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  • Writer's pictureEverett Gordon

Keeping Up with the Ethiopian Civil War

It strikes me as problematic that our news centers so exclusively around the United States. This is not to say that we do not hear about foreign issues, but even in the cases where we do, coverage is inequitably distributed to reflect American interests rather than grant space for local and minority voices. A prime example of this regards the Ethiopian Civil War, which began November 3, 2020.

Ethiopia’s conflict is between the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front—known colloquially as the TPLF—and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Ethiopian Federal Government. The TPLF was formed in 1975 as an ethnically unified militia to protest Ethiopia’s Marxist Dictatorship, and by the mid 80s the TPLF had substantial power as a nationalist party and paramilitary group. In 1991, with assistance from the Eritrea People’s Liberation Front, the TPLF took control of Ethiopia’s central government. From 1991 to 2018 the Tigrayan party held power in Ethiopia, and during this time the country saw economic booms but also significant human rights abuses, ethnically-targeted conflicts, and restrictions on freedom of speech. Then, in 2018, the TPLF was officially succeeded by Abiy Ahmed, the current Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Despite Ahmed’s globally recognized actions to settle tensions and end a long-lasting border dispute with Eritrea, his rule has in many cases merely re-directed rather than resolved the abuses that existed prior to his campaign. The Civil War began just two years after Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, yet now after a year of fighting, more than two million people have been displaced, famine is ravaging the country, and tens of thousands have died.

Despite Ahmed’s military offensives, the TPLF is advancing south towards the capital—Addis Ababa—and east towards Djibouti in an attempt to block off a key trade route.

So why do we know so little about Ethiopia’s fighting? Why don’t we hear that the second most populous country in Africa is engaged in a devastating civil war? When newscasts and media conglomerates skew coverage to reflect purely domestic and American foreing policy interests, it contributes to a conceited narrative of both the American public and role of the United States in the international community. This is not a critique of foreign policy or an advocacy to return to a post World War One era of refrainment from foreign entanglements, but it is an invitation to challenge biased focuses on big names (i.e. Russia, China, North Korea, and the U.S.) when conflicts of equal importance are happening in the developing world and all around us. I would also like to point out that there is a distinction between inequitable media coverage and a tailoring of stories to our country. Yes, it is important for U.S. media companies to focus on issues concerning the United States, but when Kim and Kanye’s breakup gets exponentially more coverage than a civil war, it hints at a much larger and problematic dissolution of interest and recognition for the international community.

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