Ethiopia Conflict by US Design

Supported by America and other foreign forces, including elements within United Nations (UN) agencies, The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) are attempting to overthrow the democratically elected Government of Ethiopia and regain power. This would be disastrous for the country and the region.
The impact of the year-long conflict is devastating. Perhaps as many as three million people are internally displaced, tens of thousands have been killed; women and girls raped, property trashed, land destroyed, livestock slaughtered by TPLF fighters. At this stage it is difficult to see how a peaceful resolution can be reached; the government has said it will not enter into negotiations until the TPLF withdraws to Tigray, and the TPLF, in no position to set any conditions, are demanding Prime-Minister Abiy Ahmed steps down.
The conflict was initiated when the TPLF attacked the Ethiopian State on 4 November 2020 (perhaps with US approval): despite this, the US and her puppets (UK, EU etc) have, to the incredulity of many, stood behind the terrorists and not the government of Ethiopia, or the Ethiopian people. It is widely acknowledged that the Biden Administration is behind the movement to replace the Abiy government, and install the TPLF – a less independent (the US doesn’t tolerate independent governments), more malleable group that, in exchange for the freedom to do as they like, will once again provide the US with a foothold in the Horn of Africa.
Unsurprisingly, Jeffrey Feltman – US Horn of Africa special envoy, denies all this, saying, “we have consistently condemned the TPLF’s expansion of the war outside Tigray, and we continue to call on the TPLF to withdraw from Afar and Amhara.”
True, however it’s actions not words that count (particularly politicians words), and in light of the US response since the start of the conflict, and the State Department’s behind-the-scenes shenanigans, his repudiation appears duplicitous at best, and is ignored by furious Ethiopians, many of whom attended protests recently. Huge crowds gathered under #NoMore in Addis Ababa, Washington, San Francisco, London, Pretoria and elsewhere, demanding an end to American interference in Ethiopia’s affairs. There is growing anger among groups in other African nations, who see American meddling in Ethiopia as an attack on Africa itself, a colonial assault.
US backing
American administrations, have consistently backed the TPLF, who established close connections with the US government during their 27 years in power (1991-2018), contacts that they are making full use of now.
It was only when, in 2018 after they were forced out of office by years of demonstrations, that the US withdrew backing and celebrated the new government led by Abiy Ahmed. But, consistent with their Support for Dictators the world over, until then and throughout the TPLF’s reign the US (plus UK and, less so, the EU) turned a blind eye, a deaf ear to the regime’s brutality, human rights violations and the anguished cries of the people.
And when the TPLF attacked the Northern Command Headquarters last November, and bases in Adigrat, Agula, Dansha and Sero, killing security personnel and stealing weapons, Washington, London and Brussels said and did nothing. This initial betrayal set the tone of the West’s orchestrated and shameful response. The US is leading the efforts of destruction and ‘transition’ – as TPLF officials and terrorist sympathisers call the move to overthrow the Government – giving the TPLF a range of practical and political support: They are believed to be sharing intelligence information about federal troop movements, providing food, water, and arms.
They consistently feed western media false or misleading information, and have repeatedly called for negotiations and a ceasefire: while this sounds reasonable and at some point a political settlement may be possible, such demands elevate the terrorist TPLF to a legitimate political group and disregard Ethiopian public opinion. The US also ignores the government-declared ceasefire in June/July, which the TPLF not only refused to respect, but, after federal forces withdrew, TPLF fighters marched into Afar and Amhara and committed a series of appalling atrocities.
At the same time as facilitating TPLF aggression, spreading their propaganda and criticizing PM Abiy’s government, the Biden Administration has imposed a series of sanctions on Ethiopia: In May visa restrictions were introduced against anyone deemed “responsible for, or complicit in, undermining resolution of the crisis in Tigray,” together with “wide-ranging restrictions on economic and security assistance”. This affects US financial support, and is potentially extremely damaging. At the same time, a request was made for the World Bank and IMF to also withhold funding. Four months later, on 17 September, President Biden signed an Executive Order, “Imposing Sanctions on Certain Persons With Respect to the Humanitarian and Human Rights Crisis in Ethiopia.” The rather vague dictate includes the Government of Eritrea as well as any “military or security force that operates or has operated in Ethiopia on or after November 1, 2020.”
From 1 January 2022 (unless there is significant change on the ground) Ethiopia’s Special Trade Status, which enables Ethiopian goods to be sold into the US free of import duty, will be removed. This is potentially the most damaging measure and threatens to cause wide-scale job losses among the poorest workers. According to Ethiopia’s Ministry of Trade and Regional Integration, it will “reverse significant economic gains in our country….We urge the United States to support our ongoing efforts to restore peace and the rule of law — not punish our people for confronting an insurgent force that is attempting to bring down our democratically elected government.”
The US is also targeting tourism in Ethiopia (in 2018 the sector grew by 48% and contributed $7.4 billion to the economy); urging its citizens to leave the country and deterring anyone from travelling there. Those who do have been warned there is a high chance they will be killed, and urged to make a will before travelling. This is blatant fear mongering. It is a coordinated effort (UK, France, Turkey, Germany and others have issued similar guidelines) to present Ethiopia as broken and dangerous and to isolate the country, and as US citizens who made the trip recently discovered, is completely false. These measures could cost the country $billions.
And in June, around the time the Ethiopian government initiated a ceasefire in Tigray, the US State Department announced “a review for a genocide determination” – by the government of Ethiopia against Tigrayans. This is utter nonsense, but represents another triumph for the TPLF and indicates the level of influence they have in Washington. The Ethiopian government is fighting the TPLF, not the people of Tigray, however, the impact on civilians in Tigray, as well as Afar and Amhara, has been devastating (largely resulting from TPLF violence) and there are some reports of Tigrayans being unduly targeted following the imposition of a State of Emergency (SoE) on 2 November.
Whilst it is important that security forces have the freedom to identify anybody working with the TPLF and to reduce the risk of random terror attack, actions such as indiscriminate arrests, risk fueling anger against ethnic groups, particularly Tigrayans (many of whom are not involved with the TPLF), and should wherever possible be avoided.
Within the chaos of conflict a powerful sense of national unity has emerged; the people have a common enemy – the TPLF, as well as the US, and western media, which has lost all credibility among Ethiopians. It is essential that this sense of togetherness is maintained and that fragmentation along ethnic/tribal lines, which the TPLF agitated when in power, is minimised. Introduced as a way to divide and rule, the TPLF’s policy of Ethnic (or tribal) Federalism split communities, enflamed resentments and fostered the creation of ethnocentric political groups, some of which, the Oromo Liberation Front e.g., now working with the TPLF in an unholy alliance, have morphed into armed insurgencies.
Stay Away USA
US administrations, self-righteous and arrogant, appear never to learn from their invasive mistakes, or recognize the degree to which they are despised in certain parts of the world. It is not a sense of global responsibility and altruistic kindness that impels the US (and other former predatory powers) to interfere in a nation’s affairs, it is self-interest, corporate gain and fear, and is seen as such by people throughout the world; just ask the abandoned, violated people of Afghanistan, the abused Palestinians forced to live under occupation in their own land, or the millions of Iraqis whose lives have never recovered from the 2003 invasion.
Ethiopia, much to the fury of America, is now looking elsewhere for allies; China, which has a strong relationship with the country resulting from the Belt and Road Initiative, Iran, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – reported to be supplying arms – Russia and African neighbors. The message to the US from Ethiopians and people standing in solidarity with Ethiopia is clear, ‘Stop Interfering’, ‘Mind your Own Business’, ‘We see you’. If you cannot be a friend to Ethiopia, a supporter of democracy and a Force for Good in the country, then Stay Away. Ethiopia is an ancient nation with a rich diverse culture, it has never been colonized: this fact is a source of great pride to Ethiopians, who are a deeply proud people, they will “never bow down” as one protestor put it, not to terrorists or modern-day colonialists, not now, not ever.

Saving Our Planet Requires Systemic and Behavioural Change

The natural environment has been poisoned, vandalized and trashed in accordance with the demands and values of the all-pervasive socio-economic system, and as long as it persists it is impossible to imagine the steps required to save the natural world being taken. Economic considerations and short term self-interest will continue to be applied and the devastation will continue.
Neo-liberalism is an extreme form of capitalism, like its founding ideology but darker, even more unjust and brutal. It sees every aspect of life – waterways, forests, the air, people, you name it – as a potential product to be exploited, profited from, drained of all value and discarded. The “free market” (does such a thing exist, anywhere?), and its power to regulate supply and demand, is a cornerstone, as is competition and private ownership of everything, including health care, education, even prisons. Whatever area, the aim is the same, maximize production limit costs and generate wealth for the business, most importantly the shareholders, no matter the impact on the environment and society.
A value system and integrated way of life has evolved consistent with the ethos of this poisonous ideology: individual ambition – personal success over group well-being; greed or excess; sensory pleasure; materiality; tribal nationalism (strengthened by competition); distrust of others who are different, and a fabrication of individuality. True individuality is impossible within the constraints of the doctrine which demands conformity, assimilates and dilutes creative expression to the mechanics and trends of the machine, and like all ideologies, moves towards crystallisation, maintains itself supreme and claims there are no viable alternatives.
Societies have been fashioned around these ideals and values, as has individual and collective behavior; behavior resulting from conditioned ways of thinking about ourselves, of other people, of the environment and the purpose of life, which, whilst openly undeclared is hinted at from the values promoted: Purpose it says is related to pleasure, sensory gratification and material success; all of which are sold as means to achieving self-happiness and self-fulfillment, without ever questioning what this “self” is.
Such self-centred happiness is derived from pleasure and the quelling of desire, which, as the architects of the system know well, is not possible, because desire is insatiable. This fact is instinctively known, but the messaging to the contrary is relentless and for many, most perhaps, the trials of daily living are so great, the separation from oneself and the natural world so acute, that relief is essential. The diverse and endlessly malleable World of Consumerism provides the means of momentary alleviation: Alcohol, drugs, (legal and illegal), sex, shopping, TV, sport, more shopping, holidays, organised religion, shopping and food. And to excess; greed, ownership of things (homes, cars, clothes etc.), and the general accumulation of stuff is insisted upon, for the simple reason that it is consumerism that feeds the monster. This very same consumerism, which is perpetuating unhappiness and fuelling ill health, is also the underlying cause of the environmental emergency.
It is the irresponsible consumption of animal-based foodstuffs and manufactured goods, many of which are made in the Asiatic world (where the West has outsourced its production-based greenhouse gas emissions), that is driving the crisis.
A massive “if”…
Complacency, ignorance and selfishness have been the principal weapons of environmental destruction wielded by western governments, big business and the rich for decades. Adopted now by nations in other parts of the world, the global environmental impact has been devastating, in many cases catastrophic: destroying ecosystems, massacring animal life, poisoning the air and water, draining the soil of all goodness and disrupting natural climate patterns.
In order to stop the carnage and begin to heal the planet, a radical change is needed, not just more pledges and corporate greenwashing; fundamental change in behavior and attitudes that will usher in a kinder, more considerate way of living. The needed values and actions however are incompatible with Neo-Liberal capitalism, or any form of capitalism, and the greedy, selfish behavior that it promotes: cruel modes of living fashioned in rich nations, where the most extreme levels of consumerism occur.
It is not after all the villagers in India, China or Sub-Saharan Africa where rabid consumption is taking place, it’s the rich that are overwhelmingly responsible – the obscenely rich in particular; the private jets, numerous homes, cars, constant travel and piles and piles and piles of things. A study by Oxfam, published in 2015, found that, “Fifty percent of the world’s carbon emissions are produced by the world’s richest 10%, while the poorest half – 3.5 billion people – are responsible for a mere 10%.” In the 25-year period studied (1990-2015), global carbon dioxide emissions rose by 60%, and “the increase in emissions from the richest 1% was three times greater than the increase in emissions from the poorest half” of the world’s population, that’s around 3.6 billion people.
Wrapped in selfishness and protected by governments, it is the really rich, and the corporations (which they own) that own everything and are consuming most of everything. This overindulged, hideously wealthy collective, have benefitted enormously from the socio-economic machine and are extremely resistant to the systemic change that is needed if, and at this stage it’s a massive “if”, the natural world and all that lives within it, is to be saved.
The structural limitations (financial, political, social) and behavioral expectations of the Ideology of Greed and Exploitation, prohibit the needed changes taking place within the time frame required, hence the perpetual procrastination, excuses and delays, even as the planet burns. The inherent constraints and relentless demands – to consume, to exploit, to compete, to divide – run completely contrary to the needs of the environment, and indeed the health of humanity; sacrifice is required, it is not possible to have our materialistic consumer filled cake and eat it; sacrifice of a materialistic way of life that has resulted in divided societies of unhappy anxious people and the destruction of the natural world.
Last year, as with each year during the previous decade, global greenhouse gas emissions were the highest ever recorded; this, despite an economic quietening resulting from Covid restrictions and high levels of awareness of the environmental emergency throughout the world. As COP26 draws to an unimpressive close, governments haggle over emission targets, funding of fossil fuels and money for the global south, and a new poll reports that most people (in the 10 countries polled, including UK, US, Germany, France) say they are unwilling to alter their way of life to save our planet. We must once again ask, what will it take for humanity to wake up and change?
For the environmental emergency to be faced with the intensity needed, and healing to occur, a dramatic shift is required. A systemic shift, together with a fundamental change in attitudes, values and behavior, particularly among those living in the rich nations. A shift away from complacency and selfishness towards responsibility, cooperation and simplicity of living; united action rooted in love, as Elizabeth Wathuti (youth climate activist,) from Kenya told COP26 in her wonderful speech,“please open your hearts….care deeply and act collectively.”

Discontent by Design: The Lost World of the West

A cursory glance at the ‘State of the World’ reveals what a mess things are: from the environmental emergency and war to injustice and poverty, a tightly woven man-made mess of interconnected issues, unprecedented in scale.
The greatest crisis of all, however, is humanity, and the culture that we, specifically ‘The West’, have built and are wedded to. The Culture of Pleasure sits tightly within and feeds the pervasive Ideology of Consumerism, a socio-economic model that has poisoned the environment and led to the commodification of everything, and everyone.
While there are counter trends with people living simpler, more responsible lives, broadly speaking humanity is immersed in the world of pleasure, and has lost its way. Our ancient connection to and respect for the planet has gone, as has relationship with others and with ourselves – with who and what we essentially are; the mystery and wonder of life has been trampled on in the race to consume, to achieve, to ‘succeed’.
This fundamental estrangement and the resulting sense of isolation lies at the root of many of our problems, and is particularly potent in western societies. It’s here that disassociation, exploitation and separation were pioneered and championed, and, thanks to the power of cultural imperialism and the reach of money, such reductive, divisive ideas have been exported around the globe. Almost every country has been affected, or should we say infected – often on the back of aid (glorified loans in exchange for access, e.g.) – ancient cultures subverted, communities dismantled under the suffocating weight of homogenization and the divisive ‘values’ of the market.
As the present civilization crumbles before our eyes, the levels of illness — physiological, psychological, sociological and ecological — expand and intensify, and humanity stumbles, bewildered and frightened from day to day; crashing from one crisis to another, applying outdated inadequate methods, which solve nothing and intensify much.
Instead of acknowledging the fact and acting to bring about real change, meaning a shift in thinking, in attitudes and values, the widespread response to this collective chaos is, perhaps understandably, to seek immediate satiation, distraction and pleasure. To cling to anything that creates or has previously created a sense of stability or relief, no matter how fleeting. Sentimentality reigns in such a shallow, fearful world where meaning has evaporated, and short term, immediate satisfaction is all that matters.
Empty and afraid, contemporary western societies, and regions infected by said nations’ ideals, have become more and more dependent upon pleasure as the ‘end’ for all ‘means’, the thing to work towards and for; the reason for living. And although it may provide a momentary escape from misery, pleasure and sensory gratification is devoid of substance and offers nothing of lasting value. In fact, far from creating happiness, it fuels frustration and discontent by design.
Desolation and division
An essential element in the consumerist drama of greed and ecological destruction, during The Covid pleasure’s hold on humanity has intensified, as has sentimentality: the pleasure and debilitating comfort of clawing sentimentality. In many societies the pursuit of pleasure has become an obsession. Sold as the elixir to internal emptiness and misery, pleasure has replaced essential happiness, which is a natural non-dependent state inherent within all people. As a result, our societies have become increasingly shallow and discontented, frightened, lacking meaning. Lost.

An essential ingredient in both the Culture of Pleasure and consumerism is desire. Constantly agitated by the media in order to maintain discontent and the itch for experiences and stuff, desire can be seen masquerading as love – remember love? Frequently referred to in sermons, speeches, novels, songs and the like, and cherished as an ideal, love has become increasingly irrelevant. Relegated to the sidelines of society, remembered in a maudlin fashion, but in a world of instant gratification, greed and nationalism, love is not taken seriously as a living principle animating all aspects of society; a powerful force driving right action.

Where is love within the socio-political constructs and the policies of governments, within which we are forced to live and function? There isn’t any, or none worth noting, and how can there be peace, social justice and equality without love? Acts of community kindness, which may well be prompted by love, still exist of course. But displays of social responsibility and environmental action, positive and encouraging as these are, are a meagre measure of love as we allow the planet to burn, wars to rage, refugees to drown in the Mediterranean or some other Sea; children to die of starvation and covid vaccines to be hoarded in their millions by rich nations too mean to share.
These and countless other unloving acts are perpetuated every day in our divided, cruel world. Actions, and in many cases inaction, sanctioned by a culture rooted in selfishness, division and the relentless pursuit of pleasure. It is within this facile destructive web that humanity finds itself; lost, and far from home, which is a frightening disorientating place to be. From this fragmented position decisions are made, actions undertaken, individually and collectively, the chaotic results of which are all around us.
If the many external manifestations of this inner turmoil are to be overcome a fundamental reorientation is needed. A revolution of ideals, of values and behavior; a movement (the early signs of which can be sensed and, on a clear day, seen) away from lives governed by desire and the search for pleasure, to modes of living founded on simplicity, sufficiency and responsibility, enabling the creation of societies based on love, and the principles of goodness that flow from love to gradually emerge.

Ethiopia: Assailed by Terrorists and Betrayed by the West

As the new government led by Prime-Minister Ahmed Abiy takes office for their second term, the West’s relentless propaganda campaign against Ethiopia continues. Since the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) attacked the Ethiopian State on 4 November 2020 (the day after President Biden was elected coincidentally), the US and allies, factions within UN agencies and human rights organizations have worked to undermine and discredit the democratically elected government.
Aided by mainstream western media – The Economist, BBC, The Guardian, New York Times, Al Jazeera, Facebook (who, according to former employer now whistleblower, Frances Haugen, is “fanning ethnic violence in Ethiopia”) and others – they have spread misinformation and lies about the situation inside Ethiopia. False accusations that Abiy’s government is deliberately “starving its own people”, “blocking humanitarian aid” from reaching displaced groups and carrying out atrocities in the region are widespread on such platforms.
They receive their information not from Ethiopian journalists working on the ground, or well-informed local people, but, it seems, from statements issued by the US administration, UN agencies, external organizations and TPLF spokespeople. The same material is published or broadcast by each media outlet, more or less. It is consistently untrue and serves to undermine the Ethiopian government, create confusion and strengthen the TPLF’s campaign. What western governments don’t mention, and consistently fail to condemn, are the atrocities perpetrated by the TPLF.
The terrorist group refused to adhere to a government initiated ceasefire in July, advanced into neighboring regions of Afar (from where they have since been ejected by federal forces) and Amhara, massacring civilians, raping, destroying property and crops, killing livestock. Mass graves have been discovered in a number of locations in the Amhara region, where local people relate harrowing accounts of TPLF brutality. And yet the US, UK, EU etc, remain silent.
TPLF’s terrorist subversion
This TPLF force, which includes children and teenagers in its ranks, is not a righteous group tussling with an evil government, or a band of “local guerrilla fighters” as the New York Times described them. The TPLF are the evil force; a vicious terrorist gang, that is trying to overthrow the legitimate government of Ethiopia and with the support of external powers (most notably the US, which many suspect may even be arming them) seize power.
These same countries (US, UK, EU) stood behind the TPLF when it was in office (1991-2018), turning a blind eye as it threw a blanket of fear over the country. They trampled on human rights, divided communities along ethnic lines; siphoned off aid money, embezzled federal funds, buying properties in London and elsewhere. After 27 years in power it is well resourced and well connected, has an organized propaganda machine with certain individuals within certain foreign governments and UN agencies sympathetic to their violent cause.
According to two UN staff members working in Addis Ababa, one of the most influential pro-TPLF voices within the UN is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Ethiopian Director-General of the WHO. A senior member of the TPLF junta (Minister of Health, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, where he was responsible for abducting UK citizen and opposition leader, Andargachew Tsige at Sanaa airport in Yemen), his appointment at the WHO was widely opposed by Ethiopians, who regard him as a criminal.
The whistleblowers make clear that certain elements within the UN, including Dr. Tedros, want to remove the head of the UN in Ethiopia (the Resident Coordinator), Dr. Catherine Sozi, and replace her with “someone who will dance to their tune.” Their “tune” is to subvert the government through an international misinformation campaign that supports the TPLF, and presumably helps facilitate their ascension back into power. Something that, no matter the subterfuge, will never happen.
“When the humanitarian aid effort in Tigray was ramped up many [UN] agencies brought in additional support to be posted in Tigray,” they explained. In an unprecedented step, Emergency Coordinators in the region were instructed to report directly to UN headquarters, cutting out UN staff in Addis, because they “are more sympathetic to and are working with the Ethiopian government”. Dr. Catherine Sozi is reported as saying she has “never seen anything like this”, i.e., local UN reps being sidelined and a direct line of communication being established between Tigray and New York/Geneva. In the interview, the whistleblowers make clear that the “TPLF……. have networks within UN system.”
The Ethiopian government had been aware that the UN inside Ethiopia had been compromised for some time and on 27 September they expelled seven senior UN officials from various agencies. Ethiopia’s permanent representative to the UN, Taye Atske Selassie said his country had found a “multitude of transgressions” by the expelled officials alleging that, “they openly conducted activism for the TPLF.”
In a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ethiopian government accused the expelled UN staff of “Dissemination of misinformation and politicization of humanitarian assistance; Diversion of humanitarian assistance to the TPLF; Violating agreed-upon security arrangements; Transferring communication equipment to be used by the TPLF [and] continued reticence in demanding the return of more than 400 trucks commandeered by the TPLF for military mobilization and for the transportation of its forces since July 2021.” The missive makes clear that such concerns were “brought to the attention of the relevant UN high officials and other international partners on multiple occasions, but to no avail.”
This is a staggering list of offences, a shocking breach of trust that gives an indication of what the Ethiopian government is up against. They are not only fighting the TPLF, which the federal forces are more than capable of dealing with, but are also battling an array of external forces; former allies and friends turned enemies.
Cohesion and pride
Following the expulsion of UN staff, and consistent with their anti-Ethiopia stance since the conflict began, instead of requesting an independent investigation into Ethiopia’s concerns, the US condemned the government’s actions. Secretary of State Blinken issued a press statement in which the US threatened to apply targeted sanctions (authorized by Biden earlier in the month), and called on the international community “to employ all appropriate tools to apply pressure on the Government of Ethiopia and any other actors impeding humanitarian access.”
The “actors impeding humanitarian access” are the TPLF forces, not the government as repeatedly alleged by the US, UN etc. and western media; all pressure should be applied to the terrorists and all support from the “international community”, given to the democratically elected government, as it should have been from the beginning of the conflict. However, far from standing by Ethiopia, as could rightly have been expected, the government and the Ethiopian people have been betrayed by the “international community” – meaning the US and its mates.
The government has repeatedly been “instructed” by Washington and New York to negotiate with the TPLF, which is not acceptable to the government or the people. Even when the government took the positive step of declaring a ceasefire and withdrew its forces, they were criticized.
One reason – probably the main one – for this shameful reaction is the Ethiopian government’s refusal to toe the imperialist line and do what they are told. This outrageous act of defiance by a poor black nation (can we ignore the racist element?), together with the successful construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam – the biggest in Africa, the nation’s proud history of independence (Ethiopia was never colonized) and its importance within the Horn of Africa, which is set to grow, all have infuriated their Western benefactors. Add to this list the influence of the TPLF in Washington, London, Brussels and New York (UN), plus the malignity of international mainstream media, and a cocktail of destabilizing anti-Ethiopia forces emerge.
The collective response to The West’s sustained attack, a betrayal that has shocked and angered many Ethiopians, has been to unite the people and strengthen their resolve against their common enemy, the TPLF. This sense of national cohesion and pride was vibrantly expressed at PM Abiy’s inauguration ceremony on 4 October. Many African leaders were present at the joyful occasion held in the capital, Addis Ababa, under the banner of “A New Beginning”. They saluted PM Abiy’s overwhelming electoral victory (something western governments failed to do) and expressed solidarity with their African neighbor and friend.
The days of imperial rule in Africa are long gone, and, as Ethiopia is demonstrating, and the US is discovering, the time when global powers can tell African nations what to do is also becoming a thing of the past.
Western voices that are supporting the TPLF terrorists, and distorting the situation inside Ethiopia, are complicit in the ongoing violence; the deaths and destruction, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and the nationwide pain and uncertainty that this appalling conflict is causing.

Media Attacked, Journalists Murdered: Democracy Eroded

The media occupies a crucial space within all societies. It always has, but in an uncertain age, dominated by social media with its proliferation of opinions and “facts”, and the trend towards increasingly polarized, controlling governments, it is more important than ever.
In order to serve the interests and needs of the people, media organizations must be ideologically unshackled, financially independent; able to scrutinize and criticize governments and corporations, highlight social injustice, reveal corruption, prejudice and dishonesty, examine the causes of crises and offer solutions. Free and independent media is a cornerstone of democracy, an essential element in the maintenance of civil liberties, and the upholding of human rights, however, research published by the think tank Freedom House (FH) reveals that media freedom has been deteriorating over the past decade, with, “new forms of repression taking hold in open societies and authoritarian states alike.” In Europe, where media freedom has traditionally been strong, “the [controlling] trend is most acute. As well as Eurasia and the Middle East”, including Israel, where, in 2019, ex-PM Benjamin Netanyahu was charged with corruption for offering regulatory advantages to major media in exchange for favorable coverage.
Journalists are under threat and media freedom is being stifled by dictatorial regimes (whose number is growing), curtailed by manipulative governments (autocratic, democratic, and professing democratic) that routinely distort the truth or blatantly lie, and undermined by corporate influence. Mainstream media (BBC News, Fox, CNN, national newspapers etc.) is the primary area of concern. This is where most people, often unconsciously, ingest their news and information, as the TV or radio drones on in the background, or on the bus, train or tube/metro via a free tabloid.
Investigative journalism, which is regarded as expensive and messy by corporate owners and public broadcasters, is increasingly rare; media outlets are overly dependent on Government press briefings, leaders’ comments or remarks/assertions from international bodies. Statements that steal the headlines and are repeated endlessly on national airwaves (with subtitles), psychologically conditioning the public, coloring the way events and global crises are understood. Bending information, influencing public opinion, corrupting or slanting “facts” with a loud title, a statistic, tone of voice or inference, to support the corporate position or Government/ideological view.
Good to bad to very bad
Shocking, but perhaps unsurprising data from FH suggests that only 13% of the world’s population enjoys a free press. In part this dark statistic is due to China and India, which account for around a third of the global population, and are both media suppressive; totally for China, which is now throwing a heavy shadow over Hong Kong as well as the mainland, and increasingly so in India (ranked 142 out of 180 countries on The World Press Freedom Index), where PM Mahendra Modi’s government is overtly heavy handed. Beating up and arresting journalists covering the army occupation of Jammu and Kashmir, and intimidating any outlets/reporters deemed to be critical of the authorities, particularly their handling of Covid.
The annual freedom listing from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) classes (180) countries from good to very bad. Scandinavian countries routinely top the chart, and so it was with in 2020, with Norway leading the way. Germany comes in 13th, the UK 33rd, France 32nd, the USA limps in at 44th. Turkey, Russia and parts of Eastern Europe, such as Hungary (where government allies own around 80 percent of the media) and Poland, wallow dark red in “problematic”, as does Brazil and 51 other countries.
Lower down the murky Ladder of Paranoia, media outlets operate in a dense fog. Described as “bad” – meaning the state controls or owns the press in one form or another, manages access to the internet, and will happily silence anyone attempting to speak out. There are twenty such places of fear and suspicion. Singapore, routinely touted by western politicians as a shiny model of success, slumbers here, and just above Syria and Iran we find America’s Middle-East pal, the Royal Dictatorship of Saudi Arabia (170th), where according to RSF, the “press is completely gagged”. Appearance (not truth or principles) is all in contemporary politics, and while most newspapers in Saudi are privately owned they are subsidized and regulated by the government.
Within these “problematic” and “very bad” territories journalists and media workers who criticize royals, politicians (none of whom it seems can bear criticism) and the like, run the risk of being killed, abducted, beaten. In 2020, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), 66 journalists and media staff were murdered globally, up from 49 in 2019. Mexico, with 14 killings, is the deadliest, followed by Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Philippines and Syria. Deaths of journalists were also recorded in Somalia, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Colombia, Honduras, Paraguay, Russia, Yemen. And a Pakistani journalist, Sajid Hussain, was killed in Sweden, where he had lived since 2018. He fled Pakistan in 2012 after receiving death threats following his work on forced disappearances and human rights abuses in the Baluchistan region of the country. RSF said that, given his controversial reporting, Hussein may well have been killed “at the behest of a Pakistani intelligence agency”.
Particularly shocking was the death of 47year old Russian journalist Irina Slavina, Editor of the Koza Press news website. She died in October after setting herself on fire outside an interior ministry office in the city of Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia (ranked 150/180 countries by RSF).
Intolerance, fear of criticism or of being exposed as corrupt/dishonest, and criminality, underlie the killing of journalists and media workers in these countries and elsewhere; weak judicial systems and corrupt governments allow such crimes to go unpunished.
Methods of political control
In countries where violence is not an acceptable option for silencing pesky journalists, as well as in authoritarian regimes where it is, a variety of methods of control are employed and increasingly so: Regulation of media laws (including defamation law suits); financial pressure; internet shut-downs and cyber bullying; low pay, poor working conditions; the pursuit of profit and/or political advantage over journalistic integrity, and the inhibiting impact of hostile sections of the public towards the media, particularly the so-called “liberal” media. Police intimidation; arresting and imprisoning journalists without a fair trial; the (government facilitated) concentration of media ownership, which places excessive power in the hands of individuals, corporations, governments, or political authorities.
The aim of all such measures and patterns is to ensure that the media serves power (political and corporate) rather than the public. The effect is stifling and deeply concerning, however the broader impact on democracy is even more dangerous; many democracies are under attack, experiencing a decline of political rights and curtailing of civil liberties – something Covid has further strengthened.
Such onslaughts are symptomatic of a broader reactionary trend – a conservative retrenchment arising in opposition to the impulse towards unity, social justice, and freedom in all its forms (including media freedom), that is sweeping the world. This is the preeminent movement of the age. Its inclusive qualities of synthesis, tolerance and cooperation, are diametrically opposed to the divisive, repressive ideals that are fueling, among other things, the control of the media.
As we gradually, and somewhat painfully, transition out of the old and into a new and as yet undefined time, the fight between these opposing forces and the struggle for freedom and justice will continue, and intensify. It is a fight being played out in all areas: between inclusive values which rest firmly within the hearts of many and a pernicious set of fear-ridden ideals that would perpetuate a misguided way of living rooted in separation that has created unhealthy societies and poisoned the planet.
Social justice and freedom in all its forms, including media freedom, are at the core of the fight; a fight that will be won by advocates of “the good” taking action, relentlessly calling out repression, shining a light on corruption and duplicity and highlighting acts that limit freedom and erode justice.

Ethiopia:TPLF terrorism expands, civilians massacred
As the armed conflict between Ethiopia and the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) enters a new phase, Ethiopians are uniting against their common enemy. The TPLF is not a group of freedom fighters standing up for the downtrodden; they are a terrorist insurgent force waging a war against a sovereign state. Murdering, raping, destroying property and the lives of Ethiopians, the TPLF is a cancer that for decades has thrown a suffocating shadow of fear and division over the country, a cancer that must be cut out totally if Ethiopia is to flourish.
For 27 years they were the dominant force within a so-called coalition government. Corrupt and brutal, the TPLF stole election after election, trampled on human rights, embezzled federal funds and aid money and committed State Terrorism in various regions of the country. Administering a policy of Ethnic Federalism, they ruled through fear, divided the people along ethnic lines and are widely hated by most Ethiopians.
In 2018, after sustained public protests, they were ousted. However, after such a long period in power their divisive methodology and ideals still have influence. Senior members retreated to their Tigray heartland after losing office, regrouped, plotted, and waited for an opportunity to rise up against the government.
On 4 November 2020 they attacked the Ethiopian National Defense Forces Base in the northern region of Tigray. They killed soldiers, took control of the military’s Northern Command in Mekelle (capital of Tigray) and raided federal armories. This act of terrorism, set in motion an armed conflict in the northern region of Tigray; a fight the TPLF had been itching for, which has now spread into the neighboring region of Ahmara.
Thousands have died, combatants and civilians; claims of rape and sexual violence are widespread; tens of thousands have been displaced, homeless and hungry, with large numbers, frightened and distressed, making their way to camps in neighboring Sudan.
The TPLF’s brutal actions should be condemned unreservedly by foreign governments, particularly Ethiopia’s major donors. But, far from standing with the government, the US, UK and EU have consistently supported the terrorists, circulating misinformation, making false claims against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, his government and Ethiopian forces.
Civilians Massacred
In an attempt to stop the killing and defuse the situation, on 28 June, the Government declared a “unilateral humanitarian ceasefire” and withdrew its forces from Tigray. In response, the TPLF marched into the regional capital and issued a series of outlandish conditions for complying: They demanded the release of all Tigray political prisoners (imprisoned for atrocities committed over many years), falsely accused Prime Minister Abiy of starting the war, and claimed that Tigrayans “have been subjected to…genocide and ethnic cleansing”. Federal forces are fighting the TPLF not the people of Tigray. But, as a result of the TPLF instigated conflict, civilians in Tigray have been severely impacted.
Unrelenting, obdurate, Tigray forces, which have now combined with another extremist group, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), have ignored the ceasefire and continued their attack on Ethiopia, moving into the Afar and Amhara regions bordering Tigray. Death, destruction and chaos is left in their wake with distressing reports of civilian killings, rapes, kidnapping and robbery. Homes are destroyed, office buildings, including Kabele (local government) headquarters vandalized, documents burnt, water and electricity supplies cut, Churches and schools damaged or demolished, cattle killed, crops destroyed.
Over 200 civilians were killed in Afar including more than 100 children, according to UNICEF, and around 300,000 were displaced. Federal forces have now driven the aggressors out of this region. In Deber Tabor in Ahmara, the main hospital was attacked and homes destroyed. A local resident, Mr. Deres Nega told Ethiopian media how his wife, children and friends had been killed by the TPLF. His life has been torn apart. His agony is being repeated throughout the area, his pain is the pain of a nation, a pain that has but one cure, the eradication of the TPLF.
Over 200 km north of Deber Tabor, in Chena Teklehaymanot, mass graves were recently discovered containing 124 bodies, many more people (over 100) are missing feared dead. Witnesses state that the TPLF went house to house and slaughtered men, women, children, even priests (revered throughout Ethiopia) were killed. The massacre, which has been confirmed by Gizachew Muluneh, Director of Communications for the Amhara Regional State, is but one atrocity in a series of coordinated assaults by the TPLF since the government ceasefire. Getachew Shiferaw, a leading Ethiopian activist, relates that, “Civilians were massacred [by the TPLF] in Woldia, Kobo, Alamata, Lalibela, Abergele, Maytemri, Gaint, Gashena and Mersa, among others towns.” He warns that, “Chena is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed’s press secretary, has said that TPLF atrocities in Ahmara “were carried out to avenge the military loss the clique suffered by federal and state troops,” as its fighters were routed from Afar. The government believes the Chena massacre was carried out by “the TPLF’s Samri youth group”, who are also thought to be responsible for killing over 1,000 civilians in “the town of Maikadra…last November.” After which they escaped to Sudan and hid in a UNHCR refugee camp.
Such brutal attacks, which are consistently ignored by western governments (who know very well what is actually happening) and prominent mainstream media, are forcing the Ethiopian government, until now relatively restrained, to respond and mobilize its forces. Ethiopia’s foreign ministry recently said the TPLF was pushing the government to “change its defensive mood which has been taken for the sake of the unilateral humanitarian ceasefire,” and that unless (government) overtures for a peaceful resolution were reciprocated, “Ethiopia could deploy the entire defensive capability of the state.”
The government, which has been weak on law and order enforcement, cannot simply sit back and allow the TPLF to murder civilians. They must respond swiftly and decisively, including, if necessary, deploying the air force, something they are reluctant to do because of potential civilian casualties.
Malicious foreign forces
Since the conflict began the Ethiopian government has been battling, not just the terrorists, but malicious foreign forces and misleading information from western governments and mainstream media – the BBC, CNN, New York Times, Facebook etc. The US, which is widely believed to be indirectly arming the TPLF, have led the misinformation campaign, and appear (together with the UK and EU) to have sanctioned the TPLF’s attack on Ethiopia.
To its utter shame the Biden administration (and UK and EU) has failed to condemn the TPLF attacks, and has undermined the Ethiopian government from the outset. They repeatedly call for reconciliation (thereby legitimizing the terrorists), and instruct PM Ahmed to negotiate with the TPLF, which is not only unacceptable to the government, but to the vast majority of Ethiopians, who liken the TPLF to a pack of hyenas, pointing out the impossibility of negotiating with wild animals.
In response to their international backers’ call for ‘negotiations’ the TPLF drafted a list of preposterous demands for any such talks. Among other fantasies, they wanted PM Ahmed to step down and be replaced with one of their own, and a power-sharing arrangement introduced. This would amount to the overthrow (with US backing) of a democratically elected government: The Prosperity Party (a party of national unity founded by Abiy) has a huge mandate, taking 410 out of 436 seats in the June 2020 general election. The formation of a new government, which will include opposition parties, is expected by the end of September/early October, and is eagerly awaited.
As these malicious foreign forces seek to destabilize Ethiopia for their own corrupt geo-political reasons, and the TPLF commit atrocity after atrocity, the Ethiopian people are laying aside long held divisions (largely caused by TPLF policies) and coming together, standing shoulder to shoulder with their brothers and sisters against the poison of the terrorists and the Imperial arrogance of America and Co.
While this is unquestionably a deeply troubling moment for Ethiopia, at the same time there is cause for celebration and real optimism: The staging of the first democratic elections in the country’s long and rich history was a major achievement, as was the second filling of The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (the largest dam in Africa) reservoir. These, along with the imminent formation of a new and democratically elected government, are unifying national events. Significant developments which the Ethiopian people can take great pride in as they unite against the TPLF/OLA terrorists. Destructive groups, which must be purged from the country completely and utterly if peace and social harmony are to be established, and the needed work of national transformation is to go ahead.

Complacency Rules: Consumerism and the Environment

The 16 Year Old, middle class, privileged, argues that meat and other animal produce are essential for his health, his ability to play sport, and the development of his adolescent brain; besides, one person becoming vegetarian/vegan, won’t make any difference to the environmental crisis.
The total failure to respond in any meaningful way to the environmental emergency rests firmly within the boundaries of such complacency. It can be found in all areas, from politicians and corporate board rooms to small businesses, NGO’s and community groups, education institutions, homes, and, apparently, some teenagers.
Complacency and the refusal to change individual behavior and collective ways of living are stoking the underlying cause of the crisis – Consumerism. Irresponsible Compulsive Consumption, as habitually practiced by populations in the rich nations, principally and excessively by the wealthy, but to a lesser degree throughout all sections of society.
Consumerism is the bedrock of the prevailing socio-economic system and materialistic way of life. Sold duplicitously as the Path to Happiness and Contentment it has poisoned the planet and created unhealthy societies of divided, insecure individuals. Inherent within the Ideology of Division is a methodology and set of values that encourage selfishness, greed and complacency. Sufficiency, cooperation and social responsibility, all essential if the environmental crisis is to be met, whilst routinely spouted by politicians and the like are thin on the ground or, more often than not, totally absent.
The environment cannot wait
Governments and businesses are completely invested in maintaining high levels of consumption; their profitability and continued existence depend on it. Indeed, far from prioritizing the environment and working to change societal behavior and deter individuals from spending, huge resources are expended to persuade and encourage consumption; to expand market share, develop new products and increase profits for shareholders.
It is this poisonous Ideology of Profit, which, in direct contrast to the needs of the environment for simplicity of living, collectivity and sharing, perpetuates, not just rampant consumerism, but widespread apathy and inaction. Governments talk a concerned environmental talk, but policies are determined by economic growth and voters’ concerns rather than CO2 emissions, pollution, or bio-diversity. And most companies, particularly big ones, routinely demonstrate that they don’t give a damn about the environment, unless by doing so sales increase and their annual dividends rise.
The environment cannot wait until governments and business judge that going “green” is more profitable or popular than the destructive status quo, before they act in a responsible manner. It is their insatiable thirst for power and profit, and their deep attachment to the Ideology of Greed – because, while the majority suffer, it has served them very well, that allows collective complacency to persist, and complacency (not money) is the root of all evil.
The final leg in the trinity of environmental neglect is formed by Ignorance or Misinformation. Ignorance of how individual choices impact on the natural environment; Ignorance of the depth and scale of the crisis and Ignorance of the impact of diet on the planet. Such ignorance and lack of awareness exist due to decades of government negligence in countries everywhere (some more some less). This could be changed with a UN coordinated public awareness campaign; a global project designed to make plain the relationship between consumer based lifestyles (including animal agriculture) and environmental destruction/climate change.
Unmitigated mess
While it is true that only governments and business can make the needed large scale changes (fossil fuels to renewables, electrification of transportation networks, green production methods etc), individuals can make a valuable impact, and when individuals act collectively large-scale change can be accomplished.
Ultimately ‘we’ are the problem. It is our obsessive ignorant behavior, our complacency, greed and selfishness that has poisoned the planet. And it is up to all of us to act in the most comprehensive way possible to begin to clean up the unmitigated mess we have caused. We are all only ‘one person’, but every day we have a choice, every time we eat, or shop, or travel: Are our actions, our choices and decisions responsible or harmful, is the way we individually live detrimental to the planet or not?
Diet is one area everyone can look at; reducing the intake of animal produce or, better still, moving to a plant-based diet is the single most important step most individuals can take. In some countries there are encouraging signs that people are waking up to this fact, and the number of vegetarians/vegans, particularly among young people, is growing. And according to the Vegetarian Resource Group (US), providing a varied diet is followed, all their nutritional needs can be adequately met. In fact, various detailed studies show that, vegetarians are at lower risk of a variety of diseases and conditions, including: heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, (conversely, The World Health Organization has classified red and processed meats as cancer-causing), and obesity. And according to Walter Willett at Harvard School of Public Health, “There is strong evidence that a plant based diet [vegan] is the optimal diet for living a long and healthy life.”
So, cutting out animal produce is not only good for the environment, it’s good for human health. Despite this, globally only some 8% of people identify as vegan, vegetarian, or something in between. Meaning 92% of the 7.8 billion world population consume meat, fish, poultry and all manner of dairy. The environmental result of this obsession is disastrous and multi-faceted.
Animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), which are the poisons disrupting natural climate rhythms. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization’s (UNFAO) put the figure at 14.5% of total emissions, but estimates vary, some studies suggesting it’s a good deal higher: Greenpeace e.g. say that, “Livestock and animal feed is responsible for approximately 60% of direct global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”
Whatever the precise number, animal agriculture is clearly a major source, if not the greatest source of emissions (surpassing the transportation industry); it’s also the biggest cause (80%) of deforestation, habitat destruction and species extinction, contributing to soil erosion and water contamination. And its driven by the incessant demand for meat, dairy and fish.
A revolution in behavior and values is needed, moving away from excess to sufficiency, from selfishness to group responsibility, from complacency to action. Education and awareness plus a sense of imperative are the keys to igniting such a shift and generating urgent action. Action by government and businesses and action by us, all of us, particularly those of us living in developed nations where the historic burden for the catastrophe rests; action rooted in love, demonstrated as social and environmental responsibility undertaken by each and every one of us.

The Poison of Nationalism

Once upon a time Nationalism was an ideology reserved for extremists. But in recent years it has moved from the irrelevant fractious fringes to become a central movement in western politics. Rooted in fear, it feeds on tribal instincts and has become mainstream by offering oversimplified explanations to complex problems, such as poverty and immigration.
The ideal of a post-cold war tolerant world where resources (including food and water), are shared equitably, governments cooperate and borders soften has been usurped by rabid intolerance and racism, wall building, flag waving, cruel unjust immigration policies and violent policing of migrants and migrant routes. Rather than addressing issues and tackling underlying causes the ardent nationalist blames some group or other, ethnic, religious or national.
Love, distorted but potent, and hate sustain the monster: Love and corrupted pride of nation and ‘our way of life’, seen among the flag wavers as somehow superior; hatred of ‘strangers’, and hatred of change to that which is familiar. It is an insular reactionary movement of introspection and division based on false and petty notions of difference: skin color, religion, language, culture, even food.
Such prejudices lead to an agitation of suspicion and hatred of ‘foreigners’. National interests are favored over international responsibilities; minorities and refugees insulted, abused or worse. Covid has intensified such vile human tendencies, and highlighted what were already strained relations with ‘outsiders’ – those that are different — with ‘the other’.
People of Asian appearance have been victimized in various countries, most notably the US, Australia and Britain; trapped in refugee camps, asylum seekers/migrants have been forgotten, and vaccine nationalism, the “me first approach”, with wealthy western countries buying up vaccines, has been widespread. As a result of this injustice, while the rich will have their populations vaccinated by late 2021, developing countries (relying on the inadequate COVAX scheme) are looking at mass vaccination by the end of 2023, if ever. It is a moral outrage that flows from and strengthens ideas of global separation, enflames resentment and will prolong the virus.
Central to the fear inducing nationalist program is reductive national identities and cultural images tightly packaged in ‘the flag’. Described as “primordial rag[s] dipped in the blood of a conquered enemy and lifted high on a stick” (in Flags Through the Ages and Across the World by Whitney Smith), national flags evolved from battle standards and means of group identification held aloft during the Middle Ages. They are loved by nationalists who always believe their country to be ‘the greatest on Earth’, their people the strongest and the ‘best’, their way of life superior.
Such ignorant, meaningless and completely false ideas have become common elements of political rhetoric. Politicians (of all colors) in many, if not all western democracies, believe they must reinforce such crass sentiments, or face losing populist support, being attacked as ‘enemies of the people’ – as High Court Judges were in Britain during the Brexit fiasco, or labelled ‘traitors’.
Torrents of abuse
There are various interconnected threads to and expressions of Nationalism, from the political realm to mainstream and social media, popular culture to education. This suffocating network strengthens discrimination and prejudice of all kinds, including racism. During the recent Euro ’21 tournament black England players who had missed penalties in the final were subject to a torrent of abuse online. The same England ‘fans’ booed opposition teams singing national anthems and their own team, when they ‘took the knee’ before matches; a universal non-political act of solidarity that UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel disparagingly described as “gesture politics”.
She was later (rightly) accused of “stoking the fires of racism”, by refusing to endorse the players’ actions. Her new widely condemned immigration policy, has also given license to nationalist bigots and racists. Some of them have recently been recorded hurling abuse from the beaches of southern England at refugees in boats crossing the English Channel.
Irresponsible nationalist politicians like Patel (and the world is full of them), thick with ideology and ambition, are dogmatic in their beliefs and concerned solely with getting and retaining power. To this narcissistic end they employ the inflammatory rhetoric of nationalism – ‘our country’, ‘this great nation of ours’, ‘controlling immigration’, and ‘the flag’. Predictable and crude methods used to cajole the slumbering masses and agitate their tribal tendencies.

In order to strengthen their nationalist credentials presidents, politicians and military men and women, adorn themselves with the national emblem: embossed badges, a trend led by the US, who are flag-waving world leaders, and at press briefings/interviews they are rarely seen without a flag at their side – two, where there were none pre-Covid, in the case of the totally inept UK Government, desperate one suspects to shift the focus away from their homicidal management of the pandemic, and the calamity that is Brexit Britain. The flag is not in itself the problem, but its growing use is a powerful sign of the unabated rise of nationalism, a trend that with the fall of Trump, many had hoped was in decline.

Unifying acts of kindness
Nationalism grows out of fear, it feeds hate, leads to violence, and creates a climate of ‘us’ and ‘them’, indeed it thrives and is dependent upon such divisions. The stranger, the foreigner, refugee, asylum seeker or migrant is targeted. Blamed for the country’s ills, slandered as criminals, rapists, murderers. Accused of stealing jobs, draining health care services, degrading housing, corrupting the pristine national culture with their vile, primitive habits and beliefs.
In this way the ‘stranger’ becomes dehumanized, making it possible to abuse and mistreat him or her in varying degrees: From verbal insults on the street, the workplace or in the classroom to violent assault; detained in offshore prisons (Australia), imprisoned for years without charge (Guantanamo e.g.), housed in inhumane conditions in refugee camps, detention centers and/or temporary housing, or allowed to drown in the Mediterranean, North Sea and elsewhere.
Such atrocities are all fine, because the men women and children who are being mistreated constitute the ‘them’. ‘They’ are the enemy, the destroyer of civilisation and decency, less than human, even the children, and as such they deserve it. And the further away such ‘strangers’ are kept the easier it is to perpetuate the demonisation myth, maintain suspicion and strengthen hate. Conversely as Joe Keohane makes clear in The power of strangers: the benefits of connecting in a suspicious world, “connecting with strangers helps to dispel partisanship and categorical judgements, increase social solidarity and make us more hopeful about our lives.” Mistrust of ‘strangers’ is strengthened by division and dispelled by contact; by sharing a moment, by acts of kindness – given and received, in which our common humanity is acknowledged.
Nationalism poisons the mind and the society and must be rooted out. Despite the apparent signs to the contrary, it is completely at odds with the tone of the times, which is towards unity – greater cooperation, tolerance and understanding. It is in reaction to this unifying movement that the demon of nationalism has risen; it is cruel, ugly and extremely dangerous and must be countered by unifying acts of kindness and compassion wherever it is seen.
If the unprecedented crises confronting humanity – environmental emergency, displacement of people, poverty and armed conflict – are to be faced, mitigated and overcome, individuals, communities, businesses and governments must increasingly come together, agree methods and global policies and build united integrated societies founded on compassion. Given the unprecedented scale and range of the issues, particularly climate change and the broader environmental calamity, there is no alternative.

Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: A Unifying Peoples Project

With a population of 118 million (expected to top 200 million by the end of 2049) Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa. 70% (c.80 million) are under thirty, the median age being just 20.
The majority of people live in rural areas where infrastructure is poor or non-existent: around 67 million are currently without electricity; for millions of others (including in the capital, Addis Ababa) the supply is inconsistent, with frequent power cuts, 62 million, according to the WHO Joint Monitoring Programme, do not have access to safe drinking water (7.5% of the global water crisis is in Ethiopia); farmers are routinely hit by floods or drought, millions are food insecure.
In an attempt to address these basic needs, some would say rights, in 2011, Ethiopia revised plans first drawn up in the 1950s, and began constructing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Owned by the Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation (EEPCO), the $5 billion “Peoples’ Project” has been largely funded by the Ethiopian government through the sale of government bonds, together with donations from Ethiopian citizens together with an initial investment by China of around 30%.
Situated in the western region of Benishangul-Gumuz (about 40 km from the Sudan border) on the Blue Nile, the dam is 80% complete, and to the jubilation of Ethiopians everywhere the reservoir has been part filled (in 2020 5 billion m3 – total capacity is 74 billion m3) for the second year in succession.
The GERD is the biggest hydroelectric dam in Africa (the seventh largest in the world), it harnesses water from the Blue Nile and will provide millions of Ethiopians with secure electricity and a reliable water supply. The Blue Nile is the major tributary of The Nile: it flows from Lake Tana (the largest lake in Ethiopia) in the Ethiopian Highlands and supplies 86% of the great river’s water. Despite this fact, it is Egypt and Sudan that use almost the entire flow.
Since its inception, Egypt and Sudan, with political support from the U.S., Britain and Co., have attempted to derail the project and maintain their historic control over the Nile, which both countries depend on. In the early days there was even talk, by Egyptian leaders, of war, and in March 2021, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi stated hyperbolically: “No one can take a drop of water from Egypt… If it happens, there will be inconceivable instability in the region that no one could imagine. This is not a threat.” To their credit the Ethiopian government, which holds all the Nile cards, has ignored such inflammatory rhetoric, and persevered with the work of construction. When the project was first announced in 2011 the Ethiopian government invited Egypt and Sudan to form an International Panel of Experts (IPoE) to understand the benefits, costs and impacts of the GERD. The recommendations made by the IPoE, however, were not adopted.
For decades, access to and control of the life-giving waters of The Nile has been governed by various unfair agreements dating back to British colonial rule (Egypt and Sudan were both British colonies). 1902, 1929 and 1959 agreements all gave control of the Nile to Egypt and Sudan, primarily Egypt. The 1959 agreement allocated 75% of the total flow of the Nile to Egypt and 25% to Sudan, and nothing at all to Ethiopia, not a drop.
Enraged by these lop-sided, antiquated “agreements” in May 2010, the upstream states of the Nile (including Ethiopia) signed a Cooperative Framework Agreement pronouncing the 1959 Treaty dead in the water, and claiming rights to more of the river’s bounty. Egypt and Sudan, unwilling to share what they had hoarded for decades, refused to sign. As a result of this intransigence no mutually acceptable agreement between upstream and downstream countries exists, and Egypt and Sudan worried, they say, about water security, have consistently argued against the project.
Egypt in particular has been pushing for a legally binding agreement on the operation of the GERD and the filling of the reservoir. At the request of Tunisia the matter was recently heard at the UN Security Council (UNSC), a completely inappropriate forum for such a topic: the Security Council is set up to establish and maintain international peace and security (something it has serially failed to do), not intervene in development issues, and the GERD is a development project. Negotiations are set to continue under the auspices of the African Union, and early signs are more positive. Ethiopia’s willingness to work towards an agreement (not a legal requirement) is in itself an act of goodwill, and augers well. Any agreement must reject totally the colonial constructs and recognize that Ethiopia has a right to utilize the natural resources that lie within its territory, a right that has been denied for generations.
A vital resource
The GERD is badly needed, it will play a significant part in reducing poverty and transforming the country. Among the many potential benefits to Ethiopia, it will quadruple the amount of electricity produced, providing millions of people with access to electricity for the first time while allowing surplus electricity to be exported to neighbouring states, generating national income. It will provide clean water, which will lower the spread of illness, provide decent drinking water to those who currently have none, and irrigate 1.2 million acres of arable land – helping to create successful harvests, therefore reducing or eliminating food shortages.
All dams have an impact on the natural environment and surrounding ecosystems, and the GERD is no exception. However, while solar and wind are the ideal, hydroelectric dams are preferable to nuclear or fossil fuel power plants and the broader positive effects are potentially substantial. Without electricity, millions of people burn wood or dry dung to cook with. This causes de-forestation and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as respiratory illnesses. As electricity is generated and supplied, these practices, which are embedded in many communities and have been followed for generations, can be dropped, resulting in a decrease in GHG emissions, the revitalization of natural habitat, and enable dung to be used as a fertilizer by farmers.
The dam will also help manage the impact of climate change by providing consistent water flow. Not only for Ethiopia, but also for downstream countries (particularly Sudan) that are frequently hit by drought or flooding. As Meles Zenawi (Ethiopian PM when construction began) said, “when the dam becomes operational, communities all along the riverbanks and surrounding areas, particularly in Sudan, will be permanently relieved from centuries of flooding.”
The GERD is rightly a source of national pride, a unifying symbol in a dangerously divided country and an essential resource if the country is to move into a new phase of economic and social development. Its successful completion is a significant achievement, and reaffirms Ethiopia’s place as a major regional power, not just within the Horn of Africa, but the continent as a whole. Once the dam is fully operational, Ethiopia will once again become a beacon of hope and empowerment to other nations in Africa, many of which have lived under the shadow of poverty, conflict and external control for far too long.
A powerful Ethiopia however, is something neither Egypt or “the West”, meaning the U.S. and her allies, welcome. Ethiopia has been a thorn in their imperialist side for centuries; never colonized by force, fiercely proud and independent with a rich diverse culture. An example to nations throughout the continent, Ethiopia and the Ethiopian flag have long been a symbol of defiance for other African countries, many of which incorporated the colors of the Ethiopia flag (red, yellow, and green) into their own.
This is a crucial moment in Ethiopia’s long history; the country has just staged its first democratic elections, which should be seen as extremely positive, but millions are displaced and armed conflicts in Tigray and elsewhere continue. Ethiopians are faced with a choice: unite and prosper or withdraw into ethnic rivalries and fall into further conflict and discord. While there are those inside and outside the country that are fanning the flames of division, hatred and fear, the vast majority yearn for peace and social harmony. It is these voices that must prevail if this wonderful country is to flower once again.

“Stop Interfering”: Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election

Despite ongoing violence in the northern region of Tigray, persistent attempts to de-rail the process and cries of catastrophe by western powers (most notably the US) and mainstream media, on the 21 June Ethiopia conducted its first ever democratic elections.
The mechanics of the election were not perfect, but crucially there were no reports of violence and the (independent) National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) claims that turnout was good. Although some opposition parties complained about the voting process (which the NEBE is investigating), African Union observers found that, the elections were “conducted in an orderly, peaceful and credible manner”.
Due to conflict or logistical issues around 20% of the country (100 of 547 constituencies) did not take part, with the exception of Tigray these areas will vote in September. The election is a major milestone in the recent history of the country and the movement towards a more democratic form of governance.
To the surprise of nobody the government (The Prosperity Party), under the leadership of PM Abiy Ahmed, won an overwhelming victory. The full results are yet to be released, but signs suggest the incumbent may have taken all 547 parliamentary seats; however, in a positive move, PM Abiy has said he will invite members of opposition parties to participate in forming a new government. While total dominance is regrettable and unhealthy, it does place responsibility and opportunity firmly with the government, as well as unavoidable accountability.
Meddling Allies
The country is beset with a range of serious problems, the task before the government is daunting, the priorities clear. Firstly and essentially, establishing peace – nothing can be achieved unless the ongoing conflict in Tigray between TPLF forces and the military, and ethnic violence in other areas is brought to an end. The humanitarian fall-out of the Tigray war must be urgently addressed: over 131,000 (according to IOM UN Migration) have been displaced in the region, taking the total number of internally displaced persons to over two million, and millions require food aid.
Overall numbers and intensity of need are disputed; the UN estimates that up to five million people in Tigray are facing starvation, but the Ethiopian government has dismissed such numbers as “alarmist”. Contrary to reports in western media, that federal forces have sabotaged aid convoys, deliveries of food aid made by the World Food Programme (WFO) have been disrupted by TPLF forces inside the region. The deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs, Demeke Mekonen, has said that in the first round of humanitarian response “effort was made to reach out to 4.5 million people in the Tigray region through the delivery of food and non-food items. In the second and third rounds, the relief efforts were able to reach out to 5.2 million people.”
Establishing verifiable, reliable information in a war zone, where access is restricted, is difficult, nigh impossible; it is a mystery how western media and assertive commentators routinely make statements (that circulate and are repeated from one outlet to another until taken as fact) about the situation inside Tigray and other parts of the country without having been there, or in many cases, spoken to people inside the country. A point that is not lost on many Ethiopians.
The African Union (AU) has launched a commission of inquiry into the conflict, and a joint investigation by Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) is also underway. Currently an agreed ceasefire is in place in Tigray and TPLF forces are in control of the regional capital Mekelle. If the people of Tigray want to be governed by the TPLF, as it appears they do, then as PM Abiy has suggested, they will soon see if that is a wise decision.
The welcome lull in fighting may create potential for discussions between the two sides, however distasteful this may be to both government and populace. To the fury of Ethiopians, home and abroad, in addition to sanctions and withholding aid (the US and EU), ‘talks’ are something western powers, most notably the US, have been calling for over past months: In March 2021 Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the House Foreign Relations Committee that “we need to get an independent investigation into what took place there, and we need some kind of…. reconciliation process.” “Reconciliation” with the TPLF, who terrorized the country for 27 years and are rightly despised throughout Ethiopia?
In response to US sanctions and lectures the Ethiopian government said, “if such a resolve to meddle in our internal affairs and undermining the century-old bilateral ties continues unabated, the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia will be forced to reassess its relations with the U.S., which might have implications beyond our bilateral relationship.” The level of condescension and interference displayed by the US and others has angered many Ethiopians.
The TPLF, regarded by the Ethiopian government and much of the populace as terrorists, were, and apparently remain the favored force of western powers. They ruled Ethiopia from 1992 to 2018 under the guise of a coalition , before collapsing under the weight of sustained protests in 2018. A totalitarian, unforgiving regime the TPLF ruled through fear and ethnic division. Corrupt to the core they syphoned off federal funds, divided communities along ethnic lines, committed state terrorism and Crimes against Humanity in a number of regions to a variety of ethnic groups.
Western powers supported the TPLF throughout their violent reign, notably the USA and the UK (with money and political legitimacy), and seem intent on levering them back into office and curtailing Ethiopia’s rise as a regional independent power. ‘Stop interfering in a sovereign state’ is the message loud and clear from Ethiopians of all regions, except Tigrayans; a message delivered at protests in Washington DC and at the recent G7 gathering in Britain that went unreported by mainstream media, who focused their coverage solely on the ‘humanitarian situation’ in Tigray (of which they appear to know little), ignoring the passionate cries against interference.
Mainstream media (including the BBC, CNN, The Guardian – which recently published a widely inaccurate piece about Tigray – Al Jazeera, VOA etc) is rightly regarded as a propaganda tool of western governments. The coverage of the election was broadly negative, slanted to echo the western/US agenda of delay. A key voice in this subversive effort is well known to Ethiopians; Susan Rice was US ambassador to the UN (2009-2013) and Obama’s national security adviser from 2013-2017. She has been ‘advising’, i.e., lobbying the Biden administration on behalf of the TPLF mafia, who she, and Obama, supported. The US (the worlds biggest arms dealer) appears to now be arming the ‘rebels’, via the military dictatorship of Egypt – the primary western voice-piece in the region.
Ethiopia’s potential
Ethiopia is going through a difficult, but potentially exciting time of transition, from serial dictatorship to some form of democracy. A system that observes human rights and allows universal freedoms including freedom of speech, unlike under the TPLF. However, there are a range of disruptive, subversive elements intent on derailing any democratic development, some of which sit firmly within the government and need to be purged. There are also malicious external forces that would see Ethiopia split, and ethnic division run wild: Egypt and Sudan are anxious and, one suspects, shocked by and envious of the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam (the largest in Africa), and of Ethiopia’s potential strength and influence within the region and continent. And, angered by the country’s historic independence – it was never colonized, ejecting the Italians twice, 1896 and 1941 – jealous of its rich, ancient culture (dating to at least 3000BC), and nervous about China’s involvement in the country (and continent), the old European colonial powers and the decaying force of the US, apparently do not want Ethiopia to flourish, and would be happy to keep the country enslaved to western aid, as it was under the TPLF.
As the country attempts to move forward it needs friends, not nominal allies whose actions are corrupted by self-interest, arrogance and resentment; nations (USA, UK and EU chiefly) that stood by for decades watching the TPLF murder, torture and steal, and declared corrupt elections legitimate. Such voices have little credibility in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian people are desperate for change, for peace and stability; they have given The Prosperity Party under the leadership of Abiy Ahmed a huge mandate to govern: as their term in office begins they will be closely watched, by Ethiopians at home and abroad. To unite a country that has been systematically divided over decades will take time, skill and patience. Mistakes will inevitably be made, but if the intent is sound and honesty is demonstrated, trust can be built and divisions will gradually begin to collapse.