Deadly stampede in Bishoftu, Ethiopia on October 2, 2016 after police fired tear gas at protesters during a religious festival (ZACHARIAS ABUBEKER/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
The vain attempt by western powers and their soft power tools to portray Ethiopia as a stable and regional superpower to recon is slowly abrading. It is worth noting that, Ethiopia is a product of western powers strategy in which a meticulously crafted policy of “creating chaos and manage them” can benefit handsomely. Particularly, the US’s deep-rooted zeal to world domination and hegemonic supremacy resulted in a country that is more divided and socioeconomically obliterated. But this is not only limited to Ethiopia. To quench this hegemonic and imperial ambitions throughout the world, the US pioneered Machiavellian dogmas like democracy, globalization, human rights issues, freedom of speech, civil liberties and countless of shenanigans that comes with it. Audaciously, they called it a pledge which deceptively elucidated “the developing countries would benefit tremendously and prosper through the free exercise of economic and political activity.”
As Africans, we should find it necessary to ask, is this golden route towards economic progression and democratization merely a chimera? Because western powers are very effectual in using their soft power tools to augment their geo-political interest. East African politics is a prime example of how the west operate and employ their creating “chaos and manage them” strategy. It is absolutely spellbinding to observe their ability to portray a kleptocratic governments like TPLF in Ethiopia, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda etc. as democratically elected governments even though they keep wangling votes. Ethiopia is an epitome of this strategy, because for the past 25 years they absolutely persuaded the world that Ethiopia, a country known for its brutal crackdown of protestors, imprisonment of journalists, attacking fundamental human rights, invading neighboring countries, and a country with calamitous natural disasters like famine as a shining star in a volatile region. Historically flimsy, the west’s interest is too good to expose this kleptocratic government, so they refrained from divulging Ethiopia’s track record of instability.
What is their interest in Ethiopia?
The conclusion of second world had two important outcomes. The resurgence of the US and USSR as world super powers and the subsequent beginning of cold war era. These two important historical events had its own geo-political implications in our region. Starting from 1950’s up until 1991, the US and USSR fought nail and tooth to solidify their presence in the Eastern part of Africa and the Red Sea region. Because, dominating these two important geo-political locations of the world means having the ability to project power and dominate the Middle East. A recipe for more complication, at the center of this political and diplomatic battle was, a little known Italian colony in the Horn part of Africa called, Eritrea. A country located at a vital geo-political location that, controlling it would allow these two giant powers with imperialistic ambitions to project power with full force. Thus, at different historical moments, both the US and USSR scrambled to attain this important geo-political location by supporting a weak and fragile country south to Eritrea. It was this ambition that prompted them look to this historically volatile and socio-politically frail country.
To fully comprehend how this frail country came to existence and the reason behind US administrations tolerance towards its pugnaciousness, one would need to go back through history and have clear understanding of the evolution of Ethiopia. There is hardly a room for debate, whether the so called “modern Ethiopia” existed 100 years ago. Because when the record tidied, history vociferously speaks the country we call Ethiopia today was non-existent 100 years ago. It should not even be taken as a vicious rhetoric when stated, it was after 1950’s that the west fabricated this over hyped narrative of “Great Ethiopia.” Thus, the perception of stable, strong and cohesive Ethiopia is a myth compounded by fallacious historical events. For example, Ethiopia granted the acquisition of Ogaden, a vast region within the state of Somalia after its war with the country. And after the fall of the Derg regime, the west fervidly backed TPLF to fully disintegrate Somalia through proxy wars and cultivating terrorist elements. This process allowed Ethiopia to create a frail and completely crumbled nation in its southern border.
The forceful efforts of the west to federate Eritrea with Ethiopia also fits the overall picture. Because, is imperative to understand the process of creating this insubstantial country. When Italy lost all its colonies to the allied forces, the British Administration in Eritrea coerced the people of Eritrea to accept federation with their friend and puppet country, Ethiopia. This was part of their bigger agenda designed to control Eritrea and its geo-political advantages. Because Ethiopia without Eritrea was not vital for their projection of power. Thus, in 1950’s even though, against the idea of federation, the people of Eritrea forced to accept federation. Extreme as it might sound, the United Nations sent an envoy to draft and ratify the Eritrean constitution, elect an Eritrean assembly and basically establish a puppet government before federating it with Ethiopia. The US Ambassador to the UN, John Foster Dulles, famously declared: “From the point of view of justice, the opinions of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless, the strategic interest of the United States in the Red Sea basin and the considerations of security and world peace make it necessary that the country has to be linked with our ally Ethiopia.”
Because of its calamity, instability, fragility, and historical tendencies to produce puppet governments, Ethiopia receives tremendous diplomatic, political and economic support. The Western media highly praised for its role in stabilizing the region, reducing poverty, achieving exemplary projects by collaborating with European powers and probably one of the few African countries heading to a road for democratization. But recent events in the country and throughout the region exposed this carefully crafted and erected inaccurate and misleading perception of the country that historically known to be disruptive, unstable, and topsy-turvy.
How is Ethiopia’s instability and frail socio-political structure affects their long-term interest in the country?
I. Democracy and civil liberties:
In July 7, 2009, the Ethiopian regime enacted an Anti-Terrorism proclamation of 652/2009 of 2009. Since its enactment, the legislation has severing consequences to freedom of expression, access to information, association and peaceful assembly, as well as independent human rights monitoring. Thus far, the regime has arrested more than 200 journalists and civil right activists, which made the country one of the deadliest environment for journalists to operate. This proclamation made peaceful protest in Ethiopia as an act of terrorism, which resulted in a brutal suppression of demonstrations, and resulted a complete chaotic country. Currently, the government installed a state of emergency to hold on the grip of power and the international community and mainly those who claim to advocate for civil liberties, miserably failed to hold the regime accountable. Western media eschew from exposing the regime’s brutal crackdown of protesters, journalists and bloggers for more than 20 years, except some small media outlets and ineffectual civil liberty organizations like Freedom voicing their concern. Accoring to Freedom House the regime created the worst environment for a journalist to operate in the world. “Ethiopia’s media environment is one of the most restrictive in Sub-Saharan Africa. The government of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn continues to use the country’s draconian antiterrorism law and other legal measures to silence critical journalists and bloggers. The government employs a variety of strategies to maintain a stranglehold on the flow of information; these includes outright censorship of newspapers and the internet; arbitrary detention and intimidation of journalists and bloggers; and heavy taxation on the publishing process.”
In 2016, Ethiopia ravaged by political crisis when the people took the streets by surprise and demanded the regime in Addis Ababa to vacate power. As protestors clashed with security forces, close to 1500 demonstrators murdered by special forces and 1000s more jailed. During the time when the political crisis was at its tipping point, western powers vehemently repudiated the political crisis and resisted to accept the calamity inside Ethiopia. Currently, Ethiopia is in a “state of emergency” and the government shut down internet to silence local journalists. During the opening remarks by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein at a press conference during his mission to Ethiopia on May 4, 2017, the Higher commissioner deliberately detailed deceiving statements that did not reflect the reality on the ground. Even though Zeid Ra’ad clearly stated “this repression may lead to violence. When governments uphold the people's rights to freedom of information, expression, peaceful assembly and association – including their right to demonstrate peacefully in defense of critical views – they are building the foundations of a stronger, more confident society.”, the higher commissioner also fervently argued “Ethiopia's extensive contributions to peace and security across the African continent, and its notable acceptance of millions of refugees” should be the bigger picture that the international community needs to focus.
II. Its economy and efforts to secure food security:
In economy, Ethiopia portrayed by western governments, NGO’s and the media as the giant power that could diversify its economy. Almost yearly, International Monetary Fund forecast Ethiopian economy to grow tremendously. But, bewildering least to say, its vulnerability comes out when WFO and WHO forecast possible famine and food shortages in the country. For example, in 2017 IMF forecasted the country’s economy would show robust growth of 7.5–8 percent. Public investment was expected to moderate, while private investment projected to increase. Even though IMF predicted an economic growth of 7.5-8 percent, severe drought had a devastating impact on agricultural production which resulted high inflation. More than 9 million of its people are at an emergency starvation crisis. Ethiopia is the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa that has acute food insecurity which currently worsened by resurging drought which is affecting the South-Eastern part of Ethiopia the most. Ethiopia is by far the only East African country that cannot secure households to a predictable safety net.
III. Contributing to regional instability:
TPLF’s willingness to subjugate itself to western powers at the expense of others created an environment that contributed to conflicts, economic stagnation and falling states throughout the region. For example, Ethiopia’s decision to go to war with Eritrea in 1998 cost both countries an imaginable resource both in material and human resources. For example, ever since EEBC deliberated a decision that granted Eritrea the town of Badme, the US government encouraged the government in Addis Ababa to provoke and when possible invade Eritrea. According to recent leaked classified documents by WikiLeaks, US strategically worked with Ethiopia in creating a conflict with Eritrea and finalize its long shoot objective of securing its geo-political interest in Eritrea.
The US embassy in Addis Ababa continuous assessment of the willingness and possible ways where the Ethiopian population would want to go to war with Eritrea despite the negative consequences of renewed conflict between the neighboring countries:
“(S/NF) Prime Minister Meles would have an extremely difficult time gaining popular support and preparing the Ethiopia public for war. Few want renewed conflict, and most view the past war as a conflict by Tigray and the Meles government, not of the Ethiopian people. While the conflict in Somalia is a strategic issue, renewed conflict with Eritrea is seen as a personal issue between two leaders trying to settle private scores. Despite the dominance of state-run media, mere rhetoric on the threat from Eritrea would have little effect in swaying the vast majority of the Ethiopian population. There would need to be some multiple series of actions by Eritrea to incite general support for renewed conflict: e.g., assassination of leaders in Addis Ababa, terrorist attacks against the general Ethiopian population, and a limited and specific military attack by Eritrea against Ethiopia along the border. No one action is sufficient to renew total conflict by Ethiopia against Eritrea, except to respond to “total” war by Eritrea.”
The US’s role in isolating Eritrea and working with Prime minister Meles Zenawi in creating another failed in the northern part of Ethiopia:
“(S/NF) But now, Meles sees that this approach must be modified to include more vocal criticism of Eritrea as a “rogue state” sponsoring terrorism and seeking to destabilize the region. The Foreign Ministry has pressed the international community to openly criticize Eritrea, and wants to introduce UN Security Council resolutions and African Union Peace and Security Council (PSC) communiques condemning Eritrea as a state sponsor of terrorism. Further, Meles has elevated Eritrean opposition groups in Ethiopia, designating GOE State Ministers, rather than office directors, to deal with them. Meles is also carefully working the Sanaa Forum and IGAD to increase pressure and isolation of Eritrea: Eritrea’s recent decision to suspend participation in IGAD followed an April 13 IGAD Ministerial communique endorsing Ethiopian actions in Somalia as “fully consistent” with the region’s goals. Meles has commented to us that he is in a “bind”. He does not want, nor can he afford, to go to war with Eritrea, because it will divert resources from the more important goal of stabilizing Somalia for now and perhaps Sudan down the road. For now, Ethiopia will not go to war with Isaias and will not take any extraordinary measures to neutralize him, but expects the international community to pressure Isaias on his destabilizing activities. We have assured Meles that we recognize Eritrea’s unhelpful activities, but that Meles should focus on our mutually shared efforts in Somalia: providing force protection for AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops, support for Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), and security at the airport and seaport and for the upcoming national reconciliation conference.”
Ethiopia’s instability, fragility and susceptibility to creating weak governments are too good of an interest for the International community and the US to divulging Ethiopia’s track record of instability. The regime in Ethiopia and its media cronies kept pontificating the core interest of the regime in Addis Ababa is, reducing poverty with an absolute dedication in formulating cordial collaboration spirit with its neighboring countries. But this redundant argument colludes with the reality that, this country has been hobbled towards a future to nowhere ever since its creation. Anyone who followed this region for the past twenty years would have rejoiced with an absolute impunity to see Ethiopia; a country that depends heavily on handouts, and consistent western subsidies to lead this region towards a new chapter. But the truth is, with its consistent susceptibility to irregular rainfall and famine, one would evade an utter revelry to wake up one day and see Ethiopia amassed close to 103 million population. After all, this is a country that see no ignominy in walking with its arm outstretched. Thus, focusing on economic progress by collaborating with its neighboring countries, and international community is a fabricated narrative.