Necessary Illusions: Understanding Desalegn’s Recent Comments

Recently, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn warned that Ethiopia will “be forced to take…appropriate action to quell [Eritrea’s] destabilization efforts.” The comments parallel those he made in an interview conducted last year, warning that Ethiopia has shifted its policy towards Eritrea and is now determined to unseat Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki by force. While the respective statements are serious – in that they precipitously challenge, if not flagrantly violate, accepted international norms, laws, and diplomatic protocols – they do not constitute “breaking developments” per se. For example, prior to his passing, the late Meles Zenawi had similarly changed Ethiopia’s policy toward Eritrea from one based on “no-war-no-peace” to the active pursuit of “regime change” in Asmara. Generally, Ethiopian saber rattling has often sought to deflect attention from internal challenges and crises, with the latest comments arising after reports of attacks on the Ethiopian regime by the opposition.

It goes without saying that Desalegn’s comments merit mention; conflict and potential war carry massive consequences for all involved, and simply, a region with a long history of war (and with an array of current socio-political, economic, and environmental challenges) really cannot afford another. Yet, the comments also merit interest due to the manner in which they have been reported and discussed. Almost without fail, various analysts, think-tankers, and media outlets have accepted Desalegn’s claims about Eritrea’s destabilization efforts uncritically. This point reflects the sorry state of reporting and analysis on Eritrea and the Horn of Africa.

Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four describes “doublethink” – the act of holding, simultaneously, two opposite, individually exclusive ideas or opinions and believing in both simultaneously and absolutely. Likewise, during his visit to the Oxford Union in the 1960s, Malcolm X exposed how “the powers that be use the press to give the devil an angelic image and give the image of the devil to the one who’s really angelic…[or] they’ll take a person who is a victim of the crime and make it appear he’s the criminal, and they’ll take the criminal and make it appear that he’s the victim of the crime.”

Are there really no journalists, experts, or analysts that recognize the sheer irony of Desalegn’s claims about destabilization? You don’t have to be a “regime loyalist” to see how Desalegn’s comments about regional destabilization, coming while his country illegally occupies (and repeatedly attacks) Eritrea is hypocrisy of the highest order. Furthermore, in just the past several months, Ethiopia has repeatedly and illegally made military incursions into Kenya, while it has a long, bloody history of intervention and occupation in Somalia. A la the 18th century French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, not only was Ethiopia’s intervention into Somalia a crime, but it was a monumental blunder. Rather than stemming terror (the professed mission), it actually served to send terror and carnage cascading across the region. So who is destabilizing the region, again?

Like Chomsky’s “it’s only terror when they do it,” Ethiopia (on behalf of the West) is incapable of destabilizing others. Empire’s media, experts, think-tankers, and analysts don’t care about truth, rationality, context, or critical questions. Instead, part of Empire’s strategy is psychological and ideological propagandizing. For Empire, “the human being has his most critical point in his mind. Once his mind has been reached, the political animal has been defeated, without necessarily receiving bullets.” That is why Empire’s corporate media outlets churn out sensationalism and feed us mindless drivel, not context, truth, or rational analysis. If you’re not careful, war becomes peace, freedom becomes slavery, ignorance becomes strength, and wolves become sheep. Stay woke! 

 

Ray Ja Fraser