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You Can’t Fool All of the People All of the Time

By - Bana Negusse

A popular expression, long attributed to Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, declares that, “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time.”

I could not help but recall this oft-used saying and think of how especially pertinent it seems to be in reflecting the recent reporting on the developments unfolding in our region during recent weeks and months. The TPLF, a group with a truly formidable history of propagating falsehoods and disinformation in pursuit of its aims, is increasingly being found out.

A relentless stream of propaganda and disinformation.

The defunct TPLF, particularly its high-level leadership, lies and dissembles insistently and incessantly. This is not simply a matter of opinion. It is an incontrovertible basic fact and one that is supported by a long track record that stretches back over many years and extends across many events.

The group lied as it launched and prosecuted its war of expansion against Eritrea in mid-1998, and also as it illegally invaded and occupied Somalia in late 2006. It also lied about results as it stole one election after another, and shamelessly cooked the books in trying to portray itself as a “global development darling” and “economic success”. Without an ounce of hesitation, it carried out “false flag” terror operations and attempted to pin the blame on Eritrea, all in the hopes of mobilizing widespread support for illegal sanctions against the latter.

Focusing on more contemporary events, the TPLF waged a relentless campaign of disinformation – combined with vitriolic hate speech – throughout the build up to, and then launch of, its most recent disastrous war in November 2020.

Mere hours after it initiated the conflict with its massive and unprovoked attack on Ethiopia’s Northern Command outposts, the group’s supporters, located in countries across the globe, launched the #TigrayGenocide hashtag campaign. Subsequently, the TPLF’s lies and disinformation, disseminated and amplified by its vast global network of supporters and sympathizers, remained a central, ever-present feature of the destructive conflict.

Now, although the largescale military hostilities have considerably subsided, if not effectively ended, the group’s campaign of lies and disinformation continues to drive forward hardly unabated. So it is that the unsubstantiated claims and worn-out allegations about Eritrea are still being blasted across various media, all the while accompanied by hysterical demands for action.

At this point, it is reasonable to ask: what’s driving this latest barrage of disinformation targeting Eritrea?
Underlying aims are to divert attention and distract from failures.

The aim of the ongoing disinformation targeting Eritrea is multifold. On the one hand, it is diversionary. The war that the TPLF launched just over two years ago has not only been highly destructive, as all wars are, but an absolute and unmitigated disaster. The group failed to achieve any of its central aims and its grave miscalculations, rooted in a history of false bravado and a total misreading of the situation, have led to immense costs for the region.

Today, the group is confronted by a range of daunting questions from a multitude of directions. It has a lot to answer for, yet remains utterly unable to muster a good or even minimally reasonable response. What is more, large swathes of the Tigray Region are characterized by serious crimes and banditry, while infighting and public disorder reign. Thus, within this overall context, rather than face the music or be held to account for the present circumstances that its actions directly gave rise to, the group is hoping to create diversions.

Alongside the above, there is another factor helping to drive the disinformation that is being spread. In particular, disinformation helps to shift focus off the group and buy the group precious more time as it drags its feet from fully and faithfully carrying out its obligations according to the agreements it was forced to sign. It is sometimes said that among the best predictors of future actions is past action. Anyone with basic knowledge about the Horn of Africa or the TPLF knows quite well that the group has a long history of obfuscation and dissembling when it comes to agreements. Thus, the group may be seeking, in true fashion, to draw out the process and drag its feet from its responsibilities, lies and disinformation about Eritrea serve a vitally useful purpose.

Peace is a virtue. The people of Ethiopia, like the people of Eritrea and the wider Horn of Africa need and deserve peace. Although the TPLF has spent years spreading disinformation and falsehoods, perhaps fooling some and certainly harming the entire Horn of Africa, the reality is that the truth cannot be suppressed forever.

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