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In response to Ethiopia’s Perilous Propaganda War, in Foreign Affairs (on-line) by Nic Cheeseman and Yohannes Woldermariam. (April 8, 2021).

April 19, 2021
Taste of Ethiopia – August, 2019 – Aurora, Colorado, USA

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On April 8, 2021, Nic Cheeseman and Youhannes Woldermarian published a piece entitled “Ethiopia’s Perilous Propaganda War” in the “Snapshot” section of Foreign Affiars’ s on-line publication. As we (Alemayehu and Prince) noted in our response, “The writers try to appear to be impartial, but they are certainly promoting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) party line. They acknowledge some elements of the fake news spread by TPLF supporters, but their focus is mostly on the “unsubstantiated” war crimes and atrocities allegedly committed by Eritrean and Ethiopian armies..

A week later, Foreign Affairs has not published our response, so we publish it here below on social media. We would encourage our readers to read the article, “Ethiopia’s Perilous Propaganda War” and send in their own response.

Dr. Demissie Alemayehu and Rob Prince

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Letter to the editor:

In response to Ethiopia’s Perilous Propaganda War, by Nic Cheeseman and Yohannes Woldermariam. (April 8, 2021).

We read the article with great interest. The writers try to appear to be impartial, but they are certainly promoting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) party line. They acknowledge some elements of the fake news spread by TPLF supporters, but their focus is mostly on the “unsubstantiated” war crimes and atrocities allegedly committed by Eritrean and Ethiopian armies.

What are the main points missing from this article?

First, it glaringly downplays the massive disinformation campaign waged by the TPLF, and the active support the TPLF garnered from major media companies, US and EU/UK officials, and international organizations. In some respect, the article should have been retitled, “Washington’s Perilous Hybrid Warfare Against Ethiopia.”

In attacking the Northern Command base, undoubtedly encouraged by foreign powers, the TPLF engaged in an effort to overthrow the government of Abiy Ahmed, hoping that the attack would trigger a mass desertion of the Ethiopian military as well as provoking ethnic uprisings in the rest of the country and bring them back to power. What government would not defend its national integrity under this scenario?

Having failed in its treasonous effort to overthrow the Addis Ababa government, the TPLF then tried to win back diplomatically what it had lost on the battlefield, and called for negotiations with the support of the Biden Administration and the European Union. However, although the means has changed from open insurrection to the appearance of wanting a “peaceful settlement”, the goal is always the same, i.e., come back to power.

Lastly, the writers, in their attempt to serve as a mouthpiece for the TPLF, clearly missed an opportunity to address the catastrophic failure of the US policy in the Horn of Africa, where there is a genuine threat of Islamic fundamentalism from Somalia and Yemen, a looming crisis brewed by Egypt and Sudan, and a growing influence of other powers, such as China and Russia. Most importantly, the authors paid only lip service to the ethnic violence that is raging in the Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz regions of Ethiopia, as a legacy of the ethnocentric agenda of the now defunct TPLF rule. The writers thus failed to underscore that it would be prudent for US policymakers to learn from past mistakes and formulate instead a pragmatic strategy that would promote democracy in the country, guarantee peace and stability in the region, and ensure the protection of the long-term interest of the US taxpayers.

Demissie Alemayehu, Ph.D., Department of Statistics, Columbia University

Robert Prince, Retired Lecturer, University of Denver, Korbel School of International Studies.

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