We are on the side of peace in the Ethiopian conflict


EDITORIAL | This past week, Garowe Online and everyone associated with it has received relentless online attacks from bots ostensibly criticizing our reporting on the Tigray conflict. And the bone of contention is supposedly our citation of frequent reports of atrocities committed there.

It is true that both sides of the conflict, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on one side and the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) and their allied militia and the Eritrean army on the other, have separately been accused of killing civilians or causing untold suffering including displacement.

But the difference has been that the Tigray region, now blockaded from communicating with the outside world, has been unable to tell its story. Those in civilization and taking sides with the government online have, however, seen it fit to attack anyone reporting what looks like a good story to the TPLF. When we reported last week on the continual blockade hurting more than five million, bots descended on Garowe Online, accusing it of taking sides with terrorists.

We reject this characterization. We have been steadfast in condemning terrorism whenever it happens. But we will never waver in our defense of a free press.  Free media is the yardstick with which a society’s respect for civil liberties should be measured. We do not claim to operate from the best environments ourselves, but we have pointed out that any impediments to media work only slow our society’s growth.

In Ethiopia, where a conflict has raged since November 2020, the idea of a free press has virtually disappeared. Anyone reporting a narrative contrary to what authorities want is branded a terrorist and condemned for doing their job. We do not want to believe that the internet bots hired to malign our names are working for the government in Addis Ababa other than being keen supporters of the regime.

The conflict in Ethiopia may have much more dimensions than we outsiders may see. But the authorities there have not helped their cause. For example, they accuse TPLF of terror but reject attempts to investigate atrocities by both sides. Recently, when a panel of independent UN researchers found evidence of crimes against humanity and proposed further investigation, Ethiopia attacked the researchers rather than taking it up to correct the anomaly.

The TPLF are not saints, and their terror is well documented. However, this should not be a blanket license to punish an entire ethnic community whose only crime is sharing the region where the rebel group operates.

After all, what is the point of the government in Ethiopia agreeing to proposals to hold dialogue if all it needs is to exterminate a community?  There are enough examples in the world to show that in war, nobody wins; even the mighty lose bitterly.

Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent state, but its history with peace is checkered. In this Tigray conflict, we are permanently on the side of peace, no matter the allegations.


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