Books for changing the world

What's Happening in Ethiopia?

How should progressives make sense of the government of Ethiopia, alongside the Amhara regional militia, launching a genocidal attack on the country’s northern Tigray region — even going as far as inviting neighboring Eritrea to join in on the atrocities? NGOs have documented some of the torture, sexual assault, starvation and state violence uniquely directed at Tigray — including Eritrean refugees who lived there prior to the war — but without providing broader analysis of the historical and contemporary political forces driving the conflict. The panelists in this forum will juxtapose the Tigray genocide with the #OromoProtests movement — which ousted the previous regime — seeking to rectify legacies of conquest and enslavement in an Ethiopian empire best described as a “prison house of nations”.

The mainstream media and humanitarian organizations count casualties from the standpoint of nowhere, and some claiming to represent the international left, like the ANSWER Coalition and the Black Alliance for Peace, which co-organized the November 21 coordinated rallies, approach the war through a US-centric prism and defend the Abiy government. In contrast, a grounded political analysis that rejects US imperialism and genocide is possible if we ask a different set of questions. How should we understand the #TigrayGenocide in relation to conscription in Oromia by the federal government and reports of the Tigrayan Defense Force committing atrocities in Amhara, Afar and against Eritrean refugees? What do the Qimant, Somali or those of the 83+ nationalities forcibly incorporated into Ethiopia tell us about how state formation got us here and what’s politically possible to get us out?



J. Khadijah Abdurahman is founder and Director of We Be Imagining at Columbia University’s INCITE Center and the American Assembly’s Democracy and Trust Program. They are also a Tech Impact Network Research Fellow at NYU’s AI Now Institute in partnership with UCLA’s C2I2 and UWA Law School. Their research focus is on predictive analytics in the New York City child welfare system and the role of tech in mass atrocities in the Horn of Africa.

Maebel Gebremedhin is the founder and president of Tigray Action Committee, a nonprofit committed to helping end the suffering of millions of Tigrayans due to the #TigrayGenocide.

Ayantu Tibeso is a scholar focusing on transnational Indigenous Oromo knowledge production and archival erasure in the construction of Ethiopian national narratives. She is a Cota-Robles Fellow and doctoral student in Information Studies at UCLA.

Recent article by Ayantu Tibeso & J. Khadijah Abdurahman: “Tigray, Oromia, and The Ethiopian Empire

Recent from Maebel Gebremedhin: "Will My Tigrayan Family Ever Really Be Free?"


Promise Li is an activist and writer from Hong Kong and Los Angeles. He organizes international solidarity work with Internationalism from Below and Lausan Collective.


This event is sponsored by Haymarket BooksInternationalism From BelowAfrica Is A Country, and Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE)