Aklog Birara (Dr)
November 26, 2020
As an Ethiopian American, I pride myself as someone whose roots are a source of pride for all persons of African origin. There is no contesting that Ethiopia’s established national identity as a country spans more than 3,500 years. Ethiopia played an important role in the independence of Black Africa when I was growing up. It pioneered the formation of the Organization of African Unity that has evolved into the African Union. It continues to serve as Africa’s hub. For me, it is a pillar country with a promising future.
The UN and the African Union depend on Ethiopian Defense Forces for peacekeeping. Following 9/11, the United States formed a strategic partnership with Ethiopia against terrorism. The fight against this menace is still on. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is a terrorist organization as are its strategic allies.
I would like to remind the international community that Emperor Haile Selassie believed in the importance of collective security. He demonstrated his country’s commitment to peace, stability, and world security by dispatching an armed contingent to Korea. Ethiopians fought side by side with Americans. They demonstrated valor and heroism that the world has come to admire. This was readily apparent to me when I visited South Korea on several World Bank missions. Koreans admire Ethiopians.
This Ethiopian standard of unrivaled commitment to collective security continued in the Congo, in Rwanda following the country’s genocide, in Somalia against Al Shabab, in South Sudan and in Darfur. In all these countries, members of Ethiopia’s Defense Forcers represented the country’s best image and its diversity as well as its capabilities. The Horn of Africa and Eastern Africa is spared of the horrors of terrorism, jihadism, and extremism in part because of Ethiopia’s role. The TPLF committed a cardinal sin when it attacked the country’s Northern Command, preidentified and murdered non-Tigrean Officers and other military personnel. Therefore, it must be redesignated as terrorist. This is also the reason for which the TPLF must be held accountable.
Regardless of ethnicity and faith, the Ethiopian people demonstrate special affection and admiration for the country’s Defense Forces. Its enduring institutional legacy includes helping ordinary citizens during hard times such as floods and locust infestations. Its commitment and loyalty to Ethiopia’s territorial integrity, national security and sovereignty is beyond reproach. Equally compelling is the role of Ethiopia’s Defense Forces in infrastructural and socioeconomic development. Wherever Ethiopia’s Defense Forces are stationed, its members show their affinity to the community by mobilizing own funds and building schools, clinics, and other infrastructure. It is this institution the TPLF tried to degrade.
I remind the international community that the TPLF preidentified and killed non-Tigreans in Mekele after Ethiopian members of the Northern Command had served Tigrean-Ethiopian farmers during the day. Imagine how barbaric that is! Who would suspect that the members of the very people you have been serving for more than 20 years would murder you in the wee hours of the night?
The standard measurement of terrorism must be the same.
The international community cannot afford to apply different standards: one for developed nations and the other for poor nations. The destructive effects of terrorism, extremism and jihadism are the same whether they occur in New York City, in Oklahoma, in Berlin, in London or in Paris. There is a global consensus that perpetrators of these and similar crimes must be held accountable. Ethiopia cannot be expected to follow a different standard. The UN family of nations must respect and apply the same principles in Ethiopia too.
Peace and stability are a global common good. When these cherished global norms are applied in a differentiated and discriminatory manner, the UN system becomes irrelevant. Further, nations must refrain from leveraging their aid monies to impose their will on developing nations including Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a sovereign nation and must be respected as such. Internal conflicts are within the prerogative of the Ethiopian Federal Government and its Defense Forces. These Forces have a solemn duty and responsibility to restore peace and stability; and to protect the safety and security of the country’s citizens. The fight in Mekele is a fight to save Ethiopian lives and investments and to establish enduring peace.
I also want to underscore another fundamental principle that the international community must recognize and apply in the Ethiopian case. This refers to Ethiopia’s demonstrated role in collective security.
I think of the value-added to the UN system and of the valor, patriotism, and social commitment of Ethiopia’s Defense Forces to Ethiopia and to all Ethiopians and then ask myself why the TPLF committed a mortal sin, namely, treason? It is this narrative that global think-tanks, the international media, and others failed to report.
The premeditated murder of non-Tigrean Ethiopian Officers and other military personnel serving with Ethiopia’s Northern Command in Mekele, Tigray in the wee hours of November 3, 2020 is a Black Day. The reason is two-fold:
- The TPLF targeted and tried to discredit specific ethnic groups.
- The TPLF tried to degrade Ethiopia’s Defense capabilities and capacity.
The history of the TPLF is replete with a plethora of murders, killings and genocide. The global media has literally failed to report this dark history of the TPLF and its surrogates. The latest tragic act in Mekele is treacherous because it is an assault at the heart of Ethiopia. This under reported treasonous act is intended to degrade the capabilities of Ethiopia’s Defense. When the TPLF tried to degrade this capability and capacity, the political aim is to undermine Ethiopia’s territorial integrity, national security, and sovereignty. If Ethiopians do not have a country; then everything is lost. It is this aspect that the International Crisis Group, the Washington Post, Al-Jazeera, and others failed to report.
Emboldened by the failure of the international community to demand that the TPLF abandon its reckless and irresponsible war, this terrorist group encouraged Tigrean-Ethiopians in Mekele to fight. The objective is to cause as much destruction as possible; as much death of innocent civilians as possible; and then fault Ethiopia’s Defense Forces and Prime Minister Abiy.
Remember, the Government of Ethiopia went the extra mile by granting 72 hours for TPLF Special Forces and militia to abandon their weapons and surrender. The intent is to mitigate destruction.
Fortunately for Ethiopia and its 116 million people, several friendly governments understand and support the Ethiopian position. My only intent here is to express my appreciation to Governments that support Ethiopia at this critical time. Accordingly, I shall refrain from naming and shaming.
I would like for the international community to reflect on the gravity of the Ethiopian internal conflict. If the TPLF fulfilled its wishes, its preference would have been to internationalize the conflict. This is the reason why it hit the Asmara Airport with a rocket.
The international community must be empathetic by understanding what the Ethiopian people are going through. Imagine what would have happened if the National Guard in Texas went on an armament snatching adventure and a targeted killing spree of American Defense Forces; stole lethal weapons and murdered members of an American iconic institution. Remember the Oklahoma bombing in the 1990s and the global media coverage it received? It was inconceivable then for the American Federal Government to mediate with the terrorists. Is it fair to ask Ethiopia to accept a different standard?
It is undeniable that the TPLF committed treason, terrorism, and the destruction of investment properties. This act should have been reported more widely. Instead, the social media, especially Facebook, and think-tanks parade false news and misinformation that is routinely supplied by TPLF and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) rogue agents as well as by OMN networks and supporters.
I saw a petition by TPLF supporters and sympathizes in the U.S. claiming pathetically and falsely that the Mai Kadra, Ethiopia, massacre of 600 innocent civilians on November 9, 2020 was a “massacre of Tigrean-Ethiopians” by Ethiopian Federal Forces and the Amhara militia. The pathology of lying and reversing blame are so engrained in the brains of TPLF converts that I worry of lasting effects. How do you heal endemic denial, anger, revenge, and a sense of entitlement?
I also worry that denial and cover up might result in the destruction of infrastructure, historical places, major institutions, and the loss of innocent lives in Mekele. The prudent thing would have been for TPLF diehards to abandon their destructive behavior. But they will not.
Despite its size and resources, the Ethiopian Diaspora is still fracture and divided. For this reason, we have largely failed to unify our efforts and combat the false narrative and social media blitz by TPLF adherents. Among other things, my recommendation in filling the gap is that we speak with one voice and from the same script as Ethiopians. Ethiopia is justified in its peacekeeping operation.
What should the Ethiopian narrative be?
The response of the Federal Government of Ethiopia to the crisis created by the TPLF is simple. It is to restore peace, stability, security, and the rule of law in Tigray, and in the rest of Ethiopia. This is the essence of the narrative. It is an essential step. It is a pre-condition for Ethiopia to focus on poverty alleviation and development that is buffeted by inclusive and democratic governance. If there is no country, this will only be a pipedream. This must be hammered repeatedly so that the international community understands it.
Contrary to supporters of the TPLF and its strategic allies, the conflict is not a civil war. Non-Tigrean Ethiopians are not fighting Tigrean Ethiopians. The TPLF and its allies pre-identify and murder innocent civilians, including Tigrean-Ethiopians who believe in Ethiopia. They destroy physical and economic investments to gain sympathy. They then propagate distorted propaganda through social media, notably through Facebook targeting blame on Ethiopian Defense Forces and Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed. In fact, I critique Dr. Abiy for his slow response. TPLF falsehoods and propaganda are standard practices. TPLF as an institution and its supporters have used this technique and gained international adherents and notoriety.
In this connection, I find it irresponsible for some members of the U.N. to call for a meeting on this internal and Ethiopian matter.
Can you imagine France, Germany or the United Kingdom allowing its domestic issue to be discussed by the UN or any other external body? Intervention on a domestic peacekeeping operation is incontestably a domestic matter.
I urge governments and international bodies to stay away from Ethiopia’s internal peacekeeping activities. They need to respect the sentiments of tens of millions of Ethiopians who are contributing what they have in support of the country’s Defense Forces.
In summary, the peacekeeping operation in Tigray is a matter of national survival. If Ethiopia cannot defend peace, stability; and if it cannot enforce the rule of law within its own national boundaries, the UN and the African Union cannot expect it to contribute to peacekeeping operations in Darfur, Somalia, South Sudan or any other place.
Justice Shall Prevail in Ethiopia!
November 26, 2020
Part III will discuss double standards in reporting