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A New Standard: Extraordinary Claims and Minimal Evidence

By: Bana negusse

Late last month, an extremely insightful commentary article written by Ann FitzGerald and Hugh Segal, titled, Ethiopia: A New Proxy Battlespace? Explained how “the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern state of Tigray is being fought on two interconnected fronts. The first is physical and on the ground, while the second is a dangerous information campaign projected via social media…”

In terms of the first battleground, theTPLF’s dangerous military objectives were successfully foiled early on saving the region the chaos and turmoil that would have ensued otherwise.Regarding the second battleground, having gravely miscalculated and seen all of its military aims successfully thwarted, the TPLF, along with its vast network of influential, well-remunerated supporters and sympathizers, continues to work overtime to unremittingly churn out one lie after another. This is all conducted with the basic goal of capturing public sympathies, attracting global attention, and drawing some sort of external intervention to rescue it. The latest of the lies was “reported” by the Daily Telegraph news outlet last week, preposterously claiming that Ethiopian and Eritrean forces had utilized “white phosphorous”.

First, it is a basic matter of fact that Eritrea has never developed and does not possess any chemical, or biological weapons or their means of delivery. Additionally, in fundamental contrast to what was explicitly claimed in the Daily Telegraph’s report, Eritrea is actually party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and Their Destruction (1992), and for years has been a member and active participant of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Second, it is worth noting that the allegations raised against Eritrea do not align in any way whatsoever with its long-established military doctrine or practices. Specifically, recall that even during the height of large and highly destructive military battles, first during its struggle for freedom and then later to protect its sovereignty and basic existence as an independent state, Eritrea never contemplated, let alone resorted to, using white phosphorus or any other biological, chemical, or other prohibited weapons.

Third, beyond these significant factors, the evidence forwarded in support of the claims made is flimsy and weak. According to the so-called “Sagan standard,” which illustrates a core principle of the scientific method and skepticism and can be used to determine the validity of a claim, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”  Today, knowing all that we do of how “precise” or “accurate” this format or approach to gathering evidence has been throughout the duration of the conflict in the Tigray Region, one can only be expected to have grave concerns and serious doubts about the credibility of any of the Daily Telegraph’s claims.

Last, of course, there is also the unfortunate fact that the Daily Telegraph (and the recent story’s authors) also has a troubling history of making specious allegations based on the dubious evidence targeting Eritrea. Over the past several months, for example, the Western news outlet and one of the story’s main authors were the sources and disseminators of sordid claims about sexual violence perpetrated by Eritrean soldiers. These sadistic allegations, like so many others, were not only completely unsubstantiated and totally at odds with the country’s proud social, cultural, and military traditions or history, but they also went entirely against simple logic and reality. (For instance, they raised hysterical claims that Eritreans were seeking to spread HIV among the population in Tigray, even though HIV prevalence and infection rates in Eritrea are infinitesimal and far lower than in those Tigray Region.)

Overall, it ought to be crystal clear to any reasonable, objective observer that the TPLF having utterly failed to accomplish any of its military aims when it launched a reckless, callous attack last November, the last vestiges of the group, along with their network of influential supporters and sympathizers, have raised the scope and intensity of their frantic, shrill propaganda campaign, hoping to inflame public opinion against the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments, tug at public heartstrings and arouse emotions, and find some sort of external lifeline or rescue.

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