An Open (and Less than Respectful) Letter to Alan Boswell, ICG’s Horn of Africa Director
I can’t tell you how pumped I am to the point of cheerful vomiting that you’ve put out an advert for a new Senior Analyst for Ethiopia at Crisis Group. Exciting! Challenging! Mortifying! (You know… mortifying to anyone who actually lives in Ethiopia, but I’ll come back to that…)
And if I get this gig, what a high bar that’s already set for me! I mean William Davison… Wow. What a legend! I once spotted him in public once, and an Economist reporter saluted from across the street and with tears in his eyes, whispered, “There goes the most insightful, bravest yeast infection that ever visited Africa.”
Oh, before I forget, I need to tell you that my Crisis Group William Davison Action Figure isn’t working that well anymore. It keeps making this whirring noise and then it swipes my cell phone at 3 in the morning, and when I check my call log, I find out it’s left these long-winded, angry, ranting voicemails and text messages to the Lauren Blanchard Puppy Euthanasia Center and the Andrew DeCort Memorial Colostomy Bag Warehouse in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Yeah, I don’t know why those two operations are based in the same town either — go figure.)
Sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah. A legend. A guy who managed to get himself deported twice from Ethiopia, and then he persuaded scores of gullible idiots in mainstream media to interview him even though he was nowhere near the country anymore and couldn’t possibly have up-to-date information from the field. Which is probably why he organized a Fungus Club of like-minded cranks and TPLF sympathizers. On second thought, putting out accurate information was never the point, was it?
But hey, I see from your job advert that you won’t even need to be in Ethiopia anymore to be the Crisis Group analyst! Kewwwl. You can write up reports and talk to Al Jazeera or France 24 as a person just “based in the region, preferably Nairobi, Kenya.”
Amazing. It’s like you’ll be a living, breathing blurry satellite image from Bellingcat.
I’m particularly thrilled at how I’d get to conduct “extensive field research into prevailing issues” and analyze the “risks and origins of deadly conflict” when the field will be more than 1,500 km away.
Oh, wait, I’ll have a team. I’ll “supervise research assistants, consultants, stringers and/or interns” — in other words, cannon fodder who genuinely live there and might risk arrest or worse from a government turning into an autocracy, but well, because their faces are brown, they won’t get on BBC World that much.
I really want to meet the (presumably unpaid) intern or (low-paid) stringer who puts their ass on the line for Crisis Group. And then I’d like to sell them the GERD.
I mean, this is awesome! According to the requirements, I need to speak English, and while you “prefer” I speak a “local language” (funny how you don’t mention Amharic), it’s not a requirement. I don’t even need to know the history of the country, only “the region’s security and public policy issues,” which I guess just popped into existence yesterday without any context. According to you, I don’t need to have lived in Ethiopia before either, only “the region.”
But hey, bring on those media interviews!
I also noticed this as a requirement of my future dream job. I’m supposed to propose: “policy recommendations and initiatives for relevant actors including political, civil society and other stakeholders at the national as well as regional and international levels aimed at preventing, mitigating or resolving conflict.”
You guys are hilarious, Alan. No, you’re killing me — really. It is high-sterical how you imply that folks in an independent African nation such as Ethiopia would be willing to take “policy recommendations” from the group that slandered its people for more than two whole years and actively interfered in its war against a couple of terrorist organizations.
I’m sure there will be a “time for an applicant’s questions” at the job interview, but I can’t wait, I’m just soooo excited by this opportunity, so I have to ask: Can you tell me again why you guys exist?
I mean, Africa hasn’t asked for you. Ethiopia hasn’t asked for you. I’m pretty sure most of its citizens hate you these days, but you still want to send someone over to cover “the region.” Again — good one! Laugh out loud emojis all around. You know they hate you, so you won’t even bother to base your person in the country again because well… we all know how it went last time.
Because none of this is really for Ethiopia or Africans at all, is it? A quick check again of your funding partners, and I can’t find a single African nation there. There’s the EU, the World Bank, Ireland, Denmark, Canada, Japan, Qatar, Korea, and the list goes on, but… nope. No African nations seemed to have ponied up any cash for your unique “help” and “analysis.”
So, again, I just have to ask: What is the point of you?
Especially since properly trained journalists — and more importantly, African journalists — could tell us all what we need to know about an African country’s current affairs. And your funding partners could just read the news. Or talk to their own diplomats.
Hey, it’s not like you can pull out that old nugget of “But African journalists face arrest and intimidation!” Because your Senior Analyst won’t be based in Ethiopia at all.
They’ll depend on those “research assistants, consultants, stringers and/or interns” who get supervised when your person flies in for a few weeks every so often (and what malarky do you want to put on their work visa this time?) or by remote control from Nairobi.
It’s almost as if you’re in the business of telling your donors what they want to hear. If there’s no “crisis,” there’s no group, is there?
So, okay, in thinking it over, I think I’ll take a pass on applying. I’m an old-fashioned writing whore, and I’ve churned out articles and books and promo copy, but fucking over an entire country… naw. Hard pass. Many Ethiopians will celebrate that Fungus will be out of his job soon, but he was always a symptom of a bigger, more malignant disease.
The slimy business model of conflict merchants remains in operation.
Hugs, Smoochy Kisses and an Industrial-Strength Floor Sander,