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Ethiopia to NY Times: Show us the proof of ethnic cleansing. NY Times to Ethiopia: Silence. Washington moves to the next step in its hybrid warfare: preparing sanctions.

March 22, 2021
Building the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) key to development in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa

This article was written while U.S. Senator Chris Coons was in Addis Ababa “negotiating” with the Ethiopian government. I feared Coons was there not on a fact finding mission but to diktat demands. Unfortunately that is exactly what happened. Initial results of the meeing are coming in.

  • The pressure on Ethiopia has intensified. In Addis Senator Coons demanded thatEthiopia stops filling the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in July and postpone its completion and that the Ethiopian government reconcile with the Tigray Popular Liberation Front.
  • Ethiopia has categorically rejected both ideas.
  • The Senate and the house have drafted resolutions to put pressure and sanction Ethiopia.

The United States has moved from creating a false narrative (Addis ethnic cleansing of the Tigray region, vilifying the Ethiopian leadership, to preparing sanctions, following “the play book” for ratcheting up hybrid warfare.

Writing about this just prior to Senator Coons’ meeting, I wrote:

U.S. President Joe Biden has send U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Maryland), a close associate, to Ethiopia on a fact-finding mission. He is there now. A fact finding mission – if it does in fact amount to that – is badly needed. An objective analysis of what is happening on the ground in Ethiopia could dispel some of the fog surrounding events there.

Of course, the success of such a diplomatic mission depends on with whom Senator Coons meets. Unfortunately his trip is already compromised by the Administration’s partisan position.

A week ago, before a House of Representative sub committee U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken for the first time said acts of “ethnic cleansing” had been committed in Western Tigray, implying that the Addis Ababa government headed up by Abiy Ahmed was responsible.

Further, according to CNN, Sen. Chris Coons “will convey President Biden’s grave concerns about the humanitarian crisis and human rights abuses in the Tigray region and the risk of broader instability in the Horn of Africa,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement Thursday.

Such comments sound more like a bold face accusation than the pressing need for an inquiry. It makes one wonder if Coons visit will be little more than an exercise in political diktat, a threat than a genuine fact finding mission. Time will tell and given the speed with which U.S.-Ethiopian relations are currently deteriorating, it shouldn’t take long to be able to understand what the Coons’ visit to Ethiopia is all about

It’s one of those many “deja vu” tales that starts with an accusation, unproven and unsubstantiated of war crimes, ethnic cleansing or genocide, that continues with sanctions – if possible with the blessing of the U.N. Security Council, if not pushed through anyway by organizations like NATO or Africom. It continues with no-fly zones and then one way or another with regime change through regional proxies followed by partition, either de factor or de jure.

From all appearances what happened in former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria is taking form for Ethiopia. Rather than opposing such a plan, stopping it dead in its tracks, it looks to be proceeding. Have no illusions. Behind the veil of “pausible deniability” (ie “we” had nothing to do with it!), Washington is pulling the strings, orchestrating the whole show as it did in the countries cited just above.On February 28, 2021, less than a month ago, the NY Times published an article “Ethiopia’s War Leads to Ethnic Cleansing in Tigray Region“. The article accused the Addis Ababa government of “leading a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in Tigray, the war-torn region of northern Ethiopia”. The Times based its accusations on access to “an internal U.S. Government report” one that the Ethiopian government has been denied any access to.

As Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States, Fitsum Arega, noted, “The EthiopianGovernment has no knowledge of such a report and is therefore unable to respond toyour characterization of the allegations.” That comment was made in Ambassador Fitsim’s response to the Times‘ article which the newspaper, known for its byline, “all the news that fit to print” refused to print or even acknowledge.

In the same unpublished response, Ambassador Fitsim Arega made a number of other points lost in the Biden Administration’s hybrid war drum beat:

  1. the Ethiopian Government categorically and completely rejects your unsubstantiated and inflammatory claim of “ethnic cleansing” in Tigray. The EthiopianGovernment unconditionally condemns any violation of human rights, including “ethnic cleansing” anywhere in the world
  2. it is curious that the New York Times should be privileged to access an “internalU.S. Government report” when the subject matter of the report, the Government ofEthiopia, is kept in the dark about the existence of such a report. The EthiopianGovernment has no knowledge of such a report and is therefore unable to respond toyour characterization of the allegations
  3. It is regrettable that you failed to exercise minimum duediligence required under your own journalistic standards and contact the EthiopianGovernment in Addis Ababa or its Embassy in the United States for comment beforepublishing the story. Consistent with your own principles of impartiality and neutrality,it is important for those who are depicted in an unfavorable light in your report to havethe opportunity to respond and not only present their side of the story but also to help ensure fair coverage and your readers are provided the most complete and accurateview of the subject matter reported
  4. the fact that the NY Times has access to the alleged report and failed to make it publiccreates the inescapable impression that the report was either leaked to you in bad faithand with ulterior motives or the report itself lacks substantial evidential basis to supportits purported conclusion of “ethnic cleansing.” As I indicated above, such an allegationof grave human rights violations is customarily shared with the government in questionfirst, and not shared covertly with a news media outlet. Diplomacy-by-media leaks iscounterproductive because it shrouds the truth in a fog of insinuations, hints andallegations
  5. Fifth, the sad article lacks any semblance of balance and context. The indisputable fact ofthe matter is that the leadership of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)launched an insurrectionary, massive and deadly attack on the Ethiopian NationalDefense forces on November 4, 2020. The Ethiopian Government, just like any othersovereign government in the world, took reasonable action to suppress the attack,restore constitutional supremacy and maintain law and order

The Ambassador doesn’t stop there.

He goes on to note that in its reporting the Times ignored “the fact the TPLF committed the most heinous andtreasonous crimes against a national defense force in the military history by killing,maiming, torturing and abusing Ethiopian federal troops stationed in Tigray region”, that the TPLF (Tigre Popular Liberation Front) itself is accused of having committed “massive atrocities” in Mai Karda (in Gondar Province) as documented by both the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International, that the TPLF has caused the destruction of valuable infrastructure including electrical power and communication services and that the TPLF has released untold numbers of convicted criminals who reportedly continue to commit atrocities.

The ambassador condemned what he called “the baseless and inflammatory allegation of “ethnic cleansing” in Tigray. Concerning the alleged secret report the ambassador went on to notat that if the Times has access to its content, the Ethiopian government, through its ambassador “respectfully request(ed)” that the newspaper share it with them noting that “Our view is that if such a report actually exists and is basedon credible and substantial evidence, the proper U.S. authorities would have shared itwith us before sharing it with members of the media. We believe our request is fair evenafter the fact of your reporting”.

The Times article was nearly a month ago, on February 26, the Ambassador’s response on March 12, ten days past. No secret government report has been released to the Ethiopian government either by the NY Times or the U.S. State Department, making many wonder if such a report even exists in the first place and if it does, why the United States refuses to release it to a country long known as a U.S. ally and which has, in tandem with AFRICOM played an important role in furthering U.S. strategic interests in the Horn of Africa.

Worse, such unsubstantiated allegations published in one of the United States’ most prestigious newspapers and then republished in other mainstream media sources here and in Europe are worrying. It is reminescent of past NY Times faux pas, in particular the Judith Miller reports of Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” – which turned out be mistruths coming directly out of the Dick Cheney’s office, the Secretary of Defense at the time. Mistruths maybe, but which set the stage by softening up public opinion for the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq.

Keep in mind that it was only last October that in a ceremony marking the re-establishment of Sudanese-Israeli relations that then President Trump publicly let loose with bizarre and disgraceful threat that “that Egypt should blow up the dam . . . they have to do something. “The dam” Trump was referring to is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam which is 75% complete and when finished will supply all of Ethiopia’s electricity needs as well as having enough electricity to spare to sell to neighboring countries of the Nile Basin. Ethiopian delegates had walked out of Washington-based negotiations with Egypt after being pressed to sign a one-sided agreement which they refused to do. In response Trump cut some of Ethiopia’s aid and lobbied the World Bank not to release funds for the dam project

Although in recent years U.S.- Ethiopian relations have been increasingly strained, the accusation of Addis Ababa committing ethnic cleansing of Tigray regions is taking the tensions to a whole other level, escalating tensions that much more. It suggests that – as it did against Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria – that now the Administration is engaged in the early phases of hybrid warfare against its former ally, in large measure at the behest of Egypt but also to create chaos in an African country which is key to the Chinese Belt and Road initiative extending into Africa..

It, hybrid warfare, starts with the vilification of the Ethiopian leadership and accusations of ethnic cleansing, genocide and the like, until this point, unsubstantiated. The calls for imposing sanctions are already heard on the streets of American cities from Tigray supporters whose influence on Biden’s foreign policy team (Susan Rice, James Sullivan and Andrew Blinken) are substantial. Another U.S. attempt to further circumscribe the Ethiopian government at the level of the United Nations Security Council went nowhere, when China and Russia threatened to veto the measure and U.S. ally India made public that it was opposed.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2021 11:38 am

    Rob, thanks for continuing to publish on this topic.

  2. mkassa1 permalink
    March 23, 2021 2:00 pm

    Thank you. Ethiopia needs a friend like you.

  3. William Conklin permalink
    March 24, 2021 6:40 pm

    Hi Rob thanks for your great article on the lies of the New York Times, I just wanted to tell you that the New York Times can also be truthful, they’ve Been truthful about coronavirus for a year now.

    • March 24, 2021 7:24 pm

      yes, better on domestic issues… piss poor to use Brooklyn expression – on foreign policy

      • William Conklin permalink
        March 25, 2021 10:41 am

        It is nice to know we can trust them on domestic issues when we can’t trust them on foreign policy.

        • March 25, 2021 11:48 am

          something like that. depends on what the subject it…

  4. Michael Dover permalink
    April 2, 2021 3:14 pm

    Rob, I’m a longstanding reader of your blog, and have great respect for your work. However, I am wondering if you can update your posting on Ethiopia’s actions in Tigray given today’s report in CNN about a mass execution by Ethiopian forces: https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/01/africa/tigray-mahibere-dego-massacre-video-cmd-intl/index.html

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