By Addissu Admas
It must occur to anyone endowed with a minimum sense of fair play how Western media has treated so differently the war in Ethiopia and the one now going on in Ukraine. I do not want to begin by accusing Western media for such glaring difference to its deep-seated bias, prejudice or even racism, even though these have certainly played a role in it. I want to give the benefit of the doubt to Western media by considering also other factors that we must consider if we want that our judgment does not become slanted and narrow.
If we are to believe the media, the whole world has now condemned Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. We are now fed on a daily basis and round the clock scraps of video images depicting shelling; millions of Ukrainian mothers and their children being loaded onto trains to flee the country to neighboring countries; young men brazenly defying the mighty Russian army, and dead bodies strewn on the road, and the young Ukrainian president in military sweater continuing to rally his nation and asking the West to come to his aid, etc… I do not doubt that what I see, hear or read in the media is the truth. Moreover, I whole-heartedly feel that Ukrainians should not have to suffer and be stripped of their independence for any reason or by anyone: as a people, they are entitled to all the respect and dignity that every nation is entitled and deserves. In brief, this war is wrong-headed and I would have wished sincerely that President Putin had chosen a different course of action. I arrived at this conclusion because I heard the voices of Ukrainians and not only that of the Western Media. Indeed, what the Western Media has done in my opinion is to amplify their voices. This is the very opposite of what happened and continues to happen in the case of Western media’s coverage of Ethiopia and other African countries.
From the outset, Western media did not want to hear what the people of Ethiopia felt, wanted and said; it merely imposed its own narrative on them as to sway the opinion of its own citizens and maybe support the governments of the West. It chose not to remember under what regime Ethiopians had suffered for 27 long years. It omitted consistently who indeed was responsible for starting the war in the first place. It denied the right of a duly elected government to exercise its very important duty of fighting insurrectionists. It sided unabashedly with a truculent and predatory armed party, because either it was the creature of mighty America and/or it pursued one time her proxy wars in the Horn. It did not matter that the vast majority of Ethiopians wanted to rid themselves for the last time a hate mongering party that has deprived them of liberty, unity and peace; what mattered most was what the American and European countries saw as their advantage. It is for this reason that Ethiopians everywhere rose with the cry of “NO MORE”.
Can you imagine if the Western media had the decency of listening to what the very large majority of the Ethiopian people had to say? If It summoned the courage of interviewing on a daily basis the PM on what transpired and how he planned to bring to an end the war. What the reasons for the conflict were in the first place. How he intended to preserve the unity of the country. What help he required to achieve his goal, etc…etc… No, they chose to listen only to what they have anointed to be the victim, the TPLF and nothing more. They ignored the fact that the Ethiopian people, including the Tigrean people, have been the true victims, not only of TPLF’s 27 yearlong regime, but also of its ill-conceived, ill-designed and ill-conducted war to recapture its lost power. The West is horrified that Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the dozens or maybe in the hundreds since the start of the Russian invasion. How many poor country folk in Amhara, Afar, and Tigray have been killed by the senseless war that began at the instigation of the TPLF? Most likely by the tens of thousands. Our lives do not matter enough for Western media to find out the truth.
The big excuse of Western media is that the Ethiopian government did not want to give free access to Western reporters. I cannot sympathize with this pretext. Can you lie about a person if you do not like the way that person treats you? Can you expect to be welcomed with open arms if you come with your preconceived judgment and narrative? If you are unable to report truthfully, if you do not have the facts at hand, I say, quoting the famous British Austrian philosopher Wittgenstein, “whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”. This should be also the motto of every western news medium.
Western Media has been more than eager to hear from the Ukrainians themselves, to render them masters of their own narrative. Have you seen any Western media allowing Ethiopians to speak their truth? It did not matter because we were silenced and buried by their own contrived speculations, which had no basis in reality. Or, more precisely, they chose to give voice to the grievances of a party and its supporters that have been victimizing the whole of Ethiopia for nearly three decades. Where in lies their sense of fair play?
I am not naïve as to compare the situation in Ukraine with the one in Ethiopia. In Ukraine, the danger of confrontation between the global powers is in full view, in Ethiopia only a specific strategic point and perhaps a very limited regional one is at stake. It would be unconscionable and unreasonable to compare them let alone equate them. However, fairness in reporting has nothing to do with the magnitude of the powers or dangers involved. What I say is give us what is owed us: The Truth! Apply the same objectivity you are willing to apply to Western nations to us. Give us back our voices and do not silence us with your own narratives. See the Ethiopian conflict for what it is as you are clearly doing with the Ukrainian occupation.
Our narrative is simple, if Western media is willing to listen. I am not alone to adhere to it; the majority of Ethiopians have never wavered from it. Most agree that the American war of independence was fought for liberty, and so is the Ukrainian to preserve the independence of Ukrainians. The American civil war was fought to preserve the Union against the secessionist south. And so is the Ethiopian war being fought to preserve Ethiopia’s unity against the many divisive forces inside and outside the country. So long as the Ethiopians want to preserve their unity, there is no reason for the West to dictate the terms that are more convenient to it. As it respects Ukraine, so it should respect Ethiopia and the choices of its duly elected officials.
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