The call issued by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) to Ethiopians this week to join him on the battlefront as he announced that “…the time has come for him to lead the country with sacrifice,” and went to the front lines to command the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) personally in the war against the forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) seems to have been heeded. Scores of citizens from different walks of life, including renowned sports personalities like Haile Gebreselassie, artists, politicians and activists, have vowed to follow the premier’s lead and fight at the front even as thousands new recruits enlisted in the army. This dispels the doubt cast by those who are implacably opposed to the Prime Minister as well as some foreign observers alike that his bid to rally Ethiopians behind him was a sign of desperation and bound to backfire.
Ever since the forces of TPLF attacked the troops of the Northern Command of the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) based in the northern region of Tigray on November 3, 2020, the West has been waging an information warfare against the administration of PM Abiy and Ethiopia. Many Ethiopians believe that the goal of the coordinated propaganda campaign is to oust him and if that fails to force his administration into participating in a dialogue overseen by a government of national unity which includes the TPLF and will oversee a constitutional reform that creates a nation of regional states organized as a loose confederation. Part of the narrative the governments of different Western nations, mainstream media, research institutions, democracy advocates and humanitarian aid workers have been peddling is that the war broke out due to the sidelining of the TPLF from power by the Abiy administration and that there is little popular support for a war they argue it has no chance of winning militarily.
Consistent with the goals they have set out to accomplish, the psychological warfare the adversaries of Ethiopia have been undertaking has been geared towards misleading and demoralizing the spirit of the Ethiopian government and its people in their fight against the TPLF. They have used various tested and reliable techniques to generate narratives and repurpose the description of events in a manner that depict the TPLF in a positive light but demonize and deny publicity to the Ethiopian government. In particular, since the war began they have labored to portray the government as an incompetent, vain and bellicose regime bent on perpetrating ethnic cleansing against the Tigray people while glorifying the TPLF as a force fighting a just war that the international community has a moral obligation to support.
Aside from the propaganda war they have been waging, the governments of major Western powers have been taking other measures intended to coerce the Ethiopian government into acceding to their demands. The U.S. should be singled out in this regard. Since the start of the war, the U.S., together with its allies at the U.N. Security Council, have tried around a dozen times, albeit unsuccessfully, to condemn Ethiopia. And beginning May 2021 it has imposed economic and travel sanctions on Ethiopian and Eritrean entities/persons it claims are guilty of human rights violations; suspended the benefits Ethiopia enjoys under the United States’ tariff-free African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA); urged its citizens to leave Ethiopia immediately on fears of “escalating violence and terrorist attacks”; and cautioned pilots operating planes at Addis Ababa Airport that they could be “directly or indirectly exposed to ground weapons fire and/or surface-to-air fire”. The U.K., France German and other European governments have also joined the U.S. in telling their nationals to quit Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is at an inflection point it has rarely faced before. The ongoing war with the TPLF poses an imminent existential threat that more than ever before underscores the imperative for citizens to recommit themselves to defending their beloved nation and a leadership which can rise to the occasion. Prime Minister Abiy’s decision to lead the ENDF from the battlefront has inspired Ethiopians to emulate the example he set, demonstrating that he retains the support of a wide swathe of the public and debunking the narrative that the war is about ensuring his hold on to power. As such it’s incumbent on the West and anyone else conducting a hybrid war against Ethiopia to reconsider their position and demonstrate unmistakably that they have the interest of a people fighting a war which was forced on them. Otherwise, they will be standing on the wrong side of history.