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The role of foreign analysts on conflict and disinformation in Ethiopia 

Avatar: Eliass Kidanu
Eliass KidanuDecember 25, 2020
The role of foreign analysts on conflict and disinformation in Ethiopia 

Ethiopia's polarized political atmosphere has been very difficult for analysts, especially  so for foreign analysts mainly because they can not or at least could not keep up with the fast changing political developments in Ethiopia which comes with one breaking news after the other. This coupled with the language barrier as Amharic is the working language, only few of those developments will make it to the English news for the foreign analysts to find out in time and make analysis. 

Therefore, they are easily misinformed knowingly or unknowingly, either because of the already polarized political conditions in the country or their communication and allegiance to only a particular political entity of a certain political thought. As a result they lack the knowledge of the opinion of the general public and the reality on the ground to make informed analysis. 

I can mention the case of Kjetil Tronvoll, the Director of Oslo Analytica, as well as Professor and Research Director of Peace and Conflict studies at Bjorknes University College who is recently making headlines for his disinformation campaigns against Ethiopia. I have been recently following his tweets and the biased analysis he gives on different occasions. 

After I have read his rebuttal in response to his critics, I decided to write and point out few of his biases by drawing evidence from the recent interview he gave to " in pursuit of development", a Twitter page, under the title of " Kjetil Tronvoll on simmering political tensions and civil war in Ethiopia" 

The propaganda claims he seems to have bought from TPLF and its surrogates are many. Firstly, he said Abiy’s administration with his medemer/synergy philosophy resembles that of authoritarian and suppressive Derg regime or Imperial reign and that TPLF is the champion of multinational federation. This is a laughable accusation of TPLF propaganda against the administration of Abiy. The country is being led by Prosperity party(PP) that believes in a multinational federation. There is no sign of backtracking from the part of PP with regard to its political program. 

Therefore this is just one of the many baseless smear campaigns being propagated by TPLF and its surrogates to delegitimize the Prime minister and in doing so to create havoc in the country. The idea of forming the PP party had been discussed for a long time in the EPRDF party. The main idea of forming it emanates from the belief and necessity of forging a strong unified country while at the same time respecting the right of self determination of regional administrations. The very good showcase here is the creation of the 10th new regional administration of Sidama regional government under PP. 

In fact the reality is the opposite of what TPLF is propagating. TPLF used the pseudo-multinational federation it created as a tool to establish one of the most dictatorial and suppressive regimes composed of its minority ethnic party that dominated the politics, economy and military life of the country. TPLF may have started it but it did not create a real multi-ethnic federation, it never had the will to create one. The people of Ethiopia were made to live under the tyranny of this repressive region for almost three decades. It's system created ethnic based competition for political power and economic dominance in the country of over 90 ethnic groups. Therefore the people of Ethiopia abhorred it because this was an ideology imposed on them at a gunpoint in the first place. It is wrong to deny the fact that it had managed to pick up some support along the way in its three decades of reign but no one has chosen it, especially at the beginning. 

The second most outrageous disinformation campaign of Kjetil and of course TPLF, is the claim that the national defense force bombed Tekeze dam in Tigray. Despite the government's denial that this is false allegations, TPLF and "academic researchers" the likes of Kjetil Tronvoll and some media outlets were spreading this fake news to use it to draw international attention. 

It has been reported widely that only the electric transmission lines of the dam have been intentionally interrupted by TPLF soon after the armed conflict started. Since then the electric transmission lines have been reconnected and are now operational but it's worth noting that it has never been bombed. 

Thirdly, the mystery of the death of Engineer Simegnew, who was in charge of The Grand Ethiopian renaissance dam project, is still unknown. But in the interview Kjetil tried to insinuate that he was killed by the "new power holders'' referring to the Abiy's administration which makes this another one of his fabrications. 

Finally the war strategy advice he tried to give to TPLF around the time of the start of the armed conflict spoke volume to his bias. He tweeted " It is essential for Tigrai to secure supply routes, communications, and access to the sea. If the armed conflict drags out. This will hence define their war strategy, if a conflict escalation is not mitigated." And another of his completely false tweets says Djibouti forcefully repatriated a deserted Ethiopian general to Ethiopia in breach of their asylum rights. 

I do not think any independent researcher should be involved in a spread of lies and propaganda of such volume. There could be instances where Ethiopia can make use of foreign experts and analysts if their intention is to help bridge the divide and conflict instead of fueling it. My kind advice to kjetil is to widen his knowledge of Ethiopia and go beyond his circle to understand Ethiopia better and give constructive analysis that is expected of him.

Editor's note: This article has been edited on December 28, 2020.

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A PIECE BYEliass Kidanu

Eliass kidanu kassaye studied Foreign Languages and literature(English, B.A. degree) in Addis Ababa university. He taught English language in Gibson Youth Academy for two years. And now lives in Finland, helsinki. He is Studying his masters in Changing Education.