Horn of Africa Endangered by Untrue Media Attacks on Ethiopia
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.
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.
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
31 thoughts on “Horn of Africa Endangered by Untrue Media Attacks on Ethiopia”
You have some points here with your experience but the fundamental issue is those amharas don’t accept the ethnic federalism. Tigray do accept and involved in forming the all ethnic inclusive federalism. Yes tigray mess with defense force wrong is wrong but what led them to not trust the defense system which allied with Eritrean defense system esayas. Imagine to be sandwiched by two or more enemy and the Amhara’s revenge by taking advantage of the the situation to take lands back which they claim it’s theirs that it was taken from them by force and they will take it back by force not by the parliament legal procedure.
Now more than the land the Amhara’s long stand in governing system. They consider their ethnic everything to be the national against all ethnic.
Their everything their flag their language their religion their standing view to be nation anthem that’s the main problem! Tigrayan are friendly people as well as amahara .
Now the Oromo decade question is to admitted their region use their language in their region also flag not limited to religion.
Other ethical groups & religion also to be respected equally!
Thank you for your comment eagleye. I am not a supporter of ethnic federalism. I believe all Ethiopians should have an Ethiopian identity and a commitment to the nation-state of Ethiopia. I do not wish to ignore ethnic cultures or suppress them. However, the Ethiopian nation-state and ethiopian identity transcends ethnic regionalism.
Thank you very much for your realistic opinion.
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
Do you have further comments regarding the war on Tigray after Dr Abiy’s recent parliamentary report? (He admitted to Eritrea’s role in the war, the atrocities, etc. after he and other government leads denied it for months.)
Allegations of atrocities should be investigated. However, that is a far cry from the propaganda of genocide and ethnic cleansing by the government of OM Abiy Ahmed, alleged by the TPLF, media, and other groups.
1. The source of information for the allegation that “TPLF attacked federal military base of NDF situated in Mekelle. They killed soldiers in sleep.” is not credible as long as you rely on information from a country’s top liar leader in history, our prime minister, which you should have scrutinized before posting this article.
2. “War is some times necessary” vs. “No death of a single human race is insignificant.” arguments are in contradiction. If you’re really concerned about justice and situation in Ethiopia at large, I beg you to become a voice for Tigray people instead of counter arguing about the size of victims there. You cannot deny that the number of civilian victims surpasses at least a million, who are in a strange situation.
I do have one question to you though.
*How on earth a government that declared war on part of its own people can think of saving the security of the people and sovereignty of the country?
I did not say any individual’s life was insignificant. War is ugly, very ugly and very brutal. Taking the life of a fellow human being challenges our moral values, which are founded on the belief in the the sacredness of human life. However, it is only in war that humans are given the legality to take another human life. Therefore, war should be limited only to those occasions when not to wage war will lead to a worse outcome. Defending the nation-state, not an ethnic region, is justified. I will not become a voice for the TPLF or for any ethnic group. I will, however, lend my voice to the support of the sovereign nation-state.
It is remarkable view I think you have lived here in Ethiopia because many western blogger and media’s has a very low concrete knowledge about the current situation on the Ground you have described exactly what happened in our country
Lawrence, you seem to be convinced by the very conflicting analogy you present here.
You compare it to the US civil war. The Us civil war was fought over a groups, to continue enslaving, looting, lynching and considering subhumans vs an idea to stop it once and for all. The very iead of TPLF is to stop the demonization of any Ethiopian Citizen by anyone.whether majority or any group.
2. The war was necessary for unity and security. On this one, since I don’t know your back ground in life I will refrain from calling you cannibal. You see war is fought between two Waring parties. This war is fought against entire States by cutting all communications, power, phone, internet, media and roads. The road to Tigray has been blocked by the the Amhara State with the blessing of the Federal government. Can we say to preserve the unity of the country? You seem to have all the senses you may.
3. We may agree on this. If you have a bully that us on you door step to hurt one of your love one you’ll do whatever you can to stop it. Irrespective of the outcome.
4. For a person of your caliber( this is first piece of article I read of you that I know) and you have written it well without understanding. Guess what the possibility of anyone reading your comment has been zero in tigray. For you to applauded this action is insane. Try to stay without power for three days and write what your take on it. Let alone 100 days.
Regardless of your backers and amount of cheers, you should stand with truth, honor, equality and universal freedom.
You are mistaken my friend. The U.S. Civil War was fought to prevent the breakup of the UNION. Slavery of course was most significant cause for the the southern rebels to launch their separatist movement, supported by the British. President Lincoln mobilized the Union for war only after the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter, which was a Federal fort in South Carolina, manned by Union troops.
The article you wrote is pretty importan and a well-done job as it is fact-based analysis! Above all, the analogy you explicitly stated with regard to the law enforcement operation in America is impressive and sounding. As you said, the TPLF ‘s attack on the Ethiopian Defenses forces was unlawful and a threat to Ethiopian political and territorial integrity. What Dr. Abiy took as a punitive measure to keep the nation-state of Ethiopia in tact is legally-grounded by any standards. Moreover, I liked your argument of challenging to the inflated figures of Tigrayan victims of war besides exposing the lies and biased propaganda of TPLF’s followers and mercenaries. I liked your website and I will follow it regularly. Keep it on!
Mr. Lawrence, this is the closest report to the actual acts of crime and violence committed by TPLF in Ethiopia. as far as to the Western Medias are an extension of the Wests (European and U.S.A.) propaganda machine used to deceive people in the name of freedom of press or information. All the western Journalists are full-time employees of the CIA and Europeans who are reinventing themselves to continue to colonize Africa. If you obey the West, you will be called visionary leader regardless the atrocity or crime you commit against your own people. If you say, I can handle this on my own, then you are the monster human right violator and they will unlash their propaganda campaign using the same media that the praised you yesterday for your excellence. Western Media have proved not but Fake News.
Dear Sir,I would like to thank you very much for hearing from you the words of a very interesting and truthful person who spoke about my country in a wonderful way.
Thanks a lot Lawrence for put light on Western media propaganda campaign against Ethiopia. I see fairness and balance in your text.
Thank you Lawrence,
We need more people like you which brings forth the truth that has happened in Ethiopia. Those who are fanning lies will be ashamed by the world they are trying to confuse.
Thanks you again!
Dear Lawrence Thankyou for telling the truth. all this lies and propaganda supported by TPLF . specially the British media. please keep up a good work,
May God bless you Sr.
Mr. Lawrence, I really thank you for showing the truth to the world. As we Ethiopians and as well as His enemy knows, Dr. Abiy is not a power seeker; he is a person of integrity whom trying to bring the unity and stability to the Country. The peace loving Ethiopians will continue to support our Pm. Abiy. No matter how long the night is the day is sure come, and the truth will prevail.
Thank you for writing the truth and very valuable recommendations. This article gave me a hope that there are people in the west who cares about Africa and truth without being influenced by lobbyists.
Yes! The truth must be told! And what the world should do to reinforce peace is take positive development actions! If the west is thoughtful at all , should give support to infrastructure development
I completely disagree with this one sided, blind, and baseless allegations and judgments. Ethiopian has been much better during tplf leadership. You better discover the reality on ground. This is not at all scholarly.
The leadership of the country should not be one ethic group. Ethiopian identity transcends a collection of ethno-national regions
I don’t think he made any allegations besides putting the truth and false information side by side. you tell me if 2.3 million children in the Tigray region in need of humanitarian assistance will be close to the truth. What do call grab and post pictures from the internet and claim happening in Tigray. If you are from Tigray with integrity, you should be ashamed of the current state.
Thank you very much for your evident analysis!!
Fact is allways fact!
Hundreds millions respect you!!
Keep it up!
Thank you Mr. Freeman you are a true “friend in need is a friend in deed.” I admire your honest opinion, telling the truth about the whole world’s misguided perception towards Ethiopia. It is disappointing to see friendly nations blaming and throwing heaps of lies to besmirch Ethiopian reputation based on fake news they have been getting from journalists who are financially beholden to the TPLF terrorists, who ran a reign of terror in the country for over a quarter of a century. No nations in the world can sit with its arms folded across their chests, and legs crossed on their laps when members of their armed forces are attacked . They have absolute rights to go after the perpetrators to apprehend and bring them to justice. That is exactly what the Ethiopian government had done in quashing the TPLF juntas in the blink of an eye. The world ought to appreciate and learn from Ethiopia’s military tactics used to finish the conflict so soon, rather than criticizing her for punishing those who sneaked from behind in the shadow of darkness killing members of the Ethiopian Armed Forces personnel and leaving dead bodies strewn everywhere to be devoured by hyenas and vultures. The National Defense Forces were stationed out there to defend and protect Ethiopian sovereignty and territorial integrity from outside intruders.
The British government should have been the first one to support the action taken by the Ethiopian government what it did inside her own living room. I am dumbfounded at United Kingdom’s hypocrisy. In 1982 during the Falkland Island war the UK government with its military might traveled over 8069 miles to South Atlantic to unleash its military might against the Argentinian government to free two tiny islands. Can any one imagine British’s hypocrisy telling the world, super power nations have inalienable rights to go as far as they want to do whatever they wish, but telling poor nations that they don’t even have the right to do what is right inside their own home is downright wrong, ludicrous, and unacceptable. If UK thinks what it had accomplished going far away is justified, then what Ethiopia did inside her own home is highly more justifiable than anything else. Therefore what is good for the goose is good for the gander. The UK should have to apologize for its harsh words and intentions towards Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a sovereign nation as such she has the right to defend her innocent citizens from those who try to harm them.
You make some good points about the British.
Dear Mr Freeman,
Thank you million times for this eye opener article which enlightens the truth to the world on the current affair in Ethiopia. Many medias are reflecting on the absolute false information and biased comments which are derailed far from the truth and I am hoping this blog will give their audience a clear vision about the whole story.
To my fellow Ethiopians,
Our country is facing the greatest danger and an unprecedented aggressive threat from different directions, both in and outside of the country, from minor groups to great nations to put us down and overturn the change brought by this current government.
We have been living in dark for many years in the past and now while in the process for bringing a glimpse of democracy, we are engaged in troublesome obstacles with various forces globally.
We have been quiet and patient far too long but it’s time now to stand & work together to save our country. We can make a difference by addressing our problems in a peaceful diplomacy we can win over. Make our voices heard to authorities in every country we live in & remotely can. Let’s put our political view behind us and put our country first. C’mon unite & fight for our country.
I appreciate Lawrence debunking the figures given by fake news peddlers of the Western media. However, I would very much like him to rethink his statement ( more like mis-statement, propaganda, deceitful narrative) about this: 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. No matter how much lipstick you put on PP’s lips, it is the ethnic hog created after the image of the TPLF. There is nothing in their character or behavior that tells they are anything else but ethnocentric political charlatans worthy of dismantling.
It is a complete rebuttal of TPLF and its Western allies’ worldwide misinformation against Ethiopia. It is well researched & written by a respected Western Journalist specializing on African Politics. Kindly read and spread it like wildfire as soon as you possibly can. Thanks L. Freeman for your truthful and positive attitude towards our country! History will remeber you for centuries to come just like America remembers Abraham Lincoln to this day for saving her unity. Love & respect!
Thank you very much as usual for your substantive comments in your article that uncovers the truth on the ground on issues pertaining to the law enforcement operations that the government of Ethiopia has undertaken in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia and its aftermath. I hope those blinded by the Propaganda Campaign waged by the toxic Diaspora which is full of white lies with unwavering support of some western Media outlets will come to understand the hard truth sooner if not later. No doubt truth will prevail and the international community will come to understand those outcries are empty and unfounded.
Thank you Lawrence for your comments, which look into the unsubstantiated contents of the Western media, specially the British ones. In one way or another, they had close attachments with the defunct regime and have now resorted to tarnishing the image of Ethiopia as a country fully aware of the facts that the TPLF started the conflict leading to its demise. Yet, foreign propogandists are disseminating lies in a bid to resurrect the TPLF.
Keep up your good work, Lawrence.