“There’re elites who want to manipulate Ethiopia’s policies,” Lawrence Freeman, Political-Economic Analyst for Africa
Read interview: Ethiopian Herald, September 3, 2022
Lawrence Freeman is a well-known Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. Over the years, he has been an outspoken critic of western intervention in Ethiopian internal political affairs, he is known for his strong commentary and opinion in relation with the TPLF-provoked war in Ethiopia. The political and economist analyst has sat down with The Ethiopian Herald’s Worku Belachew on WhatsApp, to talk about Ethiopia’s current and wide-range of affairs. The following is the excerpt of the full interview.
I really appreciate your willingness for this interview. Previously, the terrorist TPLF confiscated humanitarian trucks and they used it for war purposes. But the international community’s response seems very weak. What do you comment on this?
Well, the international community’s response is very weak. They have made some comments on it. But this is because the United States and the West in particular do not want to see the TPLF defeated, disarmed and basically pacified, that made passive, they want to keep the TPLF. And this whole question of ethnic nationalism, which is a false concept. They want to keep that alive as a permanent feature, to continue to undermine the government of Prime Minister Abiy.
This is a way of destabilizing the country, and keeping it on defensive and preventing it from moving forward. And therefore, they continued arming, or allowing the TPLF to be armed. This means that the TPLF can continually make military campaigns into other parts of Ethiopia. And therefore, Ethiopia could be under conditions of permanent warfare, where they are permanently under attack than ceasefire, then attack by the TPLF. And this will destabilize the nation if not lead to further destruction of the nation of Ethiopia.
So what purpose do those elements as you’ve mentioned serve with their path of destruction?
If you understand the larger context of the international forces, from the very beginning of the conflict, going back to November 2020, the State Department and the United States government and then more emphatically, after President Biden took office in January, with Secretary Blinken, as head of the State Department, they continually attacked the Ethiopian government sanctioned, removed from AGOA accused of human rights abuses, ethnic cleansing genocide, none of which were ever proven.
There were just accusations developed by the media which the US government adopted. So this has been going on for almost two years now. And you have certain geopolitical forces oligarchical political financial elite, that don’t want to see a stable Ethiopia, they want to see a weakened Ethiopia. And they want to see an Ethiopia that is not fully in control of its own policies. These international political elites can manipulate the situation, control the situation and have policies that they want them in place.
Back in January of 2021, they have allowed this conflict to spread; they have supported the TPLF through giving blind eyes to their crimes. On the flipside, they attack the elected government of Ethiopia. The TPLF is getting support and encouragement to continue these actions. And they will continue these actions until they are disarmed.
There are reports coming out on child soldiers recruited, trained and deployed for war purposes by the terrorist TPLF. Various organizations that claim to work for human rights protection are soft on the issues. Why are they soft on these issues in your opinion?
The human rights’ organizations are not honest. They use human rights as a weapon, just like the State Department, is using democracy as a weapon to maintain the geopolitical control of the Horn of Africa and Africa as a whole. They are not concerned about human rights. They are concerned about packing and labeling various forces as violators of human rights. And therefore, there’s no honesty and there’s no integrity in their evaluation. They can see obvious crimes, such as the one you’re mentioning of child soldiers, but they are not interested in dealing with that problem, identifying that problem, because they have a different agenda.
In fact, some people have called the human rights organizations, “the Human Rights mafia”, or “human rights imperialist”, because human rights have become a political weapon. It is not an actual honest evaluation of human rights violation. For example, if you are concerned about human rights, then you will be concerned about the right to people to live, to economically have opportunities for the growth of the economy so that a human right is the right of food, is the right to eat, is the right to have electricity.
None of these human rights groups support that. They simply choose and pick and choose when they want to make a propaganda issue that is used to attack a particular government or a particular organization. They are not real in my view, I do not accept them as honest or authoritative, and how they determine human rights abuses.
Most in the international community were condemning the humanitarian fuel theft. But could they go even farther than condemning this act, just making TPLF accountable for this humanitarian atrocity?
Well, it is very serious. The fact that the TPLF apparently, I cannot verify every fact but, they took over half a million liters of fuel, and are using it for their own purposes. Now, they took the fuel from the World Food Program, which is a very serious offense, because the WFP, whose director is David Beasley, is a very important organization in terms of supplying food to areas around the world where people are suffering. And therefore, moving fuel from their warehouses or their depots is very serious. It undermines and undercuts a fairly important initiative; I think the WFP is part of the United Nations as well. So this is very serious, and indicates the fact that the TPLF is not going to give up, they are continuing to maintain their aggressive policy.
Now, I do not believe that they think even that they can win the conflict. That is they cannot overthrow the government of Ethiopia. But they want to weaken the government. And they want to establish a permanent capability of attacking the government. There are outside forces, which in the region, and outside of Africa, who are manipulating the perverted mindset of the TPLF, that they have a nation of Tigray.
There is only one nation as Ethiopia, but they are claiming that their region is a nation and they have a right to be owned and defended. My view is, without encouragement and support, that the TPLF would not launch these kinds of reckless, damaging campaigns. And until they are stopped, I believe they will continue this process. And this will become a permanent destabilization of the nation of Ethiopia and prevent Ethiopia from realizing its aspiration, which are identified, typified by what they have done with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Ethiopia wants to develop economically. But, it is being held back by the permanent war mentality of the Ethno nationalist TPLF.
Some commentators say the western community in general lacks proper understanding as to the prevailing condition in Ethiopia, particularly the fact that taxes they are paying are channeled through aid organizations are being repurposed for war by the TPLF. Do you buy the argument?
The overwhelming majority of Americans has no understanding of much of what goes on in Africa, and have no understanding of what is going on in Ethiopia. I mean, at the beginning of the conflict, going back to November and December of 2020, January, February, March of 2021, the media, led by CNN, but all the media launched a massive propaganda campaign. That is what the American public heard over and over. They also repeated and acted on foolishly by President Joe Biden. So they only know what they read in immediate. And otherwise, they know very little about what is going on extremely little. In fact, the United States, American culture has shrunk. And we no longer think about the rest of the world, we no longer have a vision for development of poor countries in Africa and other countries.
The concept that we used to have had many decades ago, even under John F. Kennedy, was to help these countries and to assist them in development. But we no longer have that concern. And USAID does provide a lot of food and other assistance. But that is not sufficient. That is not going to change in Africa.
We need actual economic development, investment in infrastructure, electricity, where roads food production, which China is doing some and other countries are doing some, but the United States is doing nothing. And the human right is a means of political control. It is not intended to actually uplift the population out of poverty. So the American people really know nothing about what is happening in this external world or know nothing about how the United States policy is functioning. I am an expert in the area. And I know the United States is not interested in a stable Ethiopia and is not interested in helping Ethiopia and other nations develop their industrial manufacturing and agricultural capabilities.
What is your message for some silent and sober voices in the US, including the majority of Americans and those in the Congress who want peace to prevail in the Horn of Africa so that the US interest is also protected?
Well, unfortunately, we do not have a good understanding of what the US interest is. It is been perverted over many administrations, both Republicans and Democrats.
And if we do not take action now, then Africa will be inundated maybe with a billion young people who will not have jobs, who will see a potential for future in the country. And this becomes a very dangerous problem for the society. But the interest of the United States people and the interest of the United States government are to develop African nations, we should be committing long term credit, billions of dollars to build where we are connecting the continent, we should be investing in real productive energy such as nuclear energy across the African continent.
But the United States leadership has lost any understanding of what our true interest is in the world. The government of the United States is dominated by geo political thinking, how do we and the West remain on top in the world, they view the world is fixed. And there are winners and losers. And you can see it in the strategy for Africa paper that just came out from the administration. You can see it, Secretary Blinken visit, everything we’re doing in Africa, is designed to maintain our hegemony or attempt to maintain our hegemony against Russia and in particular, against China.
The American population is poorly educated, and has a poor understanding of what the true self interest of the United States is in Africa, because Africa is thriving, industrialized economies that become a major market for our advanced, technologically advanced capital goods sector. That will increase the job growth in the United States, it would raise the standard of living in United States, as well as raise the standard of living in Africa. But this is not understood. We are not concerned about alleviating the suffering of African people. What we care about is maintaining geopolitical control.
Let me make it my last question. Regarding multilateral organizations, including the UN, WHO chief is abusing his position and implicitly and explicitly throwing support behind TPLF. What is your take on this?
Well, yes, this is very serious. There is a report that the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres was involved and one or more private discussions with the TPLF. Finally, if that is true, and it appears it is, this is a very serious problem. TPLF is carrying out a treasonous war to overthrow the government, the elected government, the democratically elected government of the Prosperity Party, and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. So, why would a secretary general of the UN be discussing with a militant armed militia who is trying to overthrow a government of Ethiopia and Ethiopia is a long standing member of the United Nations organization, how is that possible?
There should be no discussions. Certainly, there should be no private discussions. Ethiopia is a nation state, a member of the United Nations. TPLF is an armed militia that is trying to overthrow a government of a member state of the United Nations.
There has to be investigation, what was discussed on these calls? And why are private discussions going on with groups trying to overthrow a member state? And we also have to question Dr. Tedros’s comments as an official of the World Health Organization which is associated with the United Nations. How is it possible that he continues to make comments in support of the TPLF when he is representing himself as one of the most powerful international organizations? These are very serious problems and have to be fully investigated, because that they do show exactly what had been discussing that there is a very pronounced tool in the international community in support of the TPLF and undermining the government of the nation state of Ethiopia.
Thank you very much, Mr. Lawrence.
Please watch (below) my half hour interview on Addis Media Network from September 1, 2022,
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Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com. Mr. Freeman’s stated personal mission is; to eliminate poverty and hunger in Africa by applying the scientific economic principles of Alexander Hamilton