All posts by Graham Peebles

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.

Complacency Rules: Consumerism and the Environment

The 16 Year Old, middle class, privileged, argues that meat and other animal produce are essential for his health, his ability to play sport, and the development of his adolescent brain; besides, one person becoming vegetarian/vegan, won’t make any difference to the environmental crisis.

The total failure to respond in any meaningful way to the environmental emergency rests firmly within the boundaries of such complacency. It can be found in all areas, from politicians and corporate board rooms to small businesses, NGO’s and community groups, education institutions, homes, and, apparently, some teenagers.

Complacency and the refusal to change individual behavior and collective ways of living are stoking the underlying cause of the crisis Consumerism. Irresponsible Compulsive Consumption, as habitually practiced by populations in the rich nations, principally and excessively by the wealthy, but to a lesser degree throughout all sections of society.

Consumerism is the bedrock of the prevailing socio-economic system and materialistic way of life. Sold duplicitously as the Path to Happiness and Contentment it has poisoned the planet and created unhealthy societies of divided, insecure individuals. Inherent within the Ideology of Division is a methodology and set of values that encourage selfishness, greed and complacency. Sufficiency, cooperation and social responsibility, all essential if the environmental crisis is to be met, whilst routinely spouted by politicians and the like are thin on the ground or, more often than not, totally absent.

The environment cannot wait

Governments and businesses are completely invested in maintaining high levels of consumption; their profitability and continued existence depend on it. Indeed, far from prioritizing the environment and working to change societal behavior and deter individuals from spending, huge resources are expended to persuade and encourage consumption; to expand market share, develop new products and increase profits for shareholders.

It is this poisonous Ideology of Profit, which, in direct contrast to the needs of the environment for simplicity of living, collectivity and sharing, perpetuates, not just rampant consumerism, but widespread apathy and inaction. Governments talk a concerned environmental talk, but policies are determined by economic growth and voters’ concerns rather than CO2 emissions, pollution, or bio-diversity. And most companies, particularly big ones, routinely demonstrate that they don’t give a damn about the environment, unless by doing so sales increase and their annual dividends rise.

The environment cannot wait until governments and business judge that going “green” is more profitable or popular than the destructive status quo, before they act in a responsible manner. It is their insatiable thirst for power and profit, and their deep attachment to the Ideology of Greed – because, while the majority suffer, it has served them very well, that allows collective complacency to persist, and complacency (not money) is the root of all evil.

The final leg in the trinity of environmental neglect is formed by Ignorance or Misinformation. Ignorance of how individual choices impact on the natural environment; Ignorance of the depth and scale of the crisis and Ignorance of the impact of diet on the planet. Such ignorance and lack of awareness exist due to decades of government negligence in countries everywhere (some more, some less). This could be changed with a UN coordinated public awareness campaign; a global project designed to make plain the relationship between consumer-based lifestyles (including animal agriculture) and environmental destruction/climate change.

Unmitigated mess

While it is true that only governments and business can make the needed large scale changes (fossil fuels to renewables, electrification of transportation networks,  green production methods etc), individuals can make a valuable impact, and when individuals act collectively large-scale change can be accomplished.

Ultimately ‘we’ are the problem. It is our obsessive ignorant behavior, our complacency, greed and selfishness that has poisoned the planet. And it is up to all of us to act in the most comprehensive way possible to begin to clean up the unmitigated mess we have caused. We are all only ‘one person’, but every day we have a choice, every time we eat, or shop, or travel: Are our actions, our choices and decisions responsible or harmful, is the way we individually live detrimental to the planet or not?

Diet is one area everyone can look at; reducing the intake of animal produce or, better still, moving to a plant-based diet is the single most important step most individuals can take. In some countries there are encouraging signs that people are waking up to this fact, and the number of vegetarians/vegans, particularly among young people, is growing. And according to the Vegetarian Resource Group (US), providing a varied diet is followed, all their nutritional needs can be adequately met. In fact, various detailed studies show that, vegetarians are at lower risk of a variety of diseases and conditions, including: heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, (conversely, The World Health Organization has classified red and processed meats as cancer-causing), and obesity. And according to Walter Willett at Harvard School of Public Health, “There is strong evidence that a plant based diet [vegan] is the optimal diet for living a long and healthy life.”

So, cutting out animal produce is not only good for the environment, it’s good for human health. Despite this, globally only some 8% of people identify as vegan, vegetarian, or something in between. Meaning 92% of the 7.8 billion world population consume meat, fish, poultry and all manner of dairy. The environmental result of this obsession is disastrous and multi-faceted.

Animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), which are the poisons disrupting natural climate rhythms. The  United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization’s (UNFAO) put the figure at 14.5% of total emissions, but estimates vary, some studies suggesting it’s a good deal higher: Greenpeace e.g. say that, “Livestock and animal feed is responsible for approximately 60% of direct global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

Whatever the precise number, animal agriculture is clearly a major source, if not the greatest source of emissions (surpassing the transportation industry); it’s also the biggest cause (80%) of deforestation, habitat destruction and species extinction, contributing to soil erosion and water contamination. And it’s driven by the incessant demand for meat, dairy and fish.

A revolution in behavior and values is needed, moving away from excess to sufficiency, from selfishness to group responsibility, from complacency to action. Education and awareness plus a sense of imperative are the keys to igniting such a shift and generating urgent action. Action by government and businesses and action by us, all of us, particularly those of us living in developed nations where the historic burden for the catastrophe rests; action rooted in love, demonstrated as social and environmental responsibility undertaken by each and every one of us.

The post Complacency Rules: Consumerism and the Environment first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Poison of Nationalism

Once upon a time Nationalism was an ideology reserved for extremists, but in recent years it has moved from the irrelevant fractious fringes to become a central movement in western politics. Rooted in fear, it feeds on tribal instincts and has become mainstream by offering oversimplified explanations to complex problems, such as poverty and immigration.

The ideal of a post-cold war tolerant world where resources (including food and water), are shared equitably, governments cooperate and borders soften has been usurped by rabid intolerance and racism, wall building, flag waving, cruel unjust immigration policies and violent policing of migrants and migrant routes. Rather than addressing issues and tackling underlying causes the ardent nationalist blames some group or other, ethnic, religious or national.

Love, distorted but potent, and hate sustain the monster: love and corrupted pride of nation and ‘our way of life’, seen among the flag wavers as somehow superior; hatred of ‘strangers’, and hatred of change to that which is familiar. It is an insular reactionary movement of introspection and division based on false and petty notions of difference: skin color, religion, language, culture, even food.

Such prejudices lead to an agitation of suspicion and hatred of ‘foreigners’. National interests are favored over international responsibilities; minorities and refugees insulted, abused or worse. Covid has intensified such vile human tendencies, and highlighted what were already strained relations with ‘outsiders’ –  those that are differentwith ‘the other’.

People of Asian appearance have been victimized in various countries, most notably the US, Australia and Britain; trapped in refugee camps, asylum seekers/migrants have been forgotten, and vaccine nationalism, the “me first approach”, with wealthy western countries buying up vaccines, has been widespread. As a result of this injustice, while the rich will have their populations vaccinated by late 2021, developing countries (relying on the inadequate COVAX scheme) are looking at mass vaccination by the end of 2023, if ever. It is a moral outrage that flows from and strengthens ideas of global separation, inflames resentment and will prolong the virus.

Central to the fear-inducing nationalist program is reductive national identities and cultural images tightly packaged in ‘the flag’. Described as “primordial rag[s] dipped in the blood of a conquered enemy and lifted high on a stick” (in Flags Through the Ages and Across the World by Whitney Smith), national flags evolved from battle standards and means of group identification held aloft during the Middle Ages. They are loved by nationalists who always believe their country to be ‘the greatest on Earth’, their people the strongest and the ‘best’, their way of life superior.

Such ignorant, meaningless and completely false ideas have become common elements of political rhetoric. Politicians (of all colors) in many, if not all, western democracies believe they must reinforce such crass sentiments, or face losing populist support, being attacked as ‘enemies of the people’ – as High Court Judges were in Britain during the Brexit fiasco, or labelled ‘traitors’.

Torrents of abuse

There are various interconnected threads to, and expressions of, Nationalism, from the political realm to mainstream and social media, popular culture to education. This suffocating network strengthens discrimination and prejudice of all kinds, including racism. During the recent Euro ’21 tournament black England players who had missed penalties in the final were subject to a torrent of abuse online. The same England ‘fans’ booed opposition teams singing national anthems and their own team, when they ‘took the knee’ before matches; a universal non-political act of solidarity that UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel disparagingly described as “gesture politics”.

She was later (rightly) accused of “stoking the fires of racism”, by refusing to endorse the players’ actions. Her new widely condemned immigration policy, has also given license to nationalist bigots and racists. Some of them have recently been recorded hurling abuse from the beaches of southern England at refugees in boats crossing the English Channel.

Irresponsible nationalist politicians like Patel (and the world is full of them), thick with ideology and ambition, are dogmatic in their beliefs and concerned solely with getting and retaining power. To this narcissistic end they employ the inflammatory rhetoric of nationalism – ‘our country’, ‘this great nation of ours’, ‘controlling immigration’, and ‘the flag’. Predictable and crude methods used to cajole the slumbering masses and agitate their tribal tendencies.

In order to strengthen their nationalist credentials presidents, politicians and military men and women, adorn themselves with the national emblem: embossed badges, a trend led by the US, who are flag-waving world leaders, and at press briefings/interviews they are rarely seen without a flag at their side – two, where there was no pre-Covid, in the case of the totally inept UK Government, desperate one suspects to shift the focus away from their homicidal management of the pandemic, and the calamity that is Brexit Britain. The flag is not, in itself, the problem, but its growing use is a powerful sign of the unabated rise of nationalism, a trend that with the fall of Trump, many had hoped was in decline.

Unifying acts of kindness

Nationalism grows out of fear. It feeds hate, leads to violence, and creates a climate of ‘us’ and ‘them’.  Indeed it thrives and is dependent upon such divisions. The stranger, the foreigner, refugee, asylum seeker or migrant is targeted. Blamed for the country’s ills, slandered as criminals, rapists, murderers. Accused of stealing jobs, draining health care services, degrading housing, corrupting the pristine national culture with their vile, primitive habits and beliefs.

In this way the ‘stranger’ becomes dehumanized, making it possible to abuse and mistreat him or her in varying degrees: From verbal insults on the street, the workplace or in the classroom to violent assault; detained in offshore prisons (Australia), imprisoned for years without charge (Guantanamo e.g.), housed in inhumane conditions in refugee camps, detention centers and/or temporary housing, or allowed to drown in the Mediterranean, North Sea and elsewhere.

Such atrocities are all fine, because the men, women and children who are being mistreated constitute the ‘them’. ‘They’ are the enemy, the destroyer of civilisation and decency, less than human, even the children, and as such they deserve it. And the further away such ‘strangers’ are kept the easier it is to perpetuate the demonisation myth, maintain suspicion and strengthen hate. Conversely as Joe Keohane makes clear in The power of strangers: the benefits of connecting in a suspicious world, “connecting with strangers helps to dispel partisanship and categorical judgements, increase social solidarity and make us more hopeful about our lives.” Mistrust of ‘strangers’ is strengthened by division and dispelled by contact; by sharing a moment, by acts of kindness – given and received, in which our common humanity is acknowledged.

Nationalism poisons the mind and the society and must be rooted out. Despite the apparent signs to the contrary, it is completely at odds with the tone of the times, which is towards unity – greater cooperation, tolerance and understanding. It is in reaction to this unifying movement that the demon of nationalism has risen; it is  cruel, ugly and extremely dangerous and must be countered by unifying acts of kindness and compassion wherever it is seen.

If the unprecedented crises confronting humanity – environmental emergency, displacement of people, poverty and armed conflict – are to be faced, mitigated and overcome, individuals, communities, businesses and governments must increasingly come together, agree methods and global policies and build united integrated societies founded on compassion. Given the unprecedented scale and range of the issues, particularly climate change and the broader environmental calamity, there is no alternative.

The post The Poison of Nationalism 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.

GDP versus Lasting Growth Rooted in Love

In what feels like a throwback to another era, banks and big business are once again talking about ‘growth’, and economic development. Both of which amount to the same thing to the men and women of money – profit.

After over a year of utter turmoil, death, illness, heartache, social and economic lockdowns, some nations – the wealthy nations who, unlike poor countries, have been able to stock-pile vaccinations and immunize their populations, are opening up. The impact Covid has had on their coffers has been measured and, as the twisted wheels of consumerism begin to churn again, they are evaluating their short term financial prospects and working out how much richer they can become.

In the UK, the head of Barclays Bank recently announced, “The UK economy is on course for its biggest economic boom since 1948” – whoopee! In the midst of the pandemic, the bank, which is Europe’s largest financier of fossil fuels (£20bn in 2020 alone), made record profits in the first three months of 2021 of £2.4 billion, due, to quote the nauseating jargon, to “strong growth in its corporate and investment banking division and an improved mortgage book.” Lending money to ailing businesses mainly, loans that have been guaranteed by the government, so another win-win for the banks.

France and the US have announced ‘growth’ (of 0.4%) in the first quarter of 2021. In UK house prices are once again increasing, announced as if that’s a good thing by greedy estate agents and ideologically-trapped politicians. German financial institutions are forecasting a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increase of 3.7% this year. China has declared GDP growth of 18.3% in the first quarter of 2021, which is the highest ever recorded. In India, where Covid is running wild due to government stupidity and a totally inadequate, criminally underfunded health care system, estimates of GDP growth for the year vary from 10.5%-13%.

All of this ‘growth’ is based on one thing, consumerism, the very same consumerism that caused and is fueling the environmental emergency, which is the greatest crisis of this or any other time. Consumerism has also imprisoned the human spirit, and led to the construction of petty little lives that revolve around the pursuit of pleasure, which is sold as happiness, and the accumulation of stuff, the vast majority of which is not needed. Discontent is maintained, desire constantly enflamed, widespread misery leading to wholesale mental health illness, guaranteed.

And so it goes on, the madness, the ideologically-rooted consumer lunacy in which a  tiny number benefit enormously, while the majority struggle to survive.

Some hoped, prayed, begged, that Covid would bring about a fundamental change in approach; perhaps a period of quiet, of enforced economic withdrawal would allow for a socio-economic re-evaluation, for an influx of common-sense. ‘Build back better’, ‘new normal’, a ‘green recovery’, all such slogans have tripped of the tongues of duplicitous politicians and corporate leaders everywhere. But now as some countries begin to relax controls, the divisive, environmentally destructive pre-Covid patterns are set to be repeated. What will it take, we ask, for substantive change to come about and socio-economic justice to be created?

We, by which I mean the vast majority of people, the masses, are not interested in GDP figures. ‘Growth’ needs to be completely re-defined, released from the narrow confines of an exploitative economic model that is obsessed with profit, is inherently cruel and destructive, and has promoted a set of values and ideals that have caused widespread illness, of people and the planet. What matters to individuals everywhere is not GDP growth, what matters, is the creation of happy, harmonious societies; societies in which governments, businesses and individuals live socially and environmentally responsible lives, where the pressure to become something, to conform to a stereotype and to achieve, is absent or diluted.

Love as Growth

At the heart of any fresh understandings around ‘growth’ must be the cultivation of social justice and trust, which, if brought about, would allow the possibility at least for peace to come into being for the first time in human history. For such a rational shift to occur, the socio-economic order needs to be re-fashioned and perennial values of goodness – cooperation, tolerance, mutual understanding, that unite people actively encouraged. Consumerism, founded on greed, fear and insatiable desire must be allowed to fall away, replaced by sustainable ways of living based on sufficiency; competition (subdued somewhat during Covid) between nations, regions, states and cities must soften in light of the recognition that the various interrelated crises of the age, can only be met and overcome by united action.

Focused expressions of goodwill, as seen by community endeavors throughout the world in times of need (Covid pandemic included), unite people, helping to banish tensions and build trust; this is worthy development or growth, and is readily achieved when the habitual urge to compete is negated.

Individual growth we could describe as the apprehension and expression of who and what we essentially are, of realizing innate potential, and contributing to the well-being of society, thereby strengthening group growth, not financial gain, success and status. And collective growth, which flows from such individual understanding, must be concerned with growth in the expression of love in our world; with the creation of peace and unity and of environmental healing, ending hunger (which could be quickly achieved if the will/love to do so existed) and compassionately responding to the refugee crisis and the global displacement of people. Love, expressed not in emotional, sentimental terms, but love as that driving force for good.

The post GDP versus Lasting Growth Rooted in Love 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.

Freedom of Thought and the Death of Ideologies

Amidst widespread mistrust of authority and governing institutions (politicians, particularly governments, are the least trusted group in society), dogma, from whatever source, appears to be losing its suffocating hold on the minds of people everywhere. Disillusionment with ideologically based solutions is being strengthened by the consistent failure of existing methods to solve the problems of the times, which are many and considerable.

If global and national challenges are to be met fully and whole-heartedly, creative reimagining, free of doctrine, is required; independent thinking outside the ideological box. Decrepit systems must be reappraised, the good retained the rest rejected; values realigned, belief systems revised and expanded. Humanity has been wedded to ideologies of one kind of another for eons. Our devotion to them strengthens self-identity, albeit limited and false, and provides a degree of comfort and order in a chaotic world which has no easily discernible logic or purpose to it. This is particularly so in relation to organised religions with their defined order, fixed doctrine and mapped-out route to ‘God’.

Capitalism, democracy and Christianity (2.2 billion believers) are the most pervasive global ideologies, but there are a host of others. In the religious field there’s Islam, the fastest growing religion (1.8 billion); Hinduism (the world’s oldest, one billion), which is not really a religion but a collection of traditions and ancient philosophies; Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism and Sikhism, plus a bundle of sub-sects. Then there are the socio-economic/political structures: Socialism, Neo-liberalism, Communism, Fascism, and the many divisions; on and on it goes.

A veritable jumble of isms then, conditioning the minds of everyone, everywhere, enabling control, fuelling social divisions, historic conflicts, sparking terrorism and wars too numerous to count. Ideologies consisting of systemized forms, inflexible rules and cherished beliefs administered by devotees, suited and enrobed intermediaries — between the ignorant masses and the state or the divine. Ordained or elected to perpetuate the system, devoutly deliver the doctrine, condition the unsuspecting from the pulpit, the election rally or news channel, and orchestrate the hollow rituals designed by their predecessors. Mass media and education, plus already infiltrated peers and parents are key feeding grounds for the perpetuation of ideologies

Love in Action

Alongside the calls for justice, a relentless rhythm of the times is the collective demand for freedom. It adorns the placards and lyrics of protest songs around the world. Various freedoms are contained within The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR): “Freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want, freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.” And crucially, “The right to freedom of thought” (Article 18). This ‘right’, which is the most important of them all, like numerous others contained within the aspirational articles of the UNDHR, does not exist anywhere in the world; it cannot exist within the boundaries of any ideology, and no society is free, not just from a specific ideology, but a potent cocktail of isms.

All belief systems inhibit and condition thinking, colour attitudes and impact behavior. Rigid adherence to isms of all kinds creates divisions, within the individual and by extension the society, and where division exists conflict and fear prosper. All of which runs contrary to the impulse and need of the time, for unity, collective action, cooperation and tolerance. It is these perennial ideals that need to be strengthened if we are to overcome the major issues facing us. All that separates and divides needs to be discarded.

Existing ideologies are in varying states of decay, with devotees of the doctrine lacking the freedom and imagination to allow the system (socio-economic, political or religious) to evolve. But as attitudes and values shift, and this is happening apace throughout the world, in order to be relevant and to adequately meet the demands of the time, evolve they must.

Unity is the key element in any such shift — the required guiding principle underlying the development of existing systems and modes of living. Systems and methodologies rooted not in ideology but in compassion and brotherhood, leading to love in action; systems designed to foster social justice, reduce inequality, dismantle divisions and build relationships.

Unity does not equate to mechanical conformity, that is what exists now; in a tolerant, non-judgmental space where the common good is the collective aim, different ideas can happily co-exist, each contributing to the enrichment and beautification of the whole. Oneness is the very nature of things,  the essence of who we are; creating ways of living that are rooted in and encourage expressions of this inherent fact is essential if we are to face the challenges of the time, safeguard the environment and begin to build a just and free world.

The post Freedom of Thought and the Death of Ideologies first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Global Cry for Change

Change is in the air, it’s been hovering for some time, but thanks to Covid-19 festering social issues and inequalities have been highlighted, intensifying the need for a new approach. Talk of environmental action and reimagining how we live and work fills the airwaves; catchphrases abound, spilling from the lips of duplicitous politicians who claim they want to ‘build back better’, create a ‘new normal’, and invest in a ‘green recovery’.

Repeated often enough, and the men and women in suits are nothing if not repetitive, such slogans become totally devoid of meaning. The word becomes the thing to which it refers, without ‘the thing’ – ‘peace’, ‘brotherhood’, ‘equality’ – ever being realized, or any meaningful action undertaken to bring it about.

A cluster of interconnected crises confronts humanity, the most urgent of which is the environmental emergency. The natural world with its sublime beauty and intricate systems, has been vandalized, mutilated, poisoned. Hunger and malnourishment soil the lives of almost a billion people, billions more are economically insecure. Societies are fractured, divided, some more some less; there’s armed conflict, modern-day slavery, displacement of persons; anxiety, stress and depression are everywhere. It’s a mess, but it’s a mess from which a small number of very rich and politically powerful people benefit enormously. A tiny coterie of humanity, complacent and greedy, who are quite happy with the current order and do not want things to change, certainly not in any radical substantive way.

But billions of people throughout the world are desperate for change, for freedom, social justice, greater democracy and environmental action. And in the last forty years or so virtually every country in the world has witnessed expressions of popular outrage (including the more repressive states) as a global protest movement, unprecedented in scale, has emerged.

Social change has forever been slow in coming; fought for by the masses and resisted, often violently, by those in power. There is nothing unusual there, what is new is the weight and scale of the calls for change, the range of issues, interconnected, but diverse, and the urgency of the crises. The internet, social media and mass communication means the world is connected like never before. It’s easier to organize happenings, news is accessible almost everywhere all the time, speeding everything up.

Underlying this universal wave of discontent is a collective awakening, a unifying attitude of strength in the face of political arrogance, corporate exploitation and social division: Enough is enough; hear us and respond, seem to be the mantras of the masses. Fear of reprisals has lost its restraining hold (as seen in the recent protests in; e.g., Belarus, Russia and Myanmar) in light of the power of unified creative actions brought together under the banner of love.

‘People power’ is the label commonly applied to this uncoordinated diverse movement by the mass media – and they love a label. A reductive, somewhat divisive term; the explosion in political, social and environmental engagement is not rooted in opposition, though this certainly exists, but flows from a growing sense of social and environmental responsibility and an evolving unity; a recognition that we are all responsible for one another and the planet.

Responsibility is a key component of a democratic society, as is participation, and, of course, the two are closely linked. Society is not separate from those who live, work and study within its boundaries; we are society, collectively we create the atmosphere, and we allow and perpetuate the structures and dominant modes of living through our actions and attitudes. Consciousness sits behind behavior, attitudes, values, and consciousness (at least as far as we know it) is its content. Such content is predominantly the accumulated ideas and beliefs that have been poured into the mind from birth; conditioned content then is the fabric of our consciousness. We are, for example, conditioned into competition from childhood, and believing it to be natural and beneficial, we live within its divisive pattern and pass it on to others, our peers and children, say; we thereby add to the collective conditioning which shapes society.

Changes in consciousness and therefore behavior come about quite naturally when conditioning is absent; remove conformity and fear from a classroom, for example, and see children relax, play and freely express themselves.

We are all responsible, not just for ourselves but for others, family, friends, our community, nation, region, world; the more we act, the more the ripples of responsibility expand. Recognition and awareness of this inherent responsibility leads quite naturally to participation and action, as the many and varied protest movements and community groups demonstrate.

Expressions of social and environmental responsibility reflect and strengthen an evolving realization that humanity is one, that we are all essentially the same: Individuals with particular qualities and gifts sharing a common nature and universal constitution, the beauty and depth of which we sense but do not understand; its quality is love, that much we do know; and it is love in action that needs to permeate any ‘new normal’.

The post The Global Cry for Change first appeared on Dissident Voice.