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Let Facts, Not Propaganda Guide Ethiopia Policy

June 21, 2021
Colorado Ethiopians and Eritreans celebrate Abiy Ahmed becoming Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Late July, 2018, Aurora High School (photo credit: R. Prince)

Column: Let Facts Not Propaganda Guid Ethiopia Policy

This column appeared today in the Denver Gazette. Denver Gazette is sister publication of and the Colorado Springs Gazette, owned by Phil Anschutz and well funded. 

As there is a paywall, I am submitting my draft, slightly different from the printed edition


Hoping that the upcoming June 21 national elections will strengthen national unity, Colorado’s own Ethiopian Community is riveted to the news and anxious to see the outcome. The election comes at a moment when both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are considering bills that, if passed, would result in sanctions against Ethiopia, a rather startling punishment for a country that has been a longtime ally of the United States .

Although not generally known, somewhere between 30,000-35,000 strong, Ethiopians make up one of the fastest growing immigrant communities in Colorado, second in size only to Latin American immigrants in the state. This community has added so much to the vibrancy of urban life.

In August 2018, 7,000 – 8,000 Ethiopians in Colorado met at the Aurora High School football field to celebrate the end of decades of repressive rule at the hands of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Those in attendance hoped their celebration would be the beginning of a new era, one that would unify the nearly 100 ethnic groups and 80 major languages spoken there.

 “For one shining moment” – they were all simply “Ethiopian”.  A spirited and sizable Eritrean delegation was also present. The event was a breathtaking event full of hope for Ethiopia’s future.

Shortly thereafter, in October (2018(, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for having ended a twenty-year war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in which “tens of thousands” died on both sides.

Unfortunately, this honeymoon period did not last long. Although Ethiopia today is a country with exciting economic and social potential, festering antagonisms came boiling to the surface threatening the country’s 2000-year political integrity. Preserving Ethiopia’s national integrity – and with it – the prospects for regional stability in the Horn of Africa as a whole – is the challenge at hand.

On November 4, 2020, as Joe Biden and Donald Trump squared off in the much-watched 2020 presidential election here in the United States, in northern Ethiopia, Tigray Province, armed elements of the TPLF stormed a national military barracks killing hundreds – many in their sleep – and confiscating a large store of arms. A TPLF rampage in the city of Mai Kadra followed. These events received virtually no play in the U.S. media. Curious.

The TPFL’s strategy was that their insurrection – akin to Confederate bombing of Ft. Sumner in 1861 – would trigger national uprisings elsewhere in Ethiopia, leading to the collapse of the current government and driving its leader, Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed from power. Instead, the national army of Ethiopia put down the Tigray rebellion in a few weeks.

Noted Dutch Scholar Jon Abbink reflects the views of many who have studied the conflict writing: Abuses were indeed committed on several sides, but incomparably more so on the side of the TPLF forces than on that of federal army or Eritrean forces. Claims of genocide by whomever made must be taken seriously – yet the claims of the TPLF do not withstand even the most cursory of investigations.

My concern is that the Biden Administration, with the best of intentions, is following a path that is not in the best interests of the United States and will in fact lead to more conflict and more destruction.  As Ethiopia prepares to vote on June 21 the proper role for the United States is not to fall into a propaganda trap started by the TPLF but to stand up for American values and be honest brokers for a full and lasting peace.

Senators Bennet & Hickenlooper and Congressman Crow, representing one of America’s  largest Ethiopian Communities owe it to these constituents to understand the conflict and stand up for a true peace. They should not and must not fall for the TPLF’s version of the truth which tries to masquerade a history of corruption and war.  Your constituents particularly those of Ethiopian descent deserve more than that as you were elected to be public servants not to be rubber stamps for the TPLF.

Sanctioning Ethiopia would be a major step in the wrong direction.

Rob Prince is a retired Lecturer of International Studies at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies where he taught Global Political Economy for 23 years., retiring in 2015.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. mkassa1 permalink
    June 21, 2021 8:30 pm

    Dear Rob Prince,

    You are a true friend of Ethiopia and Ethiopians when Western governments and the western media are distorting the truth about the situation in Ethiopia as a pretext to impose sanctions.
    To every ones amazement even progressives like Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman have joined the chorus. Isn’t that a shame?


    M. Kassa

    • June 21, 2021 9:06 pm

      Yes, I saw that Democracy Now! has ‘swallowed the TPLF cool aid” – and glad you bring it up. I do not know what is behind this position but share your criticisms of it.

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