Category Archives: Ethiopia

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, has 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 development 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.

The post Ethiopia: TPLF Terrorism Expands, Civilians Massacred first appeared on Dissident Voice.

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 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.

The post Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: A Unifying Peoples’ Project   first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“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.

The post “Stop Interfering”: Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“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.

The post “Stop Interfering”: Ethiopia’s Opportunity After the Election first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ethiopia: Violence, Instability, and the Need for Law and Order

An unresolved war in the north of the country; ethnic based violence some are describing as genocide in the West; random explosions of aggression in various regions: Ethiopia is trembling.

With around 117 million people, Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa, made up of 80 or so tribal groups, all with their own cultures, language or dialect. Three big ones dominate: The Oromo (35% of population), Amhara (27%) and Tigrayan (6%). Historic disputes over land and power exist between these powerful groups; grievances which are being aggravated by pernicious elements attempting to destabilize the country.

On November 5th 2020 an armed conflict erupted in the Tigray region, between the federal government and the armed wing of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF). It had been brewing for some time and both sides were prepared, itching for a fight. The Ethiopian government invited Eritrean troops to the party and then denied they were fighting side by side against a common enemy — the TPLF, widely hated in Eritrea and by many Ethiopians.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced (Ethiopia has around two million IDP’s) by the fighting, combatants on both sides killed, civilians (nobody knows how many) massacred and injured. Women and girls raped and tortured, reportedly by Eritrean military — thugs, committing vile acts, destroying lives, and all with impunity.

The government has claimed victory, but sporadic fighting continues and the TPLF leadership has escaped capture. They are believed to be reorganizing and recruiting young men to join what is morphing into an insurgency force. Intransigence prevails, with neither side willing to back down; the government is refusing to enter into negotiations, something that in the long-term, and given the high level of popular support for the TPLF in the region (they were elected as the regional government in banned elections in October 2020), may well be needed.

A UN investigation into atrocities in Tigray and elsewhere in the country is urgently required, but to date this has been rejected by the Ethiopian government who, it seems, want to appear to be in control; access to the region, which was shut off  by the government during the conflict, remains limited.

Tigray does not exist in isolation, Ethiopia is one state. Violence legitimizes and breeds violence and in an atmosphere of uncertainty, where law and order is weak it can quickly spread. Attacks are being committed mainly in the west of the country, but in other areas as well, against the Amhara people, by ‘rebels’; code for the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) — a breakaway armed wing of the Oromo Libration Front (OLF), founded in the 1970s to fight for the self-determination of ethnic Oromo.

The ethnically based killings, destruction of property, rapes and displacement of persons constitute what some Ethiopians claim is genocide. This is reinforced by Genocide Watch, who have issued a Genocide warning “for Ethiopia due to the government’s inaction to stop ethnically motivated violence between Oromo, Amhara, Tigrayan and Gedeo peoples.”

The situation throughout the country is unstable and complex; ethnic identities are strong and long-standing differences between groups are easily inflamed by malicious forces, inside and outside Ethiopia. There is speculation that Egypt (angry with Ethiopia over the construction and control of the Renaissance Dam) is supporting the OLA with arms, and that the ‘rebel’ group is working with the TPLF, with the aim of destabilizing the country ahead of general elections in June. Elections postponed from 2020 that the incumbent party (the newly formed Prosperity Party) under the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, are expected to win.

Defeating the men of hate and violence

For generations Ethiopia has been governed by intolerant repressive dictatorships that have ignored human rights and ruled through fear. The current government came to power in 2018 on the back of years of widespread protests against the TPLF, it has opened up the country and aspires to be democratic. Prime-Minister Abiy is the first Oromia PM, and the cabinet (50/50 male and female) is populated largely by other people from Oromo.

The TPLF ruled from 1991 to 2018. Dismantling 27 years of corrupt governance, purging all areas of government, national and local, the police and armed forces, of TPLF personnel, or TPLF-influenced/sympathetic personnel; changing habitual methods and attitudes, will not be eradicated in a few years. Such far reaching change takes time. Some Ethiopians claim that little or not enough has changed in the last two years, and blame the government, or elements within the government apparatus, for the current unstable situation.

A cornerstone of the TPLF’s rule was ethnic federalism; a seemingly liberal policy, that promised to respect different cultures and honor aspirations for autonomy, but a divisive tool in the hands of the TPLF, employed to agitate conflict between ethnic groups, divide and rule being the objective. The aftermath of their abhorrent reign is community carnage, pent-up anger, corruption and distrust.

Like all such regimes, they ruled through fear and division and were widely despised in the country and among the Ethiopian diaspora, but to their utter shame, western nations, including Ethiopia’s primary donors (and therefore the countries with the greatest influence) the US, Britain and the European Union, supported them. Consecutive western leaders, most notably Tony Blair and Barack Obama, not only failed to call out the regime’s atrocities, but were complicit, hailing corrupt elections as fair, legitimizing the results of one stolen election after another. And now, when Ethiopia is being assailed by criminal gangs, domestic terrorists masquerading as ‘freedom fighters’, and many believe, foreign interference, they stand by and do nothing.

With the odd exception, the mainstream media is also largely silent; uninterested it appears, in the deaths, rapes, and abuse of Ethiopians – men women and children whose lives were riddled with difficulties even before the current violence exploded. And now, as a result of a number of factors, including the fighting, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) states that, “Ethiopia is second only to Yemen for the total number of people in need in 2021 (IRC estimates at least 21 million). As the year progresses, vulnerable communities will increasingly struggle to access necessary food and resources.”

In order to support vulnerable communities and deal with the dire humanitarian and social issues facing the country, there must first of all be peace and stability.

The safety of civilians is the first requirement of any government, and in this major respect the ruling party under PM Abiy Ahmed, has completely failed. Enforcement of the law must be a priority, police and security forces need to be strengthened, deployed to areas where communities are at risk; corruption weeded out of all areas of public life. And every effort made, by politicians, religious leaders and the media, to unify the country. Talk of unity is easy, commonplace, but without justice, tolerance and understanding, it is a hollow word that means nothing.

Ethiopia is a diverse whole; ethnic differences and culture divergence enrich the country and should be respected and celebrated. For generations people from different ethnic groups have lived side by side; marrying, praying and working together. Community harmony is being poisoned by power hungry men intent on sewing unrest and wreaking chaos. These divisive forces, wherever they may be (and some will be found hiding within government bodies), must be rooted out of the country, and those responsible for the horrendous killings, rapes and destruction hunted down and arrested, tried in a court of law.

To move this wonderful country, which has suffered so much, out of the suppressive violent shadow of the past is no easy task; time is needed, solidarity and patient perseverance. But throughout the World and within Ethiopia, there is a powerful movement towards justice and freedom, a movement that despite the best efforts of the men of hate and violence, must prevail.

The post Ethiopia: Violence, Instability, and the Need for Law and Order first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ethiopia: Death and Despair as Divisions Erupt Into Violent Conflict

Grandmothers carrying babies, mothers, children, men young and old with nothing but the clothes on their backs are fleeing fighting in northern Ethiopia and making their way to Sudan, where emergency camps await them; according to the UNHCR 5,000 a day are making the journey.

Ethiopians are killing one another in the Tigray region of the country where an armed conflict is raging between the Ethiopian military and forces loyal to the regional government, the TPLF (Tigray Peoples Liberation Front), a group that some in the country describe as terrorists.

The TPLF formed the dominant force within the ruling coalition (the EPRDF), and ran Ethiopia with an iron fist from 1991 until 2018. Brutal and centralized, human rights were trampled on, free speech outlawed, state terrorism routine; the TPLF were vicious, ruled by fear and are hated still by many Ethiopians, inside and outside the country.

Sustained protests led to their overthrow in 2018 when the new Prime Minister took office. Although the EPRDF coalition remained, the approach changed dramatically under PM Abiy Ahmed and his team; a sense of optimism swept across the country and many Ethiopians living abroad returned to help rebuild their homeland. The TPLF were marginalized, vilified in some quarters and a number of the key figures arrested for crimes committed when in power, more arrest warrants are outstanding.

Bordering Eritrea in the North and Sudan to the West, Tigray is a small region (accounting for only 6% of the population), which has built up an extremely strong, armed unit (police/militia), with, according to some sources, around 250,000 men in uniform, including 20,000 commandos.

And the people cry out

On November 4th they attacked the Ethiopian National Defense Forces Base located in the Tigray region, reportedly killed a number of soldiers and stole artillery and military equipment. The Ethiopian government’s response was to initiate military operations; actions described by the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as law enforcement and by others, including the TPLF, as an act of war.

Some form of conflict had been brewing for some time, the criminal raid on the military base being the final straw in a series of provocations; most notably holding banned regional elections in September (which the TPLF won). As a result, the government claims the TPLF is not a legitimate regional government. For their part, due to general elections being postponed because of the coronavirus (although there have been very few cases in Ethiopia) and the government remaining in office, the TPLF claim the government is not legitimate either.

Many have been calling for talks between the parties, directly or via mediators, and an immediate unconditional ceasefire, but neither of these common-sense suggestions seems likely. As Prime Minister Ahmed shouts that this conflict can only be resolved militarily, and declares a ‘final push’, the voices of the TPLF express their determination to defend their land; ‘Tigray is now a hell to its enemies….the people of Tigray will never kneel.’ And so it goes on, humanity’s lunacy.

There is no communication from within Tigray, the UN and other humanitarian agencies have been denied access and the government is controlling the narrative.

The situation is extremely serious, unless handled with great care it could quickly escalate into a wider armed conflict dragging in neighboring states, and triggering a major humanitarian incident, the seeds of which have already been planted. With no supplies being allowed into the region food is running low in Tigray, as is money, and an estimated 30,000 people have fled their homes and made their way to Sudan were they are being accommodated in basic camps. Before the fighting began the International Organization for Migration (IOM) revealed that there were more than 1.8 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ethiopia; around 100,000 of whom are in Tigray.

Beyond the pettiness of governments, the duplicity and self-interest of geopolitics, it is the people who suffer the greatest loss and pain in a conflict, and so it will be in Ethiopia.

Death, destruction and trauma are the hallmarks of war and armed conflict; lives are lost, mostly civilian non-combatants lives, homes demolished, people displaced, fear created, poverty and hunger exacerbated. This is what war is, it is an abomination and it should be avoided at all costs; where disputes arise alternatives should be found, fully explored, compromise reached and violence rejected. And in a country like Ethiopia where most people are poor, their lives hard, a country that ranks 173rd out of 189 countries in the UN Human Development Index, war should never be contemplated. The government has fighter jets and tanks, but people are hungry and homeless, health care is inadequate at best, education poor, and now there’s a war; it is lunacy, isn’t it?

Violence has been the resounding tone of human history, tribal conflicts abound, fights over land and power, resources and dominion over others. Currently there are around 30 violent conflicts taking place in the world including the Ethiopian one: data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event data Project (ACLED) shows the areas where clashes between state forces and others have occurred. Most incidents in red are in the global south, but if you factor in national homicides and general violence, it’s a worldwide image of carnage.

Talk of ‘peace’ and ‘brotherhood’ is commonplace, but the killing and fighting goes on and on; hollow words then. Even in Ethiopia, where religion – Christianity and Islam, both of which espouse peace – dominate the lives of most people. Look at Syria, or Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya; beautiful countries all, wonderful people, and yet conflicts persist, death and destruction continues daily. And now Ethiopia, where the fear must be that even if the TPLF are ‘defeated’ they will go underground and an armed insurgency will take hold – something that is in a sense even harder to combat or limit.

 Maturity

 It is time for humanity to grow up and recognize that we are brothers and sisters of one humanity – this is not some religious platitude, or new age drivel.  It is a fact in nature. I spent two years working in Ethiopia running aid projects and feel a close connection to the country; it is a wonderful land, the people are warm and kind, but social divisions rooted in ancient tribal groupings are deep, historic grievances unresolved. The path out of conflict into peace is the same in Ethiopia as it is for the world as a whole. It is made up of principles of goodness that are innate, but buried; it requires the negation of behavior and modes of living that divide and ferment suspicion and resentment.

Unity, cooperation, tolerance and sharing, these are the key qualities of the time and the antidotes to hate and division; we could add forgiveness, understanding and respect. All flow from the same foundation – love. Not sentimentalized, corrupted love, but love as the cohesive force binding all life together; that impelling agent for good.

It matters not what the political justifications are for violence; of course, if attacked a nation, region, family, individual will defend themselves, but to attack – with ‘overwhelming force’ and justify the killing as necessary, as the Ethiopian PM is doing – is to feed that fog which obscures our inherent humanity, the nature and residing quality of which is love. It is this purifying quality, which needs to become the guiding force for our actions, in Ethiopia and throughout the world.

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Trudeau Enables Corporate Canada to Exploit Ethiopia’s Minerals

The Federal government wants Canadian corporations to profit from Ethiopia’s minerals.

During his recent trip to the Horn of Africa country Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced negotiations on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA). As I detailed in this articlebilateral investment treaties with African countries are overwhelmingly designed to solidify the position of Canadian mining interests.

Alongside the Prime Minister, the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) deployed a week-long “Business Mission to Ethiopia.” Mining was one of three industries cited in their release about the mission. TCS officials regularly assist mining firms with market assessments, problem-solving, contacting local officials, etc. “The TCS plays a pretty big role,” explained Ben Chalmers, senior vice‑president Mining Association of Canada in April. Trade commissioners “stand behind us and give us the additional credibility that being associated with the Government of Canada abroad brings.”

On other occasions in recent years Ottawa has shown interest in shaping Ethiopia’s burgeoning mining sector. International trade minister Jim Carr met Ethiopia’s Minister for Mining at the 2019 Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto. In 2016 Global Affairs Canada launched a $12.5 million “Strengthening Education in Natural Resource Management in Ethiopia”, which was designed “to improve the employability of people … in natural resource fields like geology, mining and engineering. It works through universities and technical institutes to improve the quality of programs, align them more closely with the needs of the private sector.”

Concurrently, Global Affairs put up $15.3 million for a unique five-year collaboration between the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute (CIRDI) and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Mines. That initiative was to modernize licensing system and includes support for a geological survey. CIRDI and the Ministry of Mines also collaborated on a short marketing booklet titled “5 reasons Ethiopia is the mining investment destination you’ve been looking for”, which describes “Ethiopia’s virtually untapped, diverse and vast mineral resources.” It also lauds “improving government policies and regulations” that have put Ethiopia “on the radar screen of international mining investors.”

Two weeks ago, CIRDI Director Isabeau Vilandre and Ethiopia’s Minister for Mining participated in the African Mining Indaba conference in Cape Town, South Africa. According to the event publicity, it was a “presentation on opportunities in the Ethiopian mining sector and its critical role in the country’s home-grown economic reform.”

Housed at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and Polytechnique Montréal, CIRDI was established by the Stephen Harper government to advance Canada’s massive international mining sector. In 2012 the Canadian International Development Agency put up $25 million for CIRDI, which then International Development Minister Julian Fantino told a Mining Association of Canada meeting would “be your biggest and best ambassador.”

At the end of November Ethiopia announced new mining regulations. A Financial Post story headlined “Ethiopia vows to remove barriers to investment in mining” lauded the Canadian backed mining legislation. The story noted, “Ethiopia’s current law guarantees the government just a 5% minimum equity stake in projects – less than in many African countries.”

Canadian companies have shown interest in Ethiopia. The President and CEO of the Canadian Council on Africa(CCAfrica), a corporate lobby group, visited Addis Ababa recently to meet the Minister of Mines. Ethiopia’s state-owned airline sponsored and participated in CCAfrica’s “Unleashing Canadian Mining Ecosystem” conference in January, marketing a regular flight between Toronto and Adidas Ababa to the extractivist crowd. (At the start of the month CCAfrica and CIRDI announced a “Strategic Partnership”.)

Canadian firms are exploring a number of projects in a country that’s begun to throw its territory open to foreign mining firms. Vancouver based East Africa Metals has three gold and precious polymetallic licenses in the country. 

On its site CIRDI lists “Who Benefits” from its project in Ethiopia. It claims the “Ultimate” beneficiaries are “the citizens of Ethiopia.” Justin Trudeau would make a similar claim about his push for a bilateral investment treaty and Ottawa’s mining projects in Ethiopia. It wouldn’t be true. He wants corporate Canada to profit from Ethiopia’s resources.

Right Kind of Green: Agroecology

The globalised industrial food system that transnational agri-food conglomerates promote is failing to feed the world. It is responsible for some of the planet’s most pressing political, social and environmental crises.

Whether it involves the undermining or destruction of what were once largely self-sufficient agrarian economies in Africa or the devastating impacts of soy cultivation in Argentina, localised, traditional methods of food production have given way to global supply chains dominated by policies which favour agri-food giants, resulting in the destruction of habitat and peasant farmer livelihoods and the imposition of a model of agriculture that subjugates remaining farmers and regions to the needs and profit margins of these companies.

Many take as given that profit-driven transnational corporations have a legitimate claim to be custodians of natural assets. There is the premise that water, seeds, land, food, soil, forests and agriculture should be handed over to powerful, corrupt transnational corporations to milk for profit, under the pretence these entities are somehow serving the needs of humanity.

These natural assets (‘the commons’) belong to everyone and any stewardship should be carried out in the common interest by local people assisted by public institutions and governments acting on their behalf, not by private transnational corporations driven by self-interest and the maximization of profit by any means possible.

Common ownership and management of these assets embodies the notion of people working together for the public good. However, these resources have been appropriated by national states or private entities. For instance, Cargill captured the edible oils processing sector in India and in the process put many thousands of village-based workers out of work; Monsanto conspired to design a system of intellectual property rights that allowed it to patent seeds as if it had manufactured and invented them; and India’s indigenous peoples have been forcibly ejected from their ancient lands due to state collusion with mining companies.

Those who capture essential common resources seek to commodify them — whether trees for timber, land for real estate or agricultural seeds — create artificial scarcity and force everyone else to pay for access. Much of it involves eradicating self-sufficiency.

Traditional systems attacked

Researchers Marika Vicziany and Jagjit Plahe note that for thousands of years Indian farmers have experimented with different plant and animal specimens acquired through migration, trading networks, gift exchanges or accidental diffusion. They note the vital importance of traditional knowledge for food security in India and the evolution of such knowledge by learning and doing, trial and error. Farmers possess acute observation, good memory for detail and transmission through teaching and storytelling. The very farmers whose seeds and knowledge have been appropriated by corporations to be bred for proprietary chemical-dependent hybrids and now to be genetically engineered.

Large corporations with their seeds and synthetic chemical inputs have eradicated traditional systems of seed exchange. They have effectively hijacked seeds, pirated germ plasm that farmers developed over millennia and have ‘rented’ the seeds back to farmers. Genetic diversity among food crops has been drastically reduced. The eradication of seed diversity went much further than merely prioritising corporate seeds: the Green Revolution deliberately sidelined traditional seeds kept by farmers that were actually higher yielding and climate appropriate.

Across the world, we have witnessed a change in farming practices towards mechanised industrial-scale chemical-intensive monocropping, often for export or for far away cities rather than local communities, and ultimately the undermining or eradication of self-contained rural economies, traditions and cultures. We now see food surpluses in the West and food deficit areas in the Global South and a globalised geopoliticised system of food and agriculture.

A recent article on the People’s Archive of Rural India website highlights how the undermining of local economies continues. In a region of Odisha, farmers are being pushed towards a reliance on (illegal) expensive genetically modified herbicide tolerant cotton seeds and are replacing their traditional food crops.

The authors state that Southern Odisha’s strength lay in multiple cropping systems, but commercial cotton monoculture has altered crop diversity, soil structure, household income stability, farmers’ independence and, ultimately, food security. Farmers used to sow mixed plots of heirloom seeds, which had been saved from family harvests the previous year and would yield a basket of food crops. Cotton’s swift expansion is reshaping the land and people steeped in agroecological knowledge.

The article’s authors Chitrangada Choudhury and Aniket Aga note that cotton occupies roughly 5 per cent of India’s gross cropped area but consumes 36 to 50 per cent of the total quantum of agrochemicals applied nationally. They argue that the scenario here is reminiscent of Vidarbha between 1998 and 2002 – initial excitement over the new miracle (and then illegal) Bt cotton seeds and dreams of great profits, followed by the effects of their water-guzzling nature, the huge spike in expenses and debt and various ecological pressures. Vidarbha subsequently ended up as the epicentre of farmer suicides in the country for over a decade.

Choudhury and Aga echo many of the issues raised by Glenn Stone in his paper ‘Constructing Facts:Bt Cotton Narratives in India’. Farmers are attracted to GM cotton via glossy marketing and promises of big money and rely on what are regarded as authoritative (but compromised) local figures who steer them towards such seeds. There is little or no environmental learning by practice as has tended to happen in the past when adopting new seeds and cultivation practices. It has given way to ‘social learning’, a herd mentality and a treadmill of pesticides and debt. What is also worrying is that farmers are also being sold glyphosate to be used with HT cotton; they are unaware of the terrible history and reality of this ‘miracle’ herbicide, that it is banned or restricted in certain states in India and that it is currently at the centre of major lawsuits in the US.

All this when large agribusiness concerns wrongly insist that we need their seeds and proprietary chemicals if we are to feed a growing global population. There is no money for them in traditional food cropping systems but there is in undermining food security and food sovereignty by encouraging the use of GM cotton and glyphosate or, more generally, corporate seeds.

In India, Green Revolution technology and ideology has actually helped to fuel drought and degrade soils and has contributed towards illnesses and malnutrition. Sold under the guise of ‘feeding the world’, in India it merely led to more wheat in the diet, while food productivity per capita showed no increase or actually decreased. Nevertheless, there have been dire consequences for the Indian diet, the environment, farmers, rural communities and public health.

Across the world, the Green Revolution dovetailed with an international system of chemical-dependent, agro-export mono-cropping and big infrastructure projects (dams) linked to loans, sovereign debt repayment and World Bank/IMF directives, the outcomes of which included a displacement of the peasantry, the consolidation of global agri-food oligopolies and the transformation of many countries into food deficit regions.

Often regarded as Green Revolution 2.0, the ‘gene revolution’ is integral to the plan to ‘modernise’ Indian agriculture. This means the displacement of peasant farmers, further corporate consolidation and commercialisation based on industrial-scale monocrop farms incorporated into global supply chains dominated by transnational agribusiness and retail giants. If we take occurrences in Odisha as a microcosm, it would also mean the undermining of national food security.

Although traditional agroecological practices have been eradicated or are under threat, there is a global movement advocating a shift towards more organic-based systems of agriculture, which includes providing support to small farms and an agroecology movement that is empowering to people politically, socially and economically.

Agroecology

In his final report to the UN Human Rights Council after a six-year term as Special Rapporteur, in 2014 Olivier De Schutter called for the world’s food systems to be radically and democratically redesigned. His report was based on an extensive review of recent scientific literature. He concluded that by applying agroecological principles to the design of democratically controlled agricultural systems we can help to put an end to food crises and address climate-change and poverty challenges. De Schutter argued that agroecological approaches could tackle food needs in critical regions and could double food production in 10 years. However, he stated that insufficient backing seriously hinders progress.

And this last point should not be understated. For instance, the success of the Green Revolution is often touted, but how can we really evaluate it? If alternatives had been invested in to the same extent, if similar powerful and influential interests had invested in organic-based models, would we now not be pointing to the runaway successes of organic-based agroecological farming and, importantly, without the massive external costs of a polluted environment, less diverse diets, degraded soils and nutrient deficient food, ill health and so on?

The corporations which promote chemical-intensive industrial agriculture have embedded themselves deeply within the policy-making machinery on both national and international levels. From the overall bogus narrative that industrial agriculture is necessary to feed the world to providing lavish research grants and the capture of important policy-making institutions, global agri-food conglomerates have secured a perceived thick legitimacy within policy makers’ mindsets and mainstream discourse. The integrity of society’s institutions have been eroded by corporate money, funding and influence, which is why agroecology as a credible alternative to corporate agriculture remains on the periphery.

But the erosion of that legitimacy is underway. In addition to De Schutter’s 2014 report, the 2009 IAASTD peer-reviewed report, produced by 400 scientists and supported by 60 countries, recommends agroecology to maintain and increase the productivity of global agriculture. Moreover, the recent UN FAO High Level Panel of Experts concludes that agroecology provides greatly improved food security and nutritional, gender, environmental and yield benefits compared to industrial agriculture.

Writer and academic Eric Holtz-Gimenez argues that agroecology offers concrete, practical solutions to many of the world’s problems that move beyond (but which are linked to) agriculture. In doing so, it challenges – and offers alternatives to – plunder which takes place under a prevailing system of doctrinaire neoliberal economics that in turn drives a failing model of industrial agriculture.

The scaling up of agroecology can tackle hunger, malnutrition, environmental degradation and climate change. By creating securely paid labour-intensive agricultural work, it can also address the interrelated links between labour offshoring by rich countries and the removal of rural populations elsewhere who end up in sweat shops to carry out the outsourced jobs: the two-pronged process of neoliberal globalisation that has devastated the economies of the US and UK and which is displacing existing indigenous food production systems and undermining the rural infrastructure in places like India to produce a reserve army of cheap labour.

The Declaration of the International Forum for Agroecology by Nyeleni in 2015 argued for building grass-root local food systems that create new rural-urban links, based on genuine agroecological food production. It went on to say that agroecology should not become a tool of the industrial food production model but as the essential alternative to that model. The Declaration stated that agroecology is political and requires local producers and communities to challenge and transform structures of power in society, not least by putting the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of those who feed the world.

It involves prioritising localised rural and urban food economies and small farms and shielding them from the effects of rigged trade and international markets. It would mean that what ends up in our food and how it is grown is determined by the public good and not powerful private interests driven by commercial gain and the compulsion to subjugate farmers, consumers and entire regions.

There are enough examples from across the world that serve as models for transformation, from the Oakland Institute’s research in Africa and the Women’s Collective of Tamil Nadu to the scaling up of agroecological practices in Ethiopia.

Whether in Europe, Africa, India or the US, agroecology can protect and reassert the commons and is a force for grass-root change. This model of agriculture is already providing real solutions for sustainable, productive agriculture that prioritise the needs of farmers, citizens and the environment.

The Need for Unity in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a tribal nation, made up of 80 or so different groups, some large, some small, some powerful, some not. Large numbers of people, the majority perhaps, identify themselves with their tribe more powerfully than their country, or their region. Tribal affiliation runs deep among all age groups, loyalty is strong, resentment of tribal others can be fierce.

Social divisions along tribal lines, fear and animosity, particularly between the three largest groups – the Oromo, Amhara and Tigrinian – are acute. People within all three are heavily armed; carrying weapons in rural Ethiopia is commonplace, expected even. Isolated conflicts have occurred in various parts of the country in recent months leading to deaths and displacement of people.

Ethiopia now boasts the largest number of internally displaced persons in the world. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (iDMC) states that, “about 2.9 million new displacements associated with conflict were recorded in 2018.” The total number displaced in the country is estimated to be close to four million.

The new government has not responded effectively to this humanitarian crisis or the incidents of tribal-based violence; it appears weak and indecisive, and when it has reacted it has done so in a heavy-handed, clumsy manner. Many Ethiopians, both inside and outside the country, are concerned that matters could spiral out of control; one spark, carelessly thrown, could ignite fury, civil war even. This is not a new fear, but it is becoming more widespread, and with every eruption of ethnic violence unease deepens, tensions grow.

The government, under the leadership of PM Abiy Ahmed Ali, appears unclear how to respond to the frustration that many in the country feel. Maintaining law and order by the police is essential, the military should not be involved, but, they have been deployed to deal with unrest, and the government has on occasion retreated into the Old Ethiopian Way of Control; arresting troublesome journalists and restricting Internet access – the regime still owns the sole telecommunications company. The Committee to Protect Journalists report that “on June 22, Ethiopia was plunged into an internet blackout following what the government described as a failed attempted coup in the Amhara region.”

In the aftermath at least two journalists were detained under the country’s repressive anti-terror law. The draconian Anti-Terrorist Proclamation, introduced in 2009, was described by Human Rights Watch (HRW) at the time as “a potent instrument to crack down on political dissent, including peaceful political demonstrations…. It would permit long-term imprisonment and even the death penalty for ‘crimes’ that bear no resemblance, under any credible definition, to terrorism.” The government has been discussing reforms to the proclamation, but what is required is not endless debate, but for the law to be scrapped immediately and new legislation brought forward.

From dictatorship to democracy

Until PM Abiy took office, the ruling EPRDF coalition was dominated by a group of men from Tigray under the banner of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). For 23 years they imposed their ideology of ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ – a highly centralized authoritarian political and economic system, which the regime was never able to clearly define. Human rights were ignored, corruption was rife, the judiciary politicized, state terrorism commonplace in various parts of the country, and “ethnic federalism”, a system of regional administration based on ethnicity, introduced. Good on paper, it promised to respect cultural diversity and give autonomy to ethnic groups should they wish it. In practice ethnic federalism was a way for the TPLF to control the people, to “Divide and Rule”. Competition among groups for land, government funding, aid and natural resources increased, historic tribal flags hoisted, differences aggravated and national unity impaired, all by design.

The EPRDF is still in office under PM Abiy, but the cabinet is new (50% women), and the approach has radically changed; democracy is, many hope, a real possibility in the country.

Abdi is Oromo and holds the office of chairman of the Oromo Democratic Party (ODP). Although they constitute the largest group (with around 35% of the population), there has never before been an Oromo Prime Minister. As large numbers of Oromo see it, they have been dominated for generations by people from the Amhara and Tigray regions, who have suppressed and abused them. With an Oromo PM and a large number of Oromo ministers in place many Oromo people believe their time has come; their time for what precisely though, is unclear. Revenge perhaps – dangerous, to redress historic injustices, to gain independence or autonomy – something that is geographically impossible; Oromia sits on land in the center of the country and includes the capital, Addis Ababa.

Since the new government took office in April 2018 political prisoners have been released, prisons – in which torture was routine – closed down, peace established with Eritrea, troops withdrawn from the Ogaden region in the south. Ethiopians living abroad, many of who were critical of the previous regime, were welcomed back, and the media unshackled. A new beginning then, and much to be welcomed. But as the old repressive measures are rejected, deep-seated anger has surfaced; some see the disquiet as an opportunity to advance their narrow political agenda, they exploit the situation, agitating, stirring up anger.

The evolution into democracy, something Ethiopia has never before known, needs to be carefully nurtured if the transition away from fear and suppression is to be peacefully realized. The government is new and needs time, they also need support; Ethiopia’s major beneficiaries, Europe, USA and Britain, need to become engaged. As with the world as a whole, the key for Ethiopia is unity: unity enriched by the diverse tribal cultures and traditions that exist in this beautiful country.

There is a great deal to be done in Ethiopia: it remains one of the poorest countries in the world, and finds itself languishing at 173rd on the UN Human Development Index, out of 189 countries. Health care is poor as is the standard of education. Civil society is weak, it lacks a comprehensive legal infrastructure, the judiciary is not trusted; the cost of living is high and inequality extreme. It will take time, cooperation, tolerance and goodwill to address these fundamental societal issues. Every effort needs to be made to unite the disparate groups; no matter the tribe, all are Ethiopian and all have a contribution to make in the New Ethiopia.

Lobbies and Belated Groundings: Boeing’s 737 Max 8

Lobbies, powerful interests and financial matters are usually the first things that come to mind when the aircraft industry is considered.  Safety, while deemed of foremost importance, is a superficial formality, sometimes observed in the breach.  To see the camera footage of the wreckage from the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 was to be shocked by a certain irony: cameras were found lingering over an inflight safety cards on what to do in the event of an emergency.  For those on board that doomed flight, it was irrelevant.

The deaths of all 157 individuals on board the flight en route to Nairobi from Addis Ababa on Sunday might have caused a flurry of panicked responses.  There had been a similar disaster in Indonesia last year when Lion Air’s flight JT610 crashed killing 189 people.  Two is too many, but the response to the disasters was initially lethargic.

Concern seemed to centre on the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), deemed vital to prevent the aircraft from stalling.  Sensors within the MCAS might, according to accident investigator Geoffrey Dell, have sent “spurious signals to the flight management computers and resulting in the autopilot automatically pushing the nose of the aircraft down”.  If so, then the ability to manually counter those actions, a safety design feature of previous aircraft autopilots, would have to be questioned.  Troubling Dell was another question: why did the pilots fail to disconnect the autopilot when it played up?  Ditto the auto throttle system itself.

When it comes to safety in the aviation industry, powerful players tend to monetise rather than humanise their passengers.  A company like Boeing is seen as much as a patriot of the US defence industry as a producer of passenger aircraft. The company’s presence in Washington is multiple and vast, characterised by the buzzing activity of some two dozen in-house lobbyists and twenty lobbying firms. Lobbyists such as John Keast, a former principal at Cornerstone Government Affairs, have links with lawmakers such as Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi nurtured since the days he was chief of staff.  Wicker spokeswoman Brianna Manzelli was, however, keen to narrow that influence supposedly wielded by Keast in a statement made to CNN.  “While at Cornerstone Government Affairs, John Keast lobbied for a variety of clients including Boeing on defence issues only.”

Such combined lobbying efforts cost $15 million last year alone, which makes Boeing’s contribution relatively small to trade groups, but significant in terms of outdoing such competitors as Lockheed Martin.  Added to the fact that CEO Dennis Muilenburg has an open channel to the White House, the campaign favouring the Max 8’s continued, and unmolested operation, was hitting gear.  A Tuesday call made by the executive to Trump after the president’s tweet on the dangers posed by complex systems suggested some serious pull.

For a time, it seemed that the lobby was doing its customary black magic, and winning, attempting to douse fires being made by the likes of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA Union calling for a temporary grounding of the Max 8.  Certain pilots had noticed control issues while operating the Max 8 over US airspace.

Boeing initially convinced the Federal Aviation Administration, which failed to note in a surly statement from Acting FAA administrator Daniel K. Elwell any “systematic performance issues” worthy of grounding the model.  “Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action.  In the course of our urgent review of data on the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash, if any issues affecting the continued airworthiness of the aircraft are identified, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action.”

This statement stood in stark contrast to that of the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand.  “Currently, there is no clear indication for the actual cause of accidents in Indonesia & Ethiopia, and no evident risk management measures or any mechanism to ensure the safety of 737 Max 9 aircraft from the aircraft manufacturer.”

The lobby’s traction has gradually slowed on the Hill, and its tittering has, at least for the moment, started to lose conviction.  Calls started to come from lawmakers that the 737 model needed to be looked at.  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) suggested grounding the aircraft as a “prudent” measure. “Further investigation may reveal that mechanical issues were not the cause, but until that time, our first priority must be the safety of the flying public.”  Democratic senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) were also itching to convince the FAA to ground the Max 8 “until the agency can conclusively determine that the aircraft be operated safely.”

Other lawmakers, ever mindful of Boeing’s influence in their states, preferred to leave the regulators to their task.  Till then, the planes would be permitted to continue taking to the skies.  “Right now,” cautioned Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), chair of the subcommittee overseeing aviation and a political voice for a state hosting an important Boeing facility, “the important thing is that relevant agencies are allowed to conduct a thorough and careful investigation.”

It was President Donald Trump who ultimately decided to reverse the earlier decision by regulators permitting the aircraft to continue flying.  The emergency order put the US in step with safety regulators in 42 other countries. “I didn’t want to take any chances,” explained Trump.  But ever mindful of Boeing’s shadowy hold, the president added a qualifying note. “We could have delayed it.  We maybe didn’t have to make it at all.  But I felt it was important both psychologically and in a lot of other ways.”

The FAA’s continued “data gathering”, previously deemed insufficient to warrant a grounding despite the quick response in other countries, had led to the opposite conclusion.  This included “newly refined satellite data available to the FAA”.  But Elwell was unwilling to eat anything resembling humble pie. “Since this accident occurred we were resolute that we would not take action until we had data.  That data coalesced today.”  A coalescence demonstrating, in more concrete terms, how safety, while important, tends to lag in the broader considerations of profit and operation in the aviation industry.