The recent arrest of Andargachew Tsege, secretary general of Ginbot 7, an Ethiopian terrorist group, by Yemen and his extradition to Ethiopia to face justice would have been largely ignored by the international media like similar cases in the past.
However, the citizenship of the detainee, which is British, grabbed the focus of major news outlets and wedged the British government into uncomfortable position. This is the second British national to be arrested after Abebe Wondemagegne, a lower ranking operative of the same group who was caught in Addis Ababa while preparing to execute a bomb plot.

The news stands at the British government expressing “deep concern” by the development. What is concerning for Ethiopians is the provision of British passports to anti-Ethiopian groups. This becomes disconcerting when reinforced by the dishonest coverage of the whole saga by British and Qatari media.

The news headline of The Guardian calls Andargachew “opposition leader” and Al Jazeeera even dared to call him “opposition activist”. The only thing wrong with these expressions is that they are false and the writers know it. The question is why they bothered to sympathize with a terrorist whose record is full of foiled plots.

Terrorists and Activists

Ginbot 7 is a proud group, it tells its intentions and tactics openly. The group stated it’s “struggle” uses “all means” to achieve its goal of controlling Addis Ababa. A cursory look of its website, which is filled with ethnically charged allegations and you tube videos of the group’s “4th round military trainees” leads the reader to label it as terrorist or at least a violent rebel group. The chairman of the group, Berhanu Nega, even threatened retaliation on the life and safety of government officials after the June 23 extradition. It is only fair to assume those at The Guardian and AlJazeera to Google the group before writing a news piece.

Addis Ababa accuses Ginbot 7 for being behind foiled terror plots and a foiled attempt to “overthrow of the constitutional order” for which the two leaders of the group Berhanu Nega and Andargachew Tsege were sentenced to death in absentia. The Ethiopian parliament and the East African regional body Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) both designated the group a terrorist organization. The US state department later came closer to reality by describing Ginbot 7 as a “group which espouses violent overthrow of government” in a 2011 report.

The group is financed by the government of Eritrea, the pariah state dubbed “Africa’s North Korea” that is under UN sanctions for financing and training terror attacks in the region. The regional spoiler Eritrea, in its bid to destabilize its arch-enemy Ethiopia, harbors various violent groups including Ginbot 7, ONLF and Al-Shabab, which is a member of Al Qaeda. A leaked audio recording of Ginbot 7 chair Berhanu Nega discussing the utilization of the 500,000 USD fund from Eritrea lay to rest any suspicion, if there was any, of who runs the group.

Based Where?

It is understandable if you assume the group resides in Ethiopian deserts bordering Somalia or in some hostile neighbor like Eritrea, after all that is where terrorists or rebel groups operate. Here is a shocker; the head quarter of the group is the last place you look for, the United States. Its leadership boasts about their final preparation for the overthrow of Ethiopian government adorned with military fatigues and hold fundraisings for “army trainees” at prestigious hotels of Washington. The icing on the cake – they own a TV station ESAT) broadcasting subversive propaganda into Ethiopia.

The chair of the group is a US citizen and the Secretary General British. They move around with the safest (security wise) passports in the world to conduct activities that are anything but peaceful. And they are not the only Ethiopian terrorist group to freely operate in the US, a supposedly “close partner” of Ethiopia.

For someone well versed in history, there is no surprise in the US sheltering, training and financing terrorist groups against nations that does not toe its line, or “international order” as usually put. It also lets groups operate freely against “partners” that exercise independent economic policies contrary to US preferences while cooperating on mutually beneficial agendas. These groups serve the purpose of keeping these “partners” on their toes and as an alternative if and when the US decides to change the regime. The US ally Britain plays a supportive role in this imperial march to global hegemony.

What’s in it for the media?

In light of the evidence to the contrary, The Guardian and AlJazeera gave the group serene labels like “opposition” and “activist” when the group advertises itself as hard core and militant “using all means” and “targeting all officials”. The dishonesty and bias exhibited is truly astonishing.

Many expect better journalistic standards from at least The Guardian and BBC even though they are not surprised by AlJazeera. The sympathetic reporting of AlJazeera provided to groups that are violent or/and Qatar friendly is now a common knowledge. Some believed that early on when the channel delivered exclusive videos of Bin Laden.

What people are slowly noticing is that, just as AlJazeera is a foreign policy tool of it’s owner Qatar, the same goes for the western corporate media. The only difference being the foreign policy direction of the government is secondary to their private owners, the wealthy elite hell bent on neoliberal domination.

Ethiopia, which refuses to ascribe to their neoliberal economic model and let them acquire its strategic financial and service institutions, and still succeed in registering one of the highest growth rates in the world is “a bad example” for the rest of Africa. The place Ethiopia holds in the hearts of Africans as a beacon of independence only adds to their dismay making her the target of their smear campaign and a “color revolution” regime change. The ever closer relationship between Ethiopia and China doesn’t help either.

Fortunately for them, there are plenty of groups ready to serve as long as they are provided passports and safe haven in western capitals and a diplomatic support when in need. This will only increase as election nears. As we all figured by now, elections are the choice of the day in achieving regime change at less cost and installment of a whipped regime.

It is the Ethiopian government who should express its concern when its “partners” harbor and provide passport to terrorists.

Let’s hope there are some real journalists left to tell the reality as it is and come in defense of this waking African giant.

Fetsum Berhane

Fetsum Berhane is an Ethiopian resident, economist researcher and a blogger on HornAffairs.

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