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Propaganda and colonialism: tigrayans (and WHO director) exalted by lies, defeated by history

By Guido Talarico

The indiscreet fascination of the revolution has been killing people for decades. Whether it was the explosive comrade Molotov or the “mighty” Che Guevara, the myth of the revolutionary, the hard and pure hero who sacrifices himself against tyrannies in defence of the sovereign people, has always been liked. It was an inclination above all of those intellectuals a bit “gauche caviar”, who for decades dictated the line of progressive fiction in defence of the “lider maximo” all over the world. But then things changed. The fall of the walls and the re-reading without ideological filters helped to understand that not all “heroes are young and beautiful” and above all it was ascertained that not always and not all “beards” were on the side of reason. It was understood, for example, that comrade Stalin was not what is said to be a democrat, that Pol Pot was a master but of genocide and that Fidel Castro had a humanitarian spirit on a par with that of Gilles de Rais.

However, that fascination still remains. From time to time, especially from those parts of the world that are not exactly under our doorstep, there are reports that indulge in the glorification of the last revolutionary. Articles with preconstituted truths that in some cases are born out of vainglory, where the deeds of the last alleged revolutionary are magnified to magnify themselves, in others, and are for the most part, out of political and more often economic interest. At other times still for ignorance.

The latest narrative of this kind is the one that a certain continental press has dedicated to the tigrayans, an ethnic minority living in a territory on the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, in the middle of the Horn of Africa. Ethnicity that among others has given birth to the current Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO). That Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus elected thanks to the Chinese, who in this pandemic crisis by Coronavirus has found a way to reciprocate the courtesy of his great voters. Now this gentleman, who is tied to the TPLF tigrayans, using his role in the WHO tries to save his comrades by fearing an imminent humanitarian crisis. But that is another story.

Back to us, that is, bad propaganda. Many media, some of them very authoritative, describe the tigrayans with the same emphasis that they reserve for oppressed peoples or excellent victims of history. In some cases we have even read epic narratives of their deeds, as if they were liberators of peoples and not the oppressors they really are. Things in reality are very different from what the prevailing international publicity recommends and I will now try to explain why this misrepresentation of the facts has come about. But we need to make a premise that is necessary to understand why such a conspicuous slice of the international press continues to give voice to such a blatantly false narrative.

The premise comes from the recent history of this geographical area of Africa, the same, for example, where 200,000 years ago that homo sapiens father of all of us appeared. The recent history of Ethiopia says in fact that the tigrayan minority at the fall of the Derg, the bloody dictatorship of Menghistu renamed “red terror”, took power in Addis Ababa by surprise, supported and led by the old Eritrean fighting comrades who were decisive in the defeat of Mengistu and in the seizure of power of the tigrayans in Ethiopia. But gratitude, you know, is not of this world.  So the TPLF tigrayans, betraying the promises and expectations of maintaining a united and inclusive Ethiopia, turned against their Eritrean benefactors and marginalized the most numerous ethnic groups in Ethiopia, those of the Oromo and the Amara.

It was the beginning of a dictatorial phase that the tigrayan Meles Zenawi, who became Prime Minister, held for 18 years, thanks to the brutal suppression of every freedom he was capable of and thanks to the support of the Atlantic bloc. The epic narrative in favour of Ethiopia and its leader Meles was born here. The United States and Europe, happy for the disappearance of the Derg, did not want any more trouble in that area and Meles appeared to them as a reliable and manageable partner. Also because in the meantime Meles had declared war on Eritrea promising the allies the birth of Great Ethiopia and stability in the whole area. So for these twenty years the propaganda machine of the West described the Meles regime as an acceptable democracy and Eritrea and Somalia as countries in the hands of terrorists and dictators. Twenty years of bass drum and dirty games, all aimed at discrediting Asmara, in the certainty that sooner or later even the leathery Eritreans (which are six million) would give in to the strength of the Ethiopians (which are 95 million).

As we know things did not turn out that way. Eritrea withstood the invasion, withstood the lack of respect for the Algiers Peace Accords by the tigrayan government in Addis Ababa and also withstood a twenty-year campaign of international defamation. And that is not all. At a certain point Oromo and Amara began to have enough of the bloody bullying of the tigrayan minority and, above all, to have someone brutally in charge in their home. So, year after year, the protest spread until it reached the capital and forced Hailé Mariam Desalegn, who became Prime Minister in 2018 after Meles’ death, to resign.

And we’re back to very recent history. A few days after Desalegn’s resignation, Abiy Ahmed Ali (below ds), a young and promising politician of Oromo ethnicity, rose to power. An epochal turning point. In a few months the neopremier made a real peace with the Eritrean Government and made a constructive alliance with Isaias Afewerki, father of Eritrea (left) and, he yes, a true revolutionary. In the space of a few months he gave such a radical change to the whole Horn of Africa that he was immediately named winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 2019. A recognition that he immediately wanted to share morally with Afewerki. For the tigrayans, who still control important parts of the Ethiopian economy and also part of the army, it was such a burning defeat that they were forced to make extreme gestures, in some ways unconventional, such as the armed insurrection against Abiy’s government which inevitably led to the blitzkrieg of these days. A conflict that has as its theatre their home, the Tigray, and history has thus put things back in their place. It has given a role to those who deserved it, hope and future to those who fought for a life for the well-being of their people. It has been a difficult path that has left thousands of dead in the field, deprived entire generations of the peace and prosperity that only peace can allow. But in the end everything went as it should have with the good, the real ones, finally in power.

Yet, as we said at the beginning, a certain journalism still remains a tool and victim of interest oriented fiction. Interests that are perhaps no longer even in the field today. And this introduces the real theme of the near future. How will Africa, and with it all the territories still developing, cope with neo-colonialist propaganda. This is an issue to be dwelt on carefully. The conquerors of the twenty-first century shoot less, but publish and influence perhaps more. The false media description of the role of the tigrayans in the Horn of Africa is the umpteenth clear proof of how the great economic and military powers, when they fail by force, rely on propaganda, knowing that words are almost always more lethal than weapons. Digital technology has amplified this potential. If Africa, like all less developed countries, was able to control and manage its media and the impact they had on the political and social life of its country until the time of the printed press, it is now over with digital.

People’s consciences, societies and democratic structures can easily be conditioned by often anonymous digital media campaigns. The false representation of the tigrayans is an emblematic story that must be a warning, it must make Africans understand that media and technology are sectors where it is essential to structure oneself. The western press, the bona fide one, for its part, must return to the golden rule of good journalism, verify before writing, have certain sources, not lend themselves to speculation. Digital communication has removed barriers and brought peoples and nations closer together. But it has made everything more vulnerable. The next challenge is to ensure that Africa finds its autonomy and is able to play this new battle that awaits it on an equal footing. Digital, as comrade Mao Zedong would say, “is not a dinner party”.

(Associated Medias) – all rights reserved