Ethiopian Brits protest over media representation of war conflict in Ethiopia

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Ethiopian communities in Britain are divided over the current political climate in troubled African state.

Ethiopian and Eritrean protesters outside Westminister in London,21th November 2021.
Source: @Saron Solomon

Ethiopia’s year long Civil War started on November 3, 2020.

The war occurred as a response to the actions taken by the TPLF (The Tigray People’s Liberation Front) and Ethiopia’s former leading party. 

They have used guerrilla warfare as a way of seizing power. 

News about the war conflict in the East African nation covered by Europe and USA has led to mixed responses from the Ethiopian community living there. 


Source: @Saron Solomon

Wendwessen Jembere, a member of the Ethiopian community in Birmingham, said: “Westerners are reporting things differently because they have their own benefit.” 

Jembere refers to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1896, when the League of Nations sanctioned both countries and ignored Ethiopia’s appeal for independence. 

Ethiopia won the battle and was the only African country not to be colonised. 

 Jembere said that Ethiopia developed independently from the West and was on the frontline for Africa to make change. 

He added: “Ethiopia is saying we can achieve and be a developed country with our own resources, but the West isn’t happy about it.” 

Some Ethiopians believe Western nations are against Ethiopia because of their support of the TPLF. 

He said ‘Westerners’ are now working with TPLF. 

The TPLF are considered by some to be a terrorist group in Ethiopia and some British Ethiopians blame Western governments/media for unfairly responding to the crisis in Ethiopia. 

Jembere said Ethiopia was sanctioned more than 13 times by the UN within the last few months.  

This measure was prevented due to China, Russia and India deciding to veto the bill. 

He said: “Only China, Russia and India were saying no to sanctioning Ethiopia. 

“If they were not there; things would be worse than now.” 

Jacob Wiebel, professor of Horn of Africa history at Durham University, explained the Ethiopian community is divided due to diaspora (dispersion of people) and mentioned that many journalists and academics are taking sides in the conflict, such as Alex de Waal, widely known expert on the Horn of Africa. 

Wiebel said: “The church is divided. Friends aren’t talking to each other, and De Waal wrote one of the most important books on the Ethiopian famine in the 80s. He has a connection with the TPLF leadership to this day. He’s effectively become a voice piece for their opinions and a foreign policy tool for them.” 

Other academics have however rejected support of the TPLF. 

Wiebel explained the reason there were different narratives of the conflict in Ethiopia being told was because Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister dynamically changed the politics of Ethiopia when he came to office in 2018. 

“The TPLF’s developmentalism was very anti-democratic and authoritarian but it was welcomed by development agencies in the West because the TPLF was so good at delivering on the ground,” said Wiebel.

Ethiopia’s current Prime Minister had opened the political system by coming to power, weakening the grip of the oppressive state-leading to mass protests. 

According to Wiebel, the TPLF has at several times attempted to destabilise Ahmed’s government. 

The Horn of Africa professor is worried that much of what is reported in the news about Ethiopia recently, has been taken out of context. 

“I am worried about how much of the news coverage is dominated by people that are not Ethiopian and don’t speak Amharic,” said Wiebel.

Wiebel said that if the Ethiopian Prime Minister opened the nation to journalists, it would make it less difficult to report what is happening in the country. 


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