By Shiferaw Abebe
This is the lesson the Ethiopian government must remind itself each morning.
I hope yesterday’s press conference by the Press Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Attorney General of Ethiopia is the beginning of a concerted effort to dispel misinformation by telling the truth. https://fb.watch/5WxKOrKASe/
TPLF mouthpieces and hirelings have been extremely successful so far in applying Nazi Joseph Goebbels law of propaganda: repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth. I believe the law of countering a lie is as powerful: if you tell the truth, repeatedly, if you must, you will overcome the lie however repeatedly it is told.
The world knows TPLF started the war in Tigray. TPLF started the war not by accident; it was prepared for it. According to the Ethiopian Attorney General, TPLF had established the Tigray Military Command led by retired army generals with 8 divisions, one mechanized unit and 23 regiments. TPLF ignited the war by attacking the Northern Command under the cover of darkness, killing yet unspecified number of Ethiopian soldiers who were in their sleep unware of TPLF’s treasonous plan.
This immense fact is, however, relegated to an afterthought. American government statements both from the state department and the Senate present the facts as though the Ethiopian government started the war. They mention TPLF’s attack on the Northern Command as a mere incident that preceded the Ethiopian government action. The west media that has been hyperventilating about the war in Tigray does not even mention TPLF’s attack on the Northern Command.
TPLF lost the war in the battle field in a matter of three weeks, but surprisingly gained much of the ground in the propaganda field on the global scale. Using the billions it stole from Ethiopia it bought news spots in major networks, hired high-priced lobbyists and mercenary analysts and exploited its long-established connections in international organizations to succeed in controlling the narrative on the nature and the on-goings of the war. This narrative, which paints Ethiopia as a sole, belligerent, human-right abusing nation, is essentially the basis the west has used to devise its policies and strategies against Ethiopia.
Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government chose to remain quiet as accusations of widespread human right violations, genocide and ethnic cleansing piled up. The latest installment of lies alleges that food aid was intentionally obstructed and farmers prevented to work on the field to create famine and wipe out the people of Tigray.
In yesterday’s press briefing, the Press Secretary, Billene Seyoum Woldeyes, emphatically stated, “the global claims of hunger being used as a weapon of war is baseless and politically motivated”. The Press Secretary retorted, why would an army that was stationed in Tigray for 30 years, protecting Tigreans and helping farmers in season and out of season obstruct food aid or hinder agricultural activities today?
She added that 166,000 metric tonnes of food has been distributed to 4.5 million Tigreans in the first round and 4.3 million in the second and third round. The level of food aid will obviously need to be scaled up but what is already reported is of a magnitude that would make claims of famine a far cry.
Alongside the Ethiopian government, four international and one domestic relief organizations, including the World Food Program, World Vision, Care, Food for the Hungry and Relief Society of Tigray are currently involved in food aid operations in Tigray. These organizations have unfettered mobility throughout Tigray save two specific locations where security concerns are high.
The press secretary further highlighted on-going government activities in the areas of water supply for Internally Displace People, health services, education and agricultural input supply, each of which were backed by hard numbers.
The Attorney General, Dr. Gedeon Timothy, for his part briefed on steps taken to investigate criminal incidents and bring perpetrators, whom he called bad apples, to justice through military courts and regional and federal justice bodies. He drew distinctions between killings that occurred by artillery fire in the midst of fighting and those committed in the absence of necessity for military action. He in particular spoke of major atrocities and crimes committed in two location – Mai Cadra and Axum, where civilian killings were verified by hundreds of witnesses and some of the perpetrators were brought to justice.
In any war, terrible things happen but any human right violation tolerated in any situation will eventually spread to every situation. In this regard, the effort to bring every one of those responsible for atrocities and human right violations in Tigray must continue.
What was not covered by either officials is the on-going assassination of Tigray Transitional Administration officials by remnants of TPLF insurgents. This number is worrisomely increasing and has reached two dozen.
In all, the press briefing by both officials was the kind of sober reality check that was missing for far too long. New York Times and CNN may decline to publish or air the government’s side of the truth, but they cannot control the mic in Addis. So the press briefing must continue. The Ethiopian government has so much ground to cover. Like yesterday’s press conference, the government should stick to the facts.
This does not by any means imply the situation in Tigray is well and fine and all that is required is reporting the good news. No question, millions are still undergoing so much suffering and stress in a war they didn’t want or even expected. The Ethiopian government should not spare any effort to return the good people of Tigray to their normal life as quickly as possible.
The Press Secretary has finally called upon the Diaspora Ethiopian community to overcome their divisions and stand united beside their country and people. She also called upon friends of Ethiopia to continue to stand with Ethiopia. Lastly, she called upon partners to reconsider their misinformed decisions.
Measured, dignified, and to the point.
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