Each society inhabits its own journey and unleashes wisdom harnessed during such journey. Data that is properly analysed can be converted into wisdom which unlocks the gates of dimensions reserved only to those who have inhabited that space.
Knowledge about Ethiopia, the people, the fauna and flora, the history, the culture has been analysed by the outside world to evoke the wisdom which transpires across time and space in different parts of the country. Such analysis has been instrumental to build the identity of Ethiopians. Researchers, historians have written down their findings and rendered it accessible while the reach of knowledge embedded within the souls of those who have lived it – and wisdom passed from generation to generation – is limited. Additionally, the subliminal hierarchy of knowledge, that regards analysis stemming from the global north about the global south superior than the expression of identity of an insider within the global south, is crippling.
But why do foreign researchers take sides?
It is unconceivable to me how anyone with the power to construct powerful arguments, by collecting data and articulating it in a way which can evoke meaning to the reader, does not use such skills to unveil all the indentations of the specific context, to cure the epidemic of mass thinking – driven by weak arguments that do no capture the whole context – but for the purposes of inciting emotions and reactions from the reader.
Prominent foreign academic figures in Ethiopia have expressed their opinions about the war raging in Tigray and the conflicts erupting in Benishangul Gumuz, Amhara, Oromia, Afar and other parts of Ethiopia. Some, consider the ethical responsibility that comes with being an academician (stemming from the global north) and present verifiable data to back their arguments .While others present their opinions blatantly expecting readers to rely on the commitment they have displayed towards Ethiopian affairs – which is supposed to absolve them from any criticism – and absorb each and every word as expertise. This sense of entitlement’s provenance is either from having lived in the country for various years/months/days or by retaining the connection through virtual means. Most have published books about the country, referring to other academic work stemming from the global north, and developed a so-called-expertise towards the country which gives them the entitlement to disguise themselves as “one of you” to promote their agenda.
Don’t get me wrong—not all of them have devious intentions of using academia to stay relevant and advocate for sexual violence to be used as a weapon of war, for extra-judiciary killings to be swept under the rug (veiling their views with notions of Ethiopian sovereignty). I’m talking about those who occupy space on social media and use their local connections to uncover the gruesome details of each atrocity unfolding and reek of bias:
- Those who associate themselves with the extreme side in a polarized political environment and spread their opinions as expertise, supposedly serving to emancipate Ethiopians from American imperialism and dismantle hegemonic power
- Those who pretend to support Ethiopians’ plight to retain their sovereignty while infiltrating conflicting views to have more twitter followers
- Those who instigate a notion of “us” vs “them” … “us” being those shackled by ethnocentric views and cannot fathom the idea of a country without ethnic differentiations and superiority/inferiority complexes that justifies their toxic affiliations, and “them” being anyone who disagrees with their notion of Ethiopia
- Those who argue from an emotional perspective, arguably not having any positive emotion about the people they are writing about but using them to channel their impotent mindset which requires constant validation
- Those who scratch a wound until it bleeds, evoking blinding emotions that erase the existence of consensus, forgiveness and peacebuilding
- Those who express disdain towards neo-colonialism, but fetishize the idea of Ethiopia as a monolith which tramples its complexities and divergent realities
- Those who express their ideas with fluent English and pretentious cohesion with grandiose statements such as “ allow Ethiopians to define their own destiny,” while hiding the violence of their ideas, the obstruction of ethical conduct in academia to drive their own agenda
- Those who use the good guy/bad guy technique, making us think they genuinely want the best for us while imposing their ideas as utter truth, without presenting verifiable data, expressing their positionality, their self-reflexive journey
I am baffled by their existence and ask myself what their ultimate aim is apart from self-glorification by condoning turmoil and aggression. I am more baffled by those who condone their existence and continue endorsing them for the sole reason that they feed them the version of truth that asserts their belief. I do not pretend neither to understand every complexity that is unveiling nor have a solution that will improve the lives of those who are consistently suffering. I don’t want to criminalize anyone or use their devilish means to “unveil” their intentions. I just hope that those with power understand the responsibility that comes with it. Whenever they write an article to spread propaganda, they are indirectly saying to a woman who was sexually assaulted and gang raped: “NO, that didn’t happen.” They are saying to the mother and father whose son was executed in front of people: “NO, it didn’t happen.” They are knowingly destroying and stomping on the ever-shrinking space for national consensus. Isn’t it time for US to say “NO, we will not allow this to happen?”
Image source: Security and Human Rights Monitor / https://www.shrmonitor.org/russian-propaganda-in-the-czech-republic-slovakia-and-hungary/