The Ana Gomez surprise visit

The Reporter

Ana Gomez conferring with the 2005 Elections EPRDF campaign manager, Bereket Simon
Ana Gomez conferring with the 2005 Elections EPRDF campaign manager, Bereket Simon

The name Ana Gomez is closely attached to the politics of Ethiopia, and now the household name during the 2005 Elections is coming back to Ethiopian soil to attend the 26th African-Caribbean-Pacific European Union (ACP-EU) Assembly, scheduled to be held here next week.

Ana Gomez is best remembered for her bitter relationship with the incumbent party, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

Her visit has surprised many, particularly after her sustained lobbing to EU member states accusing the Ethiopian government of committing gross violations of human rights.

Ana Gomez, otherwise known by Ethiopians as Hanna Gobeze, is a Portuguese politician and member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

She is scheduled to show up here eight years since she was the head of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM) during the famous Ethiopian election in 2005. Her mission ended in a serious dispute with the Ethiopian government, after her report of the opposition’s landslide victory in Addis Ababa and of vote rigging by the ruling party, which eventually prompted the government to react severely.

After that the then Prime Minister, the late Meles Zenawi, on several occasions publicly criticized the EU-EOM, and in particular Gomez. He even, for the first and last time during his tenure, wrote a lengthy ‘Letter to the Editor’ to the state-owned English daily Ethiopian Herald, entitled: ‘Easy to remove the garbage that has covered lumps of truth.’

Meles accused her mission of contributing to the violence that erupted in June 2005 in the aftermath of the election, which ended with the death of dozens of protesters in Addis Ababa.

“Many Ethiopians feel that the EU-EOM made a significant contribution to the June events by leaking a wildly speculative report which suggested that the opposition had won the elections,” Meles wrote in The Herald, adding, “The EU-EOM, in Ethiopia, has become part of the problem rather than the solution, beginning with the highly speculative report they leaked, a report that I believe significantly contributed to the June events. It cannot therefore be dismissed so easily. We have to learn from the experience, and in order to do that we have to ask why such a shoddy piece of work was issued in the name of the EU-EOM.”

In his letter, Meles famously quoted a verse from a Tina Turner song.

“The rest of the contextual factors have no relevance whatsoever to the investigative process. Indeed, they remind me of the famous Tina Turner song, ‘What’s love got to do with it?’ What, indeed, have they got to do with the investigative process? Nothing! The criticism by the EU-EOM of the complaints investigation process based on contextual factors has no leg to stand on because the contextual factors selected by it have no relevance at all to the investigations,” Meles wrote.

As the EU chief observer of the Ethiopian General election in 2005, Gomez sent an urgent appeal to EU governments to end the “bloodbath”, demanding the suspension of any aid to the Ethiopian government.

“Most ironic is that Europe counts Ethiopia, a country which depends on European aid, as the largest recipient in Africa. Europe could definitely make the difference for democracy in Ethiopia. Instead, current European leaders are choosing to fail it. In doing so, they are not just failing Ethiopians. They are also failing Europe,” she reiterated in a letter obtained by the Associated Press, adding, “Stop the killing of Ethiopians who dare to believe that democracy is possible in Ethiopia.”

She kept campaigning even after the 2010 General election in Ethiopia, in which she was not part of the EU observing mission.

In 2011 she wrote a letter regarding the EU-EOM in Ethiopia, assessing in 2010 that “the electoral process fell short of international commitments for elections, notably regarding the transparency of the process and the lack of a level playing field for all contesting parties”.

And the unsurprising conclusion: “Results of 99.6 percent in favor of the ruling party were telling about the lack of credibility of the election.” Significantly, the Ethiopian government refused to allow the EU-EOM report to be launched in Addis Ababa, as it had refused in 2005.

“The EU is not only misusing European taxpayers’ money, but supporting an illegitimate status quo, letting down all those who fight for justice and democracy and increasing the potential for conflict in Ethiopia and in Africa,” she insisted, her criticism also targeting the west.

“Western leaders resist speaking up against Zenawi’s regime by invoking stability interests. Besides attempting to depict Ethiopia as a success story of development assistance, EU and the US like to portray their ‘aid darling’ as a partner in the fight against terrorism and a crucial actor for stability in the Horn of Africa.”