The Sunday Mail
The Bishop’s heart always bleeds each time he thinks about Ethiopia, the land of brave men and women who valiantly frustrated Italy’s imperial designs in the 20th century, making it difficult for colonialism to find a comfy home in that part of the continent.
It fittingly later became the seat of the continental bloc — the Organisation of African Union (OAU), which subsequently morphed into the African Union (AU) in 2002 —whose role in the decolonisation project, particularly through the Liberation Committee, was as invaluable as it was influential.
And not surprisingly, the political history of Harare and Addis Ababa has often intersected both before and after Independence.
You might recall that sometime in the 1960s Ethiopia’s emperor Haile Selassie, who was and is revered and idolised as a messianic figure by the Rastafari movement, had to magnanimously fork out money for airfares for Johanna maFuyana Nkomo and her kids — Ernest, Michael and Thandi — to fly from the then Rhodesia to London to meet up with Joshua Nkomo, who was living in exile as he canvassed for support to overthrow the racist, greedy and exploitative colonial administration.
As fate would have it, Selassie was later overthrown via a coup in September 1974 by the Derg, which was aligned to the then USSR at a time when the world was in the throes of the Cold War that split allegiances between the US and the Soviet Union.
The coup, however, plunged Ethiopia into a 17-year civil war pitting the Derg and forces that coalesced around the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The rebels, who naturally were supported by the US — the sworn enemies of the Soviets — eventually prevailed, and condemned Derg leader, Mengistu Haile Mariam, had to flee to Harare in 1991.
We still host him to this day.
For people such as Bishop Lazi, the period of relative calm that followed these episodes of cataclysmic political convulsion and upheaval was soothing and comforting.
The country seemed to have turned the corner and found its stride after 2000 when it transitioned from being the third poorest country in the world to one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
The World Bank actually estimates that between 2000 and 2018, Africa’s second most populous country was the third-fastest growing country of 10 million or more people in the world.
Over the years, the Bishop has been able to see with his own eyes the impact of the economic miracle in Ethiopia through construction projects that were modernising Addis Ababa at a rapid pace.
All this is now in real danger of unravelling, as the country is sucked into yet another civil war between the TPLF and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration.
Although it might be tempting to buy the spin that hostilities were largely occasioned by tensions arising from delayed elections that were scheduled for August last year, it is not a secret that Ethiopia might be paying the price for continuing to build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) along the Nile River without an agreement with Egypt — a key ally of the US.
Traditionally, the US has always relied on Egypt to leverage its geopolitical muscle in the Middle East, where preserving the disputed sovereignty of Israel is an indispensable part of foreign policy.
Sudan and Israel, which benefit from water from the Nile, are similarly US allies.
Egypt believes that if the GERD begins impounding water, it will compromise the country’s water security.
However, Ethiopia, whose highlands supply 85 percent of the water that flows into the river, has begun filling the dam’s reservoir regardless.
This obviously incensed the US allies and made Prime Minister Abiy a marked man.
Therefore, in a conflict between Abiy’s regime and the TPLF, there are no prizes for guessing who the US is supporting.
And this is why Ethiopians have been demonstrating and denouncing the US over the conflict plaguing their country.
You see, as Abiy and his fellow countrymen are consumed in the current conflict, which can only lead to mutual assured destruction, it is foreign interests that stand to benefit.
Parties to this conflict — or Ethiopians — can only be losers in this zero-sum game.
This is the essence of the divide-and-rule strategy that is often used by imperial and neo-colonial forces to destabilise countries where they seek to advance their interests.
While it is Ethiopians who are shelling each other, there is always a hidden hand that is actively stoking flames by providing moral, material or even logistical support.
We saw this in the Syrian conflict — itself the product of the so-called Arab Spring revolution that affected the Middle East between 2010 and 2013 — where the US supplied sophisticated weapons to rebels that were fighting to unseat the Bashar al-Assad regime.
We saw it in Iraq, where the US supported the Kurds to advance their interests against Saddam.
We also saw it in Libya in 2011, also during the Arab Spring, when the US and its allies in NATO actively supported rebels to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi through a brutal bombing campaign on both military and civil infrastructure.
Although it was cast as a conflict between Libyans, we now know that there were foreign intelligence and military forces that were assisting the rebels.
We now know, for example, that it
was French secret agents that had infiltrated some of the militias that shot and killed Gaddafi on October 20, 2011 on the express orders of then French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
In 2012, Mahmoud Jibril, who served as interim Prime Minister following Gaddafi’s overthrow, told Egyptian TV that “it was a foreign agent who mixed with the revolutionary brigades to kill Gaddafi”.
But Libya, which is now preparing for elections on December 24, has not known peace since then and this erstwhile relatively affluent society has shamefully deteriorated into a laughable state.
Bishop Lazarus only prays that Ethiopia does not go the same route.
The lesson to be learnt is that the enemy will always exploit divisions that exist among people, and if no such divisions exist, they invent them.
A chain is as strong as its weakest link.
Romans 16: 17-19 warns us: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.
“Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.”
And in Matthew 12 verse 25 Jesus notes that “every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.”
We, therefore, need to be wary and close the window which the enemy can conveniently use to divide our people and create conflict.
As the Bishop said last week, revelations by the UK Minister of State (South Asia and the Commonwealth), Tarid Ahmad, that the UK, through its local embassy, is working closely with lawyers of some MDC-A activists, including with some teachers’ unions have to be taken seriously.
We have more than our fair share of disciples of Morrison Nyati — the ancestor of all sell-outs — who are willing to do the bidding of imperial and neo-colonial interests.
As we go into the penultimate year before the watershed 2023 elections, these incestuous and covert liaisons between quislings of foreign forces and their benefactors are likely to deepen.
It will become hectic.
However, some people forget that Zimbabwe fought a bloody and brutal 14-year conflict with a cunning and determined colonial force that used both covert and overt methods to stay in power.
We definitely know how neo-colonialism changes its colours like a chameleon.
You must take ED for his word when he says “Government has the requisite capacity to ensure workplace harmony and guarantee national peace and security”.
We are more than prepared for asymmetrical warfare and the changing terrain of our existential battle.
We will prevail!