By Tesfaye Desalegne (PhD)
Former Ethiopian Diplomat
In less than a week, Ethiopia’s name resurfaced in negative reporting on social as well as mainstream media, in unprecedented manner. While some advocated for the dismemberment of the nation from world stage, others have expressed their ecstasy as they projected it to be a failed state.
These articles, statements, social media campaigns, and special reports have all echoed the “genocidal” threats, blockades, sexual violence etc. that have already been given to them as talking points and hashtags, by the TPLF agents and lobbyists.
One glaring fact is that all of them are bestowed with the same talent of not telling the truth about the conflict. Almost all of them put the blame on the Ethiopian government for the atrocities while they never decry the evil works of the terrorist group. Without exception, they never praise any effort of the Ethiopian government related to the conflict.
On the other hand, almost all hyperbolize the presence of Eritrea in the conflict and “atrocities” committed by the regime. Others project the conflict as engineered by the Eritrean government, with intent and purpose of undermining the Ethiopian federal government’s operation against the terrorist group.
These media reports and statements are designed in a very coordinated fashion, echoed by a class of reckless reporting that have only exacerbated the war, by fueling the delusion and aggrandizement of the cause of the TPLF.
Most embellish TPLF as a group, fighting for its freedom, while eclipsing the fact that it ruled the nation for almost three decades under the worst of conditions. There is little mention that the bloody war was waged by a power monger and hellbent group of people, who lost face from the Ethiopian polity.
Truth be told, the Ethiopian war is about many things. The world should know that it is a fight between nationalists and die-hard, tribe-mongers who want to sacrifice everything for power grab. It emanates from the refusal of the Ethiopian people to follow the divisive and treacherous trajectory set by the bestial TPLF. For the tribalist-TPLF, Ethiopia is a patchwork of ethnic groups, for many others, it is an independent and united nation. For TPLF, the alpha and omega of problems in Ethiopia are self-determination, for the majority, it is a fair and aspiring nation to be equal for all.
While many have called for building a nation-state, the TPLF, jockeying a minority ethnic group, was destroying the social capital and social fabric. The conflict is a continuation of an uprising against a parochial view about the past and destiny of the nation, refusing to carry on the trajectory set by the tribes monger TPLF. Moreover,
- The conflict is caused by the fight for equality of the Ethiopian people who have been tired of a subjugation by the minority, corrupt and ruthless oligarchs.
- The conflict is also a fight against terrorism the likes of which never existed in the world.
- The conflict is a fight for justice, that has been missing for decades of a sham democratic and just nation.
- On the other hand, Ethiopians take the fight against the hierarchical world order and a fight for aspiration of the continuation of Ethiopia as free and independent nation. It is a call for ending a double standard that is rampant on the international stage.
While people of Tigray have paid an insurmountable cost due to the senseless war, one needs to remember that it was the TPLF group that has made every effort, through its divide and rule strategy, to create an ethnic rift between societies, Tigreans included. This same strategy was destined to mobilize people to its cannon fodder, to fight against the Ethiopian forces in the last four years. Through its genocidal calls (using the Rwandan Interahamwe parallel), TPLF has been detaching the psyche of the people from the rest of the society, preparing them for the doomsday, through its manufactured conflict.
Despite the true nature of the conflict in Ethiopia speaking volumes, the media outlets have continued their one-sided flagrant reporting, once again alarming a “genocide” that was created as a cyber warfare. These same reports call for more mobilization of support tantamount to handing grenades to the TPLF machinery and by out crying an apocalyptic destiny of Tigreans.
For a curious spectator, the trend in media reporting has important revelations. Whenever TPLF forces are advancing on the ground, these reporters mute their reporting, at best. Whenever the Ethiopian defense forces gain control on the battlefield, the genocidal alarm is set to blow to its eerie sound.
As October has been the worst month for TPLF forces, the genocide alarm has started to deafen the world, knowing that pressure is the only means of saving TPLF from extinction.
For example, The New York Times published on October 9, 2022, an article under the title of “After Secret U.S. Talks Fail, a Hidden War in Africa Rapidly Escalates” takes a clear side of the conflict by saying:
“Tigray is the world’s unseen war, a sprawling conflict hidden behind a punishing government siege that has severed communications in the region, locked out reporters and left 5.2 million people in urgent need of food aid. United Nations investigators have called it a war crime.”
The New York Times (through its Declan Walsh) again has remarkably been shedding a crocodile’s tears on the issue of “civilian casualty”, as the outcries of the TPLF leaders. Never once, it mentions the age-old, staged dramas and strategies of TPLF who have used human shields, and video taping of the war, sometimes inflicting the attack to create an angry-victimized mentality.
On the other hand, the same article makes a blatant statement by saying:
“Ethiopian drone strikes hit a kindergarten in August, killing several children, and a U.N. food truck in late September. An airstrike on Tuesday in Adi Da’ero, near the border with Eritrea, hit a center for refugees, killing at least 50 people, said two humanitarian officials in the area who spoke on the condition of anonymity for their safety.”
With no independent verification or sourcing of evidence, conclusions of such scale demand scrutiny, but accuracy and independence are at the fringe when it comes to African reporting.
A week later, on October 20, 2022, The Chicago Tribune published a commentary by the title of “The World’s Worst War You Aren’t Watching is in Ethiopia”
The article of such one-sidedness and undermining of the Ethiopian state put it in the following manner:
“Tigrayan authorities have indicated that they would respect a cease-fire, but Ethiopian government officials have instead doubled down to lambaste the “evils” of its enemy. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government has reportedly dropped leaflets in Tigray stating that anyone remaining behind would be considered a combatant, raising clear concerns that all Tigrayans, a distinct ethnic group, would be targets in an assault.”
Clearly, being credible and impartial is not an issue for the writer as she makes gross errors of facts. The report makes no mention of the federal government’s cease fire and withdrawal of forces several times during the fighting. There is no mention of the government’s respect of the cease fire and humanitarian truce that lasted for five months between March and August 2022.
Elizabeth Shackelford’s comments conclude the following:
“We must stop shying away from uncomfortable conversations when so many lives are at stake. If U.S. leverage is inadequate, we should press the countries who arm and support Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the international financial institutions like the World Bank which keep the country afloat as its economy falters.”
While the above-mentioned reporter’s views beg for questions of all nature, the world view she promotes is blinded by a master-subject bond. Her unnerving call for using the IMF and the World Bank to wreak havoc on a sovereign nation is nothing but a sinister neo colonial view.
The report published by the International Crisis Group on October 20, 2022, under the title of “A Call to Action: Averting Atrocities in Ethiopia’s Tigray War” was like no other, to destabilize the Ethiopian state and its sovereign rights.
The report gives the most biased and most misleading analysis of the conflict, flawed by its prophetic speculations. Its scrutiny leads to detection of a delusional feeding to the die-hard leadership of TPLF. Besides, it doesn’t uphold a principle of genuine conflict analysis, nor a methodological ethics, echoing the stereotypes. It shows a deeply flawed perspective, that is blinded by hate, vengeance, and punishment of the Ethiopian state and its saying-no to paternalistic orders of the West.
The report boldly underscores the entire situation going out of control by saying that: “There is a serious risk of accelerating atrocities as the current phase of the conflict unfolds, with Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers targeting Tigray’s civilian population as they recapture locations vacated by Tigray forces and hostilities continue.”
The report puts five risks of the conflict as:
- Eritrea’s involvement makes the outcome extremely awful and undesired
- Targeting of Tigran people in hate speech and marginalization “the war has seen a surge in dehumanising hate speechby government officials and TPLF opponents, which is all the more potent against the backdrop of federal actions to collectively punish the Tigrayan people”
- The risk of falling under amateur Ethiopian fighters “Addis Ababa is relying heavily on fairly new recruitsfor the current offensive. Their relative lack of training could lead to even graver atrocities than his more experienced forces have already committed in the region.”
- Continuation of blockade by the Federal government, Amhara state and Eritrea. “Repeatedly restricting the region’s access to humanitarian relief while cutting off trade, transport, banking services, electricity and telecommunications – amounts to the crime of using starvation as a method of warfare.”
- The risk of resistance and emergence of even more hardliners in Tigray, which is put as “…… It certainly seems plausible that, over the long term, sustained efforts to quash Tigray’s resistance will only boost the cause of hardliners in the region, including those pushing for an independent Tigray nation-state, and so make negotiations even harder to pursue.”
It is no coincidence that the same baseline analysis and its assessments are copied by the Editorial of the Guardian on October 23, 2022, banking on the risk factors and fate of the conflict.
The ICG report makes five recommendations about the way forward, which is nothing but a road map for pushing Ethiopia off the cliff.
- A call for African leaders to press the Ethiopia Prime Minster to come to negotiations. Otherwise, the recommendation warns of battling bloody insurgency, even if there is a military victory.
- A call for the US and EU to show consequences of the defensive actions of Ethiopia and Eritrea, by imposing targeted sanctions on government and military leaders.
- A call for the international institutions, particularly the UNSC and the AU to follow all avenues to pressure the Ethiopian government through issuing statements and condemnations.
- A call for blackmailing of the Ethiopian government by disclosing classified information (reports and satellite evidence) about the scale of the conflict, particularly the call for the State Department to release the 2021 atrocities determination report on “crimes”committed during the conflict.
- A call for arms twisting through continuation of chocking the government by stopping the non-humanitarian assistance that was suspended when the war broke out. A call for further blocking funds from the IMF and World Bank, as well as derailing any debt relief request by Ethiopia.
Clearly, the recommendations are intent to pressure the Ethiopian government to literally incapacitate its power to handle its own domestic affairs. If anything, these proposals look a continuum of the street police behavior which caused the “I can’t breathe” debacle and chock holds causing unjust manslaughters.
On the other hand, the report’s suggestion to the TPLF is ludicrous. The only advise to the terrorist group is to pledge to focus on civilian protection inside Tigray when humanitarian deliveries resume rather than embarking on further offensives or raids outside Tigray. It also calls for Tigray’s leaders to devote more of their efforts to convincing fellow continental leaders to back peace efforts, including through bolstering AU mediation efforts.
Ethiopia’s conflict and the international response is loaded with several ramifications for the powerless nations. It has clearly manifested that sovereignty is gone and buried, by the same people who advocated for it. Clearly, double standard has become the order of the day. International relations are no more relations among equals, it is a landscape deeply flawed by the top-down, arrogant Western centric world views.
Not only have these media outlets become advocates of breaking the international norm, but their world view is master-slave or center-periphery, demanding the poor nations a despicable set of to-do lists. If these media coverages have done anything, they have only fueled the war between brothers, disseminating false narratives and fake news to the gullible international community. It looks the time has come to hold these evil advocates, accountable for the insurmountable damage they have caused on the poor nations like Ethiopia.