The Queen of Sheba
In a recent Aljazeera interview, the news anchor posed a question to his guest, Mr. Martin Plaut, the self-declared Horn of Africa analyst: “Why did, if he did, the PM Abiy Ahmed misjudged the situation so horrendously [when he declared an operation against the TPLF]?” Mr. Plautt, one of the well-known apologists of the TPLF cabal, pontificated without qualms attributing the Prime Minister’s “horrendous” misjudgement to two reasons.
Mr. Plaut proclaimed, “First he thought he had the force of the Ethiopian Federal army behind him, an air force that the Tigreans could not possibly respond to, and that he had with him also Amhara militia.” He went on, “So he had a very powerful force and then from the North he had allies in Eritrea who have also become involved in this conflict so he [was] essentially attacking from three directions from the North, from the east and from the South and he thought he could crash the Tigreans.”
Mr. Plaut’s second response was particularly lower-grade even for a self-declared analyst of the Horn. “The second one is,” he blurted “He is pentecontalist and very much believes that positive thought is enough. It will get you by” and concluded abruptly: “so in essence there were two reasons to this.”
It is so telling how an “established” analyst would wish to be so visibly divisive—and outright dishonest. First of all, Abiy Ahmed did not start the conflict; in fact, he had been largely criticized for his leniency towards the TPLF cabal. Abiy leapt into a response only after the Northern Command was savagely attacked by the cabal on the night of November 3, 2020, leaving him with absolutely no choice but defend the Army and prevent the country from disintegration. For that matter, the pre-emptive attack was already admitted by a high-ranking cabal official in a televised interview. Contrary to the analyst’s statement, Abiy needed to decide to act without regard to his power base—because he had no, absolutely no, option left to him.
Mr. Plaut was also evidently falling over himself to apologize for the cabal’s humiliating defeat when he listed the “air force that the Tigreans could not possibly respond to.” In an instant contradiction and blatant prejudice, he attempted to resurrect the cabal by mocking Abiy that “he thought he could crash the Tigreans” as if they were not. Furthermore, in a dubious narrative, he opted to omit the Afar militia which was an active part of that long list, when he only selectively mentioned the Amhara militia, which, indeed played a key role in supporting the Federal army. For that matter, the Oromia and the Somali militias also played an important role in supporting the government and the Federal army.
“The Tradition in Tigre is to Go into the Hills… and Fight”
In his second daring question the anchor continued: “Do you think the Tigreans will carry on pushing back; and if they try to, can they sustain that?”
“I think that is a very difficult question to answer,” coyly conceded the good analyst but promptly made up groundless premises. He equivocated: “The indications at the moment are that there is still fighting going on and how long that will continue for is impossible to tell though they did have more than 100 may be 150 thousand men under arms.” In a blatant incitement, he continued, “the tradition in Tigre is to go into the hills and fight from the hills not to try to hold the cities; if they do that, they have a long history of doing it and they there is no reason why they could not continue.”
Posing a question to himself the analyst continued: “The big question is what will Sudan do because all their supplies of essentials like fuel, food and ammunition will need to come in from Sudan. Can that be sustained? Will Sudan allow that to be sustained? That we do not know.”
Mr. Plaut undertook to confuse the global community by maintaining “that there is still fighting in the region” when he knows too well that this is a final mop up operation to subdue the last vestiges of the cabal. More so, in his audacious remarks yet, he incited the Tigre “to go into the hills and fight from the hills [and] not to try to hold the cities”. He then crowed that “they have a long history of doing it” and callously prompted that “there is no reason why they could not continue”. After spitting that poison, he then subtly hinted on the possibilities of the Sudan to help sustain the conflict.
The anchor went on: “So, clearly this may be never started out as a law enforcement operation; that was what it was labelled as; it sounds as if you’re painting a picture describing this descending into almost a civil war.” The analyst audaciously contradicted: “Well, no it is not a civil war; this is an international war”. He then rushed to validate that: “You already have the Eritreans involved; the United States has made it clear that they believe Eritrean forces are involved; Britain, sort off-the-record accepts that this is the case; so did the European Union. There is little indication that is not true; Eritrean forces are involved so you are now in, this is now [sic], a full-scale war on three fronts involving more than one country that is terribly dangerous for the Tigreans but also for Ethiopia because they also withdraw troops from Somalia that destabilize Somalia. They pulled people out of other areas which are tense like Benishangul which has now seen more than hundred people dead with ethnic violence. How much that can be laid out at the door of Abiy Ahmed? Well, I think quite a lot.”
The Hollow Dialogue
The good Horn analyst in his pronouncement conveniently forgot the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s explicit denunciation of the TPLF cabal for the savage attack of the military and the firing of rockets into Asmara, in its futile attempt to internationalize the conflict. If there was any attempt to internationalize the conflict, it was unambiguously triggered by the cabal, which however has miserably failed, to the chagrin of Mr. Plaut and other shenanigans. The Ethiopian government never denied that its forces retreated into Eritrea when the army came under massive and coordinated attack. When the cabal forces overpowered the army forces and kicked them out to Eritrea, naked and barefooted, the Eritrean forces clothed and provisioned them. This was officially stated.
In shading crocodile tears, the analyst attempted to describe the conflict as “terribly dangerous for the Tigreans but also for Ethiopia because they also withdraw troops from Somalia that destabilize Somalia.” Mr Plaut, does not admit that the removal of the TPLF cabal—which he conflated with the Tigrayan people—from domineering Ethiopian political power is far, far from “terribly dangerous”; in fact, it was a blessing for the masses of tormented Ethiopians who have been yearning its removal for years, if not decades. What is even more bizarre is that the very analyst who appears to be overly caring for the “Tigreans” (to be read as TPLF cabal)—and pretentiously adding Ethiopians to the list—was hinting the continuity of violence “to fight on the hills”.
What is notably missing in this hollow interview is the utter lack of interest in the return of normalcy in Tigray. The restoration of transport and communication; resumption of provision of health, education and other services; supply of humanitarian provisions; surrendering of weapons by militias, in thousands; preparations for the return of the displaced; installation of provisional regional and zonal administrations were never mentioned. These critical developments were of interest neither to Aljazeera nor its subject.
In Conclusion: Way Forward
In reviewing the reporting of the conflict, many expressed dissatisfaction with Aljazeera and quite a number of its analysts, including Mr. Plaut, for their manifest bias, misleading information and twisted analysis intended to favour the TPLF cabal while undermining Ethiopia’s interest—and global standing. As a matter of fact, Aljazeera was not alone in this misdeed; major media houses including the BBC, Deutche Welle, and the New York Times have been implicated.
It is time that Ethiopia took a good hard look at this deplorable chapter and systematically respond by formulating a robust global media strategy—without further delay.
The Queen of Sheba may be reached at [email protected]