Do Ethiopia a Favor, Mr. Tabah — Resign

Jeff Pearce
10 min readFeb 11, 2024

An Open Letter to the Canada’s Ambassador to Ethiopia Joshua Tabah

Dear Mr. Tabah:

Just to be clear, I don’t like you. I’m sure this will hardly bring tears to your eyes, but I do acknowledge that you’re an intelligent, accomplished gentleman, so that despite my open animosity, you’re capable of reasoning your way to the right thing. And the right thing now is for you to quit and go away. You’d gain the crucial respect of millions of Ethiopians who are waiting, indeed, hoping — downright praying — for the imminent day when the regime of Abiy Ahmed falls.

I urge you to quit because you’ve demonstrated that you are worse than useless. True, you were appointed to perpetuate the status quo of Justin Trudeau’s rather gutless policies. Trudeau could keep the warm communication lines going with Abiy, but when the U.S. whistled, Canada’s PM caved on cue, and our country issued a travel advisory during the TPLF war. And when the TPLF was trying to reach Addis and CNN lost its mind and went hysterical, our government nodded like a good little puppy after the U.S. again applied pressure for Canada to evacuate its own citizens.

And of course, Ottawa didn’t raise a stink when the U.S. worked behind the scenes to help create the sham of the Pretoria deal that’s allowed the TPLF to stay in power in Mekelle.

Yep. We all know you’re there to make sure business goes on. Only it can’t, the nation is imploding thanks to the “Mad King” as some have called him, and what Abiy and his partners thought would be a nice efficient ethnic cleansing campaign has turned into another civil war.

This past weekend, people in the capital’s Gedam Sefer/Piazza neighborhood reported how security forces went door-to-door on the pretext of hunting for weapons, which gave them the perfect opportunity to swipe whatever they pleased like thugs. All of this was apparently in anticipation of the opening of the Adwa Museum, a farcical financial black hole that seeks to rewrite the history of Ethiopia’s greatest military triumph and a landmark in the anti-colonial struggle.

Yet more signs of the Abiy regime and its partners in repression resorting to desperate tactics.

Oh, yeah, isn’t the Canadian embassy only a few minutes’ drive from Piazza? And the Adwa Museum? I guess if one opened one’s eyes, one could see exactly what was going on and how bad things are getting. That is, if one wanted to pay attention.

I have my doubts that you, personally, want to. Last week, you posted this video on your Twitter account:

My first question is, Who is this for? Given the appalling laziness of ignorance you show in it, it can’t be for Ethiopians. “This is the ancient capital of Abyssinia,” you say in the video. Only it’s not.

First, because there never was an Abyssinia — that’s the term Europeans used for Ethiopia, a corruption of an ancient name for a specific group of people in the north, Habashat. And just because dumb British, French and Italians kept using it into the 20th century doesn’t make it any more accurate. As early as the fourth century, King Ezana of the Aksumite Empire was replacing the Habashat with “Ethiopia” in an official document for a Greek translation.

But even if we wanted to overlook that big, glaring error, the ancient capital was Aksum in Tigray. Emperor Fasilides didn’t found Gondar until the 1600s.

Before flying out to Addis for your new job, you could have learned such things from a simple investment of $58.72 with a Prime membership on Amazon Canada for a copy of Richard Pankhurst’s The Ethiopians. But I suspect you didn’t, and if you did, you haven’t read the book. You could have picked up a fact or two from even a Lonely Planet Ethiopia guide, but no, you didn’t care enough to do that.

And you were right there in Gondar for crying out loud — in a place which is special to yours truly for its castles and beauty — and you could have had officials and locals educate you. But if they tried, clearly, none of it stuck.

And then you said some asinine things. So, were they said for the sake of reminding your boss in Ottawa that you’re supposedly doing your job? If so, what a shoddy performance.

You said in the video that you heard “grave concerns” about the “ongoing situation” including “the impact that the state of emergency is having on people.” You called on “parties to the conflict on both sides to respect human rights, to commit to dialogue and de-escalation, and to respect the distinction between military and civilian targets. All parties should be doing everything they can to protect civilians.”

Yeesh. Why didn’t you throw in a “Hooray for motherhood” while you’re at it?

In 51 seconds — less than a full minute — you blew your credibility for the remainder of your posting.

You indicated not only to the people you met in Gondar but to the rest of Ethiopia that you didn’t hear a damn thing they probably tried to tell you. Yes, of course, everyone was very nice to you and everyone smiled for the photos you posted online, but I’m certain at least someone briefed you about the spiteful cruelty perpetrated by Abiy’s soldiers on the ordinary people there, and hopefully University of Gondar researchers had the chance to tell you about the mass graves of Amhara that go back decades.

I mean I do get it. You’re a diplomat. You must save any firm language for behind closed doors where you hopefully can use influence. But the language in your video is so bloodlessly euphemistic I wonder if there was a Canadian version of Sir Humprey Appleby from the British comedy series, Yes, Minister, who tagged along on your flight to defang any questionable noun or modifier that could possibly offend the delicate sensibilities of the nut-jobs in the regime or mean anything at all.

The “ongoing situation?” Are you kidding us? They’re hunting and killing Amhara, Mr. Tabah. They’re trying to ship Amhara IDPs back to the places where thugs hunted and killed Amhara before. They’re deporting top figures from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. They’re targeting Muslims. They’re murdering Gurage people when they’re not busy trying to wipe out Amhara.

And what do you do? You “both sides” it all, which is the same BS the U.S. pulled for more than two years while it brazenly showed its favoritism to a terrorist group, the TPLF.

Then the Biden administration figured out it could buy off and indulge Abiy, buy off Getachew Reda and company up in Tigray at the same time, and make everything go away so that it could focus again on all those poor, nice white people in Ukraine dying.

All the State Department needed to do was completely ignore Ethiopia’s other cult of genocidal extremist psychopaths, the ones who believe in Oromuma, a master-race doctrine that makes the Proud Boys look like cookie-selling Girl Guides.

As I mentioned above, you are clearly an intelligent man, sir. I don’t put you — at least I don’t want to put you — in the same category as the backbencher weasels of all three major parties who once blocked me from answering questions at a parliamentary subcommittee hearing while giving free rein to an unabashed hate-monger. Those MPs saw a crisis they could exploit by cozying up to those who portrayed themselves as completely pure victims. They let themselves get played, and I can’t wait for when the political cheque comes due.

But as far as I can tell, and I’m open to correction on this, you have no experience in Africa. You’ve held positions in Colombia, Geneva — yes, yes, very impressive. But this is East Africa. This is Ethiopia. It deserves respect on a level that career diplomats might not initially perceive and disregard at their peril. The formal position you and the Trudeau government have adopted is untenable. As if all these troubling “squabbles” will eventually sort themselves out and go away. They won’t. This do-nothing, say-drivel stance is as much a disaster as Justin Trudeau trying to have it both ways over the genocide going on in Gaza.

And so I come back to my point that you are worse than useless in your job right now. By default whether you intend it or not, your continued positions serve only to legitimize the Abiy government and to remind everyone that Canada is a good little, obedient, slobbering puppy that will roll over when the Biden administration needs it to and through its silence, accepts the Pretoria agreement. That it holds no unique insightful policy stance of its own and will never take any bold initiative.

To put it bluntly down to the bone, you embarrass me as a Canadian, Mr. Tabah.

And to get right down to the marrow, you embarrass the hell out of me as a white person.

Your anemic bromides of “golly goshkies, everyone be sure to respect human rights and protect civilians” is nauseating. It is the kind of easy white liberalism that pretends to take a position when it takes no genuine, brave position at all. It infuriates Ethiopians who desperately need something better and diaspora Ethiopians who have every right to expect Canada to live up to the myth it’s sold itself — that we’re the good guys, that we believe in justice and equality.

Political activist Eskinder Nega has compared the Fano movement, a volunteer militia that seeks to liberate not only Amhara but all the persecuted peoples of Ethiopia, to the great Resistance fighters of the Second World War. Well, Mr. Tabah, what you said in that disgrace of a video is not much different than the mealy-mouthed diplomatic platitudes of the Canadian and American governments in the 1930s over Nazi Germany, Franco’s Spain, and Mussolini’s Italy.

There are ethnic groups being systematically slaughtered, their religious faiths persecuted, their history being vandalized and warped into revisionist nonsense.

And the best you can do is suggest talk therapy.

There are only three camps for white people lately in this mess. Those in the smug Western media and humanitarian organization sector who committed themselves to the TPLF narrative and now have doubled-down, even though the Pretoria agreement demonstrates that the “Tigray Genocide” was a lie. (Because why else would Getachew Reda show up to get his plaque from Abiy, the man TPLF-ites swore was trying to wipe out Tigrayans?)

Then there’s the much bigger camp of whites who don’t have a clue what’s going and hardly care. Guess which one you’re in.

And then there’s the third. And it’s tiny. I have the sad distinction of being one of only three white people out there who is consistently, regularly, day-after-frustrating day standing with the Amhara people and other persecuted and maligned groups such as the Gurage and Afar (the other two being the writer, charity worker and documentary maker Graham Peebles and the living legend of the Afar region, Valerie Browning, known and beloved among the Afar as “Maalika.”) It’s just the three of us, which is downright pathetic. I can’t speak for the other two, but I know I’d rather have more company than the honor of being that rare white ally.

Do you have even an inkling of the contempt, the absolute disgust, that Ethiopians of good conscience and members of the Ethio diaspora in North America feel for so-called white liberals who make the awkward noises and then do nothing to help? Can you blame them? We’re failing them. You are failing them.

My failure is that as much as I’ve put in plenty of years as a writer, journalist, and communications professional, I can’t get it into the skulls of indifferent whites that the struggle for these Ethiopian groups is a struggle for basic humanity; that they deserve as much attention and empathy and support as any Gaza Palestinian or Ukrainian in Kyiv. I can’t grow our ranks to stand with them.

Your failure is the position you’ve taken, which amounts to a posture of indifference.

And so yes, Mr. Tabah, all my outrage is focused on you here today, in this piece, because you no doubt think of yourself as a good person, and even though I don’t like you, and I sure as hell don’t like what you did, I suspect you’re a better man than me… because I am one petty son of a bitch, and I take it very personally when extremist lunatics kill my friends. I like to think I still have many friends in Ethiopia. So, time permitting, I intend to make life miserable if I can for those three backbencher creeps from the subcommittee hearing when the time comes for their possible re-election. Because individuals like that shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near positions of influence over how Canada handles its foreign affairs. Yep, I really am petty. And strongly motivated.

You embarrassed yourself with that video. I’ve urged you to resign, but you really have a choice to make. You can redeem yourself by learning the genuine realities and either consulting with Mélanie Joly and the rest of the Foreign Affairs ministry and getting them to change the policy or —

Yes, you can quit.

It’s not like you wouldn’t land on your feet and probably get a nice cushy professorship in academia. Or a consulting job.

Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, was a controversial figure as you and I both know, but no one doubted the man’s fierce intelligence and dedication to values in certain crises that superseded political expediency. You must realize that there is a moral duty that goes beyond serving as the mouthpiece of the Canadian government abroad. I am realistic enough to recognize that Canada certainly won’t cut diplomatic ties with the Abiy regime, and for now, it shouldn’t while there’s a glimmer of a chance that Canada could make a difference. But you’re not making a difference now, and Ottawa is clearly not getting properly informed on the situation on the ground.

Fix it. For the love of God, Allah, whoever, fix it. Help save these people.

You can either start making yourself useful, Mr. Tabah, or you can resign and condemn the ethnic cleansing of Amhara as a private citizen.

And if you need help with these two choices, I have a long list of distinguished Ethiopian intellectuals, politicians in exile, activists, community leaders, journalists, ordinary people you can talk to. But unlike the folks you met in Gondar, you’d have to actually listen to them.



Jeff Pearce

Writer person. Books - Prevail, The Karma Booth, Gangs in Canada; in June 2021, Winged Bull, a bio of Henry Layard, the Victorian era’s Indiana Jones.