Ethiopia: The War on Liars — A Conference Speech
This is the draft version of the presentation I gave to the Ethiopiawinnet Zoom conference titled, “The Ramifications of Western Reactions to the Current Crises in Ethiopia” on April 17, 2021. With some very minor impromptu remarks in my delivery, it’s what I told the forum.
Thank you so much for your kind introduction, Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate and for the invitation to participate. And given the credentials and accomplishments of the other speakers, I feel like a gate crasher at a fancy dress ball. I’m out of my league in such esteemed company. But that’s never stopped me from mouthing off before, so to the issue at hand!
We have the War on Terror, which will never formally end, and I think we’ve entered a new phase, where we’re fighting a War on Liars. I wrote on Twitter the other day that there are now two Ethiopias, the real one, and then there’s the Republic of Amnesia, which is where the Western correspondents are based, most of them sitting in a goldfish bowl with the same memory span of its natural resident. They only poke their heads out now and then to go visit this Greek island nearby called Hyperbole. And as we’ve seen, they’ll buy anything.
Don’t get me wrong — this is not quite as new as it seems. The Fascist Italians had a British creep in their pocket, and they paid the man to go around the UK, giving speeches on the civilizing mission in Ethiopia and he even authored a bloody awful book. Check out the history of the Spanish Civil War and compare the accusations running back and forth between the Republicans and the Fascists over who committed what massacre.
But these media battles were sideshows. We now live in an era where all bets are off, and even though the Ethiopian federal army has more or less won its war against a group of terrorist criminal oligarchs, their lobby group has managed to con the world into buying their version of events. And I don’t need to tell the rest of you panelists how frustrating this is. It’s like talking to Flat Earthers. I practically begged a certain correspondent to properly investigate Axum. All he had to do is look at TV footage that clearly shows how the narrative of the massacre is ridiculous. But his arrogance won’t let him think that he might have been conned. We have Alex de Waal who spreads the word of a mango genocide, and a source and I arranged to have a team go out and investigate his nonsense, and still the world keeps inviting Alex de Waal to comment.
There are so many smart people speaking at this forum, and they’re far smarter than me so they know this. That the goal of “talks” and “intervention” isn’t to arrive at peace, it’s to destabilize a nation and give a group of terrorists back some political legitimacy. That can’t be allowed to happen. The problem is what to do about it. I don’t know if I can call these solutions, but I hope those who believe in Ethiopia, who are advocates, will build on these ideas. Please indulge me as I say “we.” I’m not Ethiopian, but I like to think I’m an ally, so forgive me my trespass on this.
First, hardly anyone’s taking on the media full on. I once suggested getting right in their face. Don’t do your march in the public square, stand right in front of the doors of Deutsche Welle, of CBS News, ABC, NBC, BBC, of CNN, so that they can’t ignore you. Come up with eye-catching stunts to get the headlines, to create attention. You could write down the name of every TPLF victim on a wall, if you like, to drive the lesson home. Something, anything better than a simple march to a public square.
Martin Plaut knows this. Say what you like about Martin, and there’s a big part of me that still admires the man’s past achievements in journalism and his personal graciousness towards my own work, he is absolutely a brilliant tactician in terms of PR and propaganda. He steered your enemy towards creative stunts to get attention, towards using the religious community, to playing the media like a fiddle. Ruthlessly efficient. So what does our side do? Instead they make personal attacks on him instead of learning how to beat his game. I have some ideas on that.
When you finally have the media talking to you, ask: What is your BS in which you think some Africans can be trusted, but you won’t trust others? Why are you asking the bloviating fungus on Ethiopian affairs, William Davison, and the TPLF’s main cheerleader Tronvoll — even if they weren’t the most loathsome miscreants, but suppose they were good at what they do — why are you asking them to “interpret” Africa when you can get Africans to interpret current events in Africa? And why do you only go to these men over and over and over?
I said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s the new, liberal-lite white supremacy. Call them out on it. This is why I say Defund, Deplatform, Deport Human Rights Watch, Amnesty and Crisis Group. Ask the media: It’s the age of Black Lives Matter, but you have these sanctimonious white people in New York and London deciding the morality of Africa? Get the hell out of there.
It’s the age of Black Lives Matter, so why are there still so many white correspondents writing on Africa? Will Brown, Tom Gardner, Anna Cara, who like to talk to other white people like Alex de Waal and Davison who so clearly don’t give a damn what happens to ordinary Africans beyond their little networks of stooges.
Yes, I am noticeably pale, but the difference is who’s paying the shot? Look at the funding behind Crisis Group or Human Rights Watch and tell me, how are they accountable to Africans?
So here’s an open invitation, folks. Send me through replies on Twitter, send Western media organizations, tag us on both, BURY them in examples — legitimate, factual examples — of what the TPLF did to Ethiopia. To your family. To your friends and neighbors. To the country. Send me, send them verifiable information on the real estate holdings and the finances of the TPLF mafia operating right now in Europe and North America. Somebody out there knows this stuff. Somebody has the receipts.
Rip the lid off of Tigrai Media House. These guys, just like OMN, are probably guilty under Canadian law of hate speech and incitement or other things under U.S. law, only they get away with it because law enforcement doesn’t know the languages. Instead of just spreading it on Twitter, let’s get actual legal cases started, criminal complaints.
Start digging into who funds their lobby outfits. Every damn day we’re told Tigrayans are starving, they’re on the brink of famine. Never mind the fact that USAID does promo videos all the time, plus the Ethiopian government is stepping up, yet somehow diaspora TPLF advocates have money for their comms campaigns and Beltway lobbying, so… Rip the lid off their dirty little operations. Who exactly is giving them money? Is it the Egyptian government? If so, find the proof.
And please don’t play Photoshop designer with fonts and photos. Don’t make memes out of this crap. No editor will look at it, I promise you. It screams propaganda and it’s asinine. Just type it up on a proper Word document and cite your sources — names, dates, details. No embellishment. Facts. The point of all this is to let them know who they’re dealing with. And that they are listening to a combination of terrorist group and crime family.
Next: I am already hearing from sources tips that NGOs and probably some media are just not interested in doing a recovery story. What sells? Africans suffering. Can’t show the Africans rebuilding Mekelle. Can’t show the Africans fixing their airport after TPLF wrecked it. Where’s the sexiness in that? But you know what can work? Outing liars. Reporters, media, love outing liars and playing gotcha. So. Get ordinary Tigrayans to tell their stories of how they are relieved and glad to be rid of these thugs once and for all.
Because I for one find it damn interesting that a Channel 4 correspondent goes to Mekelle and somehow manages to find a safehouse for rape victims on the edge of town, which is all well and good and these stories may well be authentic, we don’t know, and they should be given proper attention, as should the complaining victims… but you’re not interested at all in talking to people in the streets, ordinary folks and asking, What do you think? Are you happy the TPLF are gone? Are you angry at the federal army rolling in? What do you think? Where’s that story?
So change the conversation. If we are going to talk candidly about how the Ethiopian government has failed to build sympathy in the international community, with the purpose of helping it rather than just as an academic exercise, I suggest that we break down what this war is really about. And that is a huge problem. I would say that’s the key problem. I’ve tried my best to respect internal political affairs and not weigh in, but from both a historical perspective and just from a strategic view of winning hearts and minds, the Ethiopian federal government has to make its stand.
What I mean by this is that at least as far as the Western media is concerned, as far as the international community is concerned, you’ve told us what you’re fighting against, and the experts here know its army is fighting a treasonous criminal oligarchy. But that’s not enough. What are you fighting for? To say you are fighting for the nation of Ethiopia isn’t enough, because what does that mean?
This is why I wrote an article, which I was so grateful and proud to see translated into Amharic and read on radio, that I titled, “Ethiopia Without Shame.” And in there, I said these lines:
“A country’s soul is more than its borders, its current government, its debt and exports.
Ethiopia is ancient, bigger than the whispers and the noise, replenished by its own resources and faiths, its people’s remarkable ingenuity and courage, its diversity and its unity.
Ethiopia goes on because its people believe in it.”
But it’s your job, it’s all our jobs, to make other people appreciate and feel that spirit that once swept up folks in 1896 and 1935. Not only Black Americans but white British people and French, people from what’s now the Gold Coast and Morocco, even in South Africa, got carried away in believing Ethiopia was worth fighting for. And while they can’t fight for it today, they can reject the evil that’s threatening to dismantle it now.
Because is there anything more spiritually corrosive than reducing your brother or sister to a category, to a label, to an ethnic classification, which can so easily be turned into a taunt, a slur, a kill order. And what kind of fool takes the bait from the TPLF thugs, and writes up a story claiming, “Oh, my God, they’re erasing their ethnicity from identity cards!” This after such cards were used to identify Amhara in Mai Kadra and slaughter them two days after the November 4 attack. Is there anything more demented than folks defending this kind of system that ensures the hate goes on? It’s so warped that my blood boils.
Ask folks in the Balkans how they liked being referred to in terms of ethnicity. Ask the Rwandans. Ask the Greeks and the Turks about the population exchange of 1923, what the Greeks call “The Catastrophe.”
This war in Tigray didn’t start with any noble purpose, it was forced on the Ethiopian state. I watched the Western media snicker over Abiy’s comparison to the American Civil War, but he seemed to know his history better than the Americans did. And no war is ever fought clean. Americans are fascinated by their own Civil War and like to stun themselves repeatedly in summoning up the images and the statistics of the carnage. But the sensible ones — the ones who are not demented, who are not insane and who don’t want to attack the U.S. Capitol or kidnap a governor, who wouldn’t dream of attacking a military base in the night and murdering soldiers — know that it ultimately was a crusade for something good and true.
And so I urge the Ethiopian state and those of us who believe in Ethiopia to change the conversation into a rallying cry. This war is so that no person in Ethiopia, no citizen, is reduced to just his language and a label.
No Amhara should walk around at risk of getting bludgeoned to death because some idiot who doesn’t know history is carrying on a feud with enemies out of his own imagination and wants to kill his brother or sister. No Tigrayan person should fear reprisal because a bunch of psychopathic criminals launched rockets into Eritrea.
But people in the West, in the U.S., in Canada, in Europe, must understand the rallying cry is Freedom to be Ethiopian. Not to have a selfish few come along and lie and pervert the truth and say, we’re going to hold an entire region for ransom, and we’ll do this right after we shoot up your house.
No. You killed soldiers in the night. You killed your brothers in the night. Why should anyone think your lies and fake, crocodile tears can wash out all the blood on your shirts? This is war for freedom to not be a label, to not be an ethnic group, to be a nation.
Ethiopia must go on because its people believe in it, and they have a right to believe in it. And they don’t need permission from the West to be a nation. But instead of having to defy you, we’d rather have you join us as allies, we’d rather you help us preserve it.
In my humble opinion, that’s the message that needs to go out. Tell them what you’re fighting for. Freedom from labels and ethnic hatred, now and forever after.