by Sara Isaias
The aforementioned report has been doing the rounds in the past few days and all the major news outlets have been reporting on it without even stopping to verify the facts. One would think that in this era of false news and manipulative journalism, one would have learnt to at least make sure if the report was credible enough to re-publish. Apparently not. That, or we seem to have one standard of reporting for developing African countries and another for rich countries where the threat and possibility of severe litigation procedures are more possible.
Fact No. 1: Amnesty International does not have access to the regions, towns and villages where the so-called atrocities were committed. They have not conducted interviews with those they claim were affected. All their “interviewees” – if they indeed exist – are people who fled the Tigrayan region and who would not hold anything back to see Eritrean forces implicated in any sort of smear campaign. It should be remembered that the refugee camps where these “eye-witness accounts” were interviewed are full of Tigrayans who were aligned with the now-defunct TPLF clique and who have lost a lot of their ill-gotten wealth, power and influence. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that their so-called “eye-witness” reports will be anything but heavily biased at best.
Fact No. 2: None of the news media outlets have correspondents on the ground to cover the stories behind the report. They can neither corroborate or deny the allegations. But yet, they re-post and re-package the Amnesty Report as if it has been fully verified and confirmed. This is shoddy, irresponsible journalism especially since human lives are at stake here and if atrocities have been committed it would make better sense to have facts ready so that the perpetuators can be held accountable and be brought to justice.
Fact No. 3: The report completely bypasses – almost exonerates – the Ethiopian government, instead focusing on the smaller neighbour, Eritrea. If, as the allegations that Eritrean troops were involved in the fighting, they must have done so at the invitation, knowledge and cooperation of the Ethiopian government. Shouldn’t it, therefore, be the responsibility of the Ethiopian government to conduct a thorough investigation of these alleged atrocities? What gives Amnesty International or any other media outlet the right to “conduct an investigation” – if one can even call it that – without consulting the sovereign government under whose watch and in whose sovereign territory the investigation is supposed to be carried out? Doesn’t this reek of the same atmosphere that prevailed at the infamous Berlin Conference where a group of Europeans decided they were better suited to run the continent than the inhabitants themselves?
Fact No. 4: The authors of this report – employees of Amnesty international – are primarily two Tigrayan individuals who have very close and invested interests with the TPLF clique. Even during the past, confirmed and corroborated atrocities committed by the TPLF-led government in Amhara and other regions of Ethiopia were sent to Amnesty International, these two individuals made sure that Amnesty International never reported on the massacres or if it did, it would not accuse or hold responsible the TPLF in any way. The main author – one Fesseha M. Tekle who is a native of Adwa in Tigray and a relative of the recently captured TPLF honcho, Sebhat Nega – was given a government scholarship to do his Master’s degree in law by the then TPLF-led Ethiopian government and on completion he was “seconded” by them to join the staff of Amnesty international based in Nairobi. In the past, this individual has repeatedly watered-down, belittled and even completely ignored any reports – and there were many – coming to him that implicated the TPLF. This can all be verified by Amnesty International if they were to conduct an internal investigation. Instead, he is now assigned the task of writing this report from his office in Nairobi based entirely on hearsay and made up “eye-witness reports”. It is akin to sending in a hyaena among the cattle to investigate and report on the hyaenas that had come in the night before and decimated the herd. In common parlance, there is a huge conflict of interest and Amnesty International doesn’t seem to care or notice or both.
Fact No. 5: The alleged atrocities are very serious and so are the accusations. The Ethiopian government should be the authority to carry out a thorough investigation into these and all other allegations. In this day and age of smart phone, drones, satellite technology, it should not be difficult to see troop movements and other tell-tale signs of massacres. Sadly, the report does NOT furnish a single credible piece of evidence aside from claiming that “high-resolution satellite photos show that some ground in a Church graveyard had been disturbed”. This in a region where some severe fighting had just taken place.
The list goes on and on and one has to but question what the motive of Amnesty International and through it, the mainstream main media outlets gain by smearing such lies on Eritrea. This is nothing new, unfortunately. In the past, as they are doing today, the TPLF – using their looted wealth – have employed high-profile consultants and lobbyists who make sure such lies are churned out on a regular basis. The real investigative journalism should be to investigate these individuals (the likes of Alex de Waal, Martin Plaut, Fesseha M. Tekle to name but a few) and make them accountable for the lies and hatred and hate-filled rhetoric that they have been (and continue to) spewing out.