Airline boycott has a storied past in South Africa as part of a broader consumer boycott by activists standing against state repression. These activists who called for a free and democratic South Africa understood that, if one is serious about human rights and democracy, then every
nonviolent resistance, including economic boycott, must be waged.
For 21 years, the violent and manipulative TPLF rulers have been coercing where they can — such as human rights defenders in Ethiopia and everyone else in the country. And where they can’t coerce, for example, outside of the country, they have been playing with the minds of pro-democracy Ethiopians abroad, leading us to dither and to limit ourselves in the nonviolent methods we use to wage our fight against dictatorship in our country. It is time that we take the example of the freedom-fighters in South Africa. We should take action and stop flying Ethiopian Airlines (EAL) to put pressure on the oppresses.
With every flight on EAL, we are dutifully handing over our scarce cash, in the form of foreign currency, and are unwittingly keeping the hungry TPLF well-fed and the military loyal to them.
Here are just a few significant moments in the boycott movement against the South African Apartheid rule’s airline, South African Airways (SAA). This can inspire us to do our part and quit using EAL:
As early as the 1960s, several African states pioneered the application of pressure on the brutal Apartheid regime through the regime’s airline, by prohibiting the use of their airspace by SAA. This made it exceedingly difficult for the regime to operate its airline. Under effective grassroots activism, SAA started to become a liability for respected firms left and right that had been associated with SAA. For example, in 1985, the well-established Washington D.C. law firm Covington & Burling, which used to represent SAA, dropped it as a client.
Patriotic anti-apartheid activists were able to also influence US policy to pass in 1986 the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act. Among other things, the law banned flights by SAA into the United States. Soon thereafter, Australia followed suit with a similar legislation concerning SAA.
In 1988 anti-Apartheid activists in London unrelentingly occupied SAA’s offices there, as part of the ‘No Rights? No Flights!’ campaign. Activists realized that one of the ways to effectively strike at the heart of the violent and racist white rule in South Africa was to target a boycott where it hurt the repressive rulers: at their treasured cash-cow, the government controlled airline. The poster on the left in the picture above (and enlarged below) subverts the Apartheid regime’s advertisement slogan for the purpose of galvanizing consumers to stop flying SAA.
Economic boycotts such as these, along with a wide range of methods to resist the authoritarian racial rule in South Africa, led to the crumbling of Apartheid rule in 1990.