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The West’s Distortion of the Global South

When the war in Ukraine started, it became evident that many considered it to be the greatest war since the end of the Cold War. This is due to the extensive Western media coverage of the atrocities occurring in Ukraine. However, the amount of Western coverage a conflict gets is not correlated to its size. Instead, coverage is largely determined by the proximity of the conflict to the imperial core. Wars and armed conflicts with humanitarian disasters considered as bad or worse than the Ukrainian war are currently happening in the Global South and going unnoticed in the West. The civil war in Ethiopia, also known as the Tigray War, is one of the wars that large Western publications have sparsely covered despite US involvement. 

The war started in 2020 just after President Joe Biden’s inauguration when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) attacked government military bases. The TPLF ruled Ethiopia from 1991 to 2018, when Abiy Ahmed’s coalition took power. The US supported the TPLF when it was in power and continues to financially support them now, likely because the party supports US economic interests. Because of this, many major publications including BBC, The Guardian, and The New York Times underrepresent some of the horrors committed by the TPLF.

The 2020 Mai Kadra massacre is an example of this. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) claims that 200 people were killed in the Mai Kadra massacre while also admitting to not having anyone on-site in Ethiopia to confirm these numbers. Amnesty International, however, did have reporters on the ground and estimated the death toll to be closer to 600. Amnesty International also reported that survivors of the massacre were robbed, gang-raped at gunpoint, and physically and verbally assaulted, which is often left out of the Western narrative. The perspectives offered by Western media conveniently leave out the worst of this massacre while also accusing Ahmed’s government of mass rape and murder without any foundation. 

The former health minister and foreign minister of the TPLF, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is also the Secretary-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO). He contributes to the spread of disinformation by accusing the Ethiopian government of causing a humanitarian crisis without acknowledging the displacement of the Amhara and Afar people, for which the TPLF is responsible. 

Tedros also abuses his position in the UN to lobby for his party. The civil war reached a ceasefire on March 24 of this year and was broken by the TPLF in August when they stole 570,000 liters of fuel from the World Food Programme (WFP) making it impossible for food to be delivered to civilians in nearby regions. Tedros never responded to this incident and it was not taken up by the UN. 

US Congresspeople have expressed polarizing interests when it comes to the conflicts in the horn of Africa. Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar was booed off the stage at a Somali artist’s concert in her home state for her support of an unpopular regime change in Somalia. In addition, the US government has been threatening the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments with the “illegal ‘legal designation of genocide,’” something Congresswoman Omar asked about in a hearing with a State Department official. The United States government does not have the power to make the “legal designation” of genocide, and according to the Black Agenda Report’s Ann Garrison (who is reporting from within Ethiopia), there is no evidence of a genocide leveled on the people of Tigray from the government.  

There are many measures in place by the imperial core to manipulate the governments of the global south to aid the West’s economic interests. The following quote by Graham Peebles, writer for Counterpunch, summarizes America’s hypocrisy best: 

“Imagine the outrage if such an assault took place against a western military base: there would be widespread fury, a sharp retaliatory response – or a protracted ‘war on terror – unanimous support from allies, and wall-to-wall anger across the media. But, instead of condemning the terrorists, the US attacked the Ethiopian government, legitimized the TPLF, and demanded PM Abiy Ahmed enter into negotiations with it.” 

For more information and anti-imperialist perspectives, check out The Black Agenda, The Grayzone, and Counterpunch. 


~ Mahika Gupta `23 and Skye Rhomburg `22

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