The Policy of Showcasing and Victim-blaming: Longstanding Traits of Ethiopia

By Dhuguma Waaqoo

Amhara rulers of the late 19th century created Ethiopia as a dependent colonial empire. Access to modern weapons from European colonial powers paved the way. This access enabled Abyssinian leaders to successfully subjugate and enslave neighboring southern nations and nationalities. Successive Ethiopian governments have done everything within their power to remain in the good graces of these European powers. In turn, the European powers supported and defended successive Ethiopian autocratic governments.

Keeping tyranny alive

No Ethiopian government has ever been elected to office. The country had never conducted any free and fair election. Ethiopian leaders have had no fidelity to the people they govern. “Each successive Ethiopian regime has had to face and successfully meet three basic requirements to retain power. Each must, (1) maintain an alliance with an imperial superpower, (2) provide an adequate basis for the growth and protection of the Abyssinian settler class, and (3) maintain control over a colonized majority within the empire.”

The Policy of showcasing

Ethiopian governments have always depended on Western powers for their political legitimacy, diplomatic relations, economic viability, and security. To achieve this end, they utilize a policy called “showcasing” to present well-crafted and misleading information to the Western powers. Thus, successive Ethiopian governments present “carefully designed programs and policies which conform to all the formal characteristics necessary to win acceptance, favors, and a partnership with imperial powers but which are facades without base or foundation within the empire.”

Over a century and a half, Ethiopian governments have used fabricated stories and legends systematically packaged to meet the appetite of Western Powers, and the international community.  They use the state media and diplomatic relations to frame internal conflicts and disseminate them for the consumption of captivated audiences in Europe and the United States.

Victim blaming

One integral component of the policy of showcasing is victim-blaming. The state blames the victims for the ills and crimes the state and its allies commit. The intention is to absolve the perpetrators of the crime committed. To achieve this goal, each successive Ethiopian government routinely accuses the Oromo of inciting violence.

Successive Ethiopian governments intimidate, harass, imprison, and kill the Oromo for demanding justice and fair access to their own resources. They suppress the Oromo for desiring to elect their leaders, to build a democratic order, and want to live as equals. They blame the Oromo for the violence the successive Ethiopian governments exact against the Oromo.

To solicit military, security, and economic assistance, the successive Ethiopian governments fabricate well-crafted drama of acts of violence and produce fake documents to defame the Oromo and their political organizations. They submit the fabricated “evidence” to western governments who are only eager to accept them without question.

Denial of investigation

Ethiopian governments never accept a neutral, independent, and credible investigation into their allegations against the Oromo and other nations. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other rights groups have called on the Ethiopian government to “support a credible, independent, and transparent investigation into the use of excessive force by security forces and by those responsible for communal attacks.” No such credible and independent investigation has ever emerged in Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian government and the neo-neftegna supporters never cease to blame the victims as the perpetrators of the crime.  They do this despite their refusal to submit to a credible and neutral investigation. Unfortunately, in the absence of credible and neutral investigations perpetrators pass as the victims.

The way forward

In the face of a fast-changing world can the policies of showcasing and victim-blaming continue? Can they continue to keep a monopoly over the creation and dissemination of well-crafted propaganda? Does not the widespread of mobile devices disrupt the government’s efforts?  Can it continue to deny the demand for an independent and credible investigation?

These questions require a thorough and nuanced treatment. Without going to detailed analysis, we can surmise that the simple and direct answer to these questions is no. No government can reverse the course of technological, and historical developments. Citizens armed with a mobile device do play an important role in changing the course of history. One has to look into the George Floyd murder and subsequent trial to foresee where things are heading to.

Showcasing and victim-blaming can serve only narrow and short-term goals. A lasting solution to Ethiopia’s outstanding problems and very entrenched stances requires a negotiated solution. Ethiopia’s disintegration may not be avoided by negotiations. Disintegration or not, the nations and nationalities of Ethiopia need to live as neighbors. This makes an all-inclusive dialogue a must-have for the nations and nationalities in Ethiopia.

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