PM Abiy & Co, bullying, belaboring, and big lies
“What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive” (Sir. Walter Scott, 1808)
Towards the end of his talk to his parliament (November 14, 2023) on the Red Sea controversy of his own creation, PM Abiy made a clarion call for the media outlets to sound the drums of “war” in a written form, otherwise, he said, the media will live with regret once their children view the videos. Despite the meaninglessness of his calls, if one must feel shame, it should be PM Abiy. He is the one who singled out, threatened, bashed, undermined, and insulted Eritrea and started his dubiously reasoned call for war. Every other warmongering entity felt emboldened to follow suit saturating social media including State owned media outlets that war with Eritrea might be imminent.
In his October talk entitled “from Drop of Water to Sea Water,” PM Abiy started by reminding and stressing, “Without getting emotional, we have to discuss outlet to the sea (paraphrasing).” However, his October talk, including that of November 14, was all about inciting paroxysmal distressing emotion by making the Red Sea as the life and death of Ethiopians. He reiterated that the solution to his country’s woe is found deep in the Red Sea that has became the scapegoat for his frustration and despair. Perhaps, looking back to history for some guidance may prove to be instructive. Consider a story in how the goat became a sacrificial lamb in scapegoat as translated from Tigré folklore of Eritrea, a tale collected by Prof Littmann’s in his expedition to Abyssinia (1910).
The tale of the elephant and the leopard and his son (as it appears in Littmann’s book)
The leopard had left his son in a certain place. And to the son of the leopard, there came the elephant trod on him with his foot, crushed him, and killed him. And a lamenter informed the leopard saying, “Thy son is dead!” The leopard asked the lamenter, saying “Who has killed my son?” He replied, “The elephant has killed thy son.” The leopard, however, said “The elephant has not killed my son. The goats have killed him. The messenger replied, “No, the elephant has killed thy son.” The leopard: No, no, no! It is nobody but the goats who killed my son. This is the deed of the goats. Then the leopard went and made a slaughter among the goats to avenge his son. Although the leopard knew that the elephant had killed his son, he took the action he did, because he was not so strong as the elephant, the goats as a pretext for his revenge and killed them. And until the present day, it is like this: if a man is wronged by someone who is stronger than he, and he finds no means to overpower him, he rises against the one who is weaker than he. And they say as a proverb: “The goats did this, “said the leopard.”
Fortunately, Eritrea is no more a sacrificial goat. It may continue to be a verbal victim of those who draw comfort in their fabricated fantastically conceived world. Hopefully, with time this will dissipate. Eritrea is also not a nation to be tricked by PM’s childish game, “give and take.” Ethiopia already lost a chance for ‘give and take’ on the Zeila front between 1924 and 1948 due to procrastination. At that time, the giver to Ethiopia was the nation with whom Ethiopia had dealt for its expansion and boundary demarcation on that side.
Now boundaries are delimited, people and countries are free owning their land and deciding on their destiny. Bilateral relations are done by the inhabitants of the land through mutual trust and international laws, not by the law of the leopard.
Moreover, international laws cannot be translated into PM Abiy’s wishes. Ethiopia is a big nation that can influence the region in many aspects. It can do that peacefully through mutual understanding that doesn’t involve sovereignty compromises, and certainly not by bullying neighbors to bow to its demands. The time for political savagery, a war prone Ethiopia should stop, particularly coming from a man who won a Nobel Peace Prize, is jarring to observe. Eritrea and Djibouti are smaller nations, but they have a long history of regional and geopolitical acumen that precedes and can easily outmaneuver PM Abiy in his sophomoric, un-finessed regional and continental knowledge of history. Let alone the leaders to fall for PM Abiy’s silly tricks, the average Ethiopian is sophisticated enough to see through PM Abiy’s insincerity. One such political snake oil salesman of charlatan proportions was marketed by no other than PM Abiy last October 2023 using primetime podium of the Parliament to which he has open access to, reaching Ethiopians the world over. In that speech, he repeatedly pointed at the narrow sea outlet of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as if suggesting an idea in how DRC “ended [up] having” an ocean outlet.
The Echo Chamber Runs Amok:
The echo chamber started in earnest. Some Ethiopian scholars took the bait and started imagining about DRC obtaining an ocean outlet following Abiy’s give and take principle by considering Abiy’s pointer on the map appearing to sound a genius discovery. On separate occasions, on different media outlets and on a State-owned like Fana TV programs, Ethiopian scholars added artificial flesh to this allegedly “genius idea.” This false premise and a ruse remind one of Operation Mincemeat. Many Ethiopians know Mamo Wdneh. He translated Operation Mincemeat into ሰላዩ ሬሳ. In one sentence, ሰላዩ ሬሳ or Operation Mincemeat was a deceptive operation involving the dropping of a corps with top secret documents by the Allies to deceive the Axis.
PM Abiy’s puff was elaborated by these scholars into what they thought an ironclad story, Operation Mincemeat, at the mouth of the Congo basin. Distilled to the essential, their story says that the DRC, formerly Congo Kinshasa, obtained a sea outlet from the Republique of Congo (RC), formerly Congo Brazaville, during the decolonization of the countries. A patently false and a made-up story! The truth is, both countries had outlet to the ocean starting Day 1 of their colonization during the scramble for Africa around 1880. Let’s listen and summarize what was said, starting with the Prime Minister.
1) PM Abiy explains and compares how many countries on the western side of Africa have ocean outlets compared to the Eastern side countries. But he stops and points and stresses on the DRC narrow outlet using a pointer that moves and blinks.
Here is the Prime Minister’s video. Starting around 29 minutes, 25 seconds.
2) A few days after, an Ethiopian scholar on a US based media along his colleagues brought this example and tells that DRC got an ocean outlet by mutual agreement during decolonization from France. And quotes saying, “as the Prime Minister demonstrated the other day.
https://www.youtube.com/live/2cdo-cV3WP4?feature=shared (Start at 8:05 minute-mark)
3) Then, a few days after, on two consecutive days, Fana TV comes with a broadcast involving Ethiopian scholars. The first day, a scholar brings the case of Congo. By wanting to explain the DRC’s alleged outlet, he inverses or mixes up the two Congos saying Congo Kinshasa gave an ocean outlet to Congo Brazaville. He also added saying Poland was landlocked country during World War II, and Germany gave it a narrow sea outlet. This is history in reverse. Germany invaded and annexed a large chunk of western Poland, leaving her a narrow outlet to the sea. He also confidently mentioned that all the countries of former Yugoslavia got a narrow corridor of sea outlet upon the country’s disintegration, which is patently false. Serbia, Macedonia, and the Kosovo territory are all landlocked.
https://youtu.be/MISPVcmfRIQ?si=4skJqrZ_0VO30GVh (Start at 19:05 minute-mark)
4) A day after the above, Fana TV comes back with another commentary where another scholar repeated the same story:
https://youtu.be/YaKNiYC6uSw?si=9IZl2e4S4-9rAQMs (Start at 2:30 minute-mark)
The vast Congo River basin was occupied at the end of the 1870s by the Belgian king Leopold II through the intermediary of explorers like Stanley. With some maneuvering and luck, his vast colony was recognized by his European neighbors. On the ocean side, France and Portugal held ground on their colonial territory, leaving only ~ 40 km costal line at the mouth of the Congo River, an outlet to Congo free state. The Congo basin shaped the territory of the then Congo Free State, a colony of Belgium, now known as DRC. Once formed, nothing has changed until the end of colonization or after decolonization. If there is an agreement between the Republic of Congo (RC or Brazzaville) and DRC, it is the permission of a very big ship to dock in the port of RC when the port of DRC cannot accommodate them.
Going back to PM Abiy’s first part of his plea “ከጠብታ ውኃ እስከ ባሕር ውኃ which can be translated as, “From Drop of Water to the Sea Water”, he talked about its mystery and its alleged memory. Just briefly on the memory of water. It was coined by the French scientist Jean Benveniste from an observation in his laboratory. Personnel in his lab noted an infinitesimal dilution of immunoglobulin-E (IgE) beyond detection still showed an activity leading to the conclusion that water must have kept memory of the IgE to still have antibody function thus memory of water. This conclusion also tried to explain the principle of homeopathy. In the final analysis, the experiment was not always reproducible nor was it proven scientifically. Supposing water has it, keeping memory of something that has been diluted a million times in it, we human beings must have been considered by PM Abiy and the scholars as memory deprived to wanting us to swallow their naked story. We are considered illiterates incapable of turning the pages of books, encyclopedia, or Wikipedia.
Anyone interested in Congo’s territory during the colonization and colonial history of African countries can refer to the following two contemporary publications:
– Hertslet, E., 1909. The map of Africa by treaty. Routledge.
– Intervention and colonization in Africa. Norman Dwight Harris. Harvard University. 1914.
In conclusion, DRC had the same sea outlet from day 1 of colonization. Poland had always had a seaside. It never obtained an outlet from Germany. Rather, Germany annexed a large chunk of Polish territory, leaving a narrow access to sea during the second world war. Serbia, Macedonia, and the territory of Kosovo are landlocked. PM Abiy’s pointer on DRC and Ethiopian scholars’ sea outlet obtainment is a false proposition thrown on the Red Sea akin to Operation Mincemeat.
The best arrangement for Eritrea and Ethiopia is to respect each other’s territorial integrity, mutual respect, and an agreement that follows international laws. Tampering with territories will be tantamount to opening the hornets’ nest that will plunge the entire east Africa in turmoil, if not the rest of the Continent.At