Ledet Muleta is the host of Prime Media’s "Prime Time." She spoke with Ajamu Baraka, National Organizer for the Black Alliance for Peace on October 30. The interview is Important in light of the Ethiopian government's recent declaration of a state of emergency.
Ledet Muleta: Hello Prime Media audiences. Welcome to Primelogue. I'm your host Ledet Muleta. Today I'm here with Mr. Ajamu Baraka. I'm really grateful to Mr. Ajamu for joining us today. I'm well aware of his work, but I'd like to ask him to introduce himself to our audiences, especially in Ethiopia.
Ajamu Baraka: Well, thank you for inviting me. It is indeed a pleasure to be with you to have this very important conversation. As you just shared with your audience, my name is Ajamu Baraka. I'm the National Organizer for the Black Alliance for Peace, a US-based organization that is committed to raising awareness among African people in the US, and the progressive community in general, around the issues facing the Global South and the planet related to US policies, in particular US war policies, and to the policies of Western Europe.
Our mission is to raise visibility of these situations that the people of the US find themselves in—targeting nations in the Global South—and to build opposition that can put a break on US and other Western interventions. We are committed to peace in the tradition of Black opposition in the US. That is part of the internationalist responsibility that we have taken on as a movement and as an organization.
LM: That's wonderful. Thank you so much. That's a great introduction. So let me go straight from there to our discussion. I want to discuss media, an area that you have analyzed a lot. In the last couple of weeks we've seen controversies about the current media landscape, particularly regarding CNN and Facebook, and especially regarding their coverage of Ethiopia and other nations defying domination by the US. What are your thoughts on that?
AB: It's a very interesting environment, and it's interesting that you connect up the issue of media, CNN, for example, and Facebook. That's a very important and interesting kind of connection. Why? Oh, I think we forget that Facebook is supposed to be merely a platform for the exchange of information and ideas. But there's tremendous pressure on Facebook to, in fact, operate as a publisher by deciding what content is appropriate for users to share and what content is inappropriate.
CNN, of course, is a privately owned corporation. But Black Alliance for Peace suggests that CNN is part of what we refer to as the ideological apparatus of the state. That is, even though it's privately owned, there's not much space between its positions, the worldview that it advocates, and that of the US state and the ruling elements that we say control the US state. So, in the current media environment, private Western corporations—which pretend to be "objective" media outlets—work in tandem with the state. Together they target defiant foreign nations and domestic issues like poverty, racism, the environment, and military spending.
Right now, one of the West's new villains, if you will, is the Ethiopian government. And so what we see in the Western world and the Western press, is a coordinated effort to criminalize and delegitimize the Ethiopian state in order to cripple or balkanize it, maybe even to provide the political will for a direct military intervention. Many of us believe that the objective is to overthrow the Ethiopian government, either directly or with a proxy like the TPLF. So we see distorted, very troubling coverage of this conflict that we know to be far more complex. It's nothing but manipulation of the US population to create public support for more US aggression.
LM: Thank you, Mr. Ajamu. Do these media outlets enjoy financial benefits for distorting our stories? Or is there a direct policy think tank that controls the media or other social media platforms? I mean, we would like to think that news media is independent. But they obviously have clients and customers to serve. How is it that platforms, such as Facebook, CNN, and so forth, are motivated to distort the facts, producing propaganda and outright misinformation?
AB: Well, I think the simple response is that there's an ideological unity, if you will, between the corporate outlets and the state. They share a set of of common values and a worldview. And so, when the state sets out certain policies geared toward advancing the interests of the state, we find that independent function that one might assume to be the role of the media—questioning those policies, critiquing the outcomes of various kinds of activities, and informing the public—has really been fundamentally changed over the last few decades.
In fact, what we now find with these media outlets is a lockstep approach to US foreign policies. And instead of independent investigations, what we find is that these outlets operate almost like state propaganda units. It's a very, very dangerous situation. It's something that has profoundly changed, and, as connected to you Ethiopians, the economic interest of these corporations is in play in Ethiopia. They are, in fact, corporations committed to capitalist development and a capitalist worldview. They are also beholden to their shareholders but are nevertheless "patriotic" in that they are more than willing to parrot the positions of the US state. Those of us who are more critical find it very difficult to penetrate the corporations that control the media outlets. And so we have been sort of relegated to having to address US policies, attempting to reach the public primarily through the alternative media like Black Agenda Report. This is very difficult, but it has not been impossible.
LM: How do you view the situation in Ethiopia and the Horn currently? What's your corporate media doing in the Horn of Africa and Africa as a whole? What's new? And what are some of the things that other superpowers are doing regarding Africa and whether they're joining them or being against them?
AB: Well, let me say this. I think the only thing that's new is the current conflict in Ethiopia, the conflict between the state and the TPLF.
The US is of course trying to advance its geo-strategic interests, working with various states and movements on the African continent and in other parts of the world. The Horn, of course, is a very important geo-strategic location, and the US/NATO are attempting to reverse some developments there, particularly in Ethiopia, where for 27 years, the TPLF was more than willing to help advance US interests.
We know that, under the leadership of the TPLF, Ethiopia invaded its neighbors Somalia and Kenya, and helped perpetuate the Ethiopian conflict with Eritrea, which was really a conflict between the TPLF and Eritrea. That resulted in not only advancing US strategic interest, but also playing right into the hands of a Western balkanization strategy on the African continent. Now that continues and intensifies with more advanced weapons and intelligence.
One of the most important new weapons for advancing US interests is the establishment of the US Africa Command, or AFRICOM, which was initiated in 2007, but formally launched on October 1, 2008. Then, in January 2009, Barack Obama assumed office, becoming the first Black US President. And one consequence was a dramatic increase in the US military presence on the African continent. In fact, a 1900% increase in the US military presence on the African continent.
Then we saw the US and its NATO allies attack and destroy Libya, the most prosperous state on the African continent in 2011. And we saw a rapid escalation of military conflicts and destabilizing interventions on the African continent. The conflicts and destabilization expanded as AFRICOM expanded. And that is the basis for why the Black Alliance for Peace conducted an October campaign to bring awareness to the role of AFRICOM on the continent. We say that Africa has been the instrument that has been used by the US state to destabilize the African continent, as their response to the competition that they find themselves in with the Chinese. So we find what is happening in the Horn is troubling, now including the coup in Sudan, which we understand as part the Horn.
We know there must be explanations for how the military forces in Tigray are able to recoup themselves; someone has to be supplying them with the food and munitions required to keep fighting.
And so we are very troubled with the expanding militarization and conflict on the African continent. We are very concerned, but actively educating and organizing in opposition to the US and its European allies.
LM: Thank you, Mr. Ajamu. Your organization is doing a lot on this and I really appreciate that. What is the role of the Black community regarding this type of foreign policy? Especially in Africa, but more so for the Black voters in the US. What is the role? What can be done for the people in the continent? Obviously, we have social media platforms. Even though they're big corporations that's making it much easier to reach people across the globe. But what are some of the plans or ideas that you have for expanding this advocacy?
AB: Well, what is actually happening concretely is the development of more effective transnational structures, Black-led structures that are committed to anti-imperialism.
The campaign that we are waging right now is one of those attempts to raise the level of awareness of the Black population in the US, so that they understand the role of the West on the African continent. But we also are reaching out and have developed effective ties throughout the African diaspora in Europe.
In Latin America, where I now sit, for example, we are committed to building what we call the US Out of Africa Network, connecting our activities in the diaspora with activities on the African continent itself. And building what we hope will be an effective campaign and permanent organization to deal with the expanding role of the West, and its neocolonial agents at the heads of African governments.
So raising awareness, but also translating that awareness into concrete political opposition, is what we have to engage in. We know that the issues on the African continent are serious. And some of the reasons why the Europeans are still able to be effective there are the generalized disorganization of the African masses and the relative weakness of many of the African states.
One reason why Ethiopia has been targeted is that Ethiopia was, up until the war, one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. Others are its relationships with the Chinese and its attempt to chart its own course independent of Western neocolonialists.
They have been targeted, like many other states in Africa, so the only way that Ethiopia and other progressive states can be protected in Africa, Latin America, and Asia is through more effective, anti-imperialist organizations. And we can't be afraid of using terms like imperialism, because that is exactly what we're up against. And the Western states, they're absolutely clear what they are trying to do. And I think that those of us in the Global South need to be as clear or clearer and more determined to protect the interests of our people and the sovereignty of our nations and states.
LM: I think you mean, another word for it would be racism. Because I don't know of any African countries or other countries in the Global South with any military presence in the Western world.
AB: Exactly. I mean, basically, we talked about a certain kind of relationship, a relationship between Africa and the West, of what became the West beginning in 1492, with the European invasion of the Americas, the conquest of the Americas, and the beginning of an international slave trade that brought African labor to the Americas. That served as the material foundation for what emerged as the West.
And so we identify what we see as the number one enemy of progress, the number one enemy of collective humanity. And we say that is the Pan European, colonial capitalist, white supremacist, patriarchy. Until power is taken from those elements, those nation states that emerge on the backs of African and indigenous people and colonization globally.
Then collective humanity is threatened because these states, this ruling class, they're committed to one thing and one thing only: the continuation of their hegemony. And their justification for hegemony is in fact informed by who they think they are, this white supremacist ideology that we know has no historical basis. So yes, it's white supremacy, but white supremacy that is buttressed by structures of domination.
And so we have to keep the focus on both. Not just in Western people's heads, but those structures that continue white power, and that's what has to be the main target of our activity.
LM: Do you foresee new Pan-African movements developing in Africa?
AB: Well, the movements are developing. I mean, there's a new world, a new momentum developing for a new kind of revolutionary Pan-Africanism on the continent and in the diaspora, but we know that movement faces huge challenges. You have the entrenched power of these neocolonial agents who make up most of the leadership of many African nations on the continent, but African masses are organizing.
And we're building structures of coordination between the African continent and the African diaspora states. Black states in the Caribbean play a very important role in Black movements throughout Latin America and, of course, in the US. They have played very important roles in attempting to revitalize a more effective political opposition. We know that the European powers are more vulnerable, and that has weakened them. We need to be able to take advantage of that with a more vigorous and more effective movement for Black liberation, revolutionary Pan-Africanism, and social transformation.
LM: What do you mean by weakened?
AB: The material foundation of the West is their global capitalist system. But since 2008, that system has been in crisis. And the crisis deepened with the COVID crisis that resulted in disruptions in their global supply chains, that collapsed the economies throughout the Western world for a moment, and they have not effectively recovered from that yet. And that's why we see that there's been more militancy among workers in the US and in Europe to protect the social safety net. And the rise of the political right in Western Europe and the US is a reflection of the weakened political stance of the ruling classes. They have a serious legitimation crisis. So the crisis, the contradictions of the global colonial capitalist system, has made these Western ruling classes more vulnerable. They haven't given up power, and we haven't been able to take power, but there definitely has been a shift in their ability to impose themselves on the rest of global humanity.
LM: From your experience or history in international advocacy, can you recall a leader similar to Dr. Abiy Ahmed, who was able to overcome the Western media campaign as well as Western aggression towards the country that they've led or are now leading?
AB: Well, you know, there have been a number of outstanding African leaders who have attempted to try to chart an independent course, but of course those leaders were always targeted by Western powers. And what makes the situation so dangerous for the leadership of Ethiopia right now. They're under tremendous pressure right now. The entire West right now has mobilized to target the Abiy government, so his greatest protection will be the organized masses of Ethiopia. But we can't dismiss the dangerous context that the president is operating in at this point in Ethiopian history.
LM: Great. Do you foresee more African media outlets and African social media platforms? Ethiopia already has announced that they're planning to build their own social media platform. But in general, do you think a network of media and social media platforms with anti-imperialist outlooks can unite to work on this in the same way the allied ruling class, corporate media, social media, and aid organizations do? They are all coordinated to the point where they all say exactly the same things with just slightly different wording. From top officials to media outlets to NGOs.
Can you imagine an anti-imperialist movement and organizations joining hands in such a coordinated way?
AB: Well, let's hope so. There has to be an objective. And we've seen some degree of coordination, but right now, our forces are very disconnected. But as we are able to maintain the integrity of states like Ethiopia, they might be in a position to support the development of alternative media outlets on the African continent. That will make our efforts much more potentially effective. So yes, that has to be our objective. We've got to be in a position to tell our own stories and to be able to reach the people, not only on the African continent, but globally. But in the meantime, what that means is we have to find other creative ways to coordinate among ourselves. We have to be committed to experiment with effort and coordination, until we're able to experience that sort of qualitative leap when our resistance movement goes to a much higher level.
LM: Mr. Ajamu, thank you so much. I really appreciate you sharing your time while you are traveling, and currently in Colombia, to join us here on Prime Media, Ethiopia. I hope to have you again. And I'm pretty sure that your message is going to be heard very well. I hope that we will meet again sometime soon. Thank you so much. If you have any final message, please share it with us.
AB: Well, thank you so much for inviting me. Please, for anyone who's interested, go to blackallianceforpeace.com to get more information on our organization. There, you can also join the US out of Africa Network, and help us with our Shut Down AFRICOM campaign. We're in this together, folks, and only together and organized can we be victorious. Thank you again for inviting me, and I'm quite sure we'll have more opportunities to discuss all of the important issues facing the Africa continent and African people.
LM: Thank you, Mr. Ajamu. Prime Media audiences, this was our special time with Mr. Ajamu.
Ajamu Baraka is the national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace and was the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket. Baraka serves on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Peace Council and leadership body of the United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC) and the steering committee of the Black is Back Coalition. He is an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. He was awarded the US Peace Memorial 2019 Peace Prize and the Serena Shim award for uncompromised integrity in journalism.
Ledet Muleta is a mother, a mental health and public health professional, and the host of PrimeLogue on Prime Media World. She is a member of the Ethiopian diaspora living in Washington D.C.