False Narratives of Ethiopian Conflict Are Toxic

(Courtesy of souncloud.com)

False Narratives of Ethiopian Conflict Are Toxic

Lawrence Freeman

April 5, 2021

In two months, Ethiopia will have national elections, which can potentially shape the future of the largest nation in East Africa. False narratives of the cause and description of the fighting in the northern section of Ethiopia, Tigray, remain misleading and detrimental. This can undermine the efforts of Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed to introduce a non-ethnic based discourse with his newly created Prosperity Party.

Unfortunately, much of the narrative that dominates the news and reporting is falsely framed as a contest between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the government of Ethiopia, headed by Prime Minister Abiy. Some news reports refer to Tigray as a “contested” region between two opposing armed forces. Other commentaries attempt to legitimize the actions of the TPLF as defenders of their territory from “outside” military. Let us be clear. There is no equivalency between the TPLF and the government of Prime Minister Abiy. Such analysis is not only faulty but is dangerous to the nation of Ethiopia. It invites other disingenuous ethnic leaders to launch destabilizations against the Ethiopian nation. Some accounts of the conflict even question, who was responsible for initiating the fighting, blatantly attempting to rewrite history.

It is well known that in the early hours of November 4, the TPLF without cause, attacked the Ethiopian Defense Forces at the Mekele outpost,  stealing munitions and murdering soldiers in their sleep. The government of Prime Minister Abiy was obligated to respond with a military counterattack to ensure that Ethiopia remained a sovereign nation.

As long as policy and deliberations in Ethiopia are twisted around the contours of which ethnic group is in power, the nation’s progress will be disrupted and curtailed.

Allegations of Ethnic Cleansing

The United Nations defines ethnic cleansing as:

“ a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas…. rendering an area ethnically homogeneous

Ethnic cleansing is intolerable and repugnant to civilized society. Given the highly contentious environment in Ethiopia between different ethnic groups, unsubstantiated charges of ethnic cleansing and genocide are inflammatory and pernicious. Hurling such accusations without incontrovertible proof is more than provocative. It can lead to increased violence, threatening the very fabric of Ethiopia as a sovereign nation only months away from its national election.  Yet these unfounded accusations are repeated again and again.

In a March 30th letter to United States Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, Congressmen Gregory Meeks, and Michael McCaul, condemned Ethiopia for “acts of ethnic cleansing,” without offering any evidence other than hearsay from the media. Unfortunately, Blinken himself had used the same provocative language earlier in March, accusing the Ethiopian government of ethnic cleansing, without proof. Protest from the Ethiopian government in Addis Ababa prompted President Biden to send Senator Coons to Ethiopia as his special envoy. Upon his return, Sen. Coons not only refused to repeat such charges, but expressed optimism in the subsequent actions of Prime Minister Abiy.

Atrocities or other illegal actions that have been reported, must be thoroughly investigated, as Prime Minister Abiy has promised to conduct in conjunction with the United Nations. However, the continued use of unsubstantiated accusations of ethnic cleansing by U.S. officials, repeated by the reckless media, are imprudent and perilous to the entire Horn of Africa.

The same congressional letter threatened sanctions against Ethiopia. Ethiopian Ambassador to the U.S., Fitsum Arega, responded the next day, March 31st with his own letter to the two congressmen:

“Your call for what appears to be blanket sanctions is not only counterproductive to the goal of providing support for those in need, but also significantly undermines the two nations’ long cooperate relationship. The U.S. should be working to ensure that funds and supplies are  going to those in need, not in threatening behavior that will diminish cooperative efforts to bring much needed help to those in need.”

U.S. Senator Coons says Ethiopia trip was ‘constructive.’ (Courtesy tadias.com)

Human Identity Transcends Ethnicity

Ethiopia’s upcoming election on June 5 will be historic. For the first time, with Prime Minister Abiy’s national Prosperity Party on the ballot, there will be an alternative to the destructive politics of ethno-nationalist partisanship. It is important for all Ethiopians to take responsibility for ensuring that this election is not marred by violent ethnic confrontations.

Now, let us deal with the core issue confronting Ethiopia’s society, which politicians, reporters, Washington think tanks, and NGOs, do not understand; Ethiopian people are not defined by ethnicity.

We are all human beings first and foremost. What does it really mean to be human, and what is its relevancy to the current circumstances in Ethiopia?

Our heritage, no matter how much we respect our parents, cherish our birthplace, and traditions, does not determine our essence as human beings. Our worth, as human beings is not derived from where we were born. What distinguishes us, all of us, as human, as opposed to all other creatures is; that we are bequeathed by the Creator with the very special quality of creative reason.  No animal possesses creativity, and no machine can reproduce this unique quality, which I will identify as our soul-mind. The power of reason-creativity is not deduction, induction, or logic. It is the ability to discover, through hypothesis, new physical, and social principles embedded in the universe by the Creator, awaiting for us to uncover.  This characteristic of creative-mentation distinguishes the human species, as having a single human culture, which cannot be subdivided.

All societies, going back at least million years in Africa, have progressed as a result of human creativity.  Continuous, uninterrupted discovery of new universal principles that advance civilization from one level of science-culture to the next. This, our human culture, coherent with the physical universe, lawfully shatters the silly belief of a preordained  limit to the growth of humankind.

Thus, deep down in our soul-mind, we are all universally unified, and alike. We are not fundamentally different, except in secondary features that serve to enrich the breath of our universal human culture. African nations can no longer allow themselves to be ruled and divided by ethnicity and religion. No ethnic group, religion, or class ought to enjoy any superiority. Religious and ethnic differences should not undermine a nation’s national unity.

Each nation has developed uniquely, contributing to the diversity and richness of our civilization. Each nation has uniquely fashioned an identity from historical events and future aspirations.

Let that national identity moored to our exclusive human identity prevail. Any lesser identity is an assault on our unique humanness.

With this concept in mind, let Ethiopia demonstrate its commitment to protect and care for all its citizens by allowing justice to overcome propaganda and prejudice in judging the crimes committed in this conflict.

ReadTwo Key Members of Congress Condemn Atrocities in Tigray and Call for US Action

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton.

 

Sovereignty Must be Respected: Ethiopia’s National Identity Transcends Ethno-Nationalism

March 13, 2021

Watch my interview, Part I above & Part II below, with Ladet  Muleta from PrimeLogue/Media. I discuss the challenges Ethiopia is facing and important strategic subjects relevant to all African nations today.

Topics discussed included: respecting the sovereignty of African nations, the importance of national identity, the deleterious effects of ethno-nationalism, the potential for regime change in Ethiopia, the wrongful division of Sudan, the importance of the Battle of Adwa, Ethiopia’s national mission, real genocide in Africa, the significance of the Prosperity Party for Ethiopia, Africa’s infrastructure deficit, and what is necessary to develop Tigray.

 

Read: Celebrate Ethiopia’s March 1, 1896 Victory at Adwa: Ethiopia is Fighting Another Battle Today to Protect its Sovereignty

Horn of Africa Endangered by Untrue Media Attacks on Ethiopia 

Ethiopia’s Prosperity Party: A Revolutionary Necessity

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Celebrate Ethiopia’s March 1, 1896 Victory at Adwa: Ethiopia is Fighting Another Battle Today to Protect its Sovereignty

Ethiopia’s victory against Italy at Adwa on March 1, 1896, profoundly shaped the future of Ethiopia.
Celebrate Ethiopia’s March 1, 1896 Victory at Adwa- A Victory For Africa and All Nations

February 28, 2021

This article below was first published in the March 2017. If you read the headlines of  the European press following Italy’s defeat on March1, 1896, you will see that this battle shook the foundations of European Imperialism to its core.

Today, Ethiopia is engaged in another battle for its sovereignty, no less vital than the Battle at Adwa 125 years ago. The Ethiopian nation-state is a physical unitary reality that embodies an essential concept of national identity, which transcends ethno-nationalism. Unfortunately, there are times when it is necessary to wage war to preserve the nation state, which represents the interests of all Ethiopians. Without a functioning sovereign nation-state, society cannot provide for its citizens and for future generations. In the spirit of the victory at Adwa, all Ethiopians should unite in pursing their shared common interest: the development of Ethiopia. When all Ethiopians, from all ethnic backgrounds join together to ensure the economic progress of their single homeland, then the preconditions will exist to end ethnic conflict and marginalization. The victory at Adwa belongs to and exist inside all Ethiopians. One Ethiopia! One Ethiopian identity! 

Victory at Adwa- A Victory for Africa

Lawrence Freeman

March 1, 2017

The battle of Adwa is probably the most renowned and historic battle in Ethiopian history. This celebrated victory by the Ethiopian army helped define the future of their nation, as one of only two non-colonized countries in Africa. The defeat of a European colonial empire by an African country, following the “Scramble for Africa” after the 1884-1885 Berlin conference a decade earlier, is not only a source of enduring pride and nationalism for Ethiopians, but also an inspiration to other Africans, who took up the fight for independence six decades later. Some historians suggest that this victory also led to the idea for the Pan-African movement. As a result, it is no surprise that on May 25 1963, Ethiopia under the rule of Emperor Haile Selassie was a founding member of the Organization of African States-OAS.

Adwa, also known as Adowa, and in Italian Adua, was the capital of the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia. A late comer to grabbing territory in Africa, Italy began colonizing Somaliland and Eritrea in the 1880s. It was from the vantage point of Eritrea from where Italy launched its campaign against Ethiopia. The immediate pretext of the invasion was a dispute of Article 17 of the 1889 Treaty of Wuchale. Italy insisted that the treaty stated that Ethiopia had to submit to its imperial authority, thus effectively making Ethiopia a colony of the Kingdom of Italy. The Ethiopians resisted Italy’s military enforcement of its version of the treaty, leading to the outbreak of war in December 1894, with the Italian imperialists occupying Adwa and moving further south into Ethiopian territory. On March 1, 1896, King Menelik II, who, commanded a force of over 70,000, defeated the Italian army, killing 7,000 of their soldiers, wounding 1,500, and capturing  3,000 prisoners, routing their enemy, and forcing them to retreat back to their colony of Eritrea. It has been speculated that, if Menelik had pursued the retreating Italian troops, and driven them off of the continent, it might have prevented a second Italian invasion. On October 3, 1935, Italy led by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, launched its second military incursion into sovereign Ethiopia territory. Five years later in 1941, Ethiopia once again drove the Italian invaders out of their country. The 1896 defeat of a European nation, considered an advanced country, by Ethiopia, viewed as a backward Africa country, led to riots on the streets of Italy and well deserved consternation in the capitals of European powers.

Without taking the time now to review the ninety years of Ethiopian history following this famous battle, the military defeat of Ethiopia’s dictatorial Derg Regime in 1991 brings us to the beginning of contemporary Ethiopia. When the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front-EPRDF assumed control of the government in 1991, it was led by the now deceased, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who initiated the economic policies that have guided Ethiopia for over 25 years. It was Meles Zenawi’s intellectual leadership, in particular his understanding of the indispensable role of the state in fostering economic development that distinguishes Ethiopia today from all other sub-Saharan African nations. For him the state was not “a night watchman,” but rather an active participant promoting economic growth for the benefit of its people. Ethiopia is a poor country. with a population approaching one hundred million, not endowed with rich mineral or hydrocarbon resources, and repeatedly struck by drought. Yet it has emerged in recent years with a rapidly growing economy. This is the result of Zenawi’s legacy that created a leadership with a self-conscious commitment to use the powers of the state to build an integrated infrastructure platform, which has served to drive the economy forward. This is clearly evident in Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plans I and II, which set ambitious economic goals five years into the future, along with its proposed thirty year road construction plan. Since the EPRDF took over the responsibility of governing the nation, more than thirty new universities have been created, graduating more students that can be easily employed.

In collaboration with China, Ethiopia operates the first electrified train in sub-Saharan Africa, traveling 750 kilometers in seven hours from Addis Ababa to Djibouti, establishing a port to export Ethiopia’s products. Their highway system consisting of toll roads, highways, and all weather roads will connect their light manufacturing industries to the port in Djibouti via their new rail line.   As a result of coherent policy planning in energy infrastructure, the Gibe III hydroelectric power plant has now added 1,872 of megawatts to the country’s electricity grid, and over the next two years, the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) will add an additional 6,000 megawatts, making Ethiopia the second largest producer of power in sub-Saharan Africa, behind South Africa.  The next step to develop the Horn of Africa is for Ethiopia, Sudan, and Kenya to extend their rails lines to become the eastern leg of an East-West railroad. Thus would transform Africa by connecting the Gulf of Eden/Indian Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean , creating an economic corridor that would literally revolutionize the economic power of the continent; contributing to the ending of poverty, hunger, and war.

One cannot deny the success of Ethiopia’s unique path of development, nor can one omit the important role contributed to this process by Ethiopia’s successful resistance to foreign occupation; thus never having to suffer the dehumanizing effects of colonialism.

Read my earlier posts:   Ethiopia’s Conflict: A War Won to Preserve the Nation-StateEthiopia’s Prosperity Party: A Revolutionary Necessity

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Horn of Africa Endangered by Untrue Media Attacks on Ethiopia

(courtesy bangkokpost.com

Horn of Africa Endangered by Untrue Media Attacks on Ethiopia

Lawrence Freeman

February 4, 2021

In January 2021, the world witnessed a barrage of attacks on Ethiopia aimed at undermining the efforts of Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed to preserve the sovereignty of the Ethiopian nation.  This is a dangerous gambit not only for the potential harm it can trigger for the people of Ethiopia, but also for the security of the Horn of Africa.  It is well known that Prime Minister Abiy launched the Prosperity Party (PP) in 2019 to create a non-ethnic centered political party to overcome the rise of ethno-nationalism. Unfortunately, ethnicity is embedded in Ethiopia’s 1995 Constitution. The PP challenged the decades long control over Ethiopia’s political institutions by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), who then lashed out  against the government in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia has provided stability in an oftentimes volatile region, as well as economic leadership in East Africa. Neighboring Somalia, where Ethiopia forces have combatted Al Shabaab for many years, is in a precarious state following the removal of U.S. AFRICOM troops to its unsettled and  contentious presidential election. Somalia has also severed diplomatic relations with Kenya.

Additionally, unresolved, and sometimes quarrelsome talks between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia pertaining to the fill rate of Nile waters for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) are still ongoing.

War is Sometimes Necessary

The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front committed sedition when they attacked the military base of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (NDF) stationed in Mekele, in the early hours of November 4, 2020. They killed NDF soldiers in their sleep and stole munitions for their militia. Prime Minister Abiy had no alternative but to launch a full scale military response to subdue the insurrection conducted by the leadership of the TPLF.

No one can argue that war is not horrible and deadly, and that it causes severe  collateral damage. People are displaced, economy is disrupted, and civilians suffer. No death of a single human being is insignificant because the human race is endowed by the Creator with noble creativity. However, to preserve the nation-state for more than one hundred million Ethiopians living today and for hundreds of millions more in the future, war, when absolutely necessary, must be waged. (Read: Ethiopia’s Conflict: A War Won to Preserve the Nation-State)

I am reminded of the famous Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania, and the enormous number of American deaths that occurred during the U.S. Civil War. An estimated 700,000 Americans died during this four yearlong brutal war, of which 50,000 were civilians. President Abraham Lincoln was unyielding in his commitment to save the Union, no matter the cost of human life. Lincoln possessed the inner directedness to maintain the Union as an indivisible whole, against the separatist rebels. Had he not, the U.S. would have been destroyed by slavery, and a slave economy; the world today would be entirely different-and for the worse.

Media Stokes Fears Regarding Tigray

Western media, led by the British, have use inflammatory stories to encourage the withholding of humanitarian aid from Ethiopia, at precisely the moment when it is needed most.

The Washington Post in its  January 27th editorial demands that the US and European Union “should withhold further aid until …government agrees to pursue peace talks,” after accusing Prime Minister Abiy of having “all the earmarks of Ethiopia’s previous dictators.”

More egregiously, is the headline in the January 23rd issue of the London Economist: After two months of war, Tigray faces starvation. In a blatant assault on Ethiopia and Prime Minister Abiy, the Economist accuses the government of  “war crimes” and quotes an unnamed western diplomat who says, “we could have a million dead there in a couple of months.”

Barely a week after the start of the war, with the TPLF insurrectionists still in control of Tigray, CNN printed an inflammatory headline: Mass Killings of civilians in Tigray region, says Amnesty International. CNN writing on the cruel massacre of 600 Ethiopians on the evening of November 9, in the town of Mai-Kadra, south-west Tigray, blatantly failed to report; that it was forces loyal to the TPLF, not the Ethiopian NDF, who committed this atrocity.

 

United Nations Deputy Secretary General meets with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (courtesy ethiopia.un.org

The Big Lie

The most often repeated allegation against the Ethiopian government, first reported by the Associated Press (AP) is; that there are 4.5 million Tigrayans in need of immediate lifesaving aid. Under the headline, ‘Extreme urgent need’: Starvation haunts Ethiopia’s Tigray, AP reports on January 17, “More than 4.5 million people, nearly the region’s entire population, need emergency food” according to an unnamed source. The article continues, “a [unnamed]Tigray administrator warned that without aid, ‘hundreds of thousands might starve to death’ and some already had, according to minutes obtained by The Associated Press.” Following the AP story, news outlets all over the world including on YouTube videos, recited the same narrative; 4.5 million Tigrayans were starving.

There is a second article in issue of the London Economist sighted above, in a section labelled Famine Crimes, with the headline, Ethiopia’s government appears to be wielding hunger as a weapon, with a subhead, A rebel region is being starved into submission. In this article, the Economist equates  Prime Minister Abiy with former Ethiopian Marxist dictator, Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose policies contributed to the death of one million Ethiopians during the drought from 1984-1985. They write:

“Things were supposed to be different under Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian prime minister who was hailed as a reformer when he took charge in 2018, and who won the Nobel peace prize the following year. Yet once again it looks as if hunger is being used as a weapon in Africa’s second-most-populous nation.”

The London based Guardian on January 24, printed an opinion column by Simon Tisdal, entitled, Ethiopia’s leader must answer for the high cost of hidden war in Tigray. He wrote:

“After humanitarian workers finally gained limited access this month, it was estimated that 4.5 million of Tigray’s 6 million people need emergency food aid. Hundreds of thousands are said to face starvation.”

BBC News published the following headline on February 1, Tigray crisis: ‘Genocidal war’ waged in Ethiopia region, says ex-leader, quoting Debretsion Gebremichael, who is leading the TPLF military campaign against Ethiopia.

 Truth or Propaganda?

The estimated population living in the Tigray region is probably from 5 to 5.5 million. Thus, according to the media, 4.5 million or 82-90% of the Tigrayan population need emergency assistance. These figures are too implausible to be considered accurate. UNICEF on November 19, 2020, asserted that there are 2.3 million children in the Tigray region in need of humanitarian assistance. If that were true, it would mean between 40-45% of the Tigrayan population are children, which is improbable.

These exaggerated hysterical claims are designed to inflame public opinion against the government of Ethiopia.

Representatives of the Ethiopian government report, that due to poor infrastructure and underdeveloped land there were 1.8 million Tigrayans in need of aid prior to the military outbreak. TPLF controlled Tigray during this period. As a result of this TPLF instigated conflict, an additional 700,000 are in need, for a total of 2.5 million. While this is an extremely large number of Ethiopians who require assistance, which should not be ignored, it is much less than 4.5 million.

Information provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which coordinates global emergency response, is closer to the figures offered by the Ethiopian government.  OCHA’s January 26, Tigray Region Humanitarian Update reports 950,000 people in need of aid prior to November 4, and projects 1.3 million more Tigrayans will need assistance resulting from the conflict, for a total of almost 2.3 million. In the same update, OCHA reports: “Movements of humanitarian cargo inside Tigray is improving substantially. Last week, four of the submitted cargo requests have been cleared to be dispatched.”

Clearly, living conditions on the ground for millions of Tigrayans is deplorable. Food, non-food, medical and related assistance is urgently needed to prevent further loss of life. However, there is no evidence of mass starvation, and no evidence that Prime Minister Abiy is using food as a weapon against the Tigrayan people.

President Biden’s Message to the 34th Summit of African Union. courtesy of Namibia Embassy na.usembassy.gov)

What the U.S. Should Do

President Biden has an opportunity to create a new U.S.-Africa policy, and contribute to the well-being of Ethiopia, and the Horn of Africa.

The Biden administration should support the sovereign obligation of the Ethiopian government to deploy its military in defense of the nation following the attack by the TPLF on the Ethiopia’s NDF in Mekele. This should extend to denouncing unfounded inciting accusations that the government is using food as a weapon against the Tigrayan people.

The U.S. should immediately utilize its unique military-logistical capability to deliver assistance to the Tigray region. This should include all Ethiopians and refugees who are suffering as a result of the TPLF’s reckless treasonous actions.

President Biden should immediately reverse Donald Trump’s awful decision to withhold $130 million in aid to Ethiopia. The failure to restore this aid at this critical juncture could result in increased suffering.

Contrary to Trump’s interference in the tripartite talks between Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia, the U.S. should allow African nations in partnership with the African Union to resolve the remaining concerns regarding the operation of the GERD.

Most importantly, recognizing that the Tigray region, like other sections of Ethiopia are in need of vital categories of infrastructure, the U.S. should invest in the construction of roads, railroads, energy generation, and water management. A nation that provides it citizens with the physical goods and services essential for a rising standard of living is best equipped to mitigate ethnic tensions that often arise from economic marginalization. Let this crisis in Tigray become an opportunity to usher in a new paradigm of U.S.-Africa strategy by President Biden, who should be guided by the wise words of Pope Paul VI: development is the new name for peace.

 Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

US-Africa Strategy Should Focus on Long-Term Development for the Continent’s 2.4 Billion People

Lawrence Freeman giving a lecture on Africa. He teaches several courses on African history in Maryland.

December 25, 2020

Below is a lengthy year end interview with me by Pan African Visions, published on December 21, 2020, entitled: “Most US Administrations Have Not Had Good Policies On Africa.” In this interview, I discuss a number of issues facing the Africa continent, as well as the past and future of US-Africa policy.

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Pan African Visions: We end with the last word on how you see 2021 playing out for Africa, what are your hopes and fears?

Lawrence Freeman: If you look at the problems we have now if we do not implement certain measures today, we are going to have problems 10 or 20 years from now. If you have an approximate population of two and a half billion and approximately one billion may be young people; if those young people do not have jobs, see their nation as providing for them then you can have very nasty operations and demonstrations, regime changes on the continent. On the other hand, we have all these very bright people, if we implement policies today that will bring about the kind of economic growth that is needed then you will not have an increase in alienation, anarchy and protests.

I would like to see the United States join with China and probably Russia to help Africa. They have to unite and assist Africa and not tell them what  to do, and not seize anything. I estimate that Africa needs at least a thousand gigawatts of power to give people access to electricity. These things are primary. If we can begin in 2021 with a robust commitment to developing, then I think Africa will have a very interesting and beautiful future. If we do not, then we could be facing more serious challenges over the years ahead. I am approaching 70 years and I am going to put everything I have to make those things happen. If more people in the United States, Europe, and Africa will work with me on that then I think we can make some improvements that will benefit billions of people that are not only living today but those who will be born in the future. And that is my goal and commitments.

Read the entirety of my interview: Pan African Visions Interviews Lawrence Freeman on US-Africa Policy

Read the entire issue of Pan African Vision for December 2020: PAV-News-Magazine-Dec.-2020-Edition-27

As I am sending out this post on Christmas Day, I would like to wish everybody an enjoyable Holiday Season. At this time of the year, it is important for me to emphasize that ending poverty and hunger in Africa is not an idealistic dream. It is an accomplishable strategic vision for the African continent. All men and women are endowed by the Creator with the power of creative reason. This unites all peoples of all nations as part of one human culture. If we exercise this uniquely human power of creativity with the good will of governments, there is no limit to the qualitative and quantitative growth of civilization. The same brute-force commitment that utilized our creative scientific capabilities to develop vaccines for the COVID-19 virus in record time, can be applied to feeding the world.

 Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Ethiopia’s Conflict: A War Won to Preserve the Nation-State

Ethiopia’s Conflict: A War Won to Preserve the Nation-State

November 29, 2020

By Lawrence Freeman

Today, the Ethiopian government is reporting that the National Defense Forces have taken control of city of Mikelle, the capital city of Tigray, as well as the airport. This portends the effective defeat of the opposition forces that violently rebelled against the nation over three weeks ago, and the liberation of the Tigray region

Notwithstanding criticisms by some spectators, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was obligated to respond with force to safeguard the sovereignty of Ethiopia, in a similar manner to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s all-out war to preserve the Union.  The nation-state, which Prime Minister Abiy was defending, is not a coalition or association of separate states or semi-autonomous regions.  Rather it is a unique sovereign concept of self-governing that transcends various ethnic or religious beliefs. The nation-state is uniquely required to serve all its citizens and ensure the posterity of its people.  That is why throughout history, bloody wars have been fought to preserve the precious nation-state above all other considerations.  The military conflict was not a civil war, but more precisely, it was a war to preserve the integrity of the Ethiopian nation.

Prime Minister Abiy launched the now victorious military campaign against the leadership of the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front), not against the people of Tigray. The immediate cause for the government’s offensive was in response  to an early morning attack by the TPLF on November 4, on the Northern Command post of Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) located in Mekelle. This assault, which murdered many soldiers and seized equipment and ammunition, was deemed by the Ethiopian government, as “crossing the red line.” The government was compelled to respond with full force to safe the nation. No nation could continue to exist if it allowed its armed forces to be slaughtered. A six month state of emergency for the Tigray region was declared by the Council of Ministers on November 6. The stated intent of the government is to arrest and bring to justice a small “TPLF criminal clique” that has been funding and mobilizing to destabilize the nation.” (1)

TPLF Rejects Abiy’s Reform

To understand the underlying origin for this conflict requires reviewing the modern history of Ethiopia. In 1991, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of forces, overthrew the fascist-Marxist Derg regime and took over control of the government of Ethiopia. For the next twenty-seven years, the TPLF not only governed the northern Tigray region, but as well, exerted unparalleled influence over the central government and the other ethnic regions of the country.

A year after he was selected by the EPRDF to become the new prime minister in April 2018, Prime Minister Abiy initiated a democratic-reform process that included replacing the countries narrowly focused ethno-national parties with a new nation-wide Prosperity Party.  Three regional parties that were part of the EPRDF coalition joined the new Prosperity Party as equals, in effect dissolving the EPRDF. However, the TPLF refused to accept losing its dominant political power. It voluntarily declined to join the new party, leaving the TPLF isolated with weakened political power.

 

Ethiopia’s constitution and its federation of a central government coexisting with regional ethnic states was formed as a compromise to various ethnic-nationalities that historically had been marginalized. This dubious arrangement indicates the ethnic pressures prevalent in Ethiopia, which must be overcome to unify the nation.  Consideration should be given to modifying the constitution following next year’s national elections. It is now imperative to reinforce a national Ethiopian identity that transcends ethnic-nationalism. This is what Prime Minister Abiy intended with his reforms and the creation of the non-ethnic Prosperity Party.  (Read: Ethiopia’s Prosperity Party: A Revolutionary Necessity). Confronted by open rebellion from the TPLF leadership, Prime Minister Abiy had no choice but to respond forcefully, otherwise the very existence of Ethiopia would be put in danger.

In harmony with his Medemer philosophy, Prime Minister Abiy proclaimed that all Ethiopians should accept responsibility for their past offenses, and all should be forgiven. He embraced the belief that the slate should be wiped clean of the past, in order for Ethiopian society to unite in a common pursuit of prosperity for all. (2)

Without concern for the future of Ethiopia, the TPLF rejected Prime Minister Abiy’s outlook and proceeded to commence an open rebellion against the Ethiopian nation.

Chair Persons of the eight parties who also represent eight Regions as governing parties worked under the umbrella of the EPRDF coalition signed a document for the establishment of Prosperity Party. Photo Credit OPM

Abiy Acted to Preserve Ethiopia 

Prior to attacking the soldiers of the ENDF in Mekelle, which the TPLF viewed as a foreign army, the TPLF disregarded national election law. After Ethiopia’s elected government-the House of People’s Representatives-postponed national elections in March of this year due to circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the TPLF conducted its own illegal elections in Tigray in September, violating the nation’s decree.

Prime Minister Abiy charged the TPLF leadership of trying to derail his transition, making the country ungovernable by instigating religious and ethnic conflicts, and inciting violence against the central government in Addis Ababa.

Although, Prime Minister Abiy is an Oromo, and is the first non-Tigrayan to become prime minister since 1991, he is acting in the interest of all Ethiopians, not simply or narrowly on behalf of his ethnic origin. If, Prime Minister Abiy were to allow the TPLF to defy federal law and initiate an armed attack on the defense forces of the federal government without responding as he has, this would encourage other ethno-separatist movements to flout the authority of the nation. Thus, contrary to what people may have wanted to believe, Prime Minister Abiy’s military campaign to subdue the reckless TPLF leadership, was the best way to prevent the conflict from becoming a civil war.

Bronwyn Bruton of the DC based, Atlantic Council Africa Center, argued that intuitive calls for negotiations endangered the future of Ethiopia. In her blog post Ethiopia: Calls for Negotiation Are Driving Ethiopia Deeper Into War, written before the defeat of the TPLF, she wrote:

“The most effective means of discouraging the continuation of this conflict is to finally put pressure on TPLF leaders…to stand down…in the interest of protecting the local population. Abiy urgently needs to be persuaded that he can rely on the international community–and not only his army–to ensure that the TPLF will be prevented from returning to power. Counterintuitively, the fastest way for the international community to do that is to stop calling for negotiations, and to start demanding accountability for the TPLF.

Calling for negotiations, as so many are advocating, will only encourage TPLF leaders to believe that violence will permit them to fight their way to a bigger chair at the table. That is not only a losing strategy in Ethiopia–it sets up an extraordinarily dangerous precedent for the next armed insurgency that wants to challenge central authority.”

Ethiopia, East Africa’s leader in economic development and a key nation providing stability to the Horn of Africa. There are confirmed reports that the TPLF fired missiles across the border into Eretria, and on the Bahir and Gondar airports in Amhara, Ethiopia. Thus, it is clear that the TPLF posed an immediate danger not only to Ethiopia, but to the entire region, and had to be defeated.

President Abraham Lincoln meeting with his generals at Antietam, Maryland. (courtesy history.com)

Lincoln Waged War to Save the Union

U.S. history records a troubled and dangerous time when the Army of the Federal Government came under attack.

Six weeks after Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States on November 6, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, and demanded the removal of all federal troops. On December 26, 1860, Major Robert Anderson of the U.S Army in South Carolina, moved his 68 troops into Fort Sumter, an island in the Charleston Harbor. Immediately following his inauguration on March 4, 1861, President Lincoln was confronted with the threat of the dissolution of the United States. South Carolina, one of seven states that formed the Southern Confederacy on February 8, 1861, insisted that the Federal Fort Sumter belonged to them, and commenced a siege around the beleaguered federal troops.  President Lincoln had to make the most momentous decision of his two week old presidency, which he knew would impact the very existence of the United States; whether to send supplies to the troops or relinquish the fort. In the words of author Doris Goodwin:

“He [Lincoln] must make the decision between a surrender that might compromise the honor of the North and tear it apart, or a reinforcement that might carry the country into civil war.” (3)

On April 6, President Lincoln told the governor of South Carolina he would send provisions to the troops-no arms or ammunition. In response, Jefferson Davis, provisional president of the Confederacy, ordered Major Anderson to surrender the fort, which he refused. The Civil War officially began at 4:30 in the morning of April 12, when the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter. President Lincoln rightly considered Fort Sumter as an outpost of the Federal Government, and thus an attack on the fort was an attack on the United States. Within days President Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 volunteers to join the Union Army to defeat the Southern rebellion and secure the very existence of the nation.

In President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address on March 4, 1865, he discussed the reason for the federal government’s war against the rebel South. He remarked that while he was seeking to save the Union without war “insurgents were seeking to destroy it…seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects by negotiation.” The South, he said, “would make war rather than let the nation survive” and the North “would accept war rather than let it perish.”

President Lincoln made clear in this address, and throughout his entire tenure as president, that he would spare no effort, including the tremendous loss of life, to preserve the Union. The Confederacy, supported by the British, intended to abolish the Union, had to be defeated, even at the dreadful price of 750,000 soldiers perishing in combat. Americans and all people of the world should give thanks that President Lincoln was victorious, and that the United States of America survived as a sovereign nation.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (left) with former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn

No Moral Equivalency

Throughout the entirety of the of the four year long war, President Lincoln would only describe the enemy of the Union as a “Southern Rebellion.” He never recognized the legitimacy of the Confederacy of Southern States, because, to President Lincoln there was only one government representing all of the United States.

Former Ethiopian Prime Minister from 2012-2018, Hailemariam Desalegn espoused a correlated judgement in regard to the TPLF in his argument: Ethiopia’s Government and the TPLF Leadership Are Not Morally Equivalent. On November 24, he admonished the international community’s view of the conflict:

“The key problem…is the assumption of moral equivalence, which leads foreign governments to adopt an attitude of false balance and bothsidesism.” He continued: In the meantime, those who are advocating dialogue with the TPLF leadership should carefully consider the full implications of what they are calling for, as they will open a Pandora’s box that other ethnic-based groupings are ready to emulate. Those calling for talks should understand that the very prospect of negotiating with the TPLF’s current leadership is an error—as matter of both principle and prudence.”

While Prime Minister Abiy was not fighting a civil war, analogous to President Lincoln he was forced to make decisions that would determine the very existence of Ethiopia. Nations must be supported against separatist, ethnic or religious movements that attempt to tear apart the fabric of national sovereignty. All human beings, regardless of where we were born, are united by our universal innate potential of creativity. The power of our creative-soul is what makes us distinctively human, unique from all other species. It is our common heritage.  The nation-state exists to promote the creative potential of all its citizens from the past to the present and into the future.  Thus, its value to civilization is inimitable and must be safeguarded at all costs.

1 Updates on the unfolding developments of Ethiopia, Office of the Prime Minister, November 6, 2020

2 Ethiopia’s Prosperity Party: A Revolutionary Necessity

3 Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Simon and Shuster, New York, 2005

 Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

Ethiopia’s Prosperity Party: A Revolutionary Necessity

Ethiopia’s Prosperity Party: A Revolutionary Necessity

By Lawrence Freeman

January 8, 2020

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has embarked on a bold effort to transform the political terrain of Ethiopia while simultaneously launching new economic reforms. The creation of the new Ethiopian Prosperity Party (PP) replaces the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front-(EPRDF), founded in 1988. Dissolving the reigning EPRDF and fashioning a new national party, or what some refer to as a Pan-Ethiopian party, is a courageous and daring move, essential for Ethiopia’s future.  This emerging nation of over 105 million people, already a leader in economic development, is now embarking on a challenging path to create de novo a national party.

The EPRDF, which had governed Ethiopia since May 1991, was composed of four Regional States, plus the cities of Addis Ababa (the capital), and Dire Dawa. The four regional parties are: the Tigray People’s Liberation Front-(TPLF); the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization-(OPDO) (renamed early this year as Oromo Democratic Party-(ODP); the Amhara National Democratic Movement-(ANDM), (renamed early this year as Amhara Democratic Party-(ADP); and the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement-(SEPDM), (a coalition of the 56 ethnic groups).

The EPRDF was fashioned to address Ethiopia’s earlier history of dictatorial and monarchical rule. The designers of the governing party believed that acknowledging ethnic identity, which was not recognized for centuries, would solve the tensions of that time. Recent conflicts in Ethiopia have shown this arrangement to be ineffective.

Of the four parties that comprised the EPRDF, only the TPLF has refused to join the new PP.  Already the governing parties representing 5 regions, which were not members of the EPRDF, but were recognized as allies of the EPRDF have joined the PP in preparation for May 2020 elections. They are: 1) Afar National Democratic Party (ANDP); 2) Benishangul-Gumuz Democratic Party (BDP); 3) Somali Democratic Party (SDP); 4) Gambela People’s Democratic Movement (GPDM); and 5) Harari National League (HNL). The PP will be inclusive, intending to represent all communities, inviting Tigrayans, who live in and outside the region to join. The PP program will have Amharic as its working language as per the constitution. However, Afan Oromo, Tigrigna, Somali and Afar will also be the working languages of the new PP.

Prime Minister Abiy’s founding of the PP on December 1, just six months before Ethiopia’s national elections, is fraught with personal risks for the new Prime Minister. However, this endeavor is bursting with the potential to transform politics and social relations in Ethiopian society. Ethiopia has a splendid history thousands of years old, rich with a multiplicity of cultural backgrounds. The PP is intended to harmonize the diversity of the nation with a national non-ethnic based party.

Chair Persons of the eight parties who also represent eight Regions as governing parties worked under the umbrella of the EPRDF coalition signed a document for the establishment of Prosperity Party. Photo Credit OPM

Nationalism: Not Ethnic Nationalism

A sovereign nation-state is not a mosaic of diverse groups competing with each other for control of the government or pursuing administration posts to obtain economic and financial rewards. A sovereign nation should have a national identity and a mission orientation for its people; all its people, regardless of ethnic heritage. Contributing to the distinctive identity of Ethiopia was its military defeat of the Italian Empire in the battle of Adwa on March 1, 1896. Consequently, this victory, uniquely allowed Ethiopia to remain free from colonialism. Although this triumph occurred over one century ago, it is part of the psychological composition of the identity of all Ethiopians; whether they are conscious of its effects or not. Ethiopia’s decades’ long determination to develop from a disadvantaged nation to an aspiring lower middle-income nation with nascent light manufacturing industry is another feature of Ethiopia’s national identity.

Professed ethnonationalism errs in that it attempts to substitute the demands, often for legitimate needs, of one particular group above the interests of all the citizens. A nation-state cannot survive in a Hobbesian war of all against each other to obtain the most goodies for “my people.” Dare we forget the horrors of the ethnically driven tragic Biafran war in Nigeria from 1967-1970, and how geographic-ethnic distinctions have determined every unhealthy aspect of political and social life in Nigeria today?

Recriminations from the past are no excuse for actions today. Decisions concerning the best strategy for securing the future of Ethiopia must be based on how that policy will benefit the well-being of all citizens.

Medemer and Synergy

In his acceptance speech for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Prime Minister Abiy spoke of the philosophy of the Medemer.

He said: “Medemer, an Amharic word, signifies synergy, convergence, and teamwork for a common destiny. Medemer is a homegrown idea that is reflected in our political, social, and economic life. I’d like to think of ‘Medemer’ as a social compact for Ethiopians to build a just, egalitarian, democratic, and humane society by pulling together our resources for our collective survival and prosperity…At its core, Medemer is a covenant of peace that seeks unity in our common humanity.”  One could appropriately, add for the “common good” of humankind.

Our “common humanity” exists in all of us. We are all born in the image of the Creator. All human beings are universally related by our endowed powers of creative mentation, more commonly known as reason. What distinguishes all human beings from the animal species is our mental power to discover new scientific and cultural principles embedded in our universe. All of us homo sapiens, regardless of where we were born, or any physical characteristics, are substantially more alike than we are different.  Therefore, our needs, desires, and aspirations in life are similar. All human beings not only share a common interest to enhance our lives, but we also share a desire for a better future for our posterity. There is no class of superior people, who have more rights than others due to privileges of birth, religion, or skin color. Each of us are placed here on earth to contribute to the common good of our common humanity using our individual talents.

If we accept synergy to mean cooperation and collaboration to achieve an enhanced effect, then let us act synergistically to ensure a prosperous Ethiopia that provides for all its citizens.

The Constitution and Sidama

Inherent problems of the 1995 Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia are evident in the November 2019 referendum conferring autonomy to Sidama. Ethiopia’s constitution stipulates that with this lawful vote, the people of Sidama, the fifth largest ethnic group, will become the tenth ethnic regional state. Eight of the existing nine regional states are governed by the dominant ethnic group of that geographical region. However, the Sidama people reside in Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region–(SNNPR), where many other small ethnic groups (around 56) also exist.

The Preamble of Ethiopia’s Constitution properly emphasizes the conception of a united nation with a common purpose and goal for all its people.   It deliberates on “advancing our economic and social development,” “common interest….and the emergence of a common outlook,” and “to live as one economic community.” Article 14 resonates with the US Constitution, stating: “Every person has the inviolable right to life the security of person and liberty.” The same principle is echoed in Article 43 of the Constitution: The Right to Development. “The basic aim of development activities shall be to enhance the capacity of citizens for development and to meet their basic needs.”

The drawback to the Constitution begins in Article 8:Sovereignty of the People, where sovereign powers are divided up between “Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia.” This is an obvious compromise to ethnicity. In truth; there is only one Ethiopian people and only one Ethiopian nation. The divisions in Ethiopian society are made explicit in Article39: “Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has an unconditional right to self-determination, including the right of secession……the right to a full measure of self-government…” This separation of Ethiopians into multiple groups, outlined in the Constitution, is the seed for the tensions gripping Ethiopia today.

In the aftermath of the Sidama referendum, Ethiopia potentially faces a conundrum. Will other ethnic minorities now choose to follow the same path as Sidama in calling for autonomy as delineated in the Constitution? It appears so. In addition to Sidama Zone*, which is now claiming to be the 10th state, there are other Zones in the Southern Region that want to follow the same route to statehood. To quote William Shakespeare, “there’s the rub.” Clearly the Ethiopian Constitution, despite the best intentions, has proven to be unsuccessful in governing this multi-ethnic nation.

The Challenging Course Ahead

The emergence of a national party such as the PP can commence the process of uniting the nation by moving away from a society where ethnic interests are placed above the welfare of the nation. Ultimately the problematic features of the Ethiopian Constitution will have to be revisited. Not to address this thorny issue will allow instigators to use ethnicity to disrupt what is most necessary for Ethiopia to move forward; a healthy process of dialogue and debate on the future of Ethiopia.

This discourse should include a discussion by the Ethiopian people on changing the structure of ethnic-based parties. For example, Ghana’s Constitution stipulates that “Every political party shall have a national character, and membership shall not be based on ethnic, religious, regional or other sectional divisions.” That no political party shall be formed “(a) on ethnic, gender, religion regional, professional or other sectional divisions; or (b) which uses words, slogans or symbols which could arouse ethnic, gender, religious, regional professional or other sectional divisions.”

The lack of vibrant Ethiopian nationalism creates a fertile environment for those who want to manipulate misplaced ethnic passions. The danger presents itself during times of social or economic stress, when the population’s frustrations can be channeled along ethnic fault lines, manipulating Ethiopians to act against their true self-interest: progress for the nation of Ethiopia. Opportunistic ringleaders will attempt to misdirect the population against each other via competing ethnicities, instead of uniting society behind a national policy. A policy of economic growth that includes a strategy to generate employment opportunities for the millions of youth preparing to enter the workforce is in the vital interests of all citizens.

Of course, it will take time for people to shed their desire to control policy making through ethnic-based parties. It is an existential moment for Ethiopia, and a national grounded PP is a needed first step.  It should be understood, that a sovereign nation, whose national mission is to promote the general welfare of its people does not require the elimination of historical cultures. On the contrary, the uniqueness and beauty of each ethnic culture can be synergistically woven into an elevated national character that transcends ethnicity.

*Zone is the middle tire next to the regional state in the governing structure that is also formed under ethnic lines the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR).

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com