As the armed conflict between Ethiopia and the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) enters a new phase, Ethiopians are uniting against their common enemy. The TPLF is not a group of freedom fighters standing up for the downtrodden; they are a terrorist insurgent force waging a war against a sovereign state. Murdering, raping, destroying property and the lives of Ethiopians, the TPLF is a cancer that for decades has thrown a suffocating shadow of fear and division over the country, a cancer that must be cut out totally if Ethiopia is to flourish.
For 27 years they were the dominant force within a so-called coalition government. Corrupt and brutal, the TPLF stole election after election, trampled on human rights, embezzled federal funds and aid money and committed State Terrorism in various regions of the country. Administering a policy of Ethnic Federalism, they ruled through fear, divided the people along ethnic lines and are widely hated by most Ethiopians.
In 2018, after sustained public protests, they were ousted. However, after such a long period in power their divisive methodology and ideals still have influence. Senior members retreated to their Tigray heartland after losing office, regrouped, plotted, and waited for an opportunity to rise up against the government.
On 4 November 2020 they attacked the Ethiopian National Defense Forces Base in the northern region of Tigray. They killed soldiers, took control of the military’s Northern Command in Mekelle (capital of Tigray) and raided federal armories. This act of terrorism, set in motion an armed conflict in the northern region of Tigray; a fight the TPLF had been itching for, which has now spread into the neighboring region of Ahmara.
Thousands have died, combatants and civilians; claims of rape and sexual violence are widespread; tens of thousands have been displaced, homeless and hungry, with large numbers, frightened and distressed, making their way to camps in neighboring Sudan.
The TPLF’s brutal actions should be condemned unreservedly by foreign governments, particularly Ethiopia’s major donors. But, far from standing with the government, the US, UK and EU have consistently supported the terrorists, circulating misinformation, making false claims against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, his government and Ethiopian forces.
In an attempt to stop the killing and defuse the situation, on 28 June, the Government declared a “unilateral humanitarian ceasefire” and withdrew its forces from Tigray. In response, the TPLF marched into the regional capital and issued a series of outlandish conditions for complying: They demanded the release of all Tigray political prisoners (imprisoned for atrocities committed over many years), falsely accused Prime Minister Abiy of starting the war, and claimed that Tigrayans “have been subjected to…genocide and ethnic cleansing”. Federal forces are fighting the TPLF not the people of Tigray. But, as a result of the TPLF instigated conflict, civilians in Tigray have been severely impacted.
Unrelenting, obdurate, Tigray forces, which have now combined with another extremist group, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), have ignored the ceasefire and continued their attack on Ethiopia, moving into the Afar and Amhara regions bordering Tigray. Death, destruction and chaos is left in their wake with distressing reports of civilian killings, rapes, kidnapping and robbery. Homes are destroyed, office buildings, including Kabele (local government) headquarters vandalized, documents burnt, water and electricity supplies cut, Churches and schools damaged or demolished, cattle killed, crops destroyed.
Over 200 civilians were killed in Afar including more than 100 children, according to UNICEF, and around 300,000 were displaced. Federal forces have now driven the aggressors out of this region. In Deber Tabor in Ahmara, the main hospital was attacked and homes destroyed. A local resident, Mr. Deres Nega told Ethiopian media how his wife, children and friends had been killed by the TPLF. His life has been torn apart. His agony is being repeated throughout the area, his pain is the pain of a nation, a pain that has but one cure, the eradication of the TPLF.
Over 200 km north of Deber Tabor, in Chena Teklehaymanot, mass graves were recently discovered containing 124 bodies, many more people (over 100) are missing feared dead. Witnesses state that the TPLF went house to house and slaughtered men, women, children, even priests (revered throughout Ethiopia) were killed. The massacre, which has been confirmed by Gizachew Muluneh, Director of Communications for the Amhara Regional State, is but one atrocity in a series of coordinated assaults by the TPLF since the government ceasefire. Getachew Shiferaw, a leading Ethiopian activist, relates that, “Civilians were massacred [by the TPLF] in Woldia, Kobo, Alamata, Lalibela, Abergele, Maytemri, Gaint, Gashena and Mersa, among others towns.” He warns that, “Chena is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed’s press secretary, has said that TPLF atrocities in Ahmara “were carried out to avenge the military loss the clique suffered by federal and state troops,” as its fighters were routed from Afar. The government believes the Chena massacre was carried out by “the TPLF’s Samri youth group”, who are also thought to be responsible for killing over 1,000 civilians in “the town of Maikadra…last November.” After which they escaped to Sudan and hid in a UNHCR refugee camp.
Such brutal attacks, which are consistently ignored by western governments (who know very well what is actually happening) and prominent mainstream media, are forcing the Ethiopian government, until now relatively restrained, to respond and mobilize its forces. Ethiopia’s foreign ministry recently said the TPLF was pushing the government to “change its defensive mood which has been taken for the sake of the unilateral humanitarian ceasefire,” and that unless (government) overtures for a peaceful resolution were reciprocated, “Ethiopia could deploy the entire defensive capability of the state.”
The government, which has been weak on law and order enforcement, cannot simply sit back and allow the TPLF to murder civilians. They must respond swiftly and decisively, including, if necessary, deploying the air force, something they are reluctant to do because of potential civilian casualties.
Malicious foreign forces
Since the conflict began the Ethiopian government has been battling, not just the terrorists, but malicious foreign forces and misleading information from western governments and mainstream media – the BBC, CNN, New York Times, Facebook etc. The US, which is widely believed to be indirectly arming the TPLF, have led the misinformation campaign, and appear (together with the UK and EU) to have sanctioned the TPLF’s attack on Ethiopia.
To its utter shame the Biden administration (and UK and EU) has failed to condemn the TPLF attacks, and has undermined the Ethiopian government from the outset. They repeatedly call for reconciliation (thereby legitimizing the terrorists), and instruct PM Ahmed to negotiate with the TPLF, which is not only unacceptable to the government, but to the vast majority of Ethiopians, who liken the TPLF to a pack of hyenas, pointing out the impossibility of negotiating with wild animals.
In response to their international backers’ call for ‘negotiations’ the TPLF drafted a list of preposterous demands for any such talks. Among other fantasies, they wanted PM Ahmed to step down and be replaced with one of their own, and a power-sharing arrangement introduced. This would amount to the overthrow (with US backing) of a democratically elected government: The Prosperity Party (a party of national unity founded by Abiy) has a huge mandate, taking 410 out of 436 seats in the June 2020 general election. The formation of a new government, which will include opposition parties, is expected by the end of September/early October, and is eagerly awaited.
As these malicious foreign forces seek to destabilize Ethiopia for their own corrupt geo-political reasons, and the TPLF commit atrocity after atrocity, the Ethiopian people are laying aside long held divisions (largely caused by TPLF policies) and coming together, standing shoulder to shoulder with their brothers and sisters against the poison of the terrorists and the Imperial arrogance of America and Co.
While this is unquestionably a deeply troubling moment for Ethiopia, at the same time there is cause for celebration and real optimism: The staging of the first democratic elections in the country’s long and rich history was a major achievement, as was the second filling of The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (the largest dam in Africa) reservoir. These, along with the imminent formation of a new and democratically elected government, are unifying national events. Significant development which the Ethiopian people can take great pride in as they unite against the TPLF/OLA terrorists. Destructive groups, which must be purged from the country completely and utterly if peace and social harmony are to be established, and the needed work of national transformation is to go ahead.
The 16 Year Old, middle class, privileged, argues that meat and other animal produce are essential for his health, his ability to play sport, and the development of his adolescent brain; besides, one person becoming vegetarian/vegan, won’t make any difference to the environmental crisis.
The total failure to respond in any meaningful way to the environmental emergency rests firmly within the boundaries of such complacency. It can be found in all areas, from politicians and corporate board rooms to small businesses, NGO’s and community groups, education institutions, homes, and, apparently, some teenagers.
Complacency and the refusal to change individual behavior and collective ways of living are stoking the underlying cause of the crisis – Consumerism. Irresponsible Compulsive Consumption, as habitually practiced by populations in the rich nations, principally and excessively by the wealthy, but to a lesser degree throughout all sections of society.
Consumerism is the bedrock of the prevailing socio-economic system and materialistic way of life. Sold duplicitously as the Path to Happiness and Contentment it has poisoned the planet and created unhealthy societies of divided, insecure individuals. Inherent within the Ideology of Division is a methodology and set of values that encourage selfishness, greed and complacency. Sufficiency, cooperation and social responsibility, all essential if the environmental crisis is to be met, whilst routinely spouted by politicians and the like are thin on the ground or, more often than not, totally absent.
The environment cannot wait
Governments and businesses are completely invested in maintaining high levels of consumption; their profitability and continued existence depend on it. Indeed, far from prioritizing the environment and working to change societal behavior and deter individuals from spending, huge resources are expended to persuade and encourage consumption; to expand market share, develop new products and increase profits for shareholders.
It is this poisonous Ideology of Profit, which, in direct contrast to the needs of the environment for simplicity of living, collectivity and sharing, perpetuates, not just rampant consumerism, but widespread apathy and inaction. Governments talk a concerned environmental talk, but policies are determined by economic growth and voters’ concerns rather than CO2 emissions, pollution, or bio-diversity. And most companies, particularly big ones, routinely demonstrate that they don’t give a damn about the environment, unless by doing so sales increase and their annual dividends rise.
The environment cannot wait until governments and business judge that going “green” is more profitable or popular than the destructive status quo, before they act in a responsible manner. It is their insatiable thirst for power and profit, and their deep attachment to the Ideology of Greed – because, while the majority suffer, it has served them very well, that allows collective complacency to persist, and complacency (not money) is the root of all evil.
The final leg in the trinity of environmental neglect is formed by Ignorance or Misinformation. Ignorance of how individual choices impact on the natural environment; Ignorance of the depth and scale of the crisis and Ignorance of the impact of diet on the planet. Such ignorance and lack of awareness exist due to decades of government negligence in countries everywhere (some more some less). This could be changed with a UN coordinated public awareness campaign; a global project designed to make plain the relationship between consumer based lifestyles (including animal agriculture) and environmental destruction/climate change.
While it is true that only governments and business can make the needed large scale changes (fossil fuels to renewables, electrification of transportation networks, green production methods etc), individuals can make a valuable impact, and when individuals act collectively large-scale change can be accomplished.
Ultimately ‘we’ are the problem. It is our obsessive ignorant behavior, our complacency, greed and selfishness that has poisoned the planet. And it is up to all of us to act in the most comprehensive way possible to begin to clean up the unmitigated mess we have caused. We are all only ‘one person’, but every day we have a choice, every time we eat, or shop, or travel: Are our actions, our choices and decisions responsible or harmful, is the way we individually live detrimental to the planet or not?
Diet is one area everyone can look at; reducing the intake of animal produce or, better still, moving to a plant-based diet is the single most important step most individuals can take. In some countries there are encouraging signs that people are waking up to this fact, and the number of vegetarians/vegans, particularly among young people, is growing. And according to the Vegetarian Resource Group (US), providing a varied diet is followed, all their nutritional needs can be adequately met. In fact, various detailed studies show that, vegetarians are at lower risk of a variety of diseases and conditions, including: heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, (conversely, The World Health Organization has classified red and processed meats as cancer-causing), and obesity. And according to Walter Willett at Harvard School of Public Health, “There is strong evidence that a plant based diet [vegan] is the optimal diet for living a long and healthy life.”
So, cutting out animal produce is not only good for the environment, it’s good for human health. Despite this, globally only some 8% of people identify as vegan, vegetarian, or something in between. Meaning 92% of the 7.8 billion world population consume meat, fish, poultry and all manner of dairy. The environmental result of this obsession is disastrous and multi-faceted.
Animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), which are the poisons disrupting natural climate rhythms. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization’s (UNFAO) put the figure at 14.5% of total emissions, but estimates vary, some studies suggesting it’s a good deal higher: Greenpeace e.g. say that, “Livestock and animal feed is responsible for approximately 60% of direct global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”
Whatever the precise number, animal agriculture is clearly a major source, if not the greatest source of emissions (surpassing the transportation industry); it’s also the biggest cause (80%) of deforestation, habitat destruction and species extinction, contributing to soil erosion and water contamination. And its driven by the incessant demand for meat, dairy and fish.
A revolution in behavior and values is needed, moving away from excess to sufficiency, from selfishness to group responsibility, from complacency to action. Education and awareness plus a sense of imperative are the keys to igniting such a shift and generating urgent action. Action by government and businesses and action by us, all of us, particularly those of us living in developed nations where the historic burden for the catastrophe rests; action rooted in love, demonstrated as social and environmental responsibility undertaken by each and every one of us.
Once upon a time Nationalism was an ideology reserved for extremists. But in recent years it has moved from the irrelevant fractious fringes to become a central movement in western politics. Rooted in fear, it feeds on tribal instincts and has become mainstream by offering oversimplified explanations to complex problems, such as poverty and immigration.
The ideal of a post-cold war tolerant world where resources (including food and water), are shared equitably, governments cooperate and borders soften has been usurped by rabid intolerance and racism, wall building, flag waving, cruel unjust immigration policies and violent policing of migrants and migrant routes. Rather than addressing issues and tackling underlying causes the ardent nationalist blames some group or other, ethnic, religious or national.
Love, distorted but potent, and hate sustain the monster: Love and corrupted pride of nation and ‘our way of life’, seen among the flag wavers as somehow superior; hatred of ‘strangers’, and hatred of change to that which is familiar. It is an insular reactionary movement of introspection and division based on false and petty notions of difference: skin color, religion, language, culture, even food.
Such prejudices lead to an agitation of suspicion and hatred of ‘foreigners’. National interests are favored over international responsibilities; minorities and refugees insulted, abused or worse. Covid has intensified such vile human tendencies, and highlighted what were already strained relations with ‘outsiders’ – those that are different — with ‘the other’.
People of Asian appearance have been victimized in various countries, most notably the US, Australia and Britain; trapped in refugee camps, asylum seekers/migrants have been forgotten, and vaccine nationalism, the “me first approach”, with wealthy western countries buying up vaccines, has been widespread. As a result of this injustice, while the rich will have their populations vaccinated by late 2021, developing countries (relying on the inadequate COVAX scheme) are looking at mass vaccination by the end of 2023, if ever. It is a moral outrage that flows from and strengthens ideas of global separation, enflames resentment and will prolong the virus.
Central to the fear inducing nationalist program is reductive national identities and cultural images tightly packaged in ‘the flag’. Described as “primordial rag[s] dipped in the blood of a conquered enemy and lifted high on a stick” (in Flags Through the Ages and Across the World by Whitney Smith), national flags evolved from battle standards and means of group identification held aloft during the Middle Ages. They are loved by nationalists who always believe their country to be ‘the greatest on Earth’, their people the strongest and the ‘best’, their way of life superior.
Such ignorant, meaningless and completely false ideas have become common elements of political rhetoric. Politicians (of all colors) in many, if not all western democracies, believe they must reinforce such crass sentiments, or face losing populist support, being attacked as ‘enemies of the people’ – as High Court Judges were in Britain during the Brexit fiasco, or labelled ‘traitors’.
Torrents of abuse
There are various interconnected threads to and expressions of Nationalism, from the political realm to mainstream and social media, popular culture to education. This suffocating network strengthens discrimination and prejudice of all kinds, including racism. During the recent Euro ’21 tournament black England players who had missed penalties in the final were subject to a torrent of abuse online. The same England ‘fans’ booed opposition teams singing national anthems and their own team, when they ‘took the knee’ before matches; a universal non-political act of solidarity that UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel disparagingly described as “gesture politics”.
She was later (rightly) accused of “stoking the fires of racism”, by refusing to endorse the players’ actions. Her new widely condemned immigration policy, has also given license to nationalist bigots and racists. Some of them have recently been recorded hurling abuse from the beaches of southern England at refugees in boats crossing the English Channel.
Irresponsible nationalist politicians like Patel (and the world is full of them), thick with ideology and ambition, are dogmatic in their beliefs and concerned solely with getting and retaining power. To this narcissistic end they employ the inflammatory rhetoric of nationalism – ‘our country’, ‘this great nation of ours’, ‘controlling immigration’, and ‘the flag’. Predictable and crude methods used to cajole the slumbering masses and agitate their tribal tendencies.
In order to strengthen their nationalist credentials presidents, politicians and military men and women, adorn themselves with the national emblem: embossed badges, a trend led by the US, who are flag-waving world leaders, and at press briefings/interviews they are rarely seen without a flag at their side – two, where there were none pre-Covid, in the case of the totally inept UK Government, desperate one suspects to shift the focus away from their homicidal management of the pandemic, and the calamity that is Brexit Britain. The flag is not in itself the problem, but its growing use is a powerful sign of the unabated rise of nationalism, a trend that with the fall of Trump, many had hoped was in decline.