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Abiy Ahmed and the Political Weaponization of Lies

Abiy Ahmed and the Political Weaponization of Lies

Aynalem Sebhatu


Amid the gush of sugar-coated words of Abiy Ahmed churning through the political landscape of Ethiopia, his words “going to war against Tigray will be madness” stands out as an enduring political deception—and many say unseemly—Ethiopia’s betrayal to its disintegration.  True, there is no legal means of binding the tongues of Abiy Ahmed. But at least well-meaning Ethiopians’ principled objection to the savage war could have taken a public stand and denounced the killings, bombings, starving, raping and lootings of innocent Tigrayans. Yet, the conspiracy of silence is certainly one of the characteristics of the war effort in Tigray and It also should be noted that silence is weaponized as a blunt instrument of war.

Abiy Ahmed, in his victory speech against TPLF, kicked off with lies mocked around the world when Abiy told the nation on how the Ethiopian army captured Mekelle without a single loss of civilian life. He further told the nation he was lively watching the leadership of TPLF roaming around the mountains of Tigray from his “Situation room.” These political boasts and lies set the tone for the nation which would come too often to contradict facts. No doubt he shows that he has an active imagination, and I could only speculate that he was imagining himself as Barack Obama in the situation room during the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.

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The international community has been played for a fool by Abiy Ahmed.  The “peace pact” between Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afewerki ultimately led to the 2019 award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Abiy. The Oromos, for example, have been played for fools by Abiy Ahmed with the “peace pact” with the OLF and the “gentle men’s agreement” with the TPLF to peacefully transfer power to Abiy. These do not pretend to be an exhaustive list of Abiy’s lies and betrayals, others will probably find many which are not given adequate discussion here. The lies, the political betrayals and the distrusts created by Abiy Ahmed in the last two years are many. The political implications of such behaviors are far and deep in terms of laying the groundwork for the erosion of national dialogue. 

Another milestone in Abiy’s political deception is his promise of a fair and free election. The announcement of the election for June of 2021 is viewed, by many observers, as a bid to lift his damaged standing with the international communities. But his political opponents and skeptics expressed doubt the election would take place and they think it is another political gimmick to prolong his political power without facing political competition. The opposition parties have remained weak and fragmented due to Abiy’s imprisonment of all the known political leaders and disqualifying their political parties from participating in the next election.

In the best light, Abiy and his cronies are seen struggling with the truth who sometimes amplify but fulfilling their duties and responsibilities. Here, Abiy’s supporters listen to Abiy’s various public statements on many important issues and decide that, although he exaggerated a bit here and there, his intentions were good.  But many of Abiy’s political opponents and critics took a much harsher stand and a stark point of view of the current political landscape of the country. They argued that Abiy’s weaponization of lies and misinformation are far more sinister and dangerous for the survival of the country as we know it today. It also has the undermining effect in the democratization of the country.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, Dina Mufti, advanced lies on everything from the non-involvement of Eritrean soldiers in the war theatre of Tigray to the denial of Abiy’s invitation of Sudanese army to occupy the border area. The Ministry of Peace press release (January 19th, 2021) stated that: “Since the law enforcement operation in the Northern part of Ethiopia completed, humanitarian assistance containing food & non-food items and medical supplies have been delivered for more that 1.8 million beneficiaries. Expanded to address 2.5 million beneficiaries across the region.”

While Dina Mufti and the Ministry of Peace may have lied, they were misguided and ordered into doing it by Abiy himself—a type of excuse seldom acceptable much beyond the first grade. The statements are conscious lies that are designed to deceive international humanitarian agencies with the intention of starving the people of Tigray. The country’s media outlets and social media outlets are echoing such misinformation and lies to cover up what really is going on in Tigray. It really is one of the most dangerous lies of Abiy regime’s involved and the most serious threat to the 4.5 million of Tigrayans starving right now.

It might not be an exaggeration to say that no independent thinking and self-respecting politician could take Abiy’s words coming out of his mouth seriously let alone making a deal with him. The political betrayals and distrusts sown by Abiy Ahmed have created a strong disincentive for peaceful transition of power in the country. Perhaps the biggest lesson learned from what is happening to TPLF and the people of Tigray is simply there is a high price associated with peaceful transfer power. Here my thesis is based on the rent-seeking argument of political power, that is, this might give much more incentive to a fierce competition to monopolize the federal power by any means necessary for exacting political vengeance. Once political power is monopolized, it will be maintained by brute forces of dictatorship.   

One suddenly has a feeling that he has heard the weaponization of lies and misinformation before, Trump abundantly has used it on the American private and public squares. It almost led the country’s expected peaceful transition of power into chaos. If lies and misinformation, by political actors of a country with highly developed institutional frameworks, could easily shake the political establishment, one can only imagine what this means to Ethiopia. Imaginatively, one should not wander that much: the invasion of Tigray and the unimaginable suffering of the people of Tigray is the products of the weaponizations and mechanizations of lies, falsehoods and misinformation.   

When all this is said and reiterated, it is clear that the atmosphere of the production of lies has been intensified and worsened by Abiy’s unprincipled political activities. The important thing is not the average Ethiopian is “well informed” in a technical sense on issues of politics, but that one can, if one chooses, obtain sufficient information on which to base a decision to trust one opinion-leader or media outlet instead of another.  Incidentally, it is from a failure to appreciate this basic guide of finding trustworthy media outlets that most misinformed public opinions of the Ethiopian people arise.

Tigray will Prevail!

Eternal glory to our martyrs!

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