By Mark Chapman
A few days ago I cycled out from my compound in the north of Addis and heads past a series of embassies to Lideta Mariam, a church built on above Addis. A steep narrow asphalt road takes you behind the British & Belgian Embassies to the back of the Russian embassy, and on up a cobblestone road to the church. It was the day after the Mariam day and there were not a lot of church goers heading up to see the sun go down leaving Addis in a red glow.
It was a big day, having started with government announcements that key battles had been won across eastern Amhara region and ending with news that the invading TPLF were retreating from many towns including Lalibela. This was a huge relief for me as for the country as a whole. Although there is a long way to go to see peace in this country, that Meket and Lalibela, places I’ve been working in for 20 years, were liberated, was a huge emotional release.
But western countries are being blamed for favouring the TPLF, with western media castigated for biased reporting that puts forward the TPLF narrative while ignoring their culpability in starting the conflict and their involvement in atrocities in Amhara region. On top of this foreigners have been colluding with the TPLF to replace Abiy’s government, a government that was duly elected a few months ago and has a popular mandate.
As a result there is a blazing anger at this betrayal among ordinary Ethiopian citizens directed at the west.
Yet as I cycled slowly up the mountain I received nothing but positive greetings and encouragement from the people along the way all urging me to be strong or blessing me, or calling out ‘peace’, a common greeting.
I reflected back at home, that if you transposed this situation into another country it would not be the same. Think back to the Brexit in the U.K. or Trump’s election in the USA, imagine if foreign elements were clearly blamed for working against the countries interests, you would see a violent reaction against the foreigners as individuals. The English football team only has to loose a key match to Germany for reprisals against private property and businesses. How much more nasty would be the reaction against foreigners if they were believed to be backing forces opposing your countries freedom?
Despite this Ethiopian people still welcome their guests. Anger is directed at the institutions and nations but not against individuals.