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A misplaced moral outrage

February 17, 2021

A misplaced moral outrageBy Shiferaw Abebe

Wars are terrible things anywhere, anytime.  They take away lives, destroy hard-earned assets and inflict long-lasting emotional trauma. They often cause the most damage to those who don’t deserve any of it at all.

So my heart goes out to the people of Tigray who have been directly impacted by the recent military operation in that region.

If there is any consolation, it is the fact that the worst possible scenario was averted, thanks to the careful planning and execution of the military operation by the Ethiopian armed forces.  When the operation began early November 2020, we were all bracing for a calamity of a staggering proportion; we were afraid the fighting could turn out to be fierce and protracted, catching tens of thousands, if not more regular folks in cross fires. That didn’t happen and is something to be thankful for.

This does not lessen the gravity of the humanitarian crisis that followed. Millions of Tigreans were left without access to food, drinking water and other basic necessities of life.  For a region that relies on food safety-nets at the best of times, any length of disruption in the transportation system was bound to trigger a serious shortage of food and starvation across Tigray. Initially, the restrictions on personal mobility due to security concerns and the power outage only made a bad situation worse.

Recent reports are encouraging, however. Food distribution is reaching millions, while telecommunication, power, healthcare and other social amenities are restored in much of Tigray. The federal government has done a commendable job by all accounts, especially when one appreciates the fact that this war was forced on it at the worst of times, dealing with instabilities elsewhere, a lethal pandemic, and multiple natural disasters.

Tigray’s recovery back to normality will take time and patience. Various reports confirm TPLF has left much infrastructure damage behind it to ensure recovery would be hard and creates bitterness among Tigreans toward the federal government. The Machiavellian mentality has followed TPLF to the grave. By contrast, the federal government’s goodwill and commitment to rehabilitate Tigray cannot be doubted. It didn’t wait for the military operation to be completed fully before it started mobilizing resources for this purpose; no sane person can expect more.

The unholy propaganda campaign…

Meanwhile, longstanding TPLF mouthpieces have gone overdrive with a fictitious narrative to tell the rest of the world. No surprise, they won’t admit TPLF and TPLF alone brought this crisis on the good people of Tigray. The wicked part is they are exploiting their suffering for keeping TPLF’s propaganda above its grave insinuating that the current humanitarian crisis in Tigray is part and parcel of a grand plan by the Ethiopian government and the Amhara region to cripple Tigray and punish its people. The theatrics of this narrative is badly enacted on the streets of U.S. and Europe to elicit international intervention to save what is left of the TPLF leadership currently clinging to the rugged terrains of Tigray.

Who better than the masters of fabricated narratives, aka, disgruntled Oromo nationalists, can join this desperate campaign of falsehoods? This is a group that is driven by one and only one compulsive behavior – a hatred toward Abiy Ahmed, the man who put them out play when he took power three years ago and made the Oromo people a central player in the Ethiopian nation state. Admittedly a work in progress but a serious paradigm shift that scared shitless all ethno-nationalists who betted their political future on Ethiopia remaining divided and at odds within itself.  Losing their minds ever since, they have been bowing to TPLF, the same devil they cursed for 27 years for everything that went wrong with their on-again, off-again secessionist agenda. They thought TPLF still had a trick or two up its sleeve to return things back to what they were three years ago. With that hope dashed when TPLF committed suicide by attacking the Ethiopoint Defense Forces, they have now joined the morning session to curse and badmouth Abiy Ahmed and the rest of Ethiopia.

The third axis of this unholy propaganda crusade are foreign journalists and news agencies. These guys are the funniest only if we were not dealing with a serious matter.  The efficiency and precision with which Ethiopian defense forces routed the “fearsome, battle-hardened” TPLF is something for military experts and historians to analyze in the future. But this feeling is not shared with many western news agencies who actually appear to be disappointed because the war was over too soon, depriving them of a news mine of a bloody, drawn-out war. Shamelessly, these news organizations are now nibbling on crumbs of the aftermath stories, often misreporting or exaggerating them.

The individual so-called journalists who have joined the propaganda crusade are not just confirming their western biases, which wouldn’t surprise us. They are working overtime for every penny they are being paid from TPLF loots.  With their fake title of “experts” given to them by clueless western media, they produce innuendoes and half-baked analyses for a western audience who are uninformed and, quite frankly, uninterested.  Some of the known names have been a constant critic of the new Ethiopian government ever since their paymaster retreated to Mekele and naturally they are dishonest with their western audiences about what happened before, during and after the war in Tigray. They know this war was TPLF’s making, that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had stretched an olive branch to TPLF time and again, that TPLF declined to seize the opportunity and instead actively and openly undermined federal authority including by refusing to hand over wanted criminals. I am sure they at least suspected that TPLF had something to do with the instability throughout the country in the past three years.

The fact is these journalists don’t have an honest interest in the welfare of Ethiopia, Tigray or their paymaster, TPLF, for that matter. They don’t care if the country burns down or descends into a civil war any moment and their dishonest reporting contributed to it.  But, the fact also remains, at the end of the day, what they say or write about Ethiopia shouldn’t matter. Ethiopia’s future will be shaped by Ethiopians and Ethiopians alone. Let alone hired journalists, foreign governments and international organizations have no right to stop Ethiopians from shaping their own future.

Ethiopia has proven that with the right leadership it is capable of not only handling its own internal affairs, but can also foster great and mutually rewarding relationships with its neighbors to make the horn a region of peace that needs western meddling no more.

In just three short years, Ethiopia has swiftly ended hostility with Eritrea, a hostility that was kept alive by TPLF for 20 long years to keep two brotherly and sisterly people at odds with each other. Ethiopia has played a pivotal role in Sudan’s peaceful political transition, and it has strengthened security and economic relationships with Kenya, Somalia and beyond.  With TPLF gone, Ethiopia will be a peace loving consequential force in the horn, there is no doubt about that. If this projection vexes anyone’s geopolitical mindset, interest or deep-seated arrogance toward Ethiopia or the horn broadly, so be it; Ethiopians have no choice but be ready to face that challenge. If Ethiopia trades off its sovereignty and independence for crumbs of aid money now, it will remain in bondage to that aid forever.

The past cannot be mended by lies, the future cannot be built with delusions…

There is no point in reaching out to hardcore TPLF supporters or those on TPLF’s payroll. These folks   believed TPLF’s promise of burying the Ethiopian army in Tigray. At the very least, they thought TPLF would put up a fierce, protracted battle to force the federal government to negotiate under TPLF’s terms. To simply state those beliefs and hopes didn’t materialize would be understating the extent of the shock these folks felt when A misplaced moral outrage TPLF was virtually decommissioned in a matter of two weeks. Ever since, they are going through the known stages of grief, so little to do for the rest of us until they hopefully emerge on the other end.

What has surprised me, however, is how the rest of my Tigrean brothers and sisters got caught up in a misplaced moral outrage about this war.  If I may address you directly, I cannot believe you didn’t know TPLF wrote the script of this war as soon as it recoiled into Mekele.  TPLF was always upfront that it wouldn’t live in an Ethiopia it didn’t rule. You know about the countless and painstaking efforts and patience the federal government showed to prevent TPLF from taking your country to an open military conflict.

The TPLF leaders were criminals. Like it or not, that is how the rest of us believe. They killed or ordered the killing, torture and jailing of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians during their 27 year tyranny. They should have been locked up and have their day in court the day a new administration was in place three years ago. A misplaced moral outrage That didn’t happen because the new prime minister chose a non-retribution route and the Ethiopian people sucked up their grievances and agreed to let bygones be bygones.

But TPLF leaders would have it that way. They saw magnanimity as a sign of weakness because they never showed it to anyone in their adult lives. Ethiopia is full of their casualties. A misplaced moral outrage Many of their victims have died but a great many are still living with their afflictions, scars and nightmares.

Your anxiety, concern, even the sadness over what happened in your home province is understandable. But if you are honest, your anger and moral outrage should be squarely targeted at TPLF’s reckless leaders, who simply wouldn’t let their country live in peace. Plotting and attacking the Northern Command and killing their comrades-in-arms in their sleep, that betrayal and cowardice act, became the unforgivable sin, finally tipping the cup of patience. They should have at least suspected that if things didn’t go their way, the fire they ignited could burn innocent Tigreans. A misplaced moral outrage But they didn’t care as they never cared about anyone but themselves. So your issue is with them, not with the federal government, not with Abiy Ahmed, not with the Amhara kilil, not with anyone else.

The vast majority of Ethiopians are more than happy that TPLF is gone, but no one is happy about what the common residents of Tigray are going through now and want to help. You want to help the people of Tigray, then let’s help them together with honesty, not by telling lies about the war or entertaining delusional notions about the future of Tigray or your country, Ethiopia.

Briefly about the alleged Eritrean involvement…

Both the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments have denied the involvement of Eritrean soldiers in the war. If, however, they were involved, the invitation was made by none other than TPLF itself when it fired several rockets their way. TPLF leader’s backup plan for the war they ignited was not to give themselves up and seek clemency. A misplaced moral outrage Their backup plan was to internationalize the war by provoking Eritrea to attract international attention and mediation. As it turned out, there was no time for mediation anyway since the war was over in a matter of two weeks.

There is yet another way of looking at a possible Eritrean involvement.  If the outcome of the war was reversed and TPLF had the upper hand, no question, it would have set in motion a dangerous civil war that would have very likely engulfed Eritrea and the entire horn region.  So, as far as I am concerned, if Eritrea had extended a helping hand to avert such an ominous outcome,A misplaced moral outrage Ethiopians should owe them nothing but gratitude.

Having said that, if there was any human right abuses by anyone, it cannot and should not be tolerated. It is incumbent on the Ethiopian government to be as open and as transparent as it can be given the security situation in Tigray to bring to light and redress any form or degree of human right transgressions during and after the military operation.

Shiferaw Abebe


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