In response to a planned and coordinated disinformation campaign against Ethiopia, several Public Diplomacy initiatives were being undertaken in various countries in Europe. For example, Defend Ethiopia UK was established on November 8, 2020 by a few individuals, community groups, and organizations with the full support of the Ethiopian Embassy in the United Kingdom, the Network of Ethiopians in Geneva for Action Taskforce (NEGAT) in Switzerland was formed in December 2020, Ethiopians in Germany and Czech Republic organized online gatherings in March 2021, Ethiopians in Scandinavian countries proposed to institutionalize Digital Diplomacy on the 8th of April 2021 while diaspora association groups in Belgium and Italy were also actively engaged in confronting the disinformation and misinformation launched against Ethiopia.
On the 21st of April 2021, H.E. Ambassador Teferi Melesse Desta, with the full support of H.E. Ato Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia and Minister of Foreign Affairs, organized an online meeting along with his counterparts in Europe H.E. Ambassador Hirut Zemene Kassa, H.E. Ambassador Henok Teferra Shawl, H.E. Ambassador Mulu Solomon Bezuneh and H.E. Ambassador Zenebe Kebede Korcho, aiming to synergize the various efforts across European countries. As a result, a Steering group to coordinate the Defend Ethiopia Task Force in Europe (DETF-EU) was established in April 2021, and its composition was: Dagmawi Yimer (Italy), Elias Atlabachew (France), Getahun Assefa (Germany), Kassahun Gedlu (Norway), Kitaw Yayehyirad (Switzerland), Rahel Dalton (Ireland), Tarekegne Asnake (Spain), Teshale Mihretu (Czech Republic), Zelalem Getahun (United Kingdom), and Zerihun Assefa (PhD) (Belgium).
Independence and relationship with the Ethiopian Government
From the very beginning, it was understood that the Steering Group will be overseeing independently the overall direction at the European level, without accepting instructions but in collaboration with the Ethiopian Government’s representations in Europe who have played an instrumental facilitation and supportive role in the endeavors of the Task Force. For the impartiality of members of the Steering Committee to be maintained, they must remain independent of any authority outside the Task Force. Their conduct must reflect that independence. In conducting their contributions to the Task Force, they should not seek nor should they accept instructions from the Ethiopian Government or any person or entity external to the Task Force. Members of the Steering Committee are not, in any sense, representatives of the Ethiopian Government, but rather the Ethiopian Community abroad in its broader sense. They should liaise with Ethiopian Government officials at all levels when and if it is necessary in fulfilling the Task Force’s objectives, and on government policies relating to the Ethiopian Diaspora as outlined in the DETF-EU’s Standard of Conduct.
DETF-EU has been committed to accommodating and working with individuals, communities, and organizations with varied interests and aims to save the existential threat Ethiopia was facing. The overriding and singular objective of DETF-EU can be summarized as ‘ensuring the unity, security, and integrity of Ethiopia threatening her very existence by fighting the extremely organized and coordinated diplomatic, information and propaganda attack’. Despite multiple challenges, Defend Ethiopia always believed and ensured that such a lofty and honorable objective must never be compromised by any political, racial, religious, or other differences, which is still one of its main guiding principles.