.” No famines. No political prisoners. No human rights violations. No dictatorship. No problems!

In September 2010, Meles pompously declared, “We have devised a plan which will enable us to produce surplus and be able to feed ourselves by 2015 without the need for food aid.”

They all lie like a sack of flour, not to use a better word.

“Three meals a day” in 2015 is pie in the sky for the vast majority of Ethiopians; and there is no chance that Ethiopia will feed itself “without the need for food aid” by 2015 as Meles “devised”. Or even 2030, when its population is estimated to exceed 130 million.

In 2011, when the current marionette prime minster Hailemariam Desalegn was “foreign and deputy prime minster”, he was cocksure that his regime could lick famine and take a big bite out of poverty in no time.

In an interview with Africa Confidential, Hailemariam boasted,

For the last seven years, Ethiopia has witnessed double digit growth and this is a sign that our economic policy is working very well. If we continue this pace of development, we can double our economy in the next five years. This means that we will double our income for our community and so we will reduce poverty by 50%.

The fundamental problem with famine in Ethiopia is poor governance, not drought; incompetent and indifferent governance, not environmental factors.

The recurrent famines in Ethiopia are man made; that is, they are “made” by corrupt, indifferent, incompetent and clueless regimes that lack political will to deal with the recurrent problem. Those in positions of power in Ethiopia have a petrified “bush mentality” impervious to rational planning and policy making.

Wolfgang Fengler, a lead economist for the World Bank, on August 17, 2011, said it straight up:

“This [famine] crisis [in Ethiopia] is man made. Droughts have occurred over and again, but you need bad policy making for that to lead to a famine.”

In fact, Ethiopia today is 123 out of 125 worst fed countries in the world. According to a new Oxfam food database “while the Netherlands ranks number one in the world for having the most plentiful, nutritious, healthy and affordable diet, Chad is last on 125th behind Ethiopia and Angola.”

There is a joke going around about the time Hailemariam was asked if he was worried about the poor rains and looming famine in Ethiopia. “We are not worried about the rains in Ethiopia; we are worried about the rains in America and Canada.” Panhandlers! “The Americans and Canadians will feed our starving people as we stash billions for ourselves in offshore banks.”

America has its climate change deniers and Ethiopia has its famine deniers. Famine in Ethiopia is a hoax according to the leaders of the Thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (T-TPLF)!


In February 2014, it was reported that “Ethiopia finds itself in critical need of donors’ assistance, in order to feed 2.7 million people.” That was early in 2014.

In 2013, Ethiopia received nearly $700m in humanitarian aid to feed over 4 million people.

In September 2012, “The Ethiopian government announced last month that 3.7 million of its citizens will require humanitarian assistance between August and December of this year, up from 3.2 million in January.”

In 2011, international humanitarian food aid to Ethiopia, the bulk of it US aid, amounted to nearly $500 million.

In August 2010, UN FAO reported, “An estimated 5.2 million [Ethiopians] still depend on emergency food assistance and agencies agree on a severe situation of high hunger in the long term.”

In August 2009, it was reported that “Millions of impoverished Ethiopians face the threat of malnutrition and possibly starvation this winter in what is shaping up to be the country’s worst food crisis for decades. Estimates of the number of people who need emergency food aid have risen steadily this year from 4.9 million in January to 5.3 million in May and 6.2 million in June.”

Every single year for the past two decades, the T-TPLF has been issuing emergency food assistance alerts to feed millions of Ethiopians facing famine.

The T-TPLF has blamed everything from climate change to drought for the “food shortage”.

The T-TPLF has taken no responsibility whatsoever for tens of millions of Ethiopians starving to death as the donors turned a blind eye.

The T-TPLF’s response to famine in Ethiopia has been beg, beg, panhandle and beg some more.

Begging and panhandling for food aid every year has become an “honored” tradition of the T-TPLF.

What a shame to be a regime of beggars!!!

Today, the T-TPLF is still begging in the name of Ethiopia. What a low down, doggone shame!


The T-TPLF rolled out its light rail last week. I believe it was public relations stunt intended to drown out the bad news about the spreading famine.

If people talk about the light rail, “the first in Africa” and all of the other nonsense, the T-TPLF hopes they will not talk about the “heavy” famine that is slowly swallowing some 4.5 million plus people.

I know the TPLF thugs think that I will rain on any parade they put on. They will say I will try to diminish any achievements they have made. I am so much against them that I will do anything to make them look bad. I will never give them credit for anything. The one thing the T-TPLF will never say against me is that I lied about them! Ever!!!

My view is succinctly expressed in a famous line from the movies. “Frankly, I don’t give a damn what the TPLF thugs think!”

The T-TPLF thugs boast that they built the first light rail in sub-Sahara Africa. Ha! Ha! Ha! They did not. The Chinese built it. The Chinese (engineers, technicians, laborers) built it for a cool one-half billion USD.

What a hell of a rip-off by the Chinese. USD $500m to build a 28km (34?) rail line. That’s USD $18m per kilometer. “Light metros” in America are built for much less. I bet somebody in the T-TPLF gang got filthy rich!

Of course, I could have sold the T-TPLF my Brooklyn Bridge for a fraction of what the Chinese charged them to build the light rail. Maybe we can do a deal next time.

Talk about being fleeced like a Welsh sheep!

But the T-TPLF chaps crow how they have brought development to Ethiopia. They say, “See the light rail…, the first in Sub-Sahara Africa…

I laugh at the ignoramuses.

They remind me of the man who paid a ghost writer to write a book for him and took credit for publishing an extraordinary work of literature and scholarship.

(No pun intended here; but as Ethiopian investigative journalist Abebe Gelaw has shown most of the T-TPLF leaders are functional illiterates who purchased their academic degrees and credentials online. The late Meles Zenawi had his degree delivered to him at his office from “Open University” as I documented in my September 2010 commentary, “Indoctrination”. In February of this year, Abebe Gellaw demonstrated that “Ethiopia’s Speaker of the House”, Abadula Gemeda, actually “bought Bachelor of Arts and Masters ‘degrees’ in public administration in 2001 and 2004 respectively from American Century ‘University’”, a bogus internet diploma mill.)

The fact of the matter is that the 28km rail line built by the Chinese for the T-TPLF ain’t much of a big deal.

The T-TPLF got Ethiopia into debt bondage to the Chinese Ex-Im Bank for well over one-half billion dollars.

Since we’re talking about rail lines, in 1894, Emperor Menelik II, two years before he defeated a modern Italian Army at the Battle of Adwa, gave the French a concession to build and operate a 617-km “heavy” rail line.

The T-TPLF now wants to brag that a project started by their late demi-god Meles Zenawi is the first in Sub-Sahara Africa and has dwarfed Emperor Menelik II.

Only in their dreams!!!

If the T-TPLF wants to compare the modernization record of Emperor Menelik II to Meles Zeanwi, we can lay it all out from technology to public administration.

Emperor Menelik II was the first African leader to introduce the telephone and telegraph system on the African continent.

When the first telephone was installed in Menelik’s palace in 1889, thirteen years after Alexander Graham Bell patented his “apparatus for vocal sounds”, anxious clergymen asked him to remove it as the work of Satan.

He declined.

Today, Ethiopia under the T-TPLF has the “second lowest Internet penetration rate in sub-Saharan Africa”?

I guess the T-TPLF is afraid that the demons (“Satan”) of free speech and free press could sneak into the country through the internet. Of course, the Chinese did what is in their best interest. Selling infrastructure snake oil?

Surely, many of my readers remember Africa’s great Moment of Shame in 2012.

The Chinese built the African Union building in Addis Ababa at a cost of over $200 million and gave it as a gift to African “leaders”. Incredible!

The so-called African leaders could not come up with a measly $200 million for the most symbolic building for all Africans. They had to do it by begging for Chinese handout. What a doggone low down shame for the so-called African leaders to portray Africa to the world as the Continent of Beggars!

That was the only time in my entire life that I felt ashamed of being an African!

I was so pissed off by the shameless African beggar-presidents and beggar prime minsters that I wrote a commentary entitled, “African Beggars Union Hall”.

African honor and dignity was sold to the Chinese for a measly $200m. Unforgivable!

The noted Ghanaian economist George Ayittey citing U.N. data argued, “$200 billion or 90 percent of the sub-Saharan part of the continent’s gross domestic product was shipped to foreign banks in 1991 alone.”

In 2011, Global Financial Integrity reported, “illicit financial flows out of [Ethiopia] the African nation nearly doubled to US$3.26 Billion in 2009 over the previous year, with corruption, kickbacks and bribery accounting for the vast majority of that increase.”

All 54 African countries could not come up with a paltry $200m to build the most emblematic structure for the continent. That’s how Africans got their African Beggars Union Hall!

But the so-called light rail is what the Chinese call “flower seen in the mirror” or “moon on the water’s surface”. The T-TPLF ignoramuses may not know, but the Chinese know exactly what I mean!

It’s all smoke-and-mirrors. Show the world a shiny rail car in the “capital” of the African Union and spread your tentacles to the rest of Africa and suck’em dry. Great scam!

But my question is a completely different one: Would it not make a lot more sense to spend one-half billion dollars to save 6 million Ethiopians from famine than building a 28-km vanity project?

I will say it out loud: I would rather save 6 million Ethiopians for one-half billion dollars than build a 28 km rail line. Straight up!!!

Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam teaches political science at California State University, San Bernardino and is a practicing defense lawyer.