By Prof. Al Mariam
Author’s Note: Below is a copy of the letter I sent to President Donald Trump by email and U.S. mail.
I am asking particularly all pro-democracy Ethiopian Americans and other Americans who believe in freedom, the rule of law, democracy and human rights to join me in sending letters and emails to President Trump and their representatives in Congress to register their alarm and outrage over the massive lobbying effort currently underway by the regime in Ethiopia to undermine and infiltrate American political institutions.
At the end of this letter, I provide further information to those interested in urging President Trump and their members of Congress to take appropriate action.
I have written this letter because I am affronted and outraged by the sheer audacity and arrogance of a foreign regime to use millions of dollars in a lobbying effort to manipulate, subvert, exploit and corrupt American political institutions. Any foreign government which feels that it can buy, sell and exchange American policy makers by spending millions of dollars on lobbying revolts me to the core.
The dangers of foreign powers using partisan politics to subvert American institutions is something George Washington warned about in his farewell address: “It [factionalism] opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”
Such is the effort of the regime in Ethiopia in its $2 million lobbying effort. They want to peddle influence and subject the policy of the United States to their will. Such an outrageous effort must be resisted, confronted and defeated.
As American citizens and taxpayers, we must use our bedrock constitutional right to petition our government and demand that those foreign regimes trying to hijack our political institutions by spending millions of dollars to peddle influence for the purpose of imposing their will on the United States of America must be stopped at all costs.
February 26, 2017
President Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
By Email and U.S. Mail
Re: Why is the “Government” of Ethiopia Spending $2 Million to Lobby Your Administration?
Dear President Trump:
I am writing this letter for four reasons.
First and foremost, I wish to alert you of a massive lobbying assault planned on your Administration by the “government” of Ethiopia. Evidence obtained from the U.S. Justice Department shows that on or about January 2017, the ambassador of the regime in Ethiopia signed an agreement with SGR Government Relations, Lobbying (Washington, D.C) at a cost of $150,000 per month (for a total contract price of $1.8 million by January 2018) for the sole purpose of influence peddling in your Administration. Ethiopia is the single largest recipient of U.S. aid in sub-Saharan Africa. I request an inquiry into whether any U.S. aid money has been converted by the regime in Ethiopia for lobbying purposes.
In this regard, I wish to call your attention to your own publicly declared distaste for lobbyists peddling influence in your Administration: “If we win on November 8th, we are going to Washington, D.C.—when we win, OK—and we are going to drain the swamp.” I understood your statement to mean, among other things, elimination of the outsized influence of lobbyists who peddle influence on behalf of foreign governments seeking to subvert American political institutions. I am outraged that the regime in Ethiopia is spending nearly $2 million to shore up the very swamp you are struggling to drain!
Second, I wish to offer clear-cut answers to a set of important questions your transition team recently posed to the State Department concerning U.S. policy in Africa:
1) “With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our funding is stolen?”
2) “We’ve been fighting al-Shabaab for a decade, why haven’t we won?”
3) “How does U.S. business compete with other nations in Africa? Are we losing out to the Chinese?”
4) “Why should the U.S. continue the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act [AGOA] which provides massive support to corrupt African regimes?”
Third, I wish to offer you a simple solution to the problem of illegal immigration to the U.S.: If the U.S. drains the financial swamp that sustains the corrupt and brutal dictators and thugtators in Africa, the Middle East, Central America and other places, there will be far fewer people from these regions seeking to illegally enter the U.S. People from these regions by and large come to America for the same reasons the Pilgrims and others after them came to America. They seek refuge from religious and political persecution in America.
Fourth, I wish to urge you to help Ethiopia and the rest of Africa by letting them help themselves. The best and most effective way of helping Africa is to let Africa help itself. I ask you and members of your Administration: How long must Ethiopia remain a beggar nation? How long must Africa remain a beggar continent?
Why did the Ethiopian regime hire a high-powered lobbying firm to infiltrate your Administration?
During the 8 years of the Obama Administration, the regime in Ethiopia did not spend a single red cent for lobbying. That is because President Obama left the candy store open to them for free pickings.
During the Bush Administration, the regime spent a mere $50 thousand a month for lobbying. Today, that regime is spending nearly $2 million to lobby your Administration.
On January 18, 2017, the ruling regime in Ethiopia signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) and agreed to pay SGR Government Relations, Lobbying (Washington, D.C) $150,000 per month for lobbying services for a total of $1.8 million.
Why is the regime in Ethiopia spending so much money to lobby your Administration?
I believe there are at least four reasons why the regime in Ethiopia regime is spending millions to peddle influence in your Administration:
1) The leaders of the Ethiopian regime are deeply concerned, indeed they are in a state of panic, that you will drop the hammer on them given your strong statements on corruption, fraud, waste and abuse of U.S. tax dollars by foreign aid recipient governments and international organizations. The regime has concluded that your Administration is unlikely to buy their counter-terrorism game of deception which they played successfully with the Obama administration garnering billions of dollars in American tax dollars. Indeed, the regime had made such a patsy of Barack Obama that they had him publicly declare that their regime is democratic despite the fact that the regime claimed to have won 100 percent of the seats in their “parliament” and operate a virtual police state. No doubt, they are desperately trying to find out the chink in your armor so they can make a chump out of you as they did Barack Obama.
The fact that your administration is asking why the U.S. has not won the war against al Shabaab in Somalia is a clear indication to the regime in Ethiopia that your Administration will not buy their claim of needing endless support to fight terrorism in the Horn of Africa. Their massive lobbying assault is intended to ensure that your Administration continues to walk in the footsteps of the Obama Administration and provide unquestioned support for their regime.
2) The Ethiopian regime over the past several months has sought to infiltrate your transition team, including your inner circle, with the aim of establishing a cozy relationship with your Administration. For instance, it has been reported in the media that Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma has assured the regime that he will open back door channels to your Administration for them. However, it appears so far they have met little success in their efforts to infiltrate and worm themselves into your Administration through the back door or through the intercession of “establishment” Republicans. That is why they have decided to make a last-ditch effort by deploying high-powered lobbyists to crack open your Administration to peddle influence.
3) The leaders of the regime in Ethiopia believe that they can hoodwink and bamboozle your administration just as they always have previous administrations over the past 25 years. They take special pleasure and pride in pulling the wool over the eyes of well-intentioned American policy makers and browbeat and blackmail them into submission by making threats of non-cooperation in the war on terrorism. Will you allow your Administration be a victim of blackmail by the regime in Ethiopia?
4) The Ethiopian regime cannot survive a single day without massive infusion of U.S. aid. In other words, the American taxpayer is literally the life support system for a corrupt and brutal regime that operates by a declaration of emergency. Why must the American taxpayer bankroll a corrupt regime in Ethiopia?
It makes no sense to me for a regime whose population, some 20 million of them, is facing famine to spend nearly $2 million on lobbying. How many famine-stricken children can you feed with $2 million? Ethiopia today is 123 out of 125 worst fed countries in the world.
As you may know, Ethiopia with the second largest population (100 million) in Sub-Sahara Africa, has been ranked for the past several years as the “second poorest country” in the world in the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHDI) Multidimensional Poverty Index.
Ethiopia is also Africa’s largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. Over the past two decades, the U.S. has provided the ruling regime in Ethiopia tens of billions of dollars in development and humanitarian aid.
Just in the past year, the U.S. provided over $700 million in humanitarian aid and $375 million in foreign assistance to the Ethiopian regime. In 2017, that regime is slated to receive a whopping $513 million in foreign assistance.
Over the past decade, U.S. aid to the regime in Ethiopia has been used to:
finance “corruption, kickbacks and bribery” resulting in the loss of nearly $12 billion over a decade. The regime in Ethiopia has a long and well-documented history of misuse, abuse and corruption in using U.S. and other foreign aid.
“suppress political dissent by conditioning access to essential services on support for the ruling party.”
“systematically discriminate from one end of the country to another against people who were members of the opposition party or people who disagreed with the regime.”
“deny whole communities basic food, seed and fertilizer for failing to support the ruling regime.”
implement “forced eviction, relocations and displacement of populations accompanied by serious human rights violations” and create “forced labor for government projects.”
The fact of the matter is that the regime in Ethiopia has been stealing, embezzling and putting to corrupt purpose U.S. aid since 1984 as I have extensively documented in my previous analysis.
The question remains: Why should the U.S. Government give a single red cent of American tax dollars to a regime that spends $2 million to lobby American officials?
Truth be told, in 2015, the regime in Ethiopia spent a mere $33 million out of its coffers to feed 4.5 million famine victims in the country, while panhandling the U.S. for hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2017, the same regime is spending nearly $2 million to feed high-powered K Street lobbyists.
Words cannot express my outrage over the fact that the regime in Ethiopia is spending the millions of U.S. dollars it has siphoned off from U.S. aid to lobby your Administration.
There is no greater example of fraud, waste and abuse in U.S. aid than to see in black and white a lobbying agreement filed with the U.S. Justice Department documenting an agreement to spend nearly $2 million of American aid money for lobbying.
Using U.S. aid money to lobby the U.S. government for more aid money is simply wrong, immoral and certainly illegal.
How can we be sure today that American tax dollars given to the regime in Ethiopia will feed the famine-stricken people and not fatten the offshore accounts of regime leaders and the swarm of consultants and lobbyist they hire to lobby more aid for them?
“How does U.S. business compete with other nations in Africa? Are we losing out to the Chinese?”
The short answer to the question of U.S. business competitiveness in Africa is simply this: The Dragon is and has been eating the Eagle’s lunch in Africa every single day for over a decade.
Secretary Hillary Clinton in 2011 observed, “China is in there [Africa] every day in every way, trying to figure out how it’s going to come in behind us, come under us. We don’t want to see a new colonialism in Africa.”
Secretary Clinton talked a good game, but China continued to expand its neocolonialism in Africa.
I know it is politically incorrect to talk about China’s “scramble for Africa”, but the fact is that African countries are falling like dominoes under Chinese neocolonial control.
There is perhaps no symbolic act more telling of China’s unrivaled dominance in Africa than “China’s Gift to Africa”, the $200-million African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa. In 2012, China delivered that building to African leaders which it built using largely its own labor force. How ironic that African governments have millions of dollars for lobbying but have no money to spend on the most iconic structure of the continent. They had to beg China to build it for them. It is so sad Africa remains the beggar continent!
The head of the African Union in gratitude for the building proclaimed that China brings to Africa a “message of optimism, a message that is out of the decades of hopelessness and imprisonment a new era of hope is dawning, and that Africa is being unshackled and freed…”
African leaders fell head over feet praising the “generosity of the Chinese government”, and described the donated building as marking “a qualitative leap in the relations between China and Africa”. They proclaimed that the building is “a reflection of the new Africa, and the future we want for Africa”.
The U.S. has given tens of billions of dollars to Africa in aid and what it gets in return is condemnation as an “imperialist” or some such denigrating term. When has an African leader ever thanked the U.S. Government or the American people for the billions they have given in same glowing terms as the Chinese Government?
The fact of the matter is that American businesses and companies investing in Africa are at a distinct disadvantage. Ethiopia is a classic example. For instance, a January 2017 U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration concluded that foreign direct investment in Ethiopia is hampered because “State-owned enterprises (SOEs) and ruling political party-owned entities dominate the economic landscape, reducing room for the private sector to flourish.” Chinese businesses have been able to achieve phenomenal success in Africa because of their cozy relationships with the ruling regimes. Unlike American companies, Chinese companies are unaffected by ethical obligations or the legal requirements of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in their close working relationship with the “ruling political party-owned entities” in Ethiopia or elsewhere in Africa.
There are those who say China is economically transforming Africa and making things better for Africans. But is China “transforming Africa” to make it easier for its businesses and investors to rip off Africans?
You have made remarks during the campaign about China’s impact on the United States. You said China is “using our country as a piggy bank to rebuild China” and criticized China for stealing jobs from Americans, devaluing its currency to help its export sector and for engaging in state-sponsored cyber-hacking. You even made the strong statement that, “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country, and that’s what they’re doing.”
Talking about stealing jobs, I would like to tell you that Chinese cabin crews are now taking over jobs and displacing young Ethiopian flight attendants at the country’s flagship Ethiopian Airlines. It is so sad to see young Ethiopian women denied opportunities in their own country. Of course, it is an open secret that Chinese companies refuse to hire Africans and bring in their own workers from China to complete their projects.
If China could have the impact you asserted it has on the U.S. economy, it is easy to imagine China’s rapacious impact on the African economy by orders of magnitude.
The facts clearly show that neither Africans alone nor Africans and American investors together have a ghost of a chance facing the Chinese neocolonial economic juggernaut.
In 2015, China’s trade with African states approached nearly $300 billion, a tenfold increase over the last decade. China imports crude oil, minerals and agricultural commodities from Africa. China is Africa’s main export market and also its largest source of imports. Between 2000 and 2014, the Chinese government, banks and contractors extended USD$86.3 billion worth of loans to African governments and state-owned enterprises. The Chinese built a USD$4 billion dollar ghost city in Angola called Kilamba using Angola’s credit line. China continues to ensnare Africa in its neocolonial trap by providing billions of dollars in new loans.
China even uses “debt relief to obtain exclusive rights to a nation’s natural resources and build military bases”.
The Obama Administration has been watching from the sidelines offering only criticism to China’s neocolonial expansion in Africa. U.S. exports of goods to Africa in 2013 were nearly $24 billion, an increase of only $8.8 billion since 2009.
“With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our funding is stolen? Why should we spend these funds on Africa when we are suffering here in the U.S.?”
“Most of AGOA [Africa Growth and Opportunity Act which allows 39 eligible sub-Saharan Africa countries to export certain goods to the US market duty-free] imports are petroleum products, with the benefits going to national oil companies, why do we support that massive benefit to corrupt regimes?”
There is another companion question that should be asked along with the foregoing question of corruption and stolen American tax dollars in Africa: Who is minding the store for the American taxpayer in Africa?
Corruption is the hemoglobin that runs in the blood of the African body politics.
Corruption is the principal cause of poor governance and state failure in Africa. According to the African Union, an “estimated 25 per cent of the continent’s GDP (nearly 150 billion dollars) is lost due to corruption.”
For instance, the regime in Ethiopia is so corrupt that the World Bank issued a one-of-a-kind 417-page study on the cancer of corruption entitled, “Diagnosing Corruption in Ethiopia”. 
In 2013, Global Financial Integrity reported between $1.2 trillion and $1.3 trillion has left Africa in illicit financial flows between 1980 and 2009”, roughly equal to Africa’s gross domestic product for 2014.
As of March of 2014, the top 20 most indebted countries in Africa carried foreign debt of nearly $390 billion.
A 2016 UNECA report indicated that one of the major factors in the increasing levels of corruption in Africa has to do with the “the blind eye often turned to corruptors by western countries.” The report argued that the “international dimension of corruption in Africa” is “an intrinsic part of the policy landscape in many African countries since it comes through conditionality frameworks, which is often tied to official development assistance (ODA) packages.”
It is politically incorrect to say it, but AGOA [Africa Growth and Opportunity Act] is an entitlement program for African dictators. It is a special guaranteed U.S. Government program designed to sustain and maintain African dictators.
AGOA supposedly allows 39 eligible sub-Saharan Africa countries to export certain goods to the US markets duty-free benefits, but the bulk of the benefits go to the national oil companies of African countries which provide the financial support for repressive and corrupt African regimes. Non-oil and gas exports to the US under AGOA are negligible ($4.1 billion in 2015) representing barely 2 per cent of the United States’ total global trade.
The current leader of the regime in Ethiopia has urged your Administration to keep the AGOA provisions for the next 10 years”. In a recent public relations report of the Ethiopian regime, it was reported that “U.S. investments in Ethiopia climbed to $4 billion last year helped by several companies taking advantage of the renewed Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.” This is a patent, unadulterated and bold-faced lie. The regime in Ethiopia is trying to generate fake news about American investments in Ethiopia in the hope of laying the groundwork to snooker your Administration into supporting them. You must not fall for their “investment” gimmick.
Your transition team’s question is exactly on point: Why should the U.S. continue a trade agreement that principally benefits corrupt African dictators?
There is no reason why the American taxpayer must give African dictators billions of dollars in aid and then allow billions of dollars of petroleum products to enter the United States tax-free.
That is just not fair to the American taxpayer!
Who is minding the “US Aid Candy Store” in Africa?
USAID is supposed to oversee and administer U.S. aid in Africa. But are they?
In 2016, the Inspector General of USAID reported “significant deficiencies” in financial accounting including issues related to “complying with Federal accounting standards for reimbursable agreements, maintaining adequate records of property, plant, and equipment, and promptly investigating and resolving potential funds control violations.”
A 2013 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.”
A 2010 report by the USAID Inspector General concluded that “because of weaknesses in the mission’s performance management and reporting system,” auditors “could not determine whether the results reported in USAID/Ethiopia’s performance plan and report were valid.” The Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction in 2013 found that USAID’s lack of effective oversight and monitoring placed hundreds of millions of U.S. tax dollars “at risk of waste, fraud and abuse.”
USAID’s accountability problems are deep-rooted and endemic. In 1991, CNN broadcasted a report documenting “gross mismanagement of money” by aid recipients and exposing USAID officials “accused of receiving kickbacks from programs.” At the time, the USAID deputy inspector general was quoted as saying, “Our crime rate is essentially higher than virtually any other agency of the government and higher than most major cities in the United States.”
It is becoming increasingly clear that USAID has become a rogue agency unaccountable to anyone. But it is not just USAID that is the corruption-enabler in Africa. The World Bank, the IMF and the U.N. and others are equally culpable.
Draining the swamp at USAID should go a long way in preventing fraud, waste and abuse of American tax dollars in Africa.
“We’ve been fighting al-Shabaab for a decade, why haven’t we won?”
The reason “we’ve been fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia for a decade and have not won” is because al-Shabaab to the regime in Ethiopia is a gift that keeps on giving. How can they kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?
In 2006, the leader of the regime in Ethiopia figured out that he can assure his regime’s meal ticket on the American tax payer’s dime indefinitely if he can scare American policy makers by continuing to cry wolf about the terrorist threat of al-Shabaab. That leader proclaimed himself as the African warrior against global terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism and regional instability and successfully picked the pockets of American taxpayers. For over ten years, the regime in Ethiopia has used the specter of al-Shabaab masterfully to wrap the Bush and Obama administrations around their fingers and keep on milking the American taxpayer cash cow for billions of dollars.
Today, the current leader of the regime in Ethiopia brags that he has been assured by Senator James Inhofe that his regime’s relations will be “further strengthened under Trump”. For all intents and purposes, his regime will snooker your Administration just like it did to the previous administrations, not by trying to sell the old counter-terrorism cooperation line but by peddling a new scam about American business investments in Ethiopia. Because you were a businessman before taking office, the regime leaders think they can make you a deal you can’t refuse, Don Corleone-style, of course.
A simple solution to America’s “illegal immigration” problem
I wish to offer you a simple solution to the problem of illegal immigration to the U.S.:
If the U.S. drains the aid swamp that is the life blood of the corrupt and brutal dictators and thugtators in Africa, the Middle East, Central America and other places, there will be far fewer people from these regions seeking to illegally enter the U.S.
People from these regions by and large come to America for many of the same reasons the Pilgrims and others after them came to America. They seek refuge from religious and political persecution in America and an opportunity to make a living without fear of abuse and mistreatment by government`. The history of immigration to America dating back to colonial times supports the view that the vast majority of immigrants followed the same pattern escaping oppression, persecution, abuse and dehumanization.
A plea on behalf of Africans and the American taxpayer
In this letter, I express not only my personal view but also reflect and echo the views and convictions of millions of people in America and Africa.
During your campaign you spoke of your determination to deal with the “so many horrible, horrible problems — the violence, the death, the lack of education, no jobs” in our country. That is what we ask you to do for Africa and deal with the so many horrible, horrible problems of government sponsored violence and death, corruption and abuse of power.
What I and millions of others in Africa are asking is the chance to be left alone so we can stand on our own feet? American tax dollars in Africa serve to support the interests and lifestyles of corrupt regimes and their cronies and the armies of experts, consultants, lobbyists who cooperate with these regimes to enrich themselves at the cost of Africa’s poor.
No handouts, only a hand up.
I ask you one simple question on behalf of Ethiopians and other Africans:
How long must Ethiopia remain a beggar nation panhandling for aid?
How long must Africa remain a beggar continent, the object of charity for the rest of the world?
How long must the US aid gravy train continue to transfer billions of American tax dollars to African dictators to maintain their empires of corruption?
There must come a time when Ethiopia and the rest of Africa must be forced to kick their addiction to aid and charity.
There must come a time when the U.S. must simply say to African dictators: “No more begging! No more panhandling! No more alms. No more entitlement programs for African dictators. No more sponging off the American taxpayer. Enough is enough!”
Ethiopians and Africans are tired of being portrayed as beggars, panhandlers, freeloaders and moochers.
The time to stop the aid addiction is now. You are the man that can make it happen.
We don’t have to agree on everything to work together. We can work together on things we can agree on. Cutting off support to African dictators is one area we can work together to protect the American taxpayer!
The only question I have for you is this: Do you have the political will and the courage to “Just say, No! No more U.S. Aid to African dictators!”
President Trump: Cut U.S. aid to African dictators and make instant friends with the 1.2 billion people in Africa!
Al Mariam, Ph.D., J.D. (Esq.)
c.c. Rex W. Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State.
Representative Christopher Smith, Chairman Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.
Representative Karen Bass, Ranking Member, Chairman Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.
Jeff Blake, Chairman, Subcommittee of Africa and Global Health Policy
Cory Booker, Ranking Member, Subcommittee of Africa and Global Health Policy.
Here are some suggestions to those interested in joining me in urgining President Trump and Congress to take appropriate action.
Interested citizens may register their concerns by calling the White House or accessing other online services at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/write-or-call
Alternatively, they may register their concerns using the official White House address.
I urge those who seek to register their concerns to also fax their letters to their members of Congress. While emails could be easily overlooked, faxed letters to members of Congress have a much better chance of being noticed.
A template for a message to President Trump and members of Congress is available HERE.
Members of the Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs are listed at HERE.
Members of the House Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations are listed HERE.