Friday, 11 January 2013

Spying the Spy

Spying or espionage is a clandestine act of collecting, transferring and/or communicating sensitive information to a third party without the consent of the information holder. Information is collected about an actual, perceived, or potential enemy or competitor. The final goal of spying is to make informed decisions, which would ensure the safety and security of state apparatus, citizens, and/or organizations and institutions. The witty thing is that espionage is illegal in many countries around the world. What is publicly known and legally and ethically sound is intelligence gathering, which usually collects information from public, open sources.

Who does the spying? It is understood that states/governments, NGOs, political parties, and even religious institutions do this business. That spying is not supported by legal frameworks necessitates it to be a top secret when it comes to who the spies are and what their networks are. In mature democracies, spying usually aims at safeguarding national security. During the Cold War, for instance, capitalist nations seriously spied on socialist ones and vice versa. In those countries, innocent citizens do not suffer from any psychological and social terror associated with espionage. Only assumed to be extremely influential entities (individuals, organization or countries) attract spies.

In immature democracies and autocratic regimes, spying creates immense psycho-social terror among the population. One could tend to argue that espionage is not a secret business at all. Spies do their jobs in ‘day light’, the public know them well. As a result, the public in authoritarian rules tend to accept that being spied constantly is part of being a citizen. The majority are scared of spies and tend to keep quiet even if their rights are highly compromised. Civic organizations, leaders, the educated, the media, and even business people are under constant surveillance. This brutal form of spying is particularly evident in several African countries such as Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian Case

In Ethiopia, distinctions could not be made between terrorism and free speech, espionage and intelligence gathering, ruling party and government, and propaganda and education. It seems state-managed spies tend to outnumber employees who work in government institutions. Universities, schools, Kebeles, churches, mosques, mass media, professional associations, Idirs, businesses, and individuals are all spied on a daily basis. Talking freely about the country with friends and family appears to be a ‘luxury’ to most Ethiopians. I mean, doing so is thought risky. Job promotion and advanced education and training opportunities in prestigious Western institutions is dependent upon your profile as constructed by spies. Generally, espionage is so naked that the public seem to develop psychological and social complications. Many tend to accept that being abused and terrorized by spy agents is normal, legal, and is part of government routine. Inconceivable is the fact that such kind of high-profile terrorism is being practiced against the Ethiopian Diaspora.

Spying on the Diaspora

Several papers that reported the efforts of the Ethiopian government/EPRDF to spy on the Diaspora were published in different websites. Accordingly, a great number of agents are spying on Ethiopians and Ethiopian-origin citizens in Europe and North America as well as in Australia. In Europe, for instance, several of the spies are known and they tend to face some serious opposition from Ethiopians. Spies do their jobs while Ethiopians stage demonstrations against government malpractices. They take pictures and videos, which would be sent to intelligence officers (along with list of names) for further processing and then action. I recall an instance where Oslo demonstrators smashed the video camera of an agent. There are such kinds of counteractions against spying. But still, there is no concerted effort to, say, challenge this ugly reality. Only few Diaspora talk about it openly. If the trend continues this way, there is no guarantee that the Ethiopian Diaspora could not suffer from spy-caused psycho-social traumas, from which Ethiopians at home are suffering.

Spying the Spy

Spying the spy should be at the core of the political struggle for spying silences the majority. Spying is the cause of public silence and intimidation. Spying incapacitates citizens. Spying effectively kills dreams, ambitions, freedom, consciousness, accountability, and civic participation. Spying dashes out trust, confidence, and all other social virtues. That is why I call up on all political parties, the public, and the media to campaign against state-sponsored terrorism (espionage). It is unacceptable to spy ordinary, innocent citizens such as farmers, business people, teachers, writers, and the media. 

I am not saying that the governing party should not spy on entities that clearly stand against national interest. That kind of spying and intelligence gathering has a noble cause and goal. Intimidating the public in the name of national security is nothing but a brutal form of terrorism. We should defy this sort of espionage by all means.

To me, the following could be considered important starting points for further discussion. But am not arguing that these were not tried before; am claiming that we did not do them to the required level. If we believe in the following points and if we try our level best to defend our rights, we could reclaim our near-lost identity anytime soon.  

v  Believe that Ethiopia is not for the few; it is your country, too
v  Understand that you have natural and constitutional rights as a thinking person
v  Believe that your health and status as a Homo Sapien are clearly related to safeguarding and enjoying your rights
v  Believe that you have the potential to live in and protect freedom
v  Know that spying on innocent citizens has no legal basis
v  Believe that truth and rule of law will rule over oppression of all sorts
v  Be a conscious person when it comes to your community and country
v  Try to stay abreast of socio-economic, and political developments in Ethiopia and beyond
v  Systematically identify and study spies in your community- spy the spy
v  Share the information you get about spies with local police, opposition parties, and/or human right organizations
v  Disseminate any information about spies through SMS messaging, emails, Facebook, and other media
v  Systematically exclude spies from social and religious life
v  If possible, try to persuade spies to stop the dirty job, and then
v  Use spies to identify spy networks  
v  Support genuine political parties and the media that work on exposing spies
vBe extra careful while spying the spies: make sure you have adequate/credible information about them




  2. "I remember hearing such incidents and practice from my Syrian friends. Mr.Bashar AlAssad regime ruthless used to deploy a good number of spy cells on diaspora communities and those helpless people couldn't flip with their trustworthy ones too..."

  3. Teklu thanks for the post, you really made 'the problem' clear!

  4. thanks for share..


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የኢትዮጵያ ኦርቶዶክስ ተዋሕዶ ቤተ ክርስቲያን ሕወሓት - መሩ መንግስት ከመጣ ጀምሮ ዘርፈ ብዙ ችግሮችን በመጋፈጥ ላይ ትገኛለች። ኦርቶዶክስንና አማራን በተለየ መልኩ ለማዳከም ከተቻለም ለማጥፋት የትግሉ ዓላማ አድርጎ...