Famine Rides a Light Train in Ethiopia

by Alemayehu G. Mariam

Ethiopia’s annual harvest of famineEthiopia’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.

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 ofthe 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 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)! 

Let the facts speak for themselves.

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!

Famine rides a light train

The T-TPLF rolled out it 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. $USD500m to build a 28km (34?) rail line. That’s $USD18m 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”.


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.


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?


Ringing the famine alarm bells for years!

I have been ringing the alarm bell for quite a few years.

Truth be told, a conspiracy of donor countries and aid agencies and foreign journalists  have kept the creeping famine in Ethiopia to remain the biggest open secret in the world.

Has anyone really seen many pictures of the famine-stricken areas of late.

It is obvious that there is a complete clampdown on any reporting from the famine-stricken areas.

In October 2012, I rang the alarm bell in my commentary, “Ethiopia: An Early Warning of a Famine in 2013”.

After carefully studying the analyses and findings  of various agencies including the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), Oxfam, the U.N. World Food Programme, the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization and reports of the New England Complex Systems Institute, [NECSI] (a group of academics from Harvard and MIT who specialize in predicting how changes in environment can lead to political instability and upheavals), it became clear to me that 2013 was likely to be the threshold year for the onset of famine or “catastrophic food crises”, as they euphemistically call it, in Ethiopia.

By late 2012, there was general consensus that reductions in the exports of grains from producing countries could trigger increased prices on the global commodities markets in 2013.

I demanded to know how the “government of PM Hailemariam Desalegn expected to deal with the effects of the inevitable global food crises in light of its depleted foreign reserves and how his government will avert potentially catastrophic famine in the country.”

I warned that planning to panhandle more emergency food aid simply won’t cut it. Relying on ‘Productive Safety Nets Programmes’ simply won’t do it.

For the past five years, the T-TPLF regime has done nothing to deal with the recurrent famines. Correction: The T-TPLF has been panhandling the world for food aid!

Year after year, the marionette prime minster Hailemariam and his T-TPLF buddies sit around twiddling their thumbs and swatting flies off their faces as they await American taxpayers to dole out food aid.

The tragic irony is that as millions of Ethiopians starve, Saudi Arabian, Indian agribusinesses commercially farm Ethiopia’s most fertile lands to export food to their countries and China stealthily implements its plans for the penetration of Ethiopia’s agricultural sector. What a doggone crying shame!

So much for “double digit growth”, “doubling the economy”, “surplus production” and “three meals a day”!

Of course, humanitarian aid has long been is a source of income for T-TPLF leaders. (See my commentary, “Licensed to Steal.”

Uncovering the hidden famine in Ethiopia

Over the past few years, I have written over a dozen commentaries specifically on famine in Ethiopia or other related matters (see footnotes in link).

I have railed time and again against official secrecy in keeping famine stricken areas off limits to international and local journalists as tens of thousands die or suffer excruciating physical pain from food deprivation.

The Meles/Hailemariam regimes have followed their predecessors lockstep in keeping famines secret. H.I.M. Haile Selassie in 1974 said he did not know there was famine until the documentary  “Hidden Hunger” was aired.

Former junta leader Mengistu Hailemariam was arrogantly dismissive during the 1984-85 famine. He casually asked, “What famine?”

Meles, Hailemariam and those behind Hailemariam’s wooden throne today are far more cunning.

Their solution is 1) to clampdown on the local press and shut the country down to all foreign journalists and media representatives who are interested in reporting on the impending humanitarian disaster, and 2) stand outside Western embassies with their shiny begging bowls.

In 2015, the T-TPLF, their cronies, partners and cadres are spending tens of thousands of dollars on exclusive designer clothes, shoes, handbags and perfumes, hundreds of thousands of dollars on fancy cars and sports utility vehicles and living in multi-million dollar mansions furnished with the most expensive European furniture and kitchen appliances.

They are stashing billions of dollars in foreign banks and secret investment schemes as documented in a report of Global Financial Integrity.

In 2015-16, millions of Ethiopians are doomed to famine.

Such is the sad but true story of Ethiopia today.

By intimidating the press, the regime in power in Ethiopia has managed to maintain a complete news blackout on Ethiopia’s hidden famine.

But thanks to the courageous Martin Geissler, ITN and NBC, for the past year, we have had a glimpse of the human catastrophe that is taking shape.

Donors, international aid agencies, foreign journalists tell the truth about famine in Ethiopia!

There is a silent international conspiracy to keep Ethiopia’s hidden famines hidden.

For over two decades, there has been a well-orchestrated conspiracy of silence between the T-TPLF in Ethiopia and the international donors, aid experts, international bureaucrats and NGOs not to use the dreaded “F” word in Ethiopia.

The international poverty pimps (IPPs) as I call them affectionately, have gone to great lengths to hide the human face of famine by masking the truth with bureaucratic doublespeak and media newspeak.

I have discussed the nature of that conspiracy in my October 2012 commentary, “An Early Warning for a Famine in 2013.”

The IPPs talk about stages of “food insecurity”, never famine.

Hungry and starving people are said to experience “acute food insecurity”, face “stressed” food situations, go into “crises” mode, graduate to “emergency” status and in the last stage undergo “catastrophic” food shortages. Never will they mention the word “famine” or “starvation”.

There is a reason why the word “famine” is banned among the hordes of international poverty pimps and the regime in Ethiopia.

The international journalists domiciled in Ethiopia will not use the ‘F” word.

Perhaps they don’t want to upset the apple cart or be kicked off the gravy light train by reporting on serious “FAMINE!” (BTW, what do they do all day, anyway?)

It is understandable why they all avoid talking about the “F” word.

Famine conjures up images of hordes of skeletal Ethiopians from the 1980s walking across the parched landscape, curled up corpses of famine victims under acacia trees and fly-infested children with distended bellies clutching their mothers at feeding camps.

Talking about famine in Ethiopia openly is dangerous to the donor/NGO communities and the ruling regime because it portends political upheavals.

In their  analyses of recurrent famines  in Ethiopia, Professors Angela Raven-Roberts and Sue Lautze noted, “Declaring a famine was also a complicated question for the Ethiopian government. Famines have contributed to the downfall of Ethiopian regimes… Some humanitarian practitioners gauge their successes, in part, according to ‘famines averted’.”

The conspiracy of silence serves the interest of all involved in dealing with the problem of famine in Ethiopia. To acknowledge the existence of famine by the regime, donors, NGOs and aid bureaucrats is tantamount to pointing an accusatory finger at themselves.

If there is famine, it is proof positive that the donors who dumped billions of dollars in food aid, the NGOs involved in the distribution line and the highly overpaid international aid bureaucrats have all failed.

They have failed to produce a workable plan for food self-sufficiency in Ethiopia despite billions of dollars in aid.

They have also failed to use their leverage against the regime in Ethiopia to deal with the famine bull by the horn.

The moral hazard of U.S. food aid to Ethiopia

There is a mind-boggling irony and disconnect in U.S. food aid to Ethiopia.

Every year for decades, the U.S. has provided food aid to Ethiopia with certain knowledge that it will be providing food aid again to the very same people year after year.

Between 2003 and 2012 Ethiopia received US$29 billion in official development assistance (ODA), making it the fourth largest recipient.

Except for feel-good-we-are-doing-something show-and-tell projects like “productive safety nets programmes” (which the ruling regime uses to extort political support from rural farmers and residents), the U.S. has imposed few conditions on the regime to deal with the famine problem.

Yet millions of Ethiopians are in dire straits year after year; and hundreds of millions of American tax dollars targeted for famine relief in Ethiopia are lost to fraud, abuse and waste.

The fact of the problem is that U.S. food aid policy itself must be scrutinized to determine the extent to which it has contributed to keeping starving Ethiopians teetering on the edge of catastrophe.

As Paul Hebert, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Ethiopia observed,

The problem we face [in Ethiopia] is that more and more people are living on the edge… It doesn’t take very much to push them over that edge. The fear is that if we do have another large drought in this country and we haven’t made significant progress in addressing the chronic food security that could set things back significantly. Because of the precariousness of many people, you can easily slip into a very serious famine situation.

Is the U.S. a silent accomplice watching on the sidelines as millions of Ethiopians living on the edge slide off the edge?

I don’t even want to contemplate what the situation would be like if Gayle Smith is confirmed to head USAID!

Annual harvest of famine: The fierce urgency for official transparency and accountability

The problem of “food shortages”, “food insecurity”, or whatever euphemism one chooses to use, in Ethiopia cannot be solved by food handouts.

After corruption, panhandling is the lifeline of the regime in Ethiopia today.

For over two decades, the T-TPLF has been harvesting famine and shame.The T-TPLF is so accustomed to food handouts, it is now hopelessly addicted to food aid.

The poor Ethiopian famine victims have no confidence in the ability or capacity of the T-TPLF to care of them.

They look to American and Western donors to save them.

How long must American taxpayers dole out their hard earned dollars to a regime that could not care less for its population?

How long will American taxpayers tolerate their tax dollars being wasted, abused and defrauded in the name of humanitarian aid by a corrupt regime in Ethiopia?

Does the Black Horseman ride in Ethiopia?

No, famine rides a light train in Ethiopia!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s