Fabricating Stories: The Ethiopian Regime’s “Golden Rules” to Get Itself Off Headlines
Episodes of popular uprisings proved to be rare occasions that expose the barbaric nature of the EPRDF government its trigger happy security forces. During such landmark events, the regime finds itself in the limelight of international media, in sharp contrast to the undeserved praises with which the regime has often been showered over the years.
Such occasions have often been accompanied by frantic efforts by the regime to restore its damaged image. The regime dispatches its spin-doctors to fabricate stories in a desperate attempt to get itself off headlines in the foreign broadcast and print media. In order to serve such purposes, highly sensational stories have often been quickly crafted. Surprisingly, the EPRDF spin-doctors have fabricated stories and managed to fool foreign correspondents who easily fell for simple tricks time and again.
A keen observer of Ethiopia’s current affairs would take news originating from government controlled media with a pinch of salt. In my case, I have often spotted such downright silly stories within few minutes of encountering them.
This is not to say that I have full collection of such fabricated stories; it is a full-time job to accomplish such a task since an army of spin doctors have been working on such fabrications on daily basis. However, it would suffice to highlight a few of such made up stories, those that are manufactured around peaks of social upheavals.
In this series I will discuss four of them – the first two have been manufactured during the last two weeks in the context of the ongoing Oromo Protests and the last two were fabricated in the aftermath of the 2005 debacles. This piece presents one to the latest bogus stories. The remaining three suspicious stories will be subsequently published separately.
“Armed” Peaceful Protesters
The EPRDF propaganda machine does not know any limits and bounds within which to conduct the business of spinning the news. The pieces of fabricated news the regime generates often end up being oxymoronic.
One such piece came up recently in the context of the Oromo uprising. It is an undeniable fact that the Oromo Protests are extremely peaceful. Protesters rallied often silently with their hands held up high in the air (as shown in this picture).
At times, protesters avoided movements in space, each simply staying stationery on the spot. This is a very powerful demonstration of the fact that the Oromo protests were exceptionally peaceful. Incidentally, the amazingly peaceful rallies did not happen by accident.
It is the result of hard work by charismatic Oromo political leaders, such as Bekele Gerba, who have been raising awareness among the people and commitment to peaceful protests as a mode of Oromo struggle. Clearly, these two images do not go together.
However, in order to taint the good image of Oromo peaceful protesters, the EPRDF government fabricated an oxymoronic storyline – that amounted to stating an “armed” peaceful protest, more explicitly labeling peaceful protestors as “terrorists”! The regime and its supporters have been busy circulating pictures of gun stockpiles (the kind shown in the picture).
The security forces alleged they confiscated the ammunition from protesters. The is meant to accuse the opposition leaders of leading an armed insurrection. Social media activities quickly established the truth that “the weapons were collected in Western and South Western Shawa from the government’s own local police and village militias at the start of the protest due to fear that they will turn against the government.”
So, the authorities did not only disarm Oromia police and local militia, whom they did not trust any more, but they shamelessly used it as “evidence” for the story they crafted and circulated. The motivation for creating such fabricated stories is clear – the EPRDF elites were uncomfortable with the power of peaceful protests. Armed resistance is the mode of opposition they would like to have because they are armed to their teeth.
They found it convenient to fabricate a bogus story and delude the domestic and international community that Oromo activists were “armed” and hence their security forces caused the bloodbath in “self-defense”. However, as anyone who cared to closely followed Oromo protests knows nothing could be further from the truth. The labeling of peaceful protesters as “terrorists” was the familiar cruel joke, adding insult to injury to Oromos and undermining the intelligence of its audience both domestic and foreign.