False Narratives of Ethiopian Conflict Are Toxic
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.”
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.
Read: Two 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.
7 thoughts on “False Narratives of Ethiopian Conflict Are Toxic”
Dear lawrence, you are mostly educated and the world brilliant person so I have no words to thank you for giving a brief explanation on issues in Ethiopia. And also you had posted such a genuinely article in this moment.. because most of western leaders are more give emphasis on falsely fabricated information rather than what is the fact on the ground so please continue with brave mind.
Thank you. I hope you and your colleagues subscribe to my blog.
Ethiopia is one place on this globe where humans need to keep as belonging to the entire human race because it’s biblical importance, it’s religious ( Jewish, Christian, and muslim ) existing in one accord contrary to historical expectations. Relic as this may seem, it is the bastion for national survival the strength of which is believed comes from it’s religious adherence to these monotheistic determinations of faith. None if the forces who have tried to disrupt its historical continuity in spiritual harmony had suffered detrimental existential set-.backs.
At the cost of sounding arrogant , I wish to mention some of the most powerful nations who have met their demise after their attempted to go against the grain of Ethiopia’s
theme of 3000 years of standing as an independent nation ( Turkey, Great Britain, Italy, the Soviet Union and some who are on their way to their demise by skirting around unattainable ambitions to dominate this dirt poor yet one Nation which eternally remained bonded to It’s Creator for providence and independent existence.
This is not arrogance. It is the core of the National belief of everyone born to an Ethiopian mother, a belief that guides It’s national defense. Ethiopia does not have Nuclear defense, but the hands of God which stretches over its predetermined territories.
The territories which succeeded from the Ethiopia proper are still plagued with suicidal and violent state of existence ( e.g Somaliland, Eritrea )
Mr. Laurence, Senator coon you are literally heaven sent . Ethiopia will be eternally thankful.
Thank yu for your comments. You provide an interesting historical analysis.
You are indeed a true friend of Ethiopia. Your critical analysis on the political situation in the country has exposed the falsehood echoed by the ill-advised White House and the mainstream media. Unfortunately, those who think ‘ethnic cleansing’ is taking place in the Tigray Region don’t have any idea about the tens of thousands of Tigreans living in Addis Abeba peacefully. It is better to study the cultural and political dynamics in Ethiopia before echoing unsubstantiated allegations of ethnic-cleansing. Anyone can visit the major towns in the Amhara Region and witness the number Tigreans doing their business with no harassment. But one cannot witness the same number of Amharas in the Tigray Region. This is an incontestable fact. Keep up the good work, Lawrence.
Thank you for sharing this deeply needed insight. For many who originate from or have ties with Ethiopia, the impact of the toxic narrative directed against our country has a deep physical, and psychological impact that may only be of interest and concern to those working in the therapies sector. Your article helps to remind such people that it doesn’t have to be be that way, that positive narratives will also emerge, that our country is not doomed as some would like to put it. Please do keep writing in the manner that you have. It is important to read reason and to feel the world is not against us.
Dear Mr. Freeman:
I do not have enough words to thank you. You have posted such an excellent article at this critical moment. It is a shame that the West is pushing its agenda on a false fabricated information. History is repeating on Ethiopia.