Ethiopian Solider Eyewitness in Tigray We shouldn’t also lose sight of the fact that, while not denying that there are genuinely invested individuals and groups of actors in each camp, there are still many in this “war” owing to other factors that have little or nothing to do with a genuine concern for Ethiopia and everyday Ethiopians. The harsh truth is that this is not just a debate about history, identity, or self-governance. It is also, if not more so, about elites’ drive for resource monopolization and the prestige that comes with power and other factors external to the debate.
Abiy’s government, like the EPRDF before it, is attempting to limit internet access, especially to social media, to quell recent unrest. The government’s desperate act to avoid future incidents like these are understandable. Expanded internet access to all, in theory, at least, is a positive development in the right hands. And it would be misguided to argue that the broadening of access to free speech that has been made possible through social media is wrong or detrimental. The detriment, actually, is with the unchecked nature of social media. As well, the absence of meaningful fact checking and understanding of local knowledge among social media companies make it possible for misinformation to spread easily.
Nothing makes the dangers of the deep division between the two camps as the recent of the renowned Oromo singer, Hachalu Hundesa. This incident has clearly shown their tendency to see and interpret any and every incident or issue in ways that support their respective narratives. Unfortunately, as is quite common in the post-truth social media age we live in, it is as though elites in each camp use—no matter what facts on the ground dictate—different truth-filters. So much so that, immediately after the news of Hachalu’s death surfaced, with no evidence at their disposal, elites in each camp took to social media and started to speculate who might have shot and killed the singer, and expectedly, started to point fingers at each other.
In the ethno-nationalist camp, a conspiracy started to circulate that claimed the killing was orchestrated and carried out by and statements like “They killed our hero” reverberated around social media followed by wide-spread Oromo protests in Ethiopia, Europe and North America. On the other hand, in what appears to be due to Hachalu’s pro-Oromo nationalistic political views, in the Pan-Ethiopianist camp there was either a deafening silence, and, some even suggesting that the killing was a result of intra power-struggle among the Oromo elite politicians who just “sacrificed” Hachalu for their own politically calculated ends. Amidst the confusion and unsubstantiated claims floating around, even broadcasting hate-filled messages, erupted in the Oromia region, which claimed the lives of over 200 individuals, the displacement of thousands and property damage.
If anyone in either camp is insensitive enough to bring havoc to Ethiopia, or even worse, to sacrifice precious human lives in pursuit of political ends or to prove a particular narrative of Ethiopia, then the debate is not so much about liberation and freedom as it is about ideology or some other ends. As chastises us,