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The moral imperative: a clear position in times of profound crises

This recently published article might be described as yet another well-meaning piece that is, generally, a grossly misleading attempt by the BBC to report on the situation in Ethiopia.

Sure, the mere fact that it is now, as it were, ‘official’ that a famine is looming in Tigray and Amhara must be considered a ‘positive development’. Yet, as often before many will be distraught to once again observe how the federal government seems to be considered perfectly legitimate, ‘certainly part of the solution’ – rather than part of the problem and ultimately mainly responsible for these multiple crises.

After more than three years of inaccurate and frequently misleading reporting about the Tigray war and decades of mischaracterisation of Ethiopian society and politics before that, some will still find it jarring how Western reporters and journalists appear to be unwilling or unable to understand context, make connections, or take a pragmatic, analytical, ‘pro-society’ view, but instead continue to try ‘neutrally sticking to the facts’, at the expense of truthful or ethical reporting – as misguided now as it was three years ago.

At this point, it can be categorically stated that many media organisations have been doing Western societies and the international community a great disservice by not making the most basic details clear to their audiences.

For instance, there just is no longer any doubt about the fact that, from the very start of the Tigray war, there were clear Genocidal intentions.

The federal government deliberately blocked communications, then access to food and other every-day necessities. Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers pillaged and looted crops, slaughtered cattle, burned fields, stripped or severely damaged cultural and religious sites, destroyed infrastructure and, quite literally, smashed Tigray’s health system to pieces; which the Ethiopian government – particularly infamously through its minister of health, an all too willing accomplice – would routinely deny and lie about.

The rape and mutilation of hundreds of thousands of women and girls, the murder of children, and the massacring of civilians, mostly committed by the brutalised Eritrean army but also by Ethiopian troops and nationalist Amhara militia, constitute yet other confirmed acts of genocide. And though the government of Abiy Ahmed did its utmost to prevent these inconvenient facts from coming to light, there can be no doubt about the unspeakable horrors that have taken place; the evidence has been overwhelming.

Given this, it is no wonder that the BBC itself has sometimes reported on it, such as in the case of the Aksum Massacre. There is more than sufficient indisputable information – if one wanted to find it, contextualise and publicise it.

At this juncture, it has long been clear and easily verifiable that since the signing of the so-called ‘peace agreement’, the federal government has continued to push its propagandist narrative hard and as much as possible, preventing details from emerging and becoming known to international media, aid organisations, governments and bodies – further prohibiting Tigray from being rebuilt and strengthened.

It is hardly surprising that many find it frustrating and disheartening to see how international journalists and aid organisations are still either unwilling or unable to follow a sequence of events and reaching the logical conclusion, illustrated in this simple example:
As rightly reported, the government of Abiy Ahmed has been strictly and vehemently opposed to the use of the word ‘famine’ in the context of Tigray, and sought to disseminate the idea that this food shortage is purely climate change-related.

Now, having observed this – rather than questioning whether Getachew Reda is right to criticise the wrangling about how to refer to the situation in Tigray; as ‘famine’ or ‘almost famine’, – surely it would then be incumbent upon the journalist to ‘follow up’ the government’s position, to ask: “Why is the Ethiopian government pursuing this so aggressively? Would it not be in the federal government’s interest to facilitate swift reconstruction and economic and societal strengthening of the Tigray region – for the sake of stability alone?”
The answer would be obvious: this government has no interest in a strong Tigray. Why? Because from Tigray may come opposition to its autocratic, centralist rule.

It would not be an exaggeration to state: At this time in Ethiopia’s history, it is all too obvious that the government considers the acts of genocide, including starvation, in Tigray essentially a ‘job well done, but not quite finished’.
All it takes for reaching this conclusion is a minimum of knowledge about Ethiopian society and political developments of the last decades, a general understanding of the federal government’s actions and the sinister nature of its alliance with Eritrea during the war.

The sad truth remains: As long as Abiy’s government is considered a legitimate partner – a part of the solution, an institution that generally acts mostly in good faith, can be given money and trusted to handle it responsibly – the threat of famine remains, the reality of starvation will not change, there will be neither peace nor stability, nor reconstruction nor strengthening, not for Tigray, not for Amhara, not for Ethiopia. The economy will in all likelihood continue to do badly; prices will continue to rise, and inflation will reach unprecedented levels.

The West and the international community as a whole has been deceived and lied to by the government of Abiy Ahmed, on so many occasions now. Why would anyone continue to trust the smooth-talking, manipulative ‘prime minister’, his lying loyalists and self-serving accomplices?
The West’s position of ‘If we just give Ethiopia enough aid, the federal government will make sure it actually gets to Tigray.’ clearly has failed miserably. After all, there is, and has been, plenty of evidence to the contrary; that this regime wants the people of Tigray to suffer and to starve, that it has no interest whatsoever in coming to the aid of those who oppose it, and that it will gladly lie, deceive and feed the West and the international community blatant disinformation – which, alas, has been simply believed and hardly ever questioned effectively.

Can it really be that, after all this time, all this destruction, all these tragedies, the West still somehow sees Abiy as the leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize, a guarantor of stability, his government a partner worthy of cooperation and propping up – not an instigator of genocide, a destroyer of society and Ethiopia’s very sense of self-perception with whom peace and stability in the region cannot be achieved?

Perhaps choosing to continue believing in this government, ignoring the reality and situation on the ground, is easier and much more convenient than facing the fact that Abiy is just another autocrat, another man who has turned the country he was elected to serve into a brutal dictatorship. He and his government cannot ever be part of the solution. As long as he remains in power, Tigray, and Ethiopia as a whole, will not experience peace, stability, security or even just a sense of societal cohesion and unity. Acknowledging this would be truly courageous, honourable indeed, of any Western journalist.


– Weleteselassie A