Where there is division there will be conflict. In a country such as Ethiopia with dozens of ethnic/tribal groups, the need for tolerance, cooperation and unity is essential if there is to be peace and social harmony. Where these are absent, where differences and historic grievances are enflamed by ideologically ambitious individuals/groups, fear hate, and violence flourish.
Ethiopia is a large country divided into 11 regions. Covering over a third of the total land mass Oromia is the largest and, with an estimated 35% of the total population (approximately 122 million),the Oromo constitute the largest ethnic group, followed by the Amhara (28%).
Within Oromia and neighboring regions (Afar, Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz), a targeted slaughter, that many believe constitutes genocide,is taking place — perpetrated by Oromo extremists against the Amhara people.
The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) is the principle force behind the violence. During the recent war they allied themselves with the US-backed TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) terrorists, and have over the last four years carried out dozens of deadly incursions. Whole districts in western Oromia are being purged of Amhara people in a brutal campaignwhich, somefear,could trigger a civil war between the two largest ethnic groups.
The situation is complicated, contradictory narratives, denials and accusations abound; dis-misinformation is being propounded by the OLA through sympathetic media outlets such as the Oromo Media Network (OMN) and Kush Media Network (KMN). Spurious material which, according to Genocide Prevention in Ethiopia (GPE), an NGO collating data on the conflict, has previously “led to a massive campaign against Amharas across the entire Oromo Region”.
While the politics of the conflict, objectives and the line/s between tribal political alignments and terrorism may appear obscure, what is crystal clear is that the Ethiopian people, drained after two years of war with the TPLF (November 2020-November 2022), with many deeply traumatized, cannot withstand another bloody conflict.
The OLA militants
The OLA constitutes the armed wing of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Formed, according to their website, in 1973 by “Oromo nationalists to lead the national liberation struggle of the Oromo people against the Abyssinian colonial rule.” The fundamental objective of the OLF is, they say, “to exercise the Oromo people’s inalienable right to national self-determination to terminate a century of oppression and exploitation.” They routinely claim to be defending Oromo civilians from Amhara militia and federal forces, and maintain that, “the protracted armed resistance ……of the Front, [OLF] is an act of self-defence exercised by the Oromo people against successive Ethiopian governments including the current one, who forcibly deny their right to self-determination.”
Exiled in Eritrea/Kenya until 2018, when, under an amnesty introduced by the current government led by Abiy Ahmed (an Oromo), thousands of political prisoners, journalists and critics of the previous regime (a coalition of which Abiy, as leader of the Oromo Democratic Party, was a part) were released, and opposition parties located abroad, welcomed home. Upon their return a number of OLF politicians are said to have secured influential positions on the fringes of the government, whilst some of the more military minded, were assimilated into the OSF. Since the arrival of the OLA on the scene, unlike other armed groups, they have not only been allowed to retain arms, but given the space in which to radicalize, recruit, and train young Oromos.
Since 2018, when the violence began, it is impossible to know the number of people (mainly Amharas) killed. GPE estimates it to be around 30,000, other sources put the figure much lower; the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project e.g. shows that from August 2021 to July 2022 alone “there were 3,784 deaths linked to the OLA.”
What is undisputed is that it is overwhelmingly Amhara people who are being murdered (sometimes in the most barbaric, horrific fashion), women/girls raped; hundreds of thousands displaced, countless homes destroyed, livestock stolen; and that, despite their claims to the contrary, the OLA/OLF are responsible. The OLA is supported by regional terror groups (Gumuz Liberation Movement and Gambella Liberation Front), criminal gangs and, it is widely believed, factions within the Oromo Special Forces (OSF), acting on orders from the Oromia Regional Authority (ORA).
The ORA is widely thought to have been infiltrated by Oromo nationalists, and is not under the control of the federal government. In July 2022 an elected member of the Ethiopian parliament, Hangaasa Ahmed, accused the (Oromo) regional administration of coordinating attacks in Wollega, where many of the killings have taken place. Elements within the regional body (not the federal government) are said to be conspiring with the OLA, and radicalized OSF fighters.
One such incursion, with witnesses asserting OSF involvement, took place on 10 December in the Kemashi Zone of Benishangul-Gumuz region (bordering Sudan). The Amhara Association of America (AAA), a human rights group based in the US with a small team of investigators in Ethiopia, relates claims that the OLA were supported in the attack by Qeerro, a notorious Oromo youth group, which was instrumental in removing the previous EPRDF regime in 2018, and, eye witnesses claim, by members of the OSF. “They killed at least thirteen Amhara civilians, injured five more.” Over 500 houses were deliberately burned [forcing around 2000 people to flee] and over 3,000 farm animals were looted.” A survivor told AAA’s investigators: “There were both Special Forces and Shene (OLA) united to eliminate Amharas.”
There have been many such attacks over the last three years or so, too many to recount: the Gimbi massacre however stands out. It is one of the few incidents to be widely covered by western media, and highlights the brutal nature of the Oromo nationalists’ campaign, and the degree of human suffering inflicted.
On 18 June 2022, “OLA militants entered Tole Kebele (district) [West Wollega Zone, Oromia Region, Ethiopia] and opened fire on Amhara civilians in a nine hour long killing spree which spanned ten villages.” AAA relate witness statements — “First, the militants began shooting people and then used machetes to finish off victims whom they suspected had not died from the gunshots.” The NGO estimate around 503 Amhara civilians were killed, while elsewhere it was reported that, “more than 1500 ethnic Amhara were massacred, including children and women.”
True to formthe OLA denied any involvement; their spokesperson, Odaa Tarbii, told AP that the Gimbi attack, “was committed by the regime’s military and local militia as they retreated from their camp in Gimbi following our recent offensive.” Local residents however confirmed that the OLA were behind what one survivor described as a “massacre of Amharas.” Prime Minister Abiy condemned the “evil force” and vowed, to “eliminate” the OLA. A pledge, like political statements made the world over, easily made, but more difficult to accomplish.
Amhara homes demolished
In addition to attacking unarmed Amhara civilians, a house demolitions program, which has existed in and around Addis Ababa since 2018, is intensifying.A detailed investigation by AAA found that, “At least 3,415 houses belonging to non-Oromo owners (most of them belonging to Amhara owners) were demolished” this year alone — properties owned by Oromo were left untouched. The human rights group claims that, “Oromia Special Forces [OSF], Oromia Region police, government representatives, and local youth” are responsible for the demolitions in various parts of “the newly established Sheger City administration”; an area populated by both Amhara and Oromo, where control switched from a local administration to the Oromia Regional State in August 2022.
According to AAA, when people asked the authoritieswhy their houses had been destroyed, their personal belongings trashed. The response was swift and ferocious: “At least 40 individuals were arrested and their whereabouts remain unknown. Another 10…were brutally injured by security forces of the Oromia Regional State.” A local resident whose home was levelled, relates that on 3 January, “hundreds of local youth, police and special police came to the Enku-Gabriel area (Betachignaw side),” they opened fire on those trying to stop them and proceeded to “abscise the roof and doors of houses and took the tin to the Oromia Region with the help of 11 [Isuzu] FSR trucks.”
The houses, many occupied by the same family for 30/40 years, may, as some claim, have been built illegally, and some will no doubt argue that demolitions were based, therefore, not on ethnic hatred but on legality of ownership. Where a legitimate question of ownership exists the matter should be properly investigated; there is no justification for such wholesale vandalism, and, in a country seeking to strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law the perpetrators of such destruction should be held to account.
Many of those affected believe the demolition campaign is an attempt to eradicate Amhara people and “Oromize the area”. A plan, which, some hold, included the recent introduction of the Oromo national anthem and display of the Oromo flag in schools in parts of Addis Ababa. An illegal move that triggered powerful popular resistance forcing the policy to be withdrawn; a triumph for community action and common sense, which could empower people to take further action against ethnic nationalism and communal division.
Building unity creating peace
Although the OLF (regarded as a legitimate political party) and OLA appear to be two distinct groups, they are but opposite sides of the same violent tribalistic coin. Sharing a flag, a hatred and resentment of Amhara people, and a divisive vision of Oromo Statehood; an expanded Oromia that would swallow up territory of neighboring states (Amhara, Afara, BSG, Gambella, Ogaden) and include the capital, Addis Ababa.
Whether theiraim is self-determination as stated on the OLF website, or an independent (enlarged) Oromo Republic, the need for urgent government action to stop the killing/displacement and destruction of homes is clear. Long-term grievances can be examined and dealt with after the guns have been silenced, the machetes laid down, those responsible arrested and prosecuted. This requires government to act decisively, to powerfully condemn OLA attacks and loss of life — something routinely lacking— enforce law and order effectively and consistently, and to safeguard the community. As The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission rightly states: “The killing, maiming and displacement of civilians in the [Oromo] region……calls for immediate action by the federal government and a concrete and lasting solution.”
To date, the government’s response has been disappointing. This may be partially explained by the demands the TPLF conflict placed on federal forces and officials; some, however, believe it shows political weakness in the face of Oromo nationalist influence at the heart of government; other, more critical voices, suggest that through neglect and omission, the government is complicit. GPE for example, claim that government agencies are implicated in OLA/OSF incursions, cutting telecommunication, electricity/water supplies and blocking roads in preparation for an impending attack.
Such accusations, if truedo not prove federal government involvement; they may point towards participation at a local administrative level however, and thereby reveal the degree to which regional administrations and some (Oromo) ethnically aligned voices within the federal government are able to act independently. If this is so, again strong decisive government action is required to weed out such voices.
Immediate substantive action mustbe taken to stop the carnage. It can be done if the will is there: when the TPLF attacked in November 2020, the government initially responded decisively and swiftly. The OLA and their allies are just as great a threat as the TPLF; they, too, must be stopped.
In the long term, constitutional reform is required, ethnic federalism jettisoned, all regional militia disarmed, and a national debate around democratic participation and regional governance initiated. Nothing lasting can be achieved in the country without first peace; no prosperity, no social changes, no lasting democratic developments. These will not be created by gesture politics or flamboyant speeches, but through inclusive policies that encourage broad democratic participation; by building relationships based on respect and trust and creating a vibrant sense of national unity.
As we look atthe various interconnected crises facing humanity, from poverty war and displacement to the environmental emergency, it becomes clear that they all stem from the same source, from a particular approach to life and way of living. An extremely narrow, largely false view that has led to wholesale environmental vandalism, acutelydivided societies with people living under enormous stress; competition and material success relentlessly promoted, desire for things and stimulation continuously agitated. Everything is regarded as a commodity to be profited from – including health care, education and the natural world – and everyone seen as consumers.
All wonder and mystery has been consigned to the margins, unjust, corrupt systems and practices developed, a set of destructive values adopted, and, consistent with the Doctrine of Division, selfish defensive attitudes and behavior have become commonplace, cynicism endemic.
If, as a global community, we are to face the challenges of the time, which are immense, a fundamental change in approach is needed. A major shift in attitudes and values and a movement away from conditioned, reductive patterns of thinking that focus purely on the self, to inclusive ways of living that promote cooperation and unity. A change leading to systemic re-designs, that inculcates what we might describe as ‘the spiritual’, in the individual and by extension in the wider group that we call humanity.
Simplicity and sufficiency
Throughout the world, well, the western world specifically, this time of year, Christmas, is the peak time to consume, to shop and overindulge. Despite the associations with the birth of Jesus, very little reflection and even less worship occurs. This is reflective of a broader decline in people identifying with ‘the church’ and organised religions more broadly; the numbers of people who profess to have some form of spiritual framework to their lives however is stronger than ever. ‘Spiritual’ is even included in data lists or online dating sites as an option under ‘religions’, and it’s become commonplace to describe something, some experience or event, a color, a piece of music, a building or person, as ‘spiritual’.
Together with that much maligned word ‘meditation’, misunderstood and nebulous, ‘spiritual’ has drifted into everyday vocabulary, and is routinely applied, or rather mis-applied to everything from Hatha Yoga classes (particularly when taught by misty-eyed Westerners), self-proclaimed sages (there are lots of them around – also often Westerners), dance retreats and healing festivals to clothing, children (she’s soo spiritual) and shampoo – I kid you not!
As a result of this widespread and largely inappropriate use, the term has become almost meaningless, and, like every aspect of life, all things ‘spiritual’have been assimilated into the socio-economic system. A suffocating paradigm in which monetary value, status and influence/power are the goals of all activity – the ambitious yoga teacher e.g, not satisfied with just giving exercise classes to stressed-out mothers, begins to aspire to guide those stretching and breathing along a ‘spiritual’ path, to collect ‘followers’. ‘Spiritual’ events, which are more closely connected to the leisure/entertainment industry, (mediation retreats, yoga classes, healing festivals, all manner of courses, talks, etc) proliferate; they charge a fee and look to generate profit – financial and status, for the ‘speaker’, coordinator, facilitator; and those attending look for a reward of some kind in return for time and money spent.
So, in a materialistically orientated cynical world, where consumerism, selfishness and status have for many become the hallmarks of daily life, is this interest in all things spiritual positive; what does it mean to live a spiritual life, and in a time of global tumult, of what practical use is it to do so?
The source of all good
The ‘spiritual’ we could say, relates to the source of all that is good in us, that seed of purity and unconditional love that sits within each and every human being, but is for much of the time hidden. Despite the colossal pressures felt by most people virtually all the time, expressions of ‘the good’ take place day in, day out; expressions of goodwill and brotherhood, humility, tolerance and understanding, creativity, service and unity. Where these qualities are absent, and where, in their place, the negative tendenciesof selfishness, fear and desire, ambition in all areas including the ‘spiritual’ (where desire for ‘success’ is as strong as within any other area) are evident, ‘the good’ is not.
Within the current order, shaped as it is by materialistically orientated values, self-centred behavior dominates and we suffer as a result. Take the greatest issue facing humanity, the environmental catastrophe. Caused by the rabid consumerism within developed nations, as part of an ideology rooted in injustice exploitation and greed.If the devastation is to stop and healing is to begin, a wholesale shift in attitudes, government/corporate policy and behavior is urgently required. But, despite the fact that the house is burning around us, politicians, business leaders and many individuals, driven by short-termism, complacency and selfishness, refuse to act responsibly; as one environmentalist put it, “Everybody wants to save the whales but nobody wants to change their behaviour.”
Simplicity of living and sufficiency is needed in place of abundance; de-growth replacing perpetual development, and instead of self-centred activity and personal ambition, the cultivation of social and environmental responsibility. Such steps follow naturally when the focus is decentralized, towards the group – the community, society or nation, as opposed to the desires and demands of the individual. These are choices between, what we might term ‘spiritual’ values and materialistic values.
Currently, whilst there are many examples of ‘the good’ and many people everywhere trying to live decent lives, the constant demand to consume, to succeed, to be something, are great and hard to resist or even be aware of. Societies, and the individuals within them are overwhelmingly materialistically orientated – this includes the images we have of ourselves, ambitions and attachment to ideologies of all kinds. The focus (broadly) is not on the well-being of the group, the health ofsociety and/or the environment, but the fulfilment of the individual, the exploitation of the weak and the industrialization of nature. This dominant way of life, which is strengthened through education systems, governments and media of all kinds,is not spiritual, no matter how its defined.
A spiritual life, lived daily and consistently, runs contrary to the prevailing conditioning of material achievement, the pursuit of pleasure and the accumulation of stuff, of wealth/power. It refers to a de-centralized life of self-sacrifice, not of self-aggrandizement; a life of sustained effort and dispassion, in which selfish desires are seen for what they are, and given up or ignored; a life where honesty of mind and clarity of motive is cultivated, and service to others, to the community, the country or world is the driving force. As the great teacher Maitreya has said, “Take your brothers need as the measure for your actions and solve the problems of the world.”
Given the prevailing divisions and gross irresponsibility at all levels, personal, corporate and political, shifting focus may appear unattainable, idealistic even. But as the global crises grow and deepen, there are signs, tentative but strong, that such a collective shift is underway; a growing awareness that something fundamental needs to change. A reorientation in attitudes and values that enables a re-imagining of the socio-economic-political systems; a move away from injustice, selfishness and greed, towards the ‘spiritual’ or ‘the good’, call it what you will; that center of goodness, innate but buried, which sits within each and every human being.
As COP 27 drew to a pitiful close with no action on emissions or reparation, I met a friend in a cafe in West London. Distracted by our discussion, we failed to notice his Earl Grey being served in a takeaway cup; aghast, I requested a china mug for mine. Blowing and sipping, we grumbled about the lack of environmental responsibility, including the now widespread use of plastic cups in cafes.
These cups give the impression ‘happy to be recycled’, but on the whole they cannot be; and even if they could, most staff and customers would likely throw them in with general rubbish, to be buried. Probably in the ground of a poorer country, that needs the trade, albeit in environmental vandalism.
In the UK an estimated 2.5 billion takeaway cups are annually thrown away; it’s more than 50 billion in the US apparently, mostly going to landfill. In addition, half a litre of water and 61 g of carbon dioxide are used in the manufacture process. They are an environmental sore, one of many daily irritants that together constitute a chronic planetary disease, The Environmental Crisis.
So why I asked don’t cafés use china — don’t they realise the plastic paper-looking cups are bad for the environment? They don’t care, was my friend’s blunt reply; same as the water companies that routinely pump sewage into the seas, the CEOs of the energy companies swimming in money, the fast fashion bosses, everyone who makes and eats animal produce, and most politicians, especially those in developed nations.According to the evidence, they just don’t care. The question then becomes, is it possible to make people care. Care about the environment, about one another, about rain forests, sea, air, climate, animals, ecosystems, etc. To which old friend replied, no, you can’t.
Certainly most politicians show little or no interest; Corporate Man and Woman don’t seem to care a jot, and the majority of individuals are too overwhelmed with the demands of life to be unduly concerned.
COP27 has reinforced the notion that, ‘caring’, certainly by the nations chiefly responsible for the mess (and now haggle over paying to mitigate the impact), is totally absent. And that the environmental crisis is just another annoying consideration to be juggled within an economic framework of perpetual growth; perpetual that is until the moment when all the natural resources are used up, global warming has reached unbearable levels, 3/4oC maybe, land masses submerged, hundreds of millions of people displaced, ecosystems andremaining animal species wiped out.
Caringis a driver for action and, as is repeatedly chanted and consistently ignored, without urgent action the cause is lost. Children are striking from school, because they care deeply, also because they are furious at the adults, who a) caused the catastrophe, b) aren’t doing anything much to address it, and c) because they want to envisage a future for themselves. Heartfelt caring fuels not just everyday action, but action of a certain type or quality – Right Action, based on, imbued with, love.
So, make people ‘care’ through raising awareness of environmental issues (local and global) and the consequences of (their) behavior, and ‘The People’, with a small and large ‘P’, will wake up and change their habitual, often destructive ways. That’s the theory, well that was my theory in the Portuguese café.
We can determine what someone cares about and what they value by their actions – most often its themselves. Businesses are driven by the determination to make money; politicians want votes so they can stay in power, and individuals, most of whom are physically drained and emotionally battered, care about their families/the people they like and depend on, and creating some level of security in, what is for most, a hostile, uncertain world.
If caring — the carrot, isn’t on the table as an effective motivating force, certainly not within the time scale required to Save Our Planet (SOP), then the only option is the stick, heavy and painful. Legislation, my friend asserts, is the only way to curb destructive environmental behavior; and, to a degree, he is right. Pass a law that CEOs of companies polluting the air, water, soil will be imprisoned if such behavior continues and they will, he believes, be more inclined to clean up their act.
But, effective as such legislation might be, the flaw in this approach is that it doesn’t impact on the legislative body itself, i.e., governments. In addition it requires that these governments, are not corrupt, i.e., are free from corporate influence — energy companies, big banks, private water companies , etc. But as we know, far from being independent of such bodies, politicians are usually snuggled upin bed with them.
Notwithstanding these drawbacks, legislation is a powerful stick, and applied vigorously would, could, should, be an important tool in changing behavior. But,and here I’m afraid we are back to caring, given that governments don’t care enough to employ the stick, pressure needs to be applied to force them to wield it. And for this to happen ‘the populace’, or large enough numbers of the weary masses need to care sufficiently to mobilize and act; to protest, to boycott polluting companies, petition politicians, to engage.
To a degree, a larger than ever degree, this is now happening, but despite powerful campaigns by e.g. Extinction Rebellion (XR), Just Stop Oil (JSO), and the brilliant Schools Strike for Climate, very little is changing and the scale of the environmental emergency/crisis/catastrophe grows daily. We are, it seems, back at the beginning.
Who caused the catastrophe?
Thepeople responsible for the catastrophe live in developed nations, particularly the richest people in the richest countries. It’s not the behavior of those in Sub-Saharan Africa, or Bangladesh, it’s not the poor of the world that are driving climate change, and for the record the environmental crisis is not in any way caused by over-population (birth rates are now falling in every country, including India and China), as many in developed nations seem to believe. Blame ‘the other’ always, the brown/black ‘other’ usually; don’t look at yourself or the facts, don’t accept responsibility, simply blame someone else.
It is the comfortable and complacent in developed nations who caused the mess and continue to fuel it. And, spoilt, deeply selfish and with a myopic view of the world, they refuse to change behavior, refuse to give up anything. To stop eating animal produce, to cut back on air travel, to stop buying stuff they don’t need, to stop driving fossil fuelled vehicles, to shop responsibly, and to engage. Because, and here we go again, ‘they’ don’t give a damn, or not enough of a damn to take the uncomfortable steps and make the boring changes required.
Absence of caring hasn’t happened accidentally, it has been deliberately cultivated to strengthen an unjust socio-economic system of exploitation and division. Whole societies have been conditioned into selfishness, greed and (sensory) pleasure; taught virtually from birth to be competitive and ambitious and to do whatever it takes to get what they want, irrespective of the damage to others, society or the natural world. Materialism and consumerism, two sides of the same rusty coin, form the ideological framework of this cynical ugly world view; a view that, via globalization has been spread far and wide, polluting every nation in every continent. Encouraging the same hollow values and cynical outlook that has not only resulted in the destruction of the natural world, but has created unhealthy unequal societies.
Change the environment people are living in, remove the fear and insecurity, reduce the competition — the dog eat dog mentality, be kind, tolerant, gentle and compassionate, and people will naturally care, about others, about society and the environment.
Individuals caringis essential if governments are to be impelled to take the steps needed to impact on corporates/businesses and effect widespread community change. Both are required, and while ‘people’ cannot be forced to care all efforts should be made to present information and raise awareness of the severity, scope and interconnected nature of the issues; the house,our house is engulfed in flames, the children are inside screaming while we stand around debating whether water will damage the furniture.
There is perhaps just a moment left in which to Save Our Planet, but it will not be salvaged unless we — governments, businesses and individuals, make the environment our first priority, the principle consideration of every decision and action: how does this impact the natural world, is it positive or negative? This is what it means to care; to live responsibly, to govern and manage responsibly; conscious action that proceeds from and is an expression of brotherhood and love, both of which are innate but buried.
As the inspirational Kenyan climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti said at COP 26 in her moving address: “I believe in our human capacity to care deeply and act collectively; I believe in our ability to do what is right if we let ourselves feel it in our hearts…….if you allow yourself to feel it, the heartbreak and injustice [felt across Sub-Saharan Africa, South Sea Islands and elsewhere] is hard to bear…please open your hearts” and act. Act now with environmental responsibility at the core of ones daily life; act now to force governments and businesses to respond, or look around in ten years and see ashes in your hands. https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/11/25/copout-in-cairo-they-just-dont-care/
Faced with imminent defeat, on 2 November the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) finally agreed to stop their vicious attack on Ethiopia. Theyhad little choice in the end, the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) had taken TPLF strongholds in Tigray, and encircled the regional capital Mekelle.
The great tragedyis that fighting could have ended months ago, saving thousands of lives, had the TPLF grasped the hand of peace repeatedly extended by the government since the conflict started. Instead of responding to an open invitation to talk “anywhere anytime”, the TPLF set impossible conditions for engagement; used ceasefire time to rearm and recruit fighters – forcing men and children to leave their families (‘join up or we will kill your family’ type recruitment), take up arms and risk their lives for the ambitions of a few greedy men.
Engagement and inclusion have been central to the approach of the Abiy Ahmed government since they took office in April 2018. And, to the outrage of many, this included reaching out to the former regime officials. But the TPLF leaders (and their US backers), have never wanted peace or national unity for Ethiopia, and certainly did not want Abiy to succeed. From the moment they were ousted, it seems the TPLF have been plotting and scheming, gauging the level of US support – which was, it appears a good deal weaker under President Trump – and waiting, discussing when to emerge from the shadows and act.
That moment came on 3/4 November 2020 (coincidentally the very day Biden became president), when the TPLF launched a cowardly coordinated attack on the ENDF Northern Command in Mekelle, and bases in Adigrat, Agula, Dansha and Sero in Tigray. This heinous act of treason, resulted in the deaths of unsuspecting ENDF soldiers and the theft of military equipment. PM Abiy Ahmed said that extrajudicial killings had occurred during the attacks. He stated that the “TPLF identified and separated hundreds of unarmed Ethiopian soldiers of non Tigrayan origin, tied their hands and feet together, massacred them in cold blood, and left their bodies lying in open air.”
It was this despicable act that triggered the war, something that is routinely overlooked by western governments, media and commentators alike; an act of terror by anyone’s definition (imagine a similar attack taking place in a Western nation – outrage there would be), for which – and of course the TPLF knew this – the Ethiopian government had no choice but to respond with force. So they, the TPLF leadership had the war they had been longing for, and had been preparing for. The propaganda campaign started, favors were called in, sympathizers mobilized, money spent. Their aim was to either overthrow the government, or if that failed, and they made this plain, cause chaos in the country, fragment it totally and make it virtually ungovernable.
But despite US support in their vile plans theyfailed resolutely, for now at least. Sadly, we mustadd this restraining condition, because as long as the TPLF exists as an organization, the threat of violence and disorder will hover over the country. And one of the most troubling details contained within the peace agreement signed in Pretoria is that the government shall (Article 7 paragraph 3b), “Facilitate the lifting of the terrorist designation of the TPLF by the House of Peoples’ Representatives.”
Looking for justice
There is a list of key points within theAfrican Union led agreement, including: “The Parties commit to and declare an immediate and Permanent Cessation of Hostilities, and undertake to disengage forces or armed groups under their control” (article 3 paragraph 1); The recognition and “Respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and unity of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE)” (article 2 paragraph 1), i.e., that Ethiopia is one integrated nation; Parties sign up to “Agree and recognize that the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has only one defence force” (Article 6 paragraph 1); and that the TPLF will disarm. TPLF combatants will then be integrated into the ENDF.
Within Article 10, ‘Transitional Matters’, it is made clear that elections in Tigray will be held, however no time frame is given, and until then an “inclusive Interim Regional Administration will be settled through political dialogue between the Parties [TPLF and Government].” The TPLF is not banned from taking part in this transitional body, or from standing in any future elections; so the organization, with existing personnel, is not only allowed to persist, but it seems will continue as a political group. Where, then, is the accountability, the justice?
Compromise within such talks is inevitable, but given the fact that the TPLF had committed an act of treason and widespread atrocities throughout the war, the level of Government concessions appears over generous; this was clearly the result of US pressure, threats amounting to intimidation. Despite such external meddling the TPLF has been forced to disarm, to recognize the (democratically elected) Ethiopian government and told to stop undermining the country “including [via] unconstitutional correspondence and relations with foreign powers” (article 7 paragraph 2). But TPLF bosses were responsible for the conflict (and 28 years of terrorizing the populace when they were in power), and widespread atrocities, and they should, at some point, face justice.
The agreement does contain the objective to “Provide a framework to ensure accountability for matters arising out of the conflict” (article 1 paragraph 7). And to this end, Article 10 (paragraph 3) states that the government “shall implement a comprehensive national transitional justice policy aimed at accountability, ascertaining the truth, redress for victims, reconciliation, and healing, consistent with the Constitution of FDRE and the African Union Transitional Justice Policy Framework …….developed with inputs from all stakeholders, and civil society groups through public consultations and formal national policy-making processes.” Sounds positive, but such investigations tend to take an age, result in broad general findings, and all too oftenallow the individuals responsible (the leaders) to get off scot-free.
So, flawed (as all such processes are) but tremendously positive, the agreement is an important step in the transition to peace and away, not only from the TPLF initiated war, but from ethnic fragmentation and unrest more broadly. To this end the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which has been carrying our atrocities in Amhara for some time, must also be disarmed and broken up.
It is also significant that the Ethiopian government turned to the African Union, which has as its principle vision the creation of: “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens”.Ethiopia was a founding voice of The African Union (AU), the AU headquarters are located in Addis Ababa, and as African nations increasingly turn to one another and the momentum for Pan-Africanism grows, the AU will become more important.
War is chaotic, and no doubt atrocities were committed and mistakes made on both sides, but the Government should be commended for their patient resolute approach: For resisting foreign intervention and repeatedly and powerfully exposing it; for consistently calling for and working for peace, and in the end, reaching an agreement.
This is an important moment for the country, a time for healing, reflection and collective action. There is much to be done, a massive program of reconstruction is urgently needed; if this is delayed, for whatever reason, there is a risk that people affected by the fighting, will begin to feel angry, allowing for criticism of the government to surface, and social splinters to appear and be exploited. Homes, schools, health facilities etc, all need to be reconstructed, repaired and refurbished. This creates a wonderful opportunity to mobilize one of Ethiopia’s greatest assets, its young people; a youthful army of workers could be assembled from within affected neighborhoods, creating work and generating a sense of purpose and community responsibility.
In addition to the essential work of rebuilding, this time also presents the opportunity for debate and creative discussion around a variety of issues: Development. The western model of development is unjust, environmentally destructive and in many ways, broken. Let development be re-defined based not on economic markers, but on social harmony, collective happiness and group integration; how to develop in a just and inclusive way that creates opportunities for everyone and does not create/increase inequality could be explored. Democracy; the nature of democracy in a country made up of many ethnic groups; the importance of civil society/independent institutions, and the observation/monitoring of human rights; how to maximize participation and involve people from all backgrounds and regions in the governance of their area and the overall direction of the country.
In addition, and importantly, the Federal Constitution needs to be looked at. There has been a great deal of criticism of the existing Constitution, written in 1994 by the former TPLF dominated regime, with many people believing that lasting peace and stability is impossible until the treatise has been reformed, and the pervasive, and highly divisive ideology of ethnic federalism, which shapes its direction, is removed. In a nation the size of Ethiopia, with dozens of ethnic groups, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with federal governance, but when power is disproportionately held, injustices rooted in ethnicity (jobs, university places, housing etc) either perpetrated or perceived to have occurred, and ethnic differences are emphasized over national unity, there is a danger of social divisions, anger and conflict. The system of ‘ethnic federalism’ was utilized by the EPRDF as a mechanism of control; competition over land/resources/government support was encouraged, divisions exploited, ethnic identities strengthened.
The notion of ethnic conflict was, and remains a common construct of the war widely presented by western voices allied to the TPLF. The image presented – false and unfounded – is of a repressed and threatened ethnic group (Tigrayans) under attack by a genocidal government, protected by a courageous rebel force – the TPLF. Utter nonsense; the government was fighting the TPLF, not the people of Tigray. And the TPLF, as has been said many times, is an insurgent force, a terrorist group that started the war and was intent on overthrowing the democratically elected government and stealing power. This false narrative forms an intrinsic part of the dis/misinformation campaign carefully designed by the TPLF, no doubt with foreign input, taken up and delivered by media, the US and her puppets, certain voices within the United Nations (Dr Tedros at the WHO e.g.) and various international bodies – e.g. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International.
The aim was to undermine the Ethiopian government, engender international support and provide justification for TPLF violence and US sanctions/criticisms. Confusion about actual events and belief in the fantasy was created, but as more and more details of what actually happened emerges, this will be shattered. From the outset however, the effect of such propaganda onEthiopians and friends of Ethiopia at home and abroad has been to unify and galvanize them. Powerfully united against what are widely regarded as common enemies: the TPLF, America, and western media; a renewed sense of nationhood has been fostered, and hands of love and friendship extended to people from all groups, including of course Tigrayans.
In light of the way certain powers (US, UK, Ireland, EU), not only responded to the terror attack on the State, but facilitated it, relations with foreign governments will no doubt be re-examined. Ethiopia was betrayed by these nations and many people feel deeply hurt, bemused and angry at the actions taken and the lies perpetrated. Ethiopia is the Mother of Africa and the betrayal hasbeen felt across the region and the continent. The undermining of a democratically elected government and the meddling in a nation’s affairs reveal once again that these dried-up colonialists, arrogant and devious, continue to believe that they can control, exploit and manipulate Sub-Sharan African nations.
Ethiopia has stood strong against such interference and emerged more united than ever. A peaceful, integrated Ethiopia is key to the health, stability and prosperity, not only of the country itself, but of the Horn of Africa region. All must work now to support those most affected by the conflict, ensure the agreement reached in Pretoria is fully honored, and a lasting and robust peaceis created throughout the country.
Nobody, well nobody in their ‘right mind’ can anymore deny, ignore or escape the burning fact that the natural world is being battered and vandalized by humanity; not all of humanity, just a certain subset. Air, water and soil polluted, forests levelled, ecosystems disrupted, animals species killed off, climate patterns altered.
And yet, and yet, nothing, or very little, certainly nowhere near enough, is being done to mitigate the effects and address the underlying causes of the crisis – a word we hear used a great deal these days. And when does a crisis become a catastrophe – how bad does it have to get before everything changes to meet the challenge? The house, our house is literally on fire, and we are standing around sprinkling cups of water on the flames, whilst complaining about the heat.
So, what can be said, written or done to engender substantive change, to shake up complacent corporate-orientated governments, profit obsessed businesses and weary anxious individuals?
As the concerned, the indifferent and the angry pack bags and head to Egypt for COP27, a new United Nations (UN) report, the most recent of many, finds, unsurprisingly, given the level of indifference, that: “There is no credible pathway to 1.5°C (of global warming) in place today.” It’s a stark statement, which, like previous warnings by climate scientists, environmental groups and school children will no doubt be completely ignored.
The 1.5°C figure, is the level of post-industrial warming that, according to climate scientists, is the limit of what is acceptable – i.e., yes, it will be life changing, but manageable, and would not, may not, result in coastal cities and low lying islands being reduced to water parks, millions of people being displaced, and a wholesale increase in the extinction of species. It is the target agreed at COP21, held in Paris in 2015; legally binding promises were made, jubilation expressed, optimism engendered. But as yet, seven years on, the positive words and back patting are yet to be translated into substantive action, or in some cases, any action at all.
As result of this collective failure, another UN report, aptly named The Heat is On finds that current “national climate pledges combined with other mitigation measures put the world on track for a global temperature rise of [not 1.5°C, but a sizzling] 2.7°C by the end of the century”. The text goes on to relate that, shockingly, “the world’s planned fossil fuel production by the year 2030 will be more than twice the amount that would be consistent with keeping to the 1.5°C target.”
One would imagine that, governments and corporate bosses reading such findings, and let’s hope they do actually read them, would be shocked, and take drastic action, but not a bit of it. Apathy and complacency rule within the corridors of power, where short-term gains determine government policy and drive business decisions.
Another depressing fact
In order to reduce global warming, we need, how many times must it be said, to stop pouring poisonous greenhouse gases (GHG), carbon (CO2) and methane (CH4) and nitrous dioxide (N20), into the atmosphere while simultaneously set about capturing the stuff that’s already there. As Greta Thunberg puts it, “For us to have even a small chance of avoiding setting off irreversible chain reactions far beyond human control, we need drastic, immediate, far-reaching emission cuts at the source.”
Sounds simple, and few would disagree, but as the UN projections of global temperature rises indicate, far from reducing, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are in fact, yes, another depressing fact, rising, year on year, month on month, week on week. Because the causes are not being addressed.
All three dominant GHGs hit record levels in 2021, with global CO2 emissions “from energy combustion and industrial processes [reaching] their highest ever annual level,” according to the International Energy Association (IAE). And despite the essential need to consign fossil fuel use, exploration and funding to the murky past, countries including the US, UK and some EU member states are increasing fossil fuel production. Justified under the dubious reason that, due to gas supplies being threatened as a result of the Ukraine/Russia war, which was caused in large measure (we can argue of the actual percentage)by the US, and perpetuated by them and the UK, nations need to become energy independent.
Indeed, but energy needs must be met by renewable sources, and not from yet more fossil fuel use. But fossil fuel companies do not want to give up even a smidgen of their mammoth profits; they have huge political influence, governments are weak and wedded to an economic model obsessed with perpetual growth. The Ideology of Money, Greed and Selfishness is the common doctrine of choice; Market Fundamentalism is a perverted form of capitalism in which everything is seen as a commodity, including the natural world – rain forests, oceans, rivers, the soil – to be bought, sold, raped, utilized, profited from and discarded. And as long as this system persists it is hard, if not impossible to imagine how the urgently required steps, and changes in behaviour, will be taken to save the environment and prevent global temperatures soaring to 3°Cor 4°C.
Climate change and the broader environmental emergency is the result of human activity; of destructive self-centered behavior, not of all of humanity, but of the relatively small percentage of some within wealthy nations; it is the consequence of a particular way of life; a mode of living rooted in consumption. The largely unnecessary and irresponsible devouring of stuff, and of diets based predominantly around animal food produce, the majority of which is derived from industrial agriculture; and it is this way of life that needs to change.
It is not possible to save our planet and continue living this way; a way incidentally that, in addition to fueling climate change and the extinction of species, destroying ecosystems and poisoning the air, water and soil, has also created societies full of sick people, mentally and physically.
The basic premise that growth should be continuous is anathema to environmental salvation and social well-being. De-growth, sustainability and simplicity of living need to become the aims; development re-imagined and democracy, so-called, expanded, or rather resuscitated. Common-sense suggestions, which probably many would agree with, but, with few exceptions, the current crop of political ‘leaders’ don’t appear to possess this much under-rated quality. Neither do they have a great deal of integrity; duplicity, yes, but honoring their word, being consistent, responsible and showing compassion, well, very little. They sign agreements, make pledges to cut emissions (National Determined Contributions NDCs) and invest in renewables, then fail to enact policies to meet such laudable, but largely empty promises.
Radical change is needed, change in attitudes and behaviour. But who is up for that? It is the lifestyles of millions within developed countries that is responsible for the mess the whole world is in. But, as has been said many times, and ignored just as often, it’s the poorest nations that are being most heavily battered by the consequences. They need support from the wealthy to adapt to extreme weather and help with the devastating impacts of climate change. But, in a powerful signal of indifference, governments of rich nations, don’t even honor commitments to fund mitigation programs; schemes that are only needed because of the collective way of life their socio-economic model encourages and in fact demands.
These governments, and CEOs, shareholders of big business cannot be trusted; they care not for the poor in their own countries, let alone in Sub-Saharan Africa, or it seems for their own grandchildren; they are driven by one thing, and one thing only, profit and power – so two things actually, which are tied at the hip.
So, as delegates prepare for COP27 and fossil fuel companies report record profits, the environmental emergency couldn’t be more pressing; the need for action by governments, corporations and populations more urgent, and the stench of complacency more pungent.
First things first: as I write so-called peace talks are underway between the democratically elected government of Ethiopia and The Terrorist TPLF. That in itself is a bizarre sentence, and prompts an array of related questions, and issues around law and order, justice, national governance. To be clear, the TPLF have never wanted peace, and are not in South Africa (where the talks are taking place) to find a way to end the conflict that they started and perpetuated for two long and deeply painful years. They want power, they have engaged in talks because they have been defeated, but talks about what?
Holding hands with the TPLF men at, or more likely, under the table — out of sight — are US/UN ‘observers’. The reason for their attendance is, one assumes, to ensure TPLF bosses are kept out of prison and allowed to slip away in the night and find amnesty somewhere. Canada has been mentioned as a possible destination, although why the Canadians (or anyone else in fact) would want them is a mystery. A cell in the Hague would be my choice as they eke out their days waiting to be tried in the International Criminal Court.
In the days and weeks leading up to the negotiations, the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) has taken control of remaining towns in Tigray, has surrounded the capital Mekelle, and, for the time being at least, fighting appears to have subsided. The only thing left to negotiate, then, is what to do with the TPLF leaders; this is not a difficult conundrum that requires hours or diplomatic chit-chat, and foreign advisers. They, the TPLF are terrorists, and should be treated in the same way that say, ISIS commanders would be, i.e., like criminals — arrested, imprisoned and tried. Their foreign assets (they stole an estimated $30 billion when in office) frozen and seized, and the monies utilized to fund rebuilding work.
The TPLF may have a few members of the “international community” rubbing up against them in Pretoria, but the Ethiopian government sits proud with millions and millions of Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia packed into the room, and they are roaring! Wide-ranging support for the government, and love for their countrymen and women, of all ethnic backgrounds, was displayed on 22 October, when, in cities throughout the land people, young and old, assembled, marched, sang and danced. Massive crowds demanded an end to foreign intervention in the internal affairs of the nation, and wrapped their arms around the government as it prepared for the African Union convened ‘peace talks’.
No US support no war
Throughout their destructive 27 year reign, the TPLF worked relentlessly to divide communities; systematically setting ethnic groups, that had for generations lived together harmoniously, against one another. But nothing unites a nation more than a shared enemy, and Ethiopia has had two since November 2020 – the TPLF and America/The West, three if we include corporate media. The people are now united, and that sense of fellowship includes the people of Tigray – all are Ethiopians, all share the pain of the nation and all long for peace. The TPLF is the enemy, the US is the enemy, corporate media is the enemy, not Tigrayans.
Without US support — militarily and politically — the TPLF would have been unable to wage war on the Ethiopian State; no war, no death, no rape, no displacement of persons, no destruction of property burning of land, killing of livestock, no national trauma. The US is not simply complicit in the terrorism carried out by the TPLF over the last two years, and indeed during their 27 years in office, they are the enabler. The US Policy of Aggression and Derision directed against the Ethiopian government and the people, the economic sanctions, against one of the poorest nations in the world, the conspiring and duplicity, the misleading briefings and media dis/misinformation campaign emboldened the TPLF and granted them false legitimacy.
And where the US goes her allies and puppets, follow, including corporate media, which has been integral to the mis-dis information campaign, as have, somewhat bizarrely, the US Holocaust Museum, which has recently joined the party. And as talks go on these forces of duplicity and confusion continue to treat the TPLF as if they were an equivalent party to the government, rather than the monsters they are. It is shameful, but when truth and facts become a matter of opinion to be spun according to motive and self-interest it is extremely dangerous. Groups like the TPLF can only exist in the shadows, within Caves of Deceit; throw the light of truth upon them, and like the Many Headed Hydra, they shrivel up and die.
Looking for real friends
The US-supported war in Ethiopia has revealed, if demonstration were needed, in the most vivid manner, the fabric of US foreign policy and where American/Western loyalties lie. Unsurprisingly it’s with their own vested interests, or what they perceive these to be; geo-political reach, regional power, no matter the cost — human, environmental and/or social.
So, the lesson loud and clear, and perhaps this is something worth articulating in Pretoria, is the realization that, the US and ‘the West’ more broadly, including media and some institution are not to be trusted.This fact and the hurt caused by what Ethiopians rightly regard as a betrayal, will no doubt influence how Ethiopia moves forward, who it sees as ‘friends’ and allies, where it looks for support, and who it can trust and depend on.
Outrage has been felt, not just in Ethiopia but across Africa, both at the terrorist attack on their neighbour, and the response of the US/West. This will strengthen pre-existing suspicions and further energise Pan Africanism, already strengthened in recent years, and foster greater unity across the region and continent.
African nations have long been exploited by colonial powers, post-colonial institutions — the International Monetary Fund, World Bank etc, and imposed financial systems (the scandalous Structural Adjustment Programmes e.g.), which, while masquerading as ‘aid’ and/or ‘development programmes’, have ensured countries remain more or less poor, dependent and therefore malleable.
Former colonial bodies of repression and violence (US, European countries, UK), are now in crisis themselves. Economic and political instability, ideological failure and cultural insecurity abound. And as the socio-economic model that has dominated policy making (including foreign affairs) for decades disintegrates in front of our eyes, politicians, lacking humility and vision, wedded to the past, have no answers and continually stackfailure upon failure.
The legacy of the global Neo-Liberal experiment is deeply divided societies of largely unhealthy people, and a man-made environmental catastrophe. Mental health illness is at epidemic proportions and climate change/ecological breakdown caused by reckless consumerism threatens the very survival of the race.
A development model, shaped around the same socio-economic paradigm that has caused the chaos has been forced on Ethiopia and all Sub-Sharan African nations. Countries are not seen as nation states with rich individual cultures, but potential marketplaces and natural resource banks.
The model is inherently unjust, benefitting a few at the expense of the many, and is made more so when applied to so-called developing nations (such terms, like the ideals they refer to and the divisions they strengthen should be consigned to the past). It is a corrupt model that, as Ethiopia moves forward and African nations look increasingly towards one another, needs to be closely examined, and in the light of need, not exploitation and profit, re-defined.
Discussions around theses issues, as well as the nature of development, democracy, environmental concerns and regional/continental unity can slowly begin to be taken up, nationally and regionally. Platforms for debate and participation established throughout the country and a vibrant space created in which people from all ethnic groups can contribute. For now though, as Ethiopia gently emerges from the violent shadow of the TPLF, united but scarred, the focus must firstly be on healing and re-construction.
Many will be traumatized and recovery will take time; the rebuilding work will be immense (construction/repair of schools, health services, housing etc), and government will require substantial support, both financial, technical and practical.
But there is no limit to what can be achieved by a united populace, building upon a platform of peace and brotherhood. The people are resolute, weary yes, but strong, supportive of one another and deeply kind, and this is potentially (we must add that caveat), the beginning of a new chapter in the life of the country. An ancient nation with a rich diverse culture that has suffered much and for far too long; a new day, quiet and full of joy let us pray, a time free from conflict and the vile poison of the TPLF.
As Ethiopians celebrated the new year on 11 September, the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) issued a Stance on a Peaceful Resolution of the Current Conflict. Choking on hypocrisy it states that they were, are, will one day be, prepared to “participate in a robust peace process under the auspices of the African Union (AU)”. And agree to “abide by an immediate and mutually agreed cessation of hostilities in order to create a conducive atmosphere.” Utter lies; beyond the boundaries of such meaningless words TPLF violence continued unabated.
The AU organised peace talks (8/9 October) in South Africa; invitations were sent a hall booked, hotel rooms reserved and presumably dinner reservations made. But to the surprise of nobody, the TPLF refused to engage because of “logistical issues”. As a result the fighting, killing, and destruction goes on. Talks are now re-scheduled to take place in South Africa on 24 October.
The TPLF is in no position to set conditions for participation; they are a criminal organization, not a legitimate political group. They do not represent the people of Tigray, are despised throughout the country – including within Tigray; their army is in tatters, forced recruitment of children and other civilians is widespread. Far from making demands TPLF leaders should beg for forgiveness, before being hauled off to the International Criminal Court to stand trial for crimes committed during the last two years, as well as when they were in power.
Peace talks, anywhere, anytime?
In response to this latest TPLF initiated conflict, which started on 24 August, when they “broke the humanitarian truce declared by the Government in March 2022,” the Ethiopian Government issued (17 October) a Statement Concerning Defensive Measures in Northern Ethiopia. It makes clear that this is the third time in two years that the TPLF have “dragged the country into conflict” – something routinely overlooked by Western nations and media outlets; unprovoked attacks launched despite the government repeatedly proposing unconditional peace talks, “anywhere, anytime”. The official statement also relates that, astonishingly, “The PLF announced to the group of special envoys and Addis Ababa based diplomats its intentions to launch an offensive.”
Despite their complete lack of engagement in any reconciliation work, or adherence to government initiated ceasefires, the terror group claim (16 October) they “are ready to abide by an immediate cessation of hostilities [and], call on the international community to press the Ethiopian Government to come to the negotiating table.” Moreduplicity – the Ethiopian Government has been patiently waiting for the TPLF at said table for 18 months.
Such misleading carefully formulated statements are part of the TPLF’s Methodology of Deceit. Lies,manipulation, perversions of the truth, all are gobbled up by media and regurgitated by western governments and institutions, including some within the United Nations (UN): The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus specifically — a former TPLF minister (who should never have been appointed to the WHO job) he has shamelessly used his platform to spread false accusations against the Ethiopian government, and present the TPLF as victims.
The World Food Program (WFP) appears to have been compromised; hundreds of WFP trucks and thousands of litres of fuel, earmarked to distribute humanitarian aid into Tigray, were “stolen” by the TPLF, and aid sold to fund their terror campaign. The “disappearance” of the trucks, according to the UN, constitutes “the primary impediment” to the aid response. In an arrogant statement, the TPLF admit the theft of 570,000 litres of fuel in August, bizarrely stating that, “It was collecting on a debt owed to them by the WFP.”
War games not peace
Since they initiated the war in November 2020 the TPLF have done nothing to suggest they want to end the conflict, on the contrary. Their lack of participation in the AU convened negotiations (8/9 October)therefore, came as no surprise, because their actions make plain that it is not peace that they want, but power.
One of the TPLF’s reasons, petty and churlish, for not attending, was that they were not consulted by the AU before invitations were sent. The terrorist’s mouthpiece, Getachew Reda said, and in a text message no less; “You don’t just expect people to show up on a certain date as if this was some kind of get-together.” Why not? If a warring faction is serious about peace, surely they will do anything to bring it about. Something as trivial as not being included in organizing the guest list, would not deter them from participating, would it?
Another complaint, closely connected to the first one, was that it was unclear what role the “international community” would play. This is TPLF code for “where are our American supporters?” We, the TPLF – a bona fide terrorist organization that started the war when we attacked the Northern Command Base of the Ethiopian army, killing unsuspecting personnel and ransacking the site for weapons – we want “our” friends at the peace table in South Africa, our US minders and facilitators. Successive American administrations (plus the UK and EU), supported the TPLF throughout their brutal 27 year reign. And, since the conflict began in November 2020, the US and Co. have, to the astonishment of shocked Ethiopians and many naive observers — who, despite decades of evidence to the contrary, still believe America to be a force for good in the world — stood side by side with the terrorists.
TPLF and western collusion
In an attempt to discredit and isolate Ethiopia, demonize the government and somehow create a confused space in which the TPLF could magically be reinstalled in Addis Ababa, a false narrative around the war, the actions of federal forces, and the distribution of humanitarian aid by UN agencies, has been constructed and propagated. A western coalition, led by the US has been employed to throw a canopy of mis/disinformation over the conflict and the actions of the TPLF, who, far from being presented as the terrorist force they are, and always have been, are somehow elevated to a position equivalent to the democratically elected government of Ethiopia.
This orchestrated propaganda campaign has been funded by the TPLF using some of the huge sums stolen during their time in office. Ann Fitz-Gerald (Director of the Balsillie School of International Affairs) states in The Frontline Voices that, “What sets this insurgency movement apart from many others is the extraordinarily large budget that the TPLF amassed during its 27 years in power, and just prior to its departure…in 2018, which left the Government of Ethiopia’s coffers empty.” In addition to funding their armed wing and its “digital insurgency of unprecedented proportions…these funds also pay for Washington-based lobby groups and law firms that have issued threatening letters to individuals – and their employers – who dare depart from the TPLF narrative.”
Given such widespread western collusion, it is plain why the TPLF want American voices at the table, and it is equally clear what role the “international community” should have in any peace talks – none whatsoever. African countries have been exploited and manipulated by such nations (US, UK, EU nations) for generations; they cannot be trusted any more than the TPLF can, i.e., not at all. The AU and fellow Africans, are very familiar with despots like the TPLF. They are more than capable of staging peace talks without interference or involvement from dried-up imperialist forces, who care not for the Ethiopian people, or indeed anyone in Sub-Sharan Africa, are driven solely by self-interest and are therefore corrupted totally.
Ethiopia under PM Abiy is seen as far too independent and democratic for American sensibilities. Subservient regimes (aka the TPLF) lording over fragmented fractious nations of mostly uneducated poor: This is the sourAmerican Dream for so-called developing countries in Sub-Sharan Africa, not integrated societies cooperating with neighbors, building and strengthening relationships, as part of a Pan-African movement, diverse, independent but united. A movement that is gaining ground and all power to it.
Under the TPLF, division cruelty and animosity was the order of the day, inside Ethiopia and within the Horn region, and so (in line with US foreign policy) instability was maintained. It was the TPLF that initiated the war with Eritrea in 1998, and it was PM Abiy, together with President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea, who ended the fighting – something it is hard to imagine being well received in Washington – and created peace. At the time of the accord, President Afwerki, pointedly referring to the TPLF, said, “Hate, discrimination and conspiracy are now over. Our focus from now on should be on developing and growing together.… Now is the time to make up for the lost times.”
The TPLF has constantly revealed that it knows only violence, suppression and lies. During their time in power acts of State Terrorism were commonplace, rape and sexual violence were employed (as they have been throughout this conflict) to induce fear and human rights were totally trampled on. All we might add with the support of the “international community”; that benign self righteous force, complicit in so much suffering, that, whilst proclaiming freedom, justice and democracy, moves within the shadows sewing seeds of chaos, death and destruction, seemingly wherever it goes.
For peace talks to be positive both parties must want the conflict to end. There is no doubt that the Ethiopian government is committed to peace, likewise it is plain that the TPLF is not; they cannot be trusted, not at all. TheTPLF is a deadly poison that has caused immeasurable suffering to the people of Ethiopia and the wider region for decades; in order for peace to gently settle and for social harmony to once again be established, the poison must be cut out completely. This requires the TPLF be disbanded, never again to cast their vile shadow upon the country.
Frustrated and angry, people everywhere are mobilizing, protesting, striking, demanding change, screaming out against injustice, suppression and control. The unprecedented global movement expands week on week; it will not be stopped, no matter the level of violence or intervention state bodies employ to silence people and maintain the corrosive status-quo.
In a dramatic Sign of The Times, despite the risks, which are great, women/girls and men in Iran are uniting; standing together, demanding an end to gender inequality, and in, some cases calling for regime change.
To the surprise of many who assumed any popular uprising would be led by academics, writers and the like, fearless women and teenage girls are leading the movement in what is evolvinginto a broad Coalition of Dissatisfaction. The protestors in Iran are both a symbol of the extraordinary times we are living through, and a source of power for all who long for different, just modes of living.
Iranian teenagers lead the way
As is so often the case, one diabolical act became the spark that fueled a raging fire of anger, suppressed for years and now unleashed. On 13 September, 22 year old Mahsa Amini was arrested by the so-called Morality Police of Iran’s Law Enforcement Command for not wearing the hijab (head scarf) in a way acceptable to the Islamic Republic of Iran – i.e., some hair, horror of horrors, was loose and on display. Regime thugs took her into custody, where, out of sight they beat her so severely that she fell into a coma. Three days later, on 16 September, she died in a Tehran hospital.
The brutal murder of Mahsa has led to massive protests across Iran (in at least 103 cities and towns in all 31 of Iran’s provinces) and cities around the world. Predictably Iran’s government has responded in a heavy-handed manner with violence and more violence. At least 154 people have been killed by security personnel, and an estimated 1,200 arrested. When they are not firing live rounds, the police shoot birdshot and metal pellets into the crowd; they fire tear gas and deploy water cannons; access to the internet has been restricted and apps like Instagram and What’s App shut down in an attempt to stop protestors organizing.
Journalists and workers in civil society organizations are being specifically targeted; the Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) relate that (as of 6 October) an estimated “92 members of civil society who were not arrested at street protests, but instead arbitrarily detained at their homes or workplaces.” In addition 30 Iranian journalists have also been put behind bars.
This crude attempt to silence people isn’t working and it won’t work, in fact such actions by the regime will only further inflame people and strengthen the relentless march towards freedom.
The protests are not simply about gender inequalities and a woman’s freedom to choose whether to wear a hijab or not – important though this is, they are about freedom and the observation of human rights more broadly. Basic and essential human rights as laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which the Islamic Republic of Iran is a signatory to, and as Iran, was one of the 48 nations that initially signed up to the charter in 1948. Freedom of speech; freedom of assembly; freedom of the media; freedom to live in a way consistent with one’s own values and beliefs free from the imposition of rules formulated and enforced by a violent authoritarian body.
Unity is rising
The Iran uprising forms part of a global movement for change that began inearnest in the mid 1980s and has grown in momentum year on year, month on month. In the last forty years or so people in virtually every country in the world have been uniting, demonstrating against repression, social injustice, environmental vandalism/inaction, political/corporate corruption and human rights violations.
Impelled by the forces of the time people are rising up and, as the extraordinary actions in Iran show, in spite of the risks and dangers inherent in challenging autocratic governments, and indeed so-called democratic bodies, people will not any longer be silenced, cowered. Shut away in front of their television sets or computer screens, to be fed and passively digest the propaganda of the corporate state.
Decades of repression, of being ignored and spoken down to by cynical politicians and corporate leaders, have led to this global moment of change and opportunity. It is a transitional time that will, or could, in time, usher in a creative fluid form of democratic living. Participation is an essential pillar of true democracy, but currently within democratic nations the possibility of contributing within the political, socio-economic space is almost non-existent, in authoritarian states like Iran, there is absolutely no space for any independent voices. Billions of people – the majority, are excluded, ignored and sidelined; individuals forced to live within structures and under inhibiting rules they do not agree with.
We are at the conception stage, the very beginning of a new order, a new civilization if you will, reimagined. Inch by inch the new order will need to be built, slowly, gradually. The architecture, tone and colours are clear: Freedom and social justice, true democracy in which everyone has the chance to participate, equality and peace. Such fundamental lasting changes will take time, rightly so, but look around, decay is everywhere, so too the calls for change. The existing systems and controls are not only being rejected, but they are collapsing under there own dead weight, failing to meet the basic requirements of the society, and unable to respond to the interrelated crises they have caused and continue to exacerbate.
Change then is essential, and in many ways it is now inevitable; an unstoppable force; it grows in strength and momentum with every protest march, every placard raised, every hijab removed, every action undertaken to highlight injustice, discrimination and abuse.
People, The People, will not any longer be gagged and manipulated, forced to accept the unacceptable, they will die first. But with every death, in Tehran or elsewhere, with every reactionary clampdown, whether it be arresting activists, stifling free speech, demonising people calling for change, outlawing protests and/or increasing police powers, the numbers demanding change increases, the outrage intensifies, the wave draws breath, rises and strengthens.
Much like individual change, societal developmentshappen gradually, often painfully; even when sudden shifts take place, seemingly ‘out of the blue’, they arethe result of an accumulation of incremental steps – the last straw on the camel’s back as it were. Small developments may slip by unnoticed, major events scream out and demand our attention. Take man-made global warming – going on for 70years or so, ignored for most of that time, until one July, when, in 40°C heat people collapse, crops are wiped out, water is rationed and drought blights the land.
Whilst it’s true that change is, paradoxically, constant, dramatic shifts, life-changing developments, by their very nature, occur only rarely, at key moments. Globally, we are living through such a time of majorchange; a transitional time akin to that step from one age group to another, adolescence into early adulthood for example. A moment when everything is, potentially, set to shift and evolve, when old habits and ways of living, recognized as inadequate, either fall away naturally or are rejected.
Signs that we are living through such a time have been evident for a while– decades, longer probably, and have year on year become more and more widespread and diverse. The momentum for change, and with it resistance (which is intense) from those wedded to the status quo, appears to be reaching a point of crisis. Battle lines are exposed delineating the choices before humanity, alternative values and modes of living that are becoming more defined, and more opposedall the time.
The political-economic arena has been the primary field of conflict and resistance, and also opportunity. This all-pervasive space encompasses most, if not all areas of contemporary life, including education and health care, the environment, international relations, immigration, defense, etc; it shapes values and determines the direction of collective travel. Differing viewpoints have become increasingly polarized, opinions hardened. And, growing out of the vacuum created by government’s inability to meet the challenges of the time, and the uncertainty caused by clinging to systems and modes of living that are day by day being drained of life, extremism has exploded; populism, on the left and most fiercely, on the right of politics. Intolerance, prejudice and hate have accompanied this political polarization, dividing societies around the world.
Cynical politicians hungry for power have fueled and exploited these splits, enflamed divisions with the politics of tribal nationalism and intolerance. Truth has been perverted, facts undermined and/ordisregarded; democracy, limited to begin with, has been undermined and autocratic leaders/demagogues have surfaced, or intensified their stifling grip on power.
When and how?
As points of crisis draw near in diverse, yet interconnected areas – climate/ecosystems, economic uncertainty and mass migration/displacement of persons, energy supplies and war, food security and global health threats, demands for solutions intensify.
Current socio-economic-political methodologies hold no answers, and are increasingly seen to be inadequate. Rooted in the Ideologies of Division Exploitation and Greed (Imperialism and Neo-liberalism), they are an integral part of the problem and cannot therefore respond adequately to the current challenges, which are immense. Creative solutions consistent with the emerging times are called for; compassionate alternatives rooted in social justice and freedom.
Systemic change in the economic sphere is desperately needed – Neo-Liberalism, which dominates the global economy, is a poisonous unjust ideology that relies on unlimited, irresponsible consumption and promotes greed, exploitation and inequality. Once change in this area takes place, and a more humane unifying and just model is introduced, then development in a range of other related areas becomes possible – health care and education, the eradication of food insecurity and large scale action on the environment.
It is values that need to change first though, and among many people they are changing; systems, policies and structures will naturally follow. Central to shifting values is the idea of unity, a recognition that humanity is one, varied, diverse but whole. This is not some incense-coated pseudo-religious fluff, but a fact (spelled out many times by visionary figures throughout the ages) in nature that is sensed by people everywhere; a fact that the existing socio-economic ideology, with its emphasis on competition and selfishness, actively works against.
Unity is a primary quality of the time, as is cooperation and tolerance. From these primary Principles of Goodness a series of positive consequences, or secondary colors flows: social and environmental responsibility, the eradication of prejudice; sharing as an economic social principle; social justice and equality, brotherhood — talked about for at least two thousand years, known in the heart but expressed fleetingly — and understanding of self and others. Unity shatters tribalism and strengthens collaboration; working together encourages relationship and erodes fear of ‘the other’, which in turn dissolves tensions and creates a space in which conflict is less likely. These are the values and ideals of the time, not radical, not new, perennial values that have been long buried and are now re-surfacing, influencing thinking in all areas of society. Coloring social and environmental initiatives, empowering popular action and driving change.
Momentum is building and, despite entrenched resistance from fearful forces determined to maintain control and ensure the perpetuation of systems and attitudes that breed division and suffering, the question is no longer will there be fundamental change and the inauguration of new modes of living, but when and how.
The ‘when’ is not a fixed moment in time but a dynamic flow expanding throughout the now; the ‘how’ is a creative explosion of collective action, examples of which are all around us, in every country of the world.
Wherever voices are raised in praise of social justice there is the how and the now; when people, young and old stand together, despite the risks, demanding freedom from suppression, that is the how and the now; it’s individuals forming groups, acting in unison, crying out for substantive environmental action; it’s the rise of Trades Unions; its thousands of community initiatives, large and small, throughout the world; it’s Citizens Assemblies and the fall of demagogues – some, not all; it’s the growing influence of so-called Green Politics and demands for equality in all areas.
These are the signs of the times; diverse worldwide manifestations of ‘the how’, occurring within ‘the now’. Daily they multiply and strengthen, and the forces of resistance falter; they are the seeds of evolving socio-economic-political forms; they are the promise of things to come, the forerunners of The New time, which, no matter how the forces of resistance kick and scream, cannot and will not be held at bay.
After 12 bleak years ofvarious Conservative governments, led by inadequate Prime Ministers, the UK is on its knees. Democracy is under attack like never before; the disaster of Brexit, which has resulted in a catalogue of negatives including social polarization, isolationism and rabid tribalism.
Years of grinding austerity, underinvestment in public services, frozen wages and staggering levels of incompetence have culminated in the unmitigated mess we see before us: A country in terminal decline, poverty growing, inequality entrenched, and to cap it all The Wicked Witch of the raving Right, Liz Truss, has now been elected leader of the Conservatives, and, as they are in office, the new Prime Minister. A totally undemocratic electoral process, but hey, ‘that’s the way it’s always been’.
She was voted in, in a country of around 69 million people, by 81,326 (57.4% of the total gaggle) Conservative members. A tiny group, overwhelmingly old, posh, white, male, anti-Europe, anti-immigrant, anti-environment – pro-fossil fuels, backward-looking nationalists. A crazy bunch operating within a dysfunctional system that, like much of the UK parliamentary structure and the primordial electoral model, desperately needs reforming.
The revoltingcampaign rhetoric spouted by Truss, was we hoped, just that, ranting rhetoric aimed solely at the conservative golf club nobs. Alas, in her first pronouncements as PM, surrounded by baying Tory sycophants, it was clear that Truss lives not in the real world at all, but in a crumbling castle for one, built on a foundation of Neo-Liberal doctrine, situated further to the right than any UK Prime-Minister in recent years.
Despite decades of disappointment, whenever a new PM/government takes office, naivety gives rise to a prickle of optimism: surely now things will improve, surely social justice will be prioritized, peace and environmental action imperatives. Well, PM Truss swiftly crushed any such childish hopes with her first speech in parliament and her wooden responses during Prime Minister’s Questions. Arrogance masquerading as certaintyimbued every cruel statement of policy intent, and, as opposition parties shook their heads in disbelief, people around the country, millions of whom are struggling to pay rising energy bills and increased food prices, were again crushed.
Truss, her cabinet, and thanks to a purge of moderate voices undertaken by Boris Johnson to quieten dissent, most, if not all of the parliamentary party, is now firmly wedded to an extreme version of Neo-Liberalism and the failed doctrine of Trickle Down economics. After forty years of most boats being sunk by the rising tide, the Ideology of Injustice has been shown to deepen inequality, intensify poverty and further concentrate wealth in the pockets of The Already Wealthy.
In addition to economic plans designed to benefit corporations and, by her own admission, intensify inequality (‘I’m not interested in re-distribution’ she told the BBC), she plans to increase military spending, allowglobal energy companies to restartgas extraction in the North Sea, end the moratorium on fracking and abolish green levies, which are used to fund energy efficiency and renewable electricity. She despises labor rights and the Trades Union movement, peaceful public protest and immigrants, all of which she is threatening to criminalize or clutter with so much bureaucracy as to make such human rights unenforceable.
Her policies, dogmatism and the doctrine that underpin them are, in many ways, terrifying. And with the suspension of parliament and consequently, any form of scrutiny, resulting from the death of The Queen, there is a danger, or for her, an opportunity, that she attempts to introduce legislation under cover of national mourning. If Truss and her gang get their way, the limited form of democracy that exists in the UK will become a distant memory, rather as ethics and honesty in public office, compassion and honoring international commitments have in recent years.
The list of national crises that the Truss government inherits, most if not all of which she had a grubby hand in causing, is long, and growing. As is public anger. It is a list resulting from ideological obsession, gross incompetence and absenteeism.
The National Health Service (NHS) is in crisis – years of underfunding, lack of training and Brexit, which saw thousands of NHS workers from Europe leave the UK, have led to around 135,000 vacancies, including 40,000 nurses and over 8,000 doctors in England alone. The service has the longest waiting lists for routine treatments on record; if you dial 999 for and ambulance, it could be hours, or in extreme cases days before it arrives. Social care is dysfunctional; there is a housing crisis, property prices are sky high, rents are unaffordable, tenancies offer no security homelessness is increasing – according to Government figures, “between January to March 2022, 74,230 households were assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness,” up 5.4% in the same period in 2021, a further 38,000 were regarded as at “risk of homelessness”.
Inflation is at 10.1% and rising, recession predicted, poverty booming. Thousands of people/families (many of whom are in full-time employment) rely on food banks for basic supplies – over two million people visited a food bank last year, and this doesn’t include independent providers – local charities, churches etc. Ten years ago food banks barely existed in the UK, now there are estimated to be 2,572, and constitute a growth area.
The privatization of utility companies including water in 1989 under Thatcher, has led to energy and water companies making huge profits for shareholders (£72bn in dividends), but neglecting consumers and failing to invest. Since water was privatized no new reservoirs have been commissioned (in 33 years), and, The Guardian reports,“2.4bn liters [of water] a day on current estimates have been allowed to leak away.” Airports including Heathrow, have had to limit the number of flights due to lack of staff; the airport authorities and airlines use the ‘It’s not us it’s Covid’ excuse, so loved by companies and government agencies who laid off too many employees during the pandemic and either haven’t re-hired enough, or employees refused to return unless wages and conditions improved.
The judiciary is in crisis, as is the prison system and the police, particularly in London; childcare and nursery education is shambolic, unaffordable for most, hard to find, limited places, particularly for those on average incomes; again due in part to lack of properly trained staff. It is, it seems an endless list, shameful and intensely depressing, There may however be a glimmer of light within the storm; a positive effect of this cacophony of chaos is a growing movement of resistance to economic injustice, and Trades Union industrial action.
Enough is Enough
Wages for most people in the UK have been effectively frozen for years; and now, with rising inflation income is reducing in value, economic hardship intensifying, fury rising. Unions, which have been greatly weakened in the last thirty years through restrictive legislation have rediscovered their courage and purpose, and in response to members demands have organised strikes in a number of areas. Most notably, railway and Transport for London workers have withdrawn their labor on a number of occasions in disputes over pay and conditions; refuse workers in Scotland have been on strike over pay; postal workers have also been striking; junior barristers are on indefinite strike over pay; workers at the UK’s largest container port, Felixstowe recently withdrew their labour for eight days in another dispute about pay. Nurses and doctors working in the NHS are threatening industrial action, as are teachers.
The leader of the RMT union, Mick Lynch, who has emerged as a leading voice for the people, has suggested that, “unions are on the brink of calling for ‘synchronized’ strikes over widespread anger at how much soaring inflation is outpacing wages.” If such a positive step were taken it would be a powerful act of resistance against years of exploitation and injustice, and may further empower working people, who for years have been silenced.
In parallel with the workers revolt is a social movement of defiance. Initially triggered by high energy bills, rising costs and low wages, the scope of disquiet is expanding to include outrage at huge profits for energy companies and other corporations, increasing payments to shareholders whilst the majority struggle to feed themselves and their families, i.e. its about social injustice, exploitation and greed. Two movements of resistance and change have emerged from the widespread disquiet – ‘Don’t Pay’, which aims to empower people to not pay increased energy bills, and ‘Enough is Enough’, which is a broader social movement founded by union leaders and MPs.
The appearance of these groups is deeply encouraging and could prove to be a pivotal moment. Many people, the majority perhaps, are worn down, ashamed of where the country fins itself, and have had enough. Enough of being ignored and manipulated; of being told to ‘tighten their belts’ and ‘carry on’, whilst corporations, public/private companies including energy firms, pay out huge dividends and government ministers, spineless, unprincipled puppets, who live in the silk-lined pockets of big business, including most notably the media barons, lie and lie and lie again.
In the face of increasing levels of social injustice, government duplicity and economic hardship, eventually the people must unite and revolt. If after the endless pantomime of the Queen’s funeral people do come together, refuse to pay rising energy costs; refuse to work, refuse to be exploited and marginalized; refuse to stand by while the natural world is vandalised; if the unions do take coordinated action, and many of us would support such a progressive act, there is a chance, slim, but real, that years of frustration and anger, can be turned into empowerment and hope.