Tigrayans have told Today News Africa in Washington that many of the tens of thousands of Ethiopians who rallied in Addis Ababa on Sunday in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali were paid to be there. Others who work for the government were forced to attend the rally and show support for the Prime Minister, they claimed without providing evidence of any payment.
In several countries in the world, including in Africa, dictators and strongmen often pay demonstrators to rally on their behalf or put up a show that portrays them as being popular or under attack by foreign forces.
The accusation by Tigrayans in several text messages and emails follows a similar accusation early this year when thousands of Ethiopians rallied at the United Nations in New York City in support of Abiy Ahmed.
However, when asked to provide any evidence of payment, they were not able to show any, only telling our reporter to investigate, assuring them that they would find out they were right. The accusation could just be an attempt to discredit a big rally for Abiy.
The Ethiopians who rallied in Addis Ababa on Sunday accused the United States of supporting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and their allies who are advancing toward the capital. They were said to be 200 miles away from the capital.
The rally seemed to be in support of Abiy Ahmed and against the United States or foreign forces who they claimed are trying to destroy Ethiopia.
One demonstrator’s placard read, “Shame on you USA,” while another called on the United States to stop “sucking Ethiopia’s blood.” Many demonstrators said the United States was interfering in their domestic affairs and backing the “TPLF terrorists.” The demonstrators also denounced western media of taking side with the rebels, accusing CNN, BBC, Reuters and others of being “fake news.”
The United States, the United Nations, the African Union and others, including Kenya and Uganda, have recently called on all parties to lay down their weapons and negotiate, asserting that war would not end the conflict. The United States has also said it was against any TPLF advance toward the Ethiopian capital, warning that a civil war in Africa’s second most populous nation would be devastating and last many years.
But the government of Abiy vowed to keep fighting last week, saying on Friday that it had a responsibility to secure Ethiopia, and that now is the time for the International community to stand with the country and not rebel forces from the north.
TPLF has been designated a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian government, however, the United States sees the organization as a necessary player to ending the current crisis.
As the conflict has continued to worsen, displacing more than 2 million people, killing thousands more and leaving about 400,000 at an increased risk of famine, the United States has been the most vocal in calling for a peaceful resolution to raging war, and has threatened to impose sanctions to force all sides to negotiate.
Last Tuesday, U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced that he is planning to remove Ethiopia from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade agreement, accusing the East African nation of gross human rights violations.
Mr. Biden on September 17 authorized the U.S. government to impose sanctions on all those undermining peace in Ethiopia. Those sanctions have not yet been imposed as the Biden administration tries to exhaust all peaceful means.
Other players have also been pushing for negotiations. On Sunday, African Union Special Envoy and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and the United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths arrived in Mekelle, the regional capital of Tigray. Their arrival was first reported by Reuters and confirmed by several other sources.
Obasanjo is expected to find bring all sides to the same table to talk. Whether that would happen is difficult to predict.