To our readers: Graham Peebles has written a response to our Opinion Roundup piece, “A Tale of Two Journalists.” We publish it here.
I could not find an e-mail address on your site for some reason, so I will leave my response to this insulting attack here. I leave William to reply to the unfounded criticisms of him.
I assume your organisation has some connection to, or ill-judged sympathy towards the Ethiopian government.
You have distorted what I said and taken sentences out of context in an attempt to discredit my work and the pieces mentioned.
• I have no political bias, my only bias is towards revealing the human rights abuses and dishonesty in Ethiopia and elsewhere.
• The Create Trust is not my website.
• If you read the Create Trust website (www.thecreatetrust.org) you will see the good work it has accomplished. I am doing very little with Create nowadays, but have never used puppeteers or storytellers, as you say.
• I don’t mention Live Aid. The quote from the villager was representative of many voices at the time and was taken from a BBC news report.
• The ‘real purpose of the article’, was to raise awareness of the issue, not to attack the regime as you state.
• Farmers were indeed being hounded as reported, I did not ‘jump to any conclusion’. Your attack on ESAT – with whom I have no relationship at all, is totally unfounded. ESAT is run by Ethiopians in the diaspora and therefore has good credible sources on the ground, it is virtually the only independent Ethiopian media group – not owned or controlled by the EPRDF, and whilst they are rightly critical of the government they are not part of any political group including Ginbot 7, which has been described by the regime as a terrorist group. I have no relationship or contact with Ginbot 7 either.
• Government ministers repeatedly denied the scale of food insecurity, e.g. Deputy Prime Minister, Demeke Mekonen commenting on the BBC programme said “there is no such thing as famine in Ethiopia these days”. And in my follow up essay http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/04/29/hungry-and-frightened-famine-in-ethiopia-2016/you will find – ‘In a recent interview Arkebe OQubay, the ‘special adviser to the Prime-Minister’ told Bloomberg that the countries greatest achievement since 1984, was that “we are being able to feed ourselves. In 1984 we were struggling to feed our 40 million-population, but now we have 95 million population and we have food security.” This is pure fantasy: Ethiopia (according to most recent, 2012 figures) remains the largest recipient of food aid in the world, and millions are today at risk of starvation
• The UN and others did praise the government, for some reason international agencies are extremely tolerant and supportive of the EPRDF. Regarding the ‘safety net’ I said – ‘Although the Ethiopian government has made some provision to mitigate the impact of poor harvests, such as establishing a sort of Social Security net so poorer farmers can access funds for public works such as digging water holes, many have been critical of the EPRDF’s response, and their inability to foresee and plan for the current crisis.’
And – ‘Given the country’s exposure to drought, as well as the intensifying, ongoing threat caused by climate change and El Nino weather patterns, long term plans need to be put in place to mitigate the effects.’ And NO aid should not come from charities, as I say ‘the answer to famine is not increased levels of food aid, but strategic planning to enable communities to survive the impact of extreme weather, made more acute by climate change. As Thabani Maphosa, World Vision’s Vice President of Food Assistance Programmes, states, “food assistance interventions must be designed to empower poor people to build productive assets such as water harvesting tanks, dams and irrigation projects,” as well as strengthening and consolidating small holder-farming – not allowing foreign companies to build industrial-sized farms and grow crops for export only (which is going on apace in Ethiopia) – in order to help them become self-sufficient in the long term.’
• I am against all forms of violence and did not condone the attack on the hotel as you suggest. I repeatedly call for peaceful actions.
• ‘First past the post’ does not mean you hold all parliamentary seats. There is no democracy in Ethiopia, the 2015 elections were a farce as they always are, and have been called such by the EU, HRW and others.
• In all my writings I have called for unity, peace and conciliation. For this to happen the regime must stop reacting with violence – as it habitually does. I am not against the EPRDF, I am against many of their policies. As for the USA, it is not a democracy either.
• All my published essays – on Ethiopia and other topics are collected here http://www.grahampeebles.org if your interested.