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Canada continues to provide financial support to the Ethiopian government despite allegations of war crimes

Ethio Observer - Thu, 14/10/2021 - 19:07

Canada continues to provide financial support to the Ethiopian government despite allegations of war crimes
Source: Canadian dimension

Fifi H. / October 12, 2021

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa in an attempt to shore up support for a seat for Canada on the United Nations Security Council, February 7, 2020. Photo from Twitter.
In the final weeks of September, images began to emerge of severely malnourished children from Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia, home to around seven million people. These pictures provided visual proof of the humanitarian calamity the United Nations has long been warning about.

Tigray is currently suffering the worst famine anywhere in the world, with millions in dire need of food. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs revealed that 400,000 people in Tigray are suffering from catastrophic hunger while USAID puts the number at nearly one million. According to UNICEF, over 100,000 children in Tigray are at risk of starvation-induced deaths, while the UN is recording “unprecedented” malnutrition (now over 22 percent) particularly among children, pregnant women, and new mothers.

Terrible stories from the region, of people going for days without eating or subsisting on leaves to survive, underscore the severity of the famine, which has already killed hundreds, if not thousands. All the more horrific is that this famine, which threatens the lives of millions, is not the result of drought or a natural disaster. It is a man-made famine, brought on by the systematic and deliberate campaign of destruction unleashed on Tigray by the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea since November 2020 in their military offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

On November 4, 2020, while much of the world was engrossed in the outcome of the US presidential elections, Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared war on Tigray. This declaration followed years of escalating political tensions between the Ethiopian federal government and the regional government in Tigray. While ostensibly declaring it a domestic law and order operation, Abiy invited forces from Eritrea and the neighbouring Amhara region to launch a brutal offensive against the people of Tigray.

Despite the communications blockade imposed by the Abiy regime since November, news began to emerge of atrocities carried out by the Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces in Tigray, including hundreds of massacres, pervasive sexual and gender-based violence, and attacks on religious sites, all of which have decimated the region’s health, food, and education infrastructure and displaced millions. The atrocities perpetrated by the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and bear the hallmarks of genocide.

The man-made famine is a central component of Abiy’s campaign in Tigray. With roads in and out of the region closed, trade and commerce halted, and humanitarian organizations prevented from accessing the north of the country, there were warnings of famine as early as January of this year. Reports show that Ethiopian and Eritrean forces destroyed and looted crops, killed livestock, burned food supplies, banned farming, and blocked humanitarian access into Tigray in a deliberate attempt to create and exacerbate the starvation crisis. Since being pushed out of many parts of Tigray in late June, the Ethiopian government has continued to besiege the region, cutting off its inhabitants from electricity, transportation, communication, and enacting a de facto aid blockade.

Recognizing that the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe from the war on Tigray is too grave to ignore, the United States and the European Union (as well as the United Kingdom) have been working to facilitate a cessation of hostilities. On September 17, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order authorizing a wide-ranging sanctions regime on Ethiopia. Similarly, on October 7, the EU parliament adopted a resolution calling for sanctions and an arms embargo on Ethiopia. Many other states, international organizations and humanitarian agencies have similarly been vocal in their calls for an end to the hostilities.

There is, however, one notable absence among the chorus of voices holding Mr. Abiy’s regime to account: Canada. Since November, beyond issuing a few half-hearted statements, the Trudeau government has not taken any meaningful steps to utilize the tools at its disposal to facilitate an end to the conflict. The Canadian response has been weak and ineffective, which is surprising given the significant leverage at Canada’s disposal. Ethiopia is one of the largest recipients of Canadian development assistance, having received nearly $2 billion between 2010 and 2019. Moreover, in 2018 alone, trade between Canada and Ethiopia peaked at over $170 million.

Canada has a strong economic relationship it could use to push for a meaningful ceasefire and the opening up of aid access into Tigray. Yet, not only has Justin Trudeau’s government shown its unwillingness to move beyond tepid statements, but it has also continued to provide financial support to the Ethiopian government, which stands accused of atrocities and helping to spur the world’s worst famine crisis in a decade.

Justin Trudeau and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, February 8, 2020. Photo from Twitter.
While it is easy to dismiss the humanitarian catastrophe in Tigray as just another war in a remote part of the world, this crisis should be at the centre of Canadian foreign policy discourse for two key reasons. First, Canadian presence across the world needs to live up to the values its leaders claim to espouse. As early as 2015, Prime Minister Trudeau promised to bring Canada’s “compassionate and constructive voice” back to the world stage. However, with respect to Tigray, the Trudeau government has been neither compassionate nor constructive. In fact, in so far as it has had a discernable voice at all, it has raised it in defense of a regime that has been accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide. The complete disjuncture between Canadian foreign policy rhetoric and practice should be alarming and disconcerting to all.

Second, and more disturbingly, reporting by The Breach has revealed that Canadian mining companies have been investing heavily in Tigray since November 2020. At least six Canadian firms are either already in or have licenses to operate in Tigray, while two Canadian companies have worked closely with the Ethiopian government amid the war. The reporting suggests that the Canadian government’s lacklustre response to the humanitarian catastrophe may be influenced by its desire to protect the millions of dollars it has spent to reform the mining sector in Ethiopia and protect the investments of domestic mining companies that believe the region “holds billions of dollars in gold.”

As is well known, Canadian mining companies have been widely criticized for their conduct across the Global South, which includes environmental disasters, gross human rights abuses, and attacks against Indigenous peoples. The link emerging between Canadian mining interests in Tigray and Canada’s ongoing support for the Ethiopian government could be the newest addition to this roster of injustices. That this is happening under a government that prides itself on its feminist credentials and espouses noble values about Canada’s benevolence makes it all the more hypocritical.
If Prime Minister Trudeau wants to bring Canada’s compassionate and constructive voice back to the world stage, this is the time to do so. The Abiy government’s war in Tigray represents a decisive moment for Canada to affirm the values it proclaims guide its presence in the world, by deploying all of the economic, political, and diplomatic tools at its disposal to help bring a swift end to the humanitarian crisis before it spirals out of control.
Fifi H. is a graduate student in the field of international political economy. Her research focuses on the political economy of development and urbanization in the African context.

Categories: Etiopia

Approaching Ethnic Cleansing within the Criminal Law of Ethiopia

Ethio Observer - Mon, 11/10/2021 - 15:50

Beijing Law Review, 2019, 10, 869-881
ISSN Online: 2159-4635 ISSN Print: 2159-4627
Approaching Ethnic Cleansing within the
Criminal Law of Ethiopia
Addisu Genet Ayalew
College of Law and Governance Study, Dilla University, Dilla, Ethiopia
How to cite this paper: Ayalew, A. G. Abstract
(2019). Approaching Ethnic Cleansing within
the Criminal Law of Ethiopia. Beijing Law The status of ethnic cleansing as a punishable act in the international criminal Review, 10, 869-881. law is being a subject of quarrel. Those who reject its criminal status argue based on the principle of legality while the other group contends, lacking the

Received: May 14, 2019 existence of explicit law, still there is a room to prosecute ethnic cleansing Accepted: August 29, 2019 through major international crimes like crime of genocide or crime against Published: September 2, 2019 humanity. Although, ethnic cleansing is a crucial political and legal discourse in the current Ethiopia, it is not mentioned as a punishable act in its laws.
Copyright © 2019 by author(s) and

Open Access

Scientific Research Publishing Inc. Discovering the criminal status of ethnic cleansing under the criminal law of This work is licensed under the Creative Ethiopia is the purpose of this paper. Basing on the accompanying crimes Commons Attribution International particularly the gravity of the offense producing ethnic cleansing and the License (CC BY 4.0). contextual element required, this paper concludes categorizing ethnic clean sing in the crime of genocide and crime against humanity.

Crime against Humanity, Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing, Principle of Legality, criminal Law of Ethiopia

1. Introduction
Defining ethnic cleansing is not a simple task. “Unlike crime of genocide and crime against humanity, ethnic cleansing is not a legal term of art” (Presbyterian Church of Sudan v. Talisman Energy, 2003). In Presbyterian Church of Sudan v. Talisman Energy Inc., the court conceives ethnic cleansing as a literal translation of the Serbo-Croatian term etnicko cis cenje, arising from atrocities in the former Yugoslavia1 (Schabas, 2001). The court understood ethnic cleansing to be “a euphemism for genocide.” Yet, opinions differ as to its meaning, which has no

1The court affirms, “The view that the two terms (genocide and ethnic cleansing) are equivalent or that they overlap is, widely held within the diplomatic and academic communities.”

Sep. 2, 2019
formal international law definition (Destroyed, 2004). The commission of experts providing that ethnic cleansing is a new terminology in the international criminal law described it as the forceful removal of an ethnic, religious or other group from a certain location to create ethnic homogeneity in favor of the dominant group (UN commission of experts report, 1994). This definition has later incorporated by various UN resolutions, reports and tribunals including the ICTY and ICTR in addressing ethnic cleansing.2 In tandem with lack of explicit law criminalizing it, the task of determining the scope may occupy invite confusion when one thinks about its criminalization. The Commission of experts in addressing ethnic cleansing committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia states that in the furtherance of ethnic cleansing in the Yugoslavian territory, various heinous crimes have committed associated with ethnic cleansing. In particular, “murder, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, extra-judicial executions, rape and sexual assaults, confinement of civilian population in ghetto areas, forcible removal, displacement and deportation of civilian population, deliberate military attacks or threats of attacks on civilians and civilian areas and wanton destruction of property were committed”. In doing so instead of determining the scope of the crime under the brand of ethnic cleansing it puts inspiration on the accompanying crimes in completing ethnic cleansing. Emanating from this it roughly argued that those atrocities might fall to crime of genocide, war crime or crime against humanity. Although, the tribunals established later for the respective atrocities in Rwanda and Yugoslavia tried constitutive acts of ethnic cleansing, no indictment had tried for crime of ethnic cleansing separately. In Ethiopia, though currently ethnic cleansing is widespread, it is having not specifically stipulated as a punishable act in the criminal code or the FDRE constitution.

2Prosecutor v. Brđjanin, Case No. IT-99-36-T, Judgment, 989 Sept. 1, 2004; Comm’n on Human Rights, Report of the Commission on Human Rights on its First Special Session, at 2, delivered to the Economic and Social Council, U.N. Doc. E/CN.4/1992/S-1/8 Aug. 14, 1992 (claiming that, at a minimum, ethnic cleansing entails “deportations and forcible mass removal or expulsion of persons from their homes” and is “aimed at the dislocation or destruction of national, ethnic, racial or religious groups”); U.N. GAOR, 47th Sess., 91st plan. mtg., at 2, U.N. Doc. A/RES/47/121, Dec. 18, 1992 (declaring that a consistent pattern of gross human rights violations, mass expulsions of defenseless civilians from their homes, and the existence of concentration camps and detention centers were carried out in pursuit of an “abhorrent policy of ‘ethnic cleansing,’ which is a form of genocide”); see also Prosecutor v. Al Bashir, Case No. ICC-02/05-01/09-3, Decision on the Prosecutor’s Application for a Warrant of Arrest, 143 Mar. 4, 2009.
This paper investigates the legal framework and justifications enabling to prosecute perpetrators of ethnic cleansing under Ethiopian criminal law. In particular, it assesses how ethnic cleansing would fall within the ambit of crime of genocide or crime against humanity. In making such conclusion, it considers the principle of legality towards the criminalization and punishment of a given crime. The paper emphasizes international law and the jurisprudence of international tribunals. There are multiple reasons to do this; firstly, due to poor jurisprudence in Ethiopian courts regarding the crime at the disposal of this paper resort to interpretation and analysis would be limited. Secondly, the FDRE constitution and the criminal code captioning crime against humanity as a (catch up clause of course) and genocide respectively, as crime against international law, invites interpretation according to international criminal law and accepted practices. Finally, crime of genocide and crime against humanity have already attained the status of peremptory norm under international law and imposes the states the obligation not to depart from these norms. Moreover, some of those norms provide universal jurisdiction so that, perpetrators will not be exonerated from prosecution even if the national state might not criminalize or criminalize these crimes in a restrictive manner.

2. The Naming Issue under International Criminal Law
The drafters of the Genocide Convention quite intentionally excluded a category of punishable act that would apply to our contemporary concept of ‘ethnic cleansing’ (Schabas, 2006). According to the drafters of the Genocide Convention the proposed addition of crime resembling to ethnic cleansing was not included in the definition of genocide in the convention, because U.N. members in particular the US concerns over already completed “forced transfers of minority groups” by the UN itself and such inclusion may allow disruption against already placed minorities. (Ibid). However, it has noted that, in the extreme case, ethnic cleansing may constitute crime of genocide if the perpetrator has the required intention. (Ibid). Ethiopia as signatories of the Genocide Convention during its adoption on 11 December 1948 criminalizes genocide captioning it as crime in violation of international law. While no single stipulation of the word ethnic cleansing as a punishable act has mentioned.
The politics of naming crime has given a meticulous attention since it has greatest impact and is an issue among the international community considering various interests. The similarities of what has happened between Iraq and Darfur are remarkable (Mamdani, 2007). The estimate of the number of civilians killed is roughly similar. The killers are mostly paramilitaries, closely linked to the official military, which is considered their main source of arms.(Ibid). The conflict between the Sudan (Khartoum) and the Darfur (black Africans) which has been waged over a decades has labeled different name by different influential in-

international organization and states. The U.S. congress condemning Sudan’s general record on human rights and its “policy of low-intensity ethnic cleansing,” declared acts occurring in Sudan to be genocide (Sudan Peace Act, 2002). In contrast, other institutions refrain from using the term genocide and some claim the events in Darfur constitute ethnic cleansing (Richter & Farley, 2004). The UN Security Council, The E.U. and countries such as France and Germany have concluded evidence does not point to genocide (Destroyed, 2004). Whereas others maintain that, it constitutes neither genocide nor ethnic cleansing, rather it is an armed conflict (Margaret Neighbor, 2004). The commission of inquiry formed by the UN Security Council argues, “International offences such as crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide” (United Nations Secretary-General, September 2004). When the UN Security Council refers the case to the international criminal court (ICC) prosecutor for accusation through resolution the US was the only state among the veto powers alleging the crime as crime of genocide (Mamdani, 2007). Had it been not for the purpose of political interests the conflict would be characterized based on objective parameters. Commentators such as Mamdani argues that, what has happened against Darfur does not constitute crime of genocide since the intent element is absent, though, the atrocities was widespread like ethnic cleansing accompanied by grave intimidation and violence.
The alleged attack of Serbian against Croatian and Bosnian populations which leads the formation of the ICTY was acknowledged as a pre-planned campaign of ethnic cleansing against non-Serb peoples” (Yacob, 1999). Two years after the UN Security Council adopt the statute of ICTY in the mid1995 the majority of ethnic cleansing was being carrying out by nationalist Serbs (Banac, 1992). The tribunal was entitled to adjudicate grave breach of the Geneva Convention 1949 on violation of the law and custom of war, genocide and crime against humanity. In Rwanda, the deliberate nature of the genocide had proven in part by the massive propaganda operation that preceded it and continued for the duration of the violence (Yacob, 1999). The Tutsis was painted as foreign intruders and exploiters who kept the Hutu majority in bondage. (Ibid). Hence, the killings were carried out to establish a homogeneous ethnic power through ethnic cleansing. (Ibid). The mass atrocities in Rwanda were undertaken largely by local militia i.e. Interahamwe in pursuance of establishing homogenous ethnic power through ethnic cleansing. (Ibid). Then the ICTR was established by the UN Security Council primarily to address the crime of genocide. In the Akayesu case, the Tribunal authoritatively determined that genocide against the Tutsi did, in fact, taken place in Rwanda in 1994 (Prosecutor v. Akayesu, 1996). Looking into the history of each conflict one would not fail to acknowledge as the alleged

crime referring as (crime against humanity or genocide) in the tribunals was based on ethnic cleansing.
Even if it is, grave enough labeling a certain atrocity, as ethnic cleansing may not be the best term to describe owing from a number of justifications. For instance, ethnic cleansing does not call for the international community to take action, in contrast to the crime of genocide or crime against humanity. International law compels the state to prevent and punish perpetrators of genocide. Nevertheless, characterizing a certain atrocity to genocide requires a careful assessment. The international crime of genocide carries with it a horrifying colloquial connotation even the Nazi Germany was prosecuted on crime against humanity owing from the strict requirements for a crime of genocide (Schabas, 2006; Trial of German Major War Criminals 38, 2001). Again, to characterize it as crime against humanity it should fulfill the contextual requirement attached with the crime; the attack must be forwarded against civilians in a widespread or systematic manner. However, no such labeling provided in the crime of ethnic cleansing. Nor is the ICC statute specifically conferring such power to the ICC. Those irrespective of the gravity of the offense committed, prosecuting perpetrators such as the Darfur atrocities depends on word choice. If the international community determines the acts in Darfur are ethnic cleansing, Al-Basher may continue to escape prosecution. The confusion over terms therefore affects the international community’s ability to implement applicable international law and to bring justice to millions of people (Manashaw Linnea, 2005).

3. Requirement of Specific Intent in Genocide
The contextual element of “specific intent to destroy in whole or in part” to characterize the incident as genocide is unique requirement compared to other core international crimes. Pursuant to article 2 of the Genocide Convention, specific intent refers committing one of the crimes mentioned in the same article to destroy in whole or in part national, religious etc. group. The crime of genocide requires the specific intent to destroy. Accordingly, international tribunals and legal scholars consider displacing an ethnic group to achieve an ethnically homogenous territory is incompatible with genocidal intent (Micol Sirkin, 2009: p. 3). The ICTY in Krstic case interpreting the “intent to destroy” in particular the word destruction in light of customary international law stated, the definition of

genocide is limited to those acts seeking either biological or physical destruction of the group. (Ibid). The European Court of Human Rights emphasizing from the ICJ ruling, draws a distinction between ethnic cleansing and genocide in particular stating genocide requires ‘deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part’, carried out with the necessary specific intent (dolus specialis) (Judgment of Jorgic v. Germany, 2007). While, ethnic cleansing has concerning on displacing and bringing homogeneity. The ICTY trail chamber depicting that the policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing has obvious similarity, (Prosecutor v. Krstic, 2002, par. 576 & 580) provides that, mere expulsion of a group or part of a group itself does not suffice for genocide. According to the ICTY whenever the forcible removal of an ethnic group constructively causes physical destruction, it may constitute a genocidal act. In the landmark case of Akayesu, ICTR specifically stipulates, a condition of life calculated to bring about a group’s physical destruction [in a place] comply the intent requirement. (Prosecutor v. Akayesu, 1998). A replica of this statement has also stipulated by the ICJ providing the act of deportation or displacement with a view to bring homogeneity accompanied by destruction would qualify as crime of genocide (Bosn. & Herz. v. Serb. & Mont., 2007). My theme argues the mass destruction of a particular group through grave violence and intimidation such as killing, torture, rape, enforced disappearance, arrest, terrorizing the civilians, abducting women, children etc. with the intention to clear them in a specific place constitute crime of genocide. In such case, the intent requirement match’s incidentally through the act in the furtherance of the initial purpose. This scenario happens when the act of ethnic cleansing is accompanying through the intent of destruction. For instance, in Krstić, case the ICTY appeal chamber affirming the trial chambers finding and decision states that the forcible transfer of women was using in support of the intent to physical destruction (Prosecutor v. Krstić, 2001 & 2004). On the other hand, when the material act of ethnic cleansing does not comply with the requirement of genocide it may fallto other crimes (John Quigley, 1999). Ethnic cleansing is widely applied to many different crimes, which taken separately would demand individual international responsibility as an international crime in thestrict sense (Ibid). For instance, the ICTY, while trying the Tadic case borrowed the term ethnic cleansing from the Security Council report and described the atrocities in the Former Yugoslavia and tried the defendant for crimes against humanity (Schabas, 2006).
There is no bright-line rule dictating how many people must be harmed to deduce an act as crime of genocide. Nevertheless, the evidence shall show considerable number of the population to that group has targeted to bring about destruction (Prosecutor v. Krstic, 2002, par. 576 & 580). Although the number of persons died is to be determined by the court on case-by-case basis, ICTY contends “a reasonably significant number, relative to the total of the group as a whole has to be harmed through the perpetration (Prosecutor v. Goran Jelisi, 1999). Forinstance in Rwanda while trying in the crime of genocide the estimated number of death was between 500,000 and one million (Yacob, 1999).

4. Crime of Ethnic Cleansing and the Principle of Legality
The principle of legality contained und erarticle 15(1) of the ICCPR, article 7(2) of the African charter on human and peoples right, article 7(1) of European convention on human rights, article 9 of the American convention on human rights and article 11(2) of the UDHR, recognizes that there shall be no offense unless in the existence of clearly provided previous laws. This principle further prohibits punishment (including the imposition of greater punishment) unless it is expressly provided as such under national or international laws. In line with this, the criminal code of Ethiopia without sticking the national or international status of a given “law” equally recognizes the principle of legality. The principle of legality further incorporates the principle of non-retroactivity, specificity and the prohibition of analogy of offenses and punishments. The purpose of the principle is the protection of individuals from prosecution and punishment of an offense to which they did not have been anticipating (ICRC advisory service, 2014). It is based on the idea that individuals shall be given a safe warning to their act, so that they will be obliged to take the risk of their deed. The principle of legality is a fundamental defense for a criminal law prosecution. Its proponent’s accepting the expansive interpretation of the principle pledge that the principle of nullum crimen sine lege (NCSL) jurisprudence does not compromise the international community fundamental right to prosecute crimes under modern international criminal law proceedings (Beth Van Schaack, 2011). Justifying this it stipulates that, consistent with the formulations of the principle, authoritative interpretations emerging from institutions charged with enforcing human rights protection and the purposes underlying the NCSL principle be based on international law. (Ibid).Which means, the principle of legality itself flows from international law norm and practice. (Ibid). The draft history of the UDHR depicting the inclusion of “international law” provision confirms the drafters‟ rejection of the strict requirement of a written statute for prior notice of a crime. (Letter of Lord Dukeston (UK), UN Doc. E/CN.4/21). This stand of the UDHR is also envisaging in the ICCPR.

Commentators argue the approach adhered by the covenant absorbs exception to the principle of legality for crime having international nature (Ferdinandusse, 2006). Although, it is not a reason to derogate from the principle of legality in this perspective, it arguably invites for the lenient application of the principle in the case of international crimes. In various tribunals, the approach has reflected in different case developments. For instance, prior to the ICTR’s Akayesu judgment, rape and sexual violence was not crime of genocide under the Rwandan penal law (Opinion of Theodor Meron, 2019). The defendant argued in trial that the principle of legality provides a fundamental defense, so that prosecution without clearly stipulated previous law would violate the defendant’s human right. Nevertheless, the trial emphasizing on immorality and criminality rejected the defense in the face of malum in se conduct, in particular crimes of mass atrocities and heinous conduct that for whateverreason fells outside of extant positive law (Beth, 2011). In line with this, the European court of human right pledges, where judicial developments are consistent with the essence of an offense and could have been reasonably foreseen, the prosecution is not arbitrary or unjust. (Ibid). The court in particular contends whenever the defendant has noticed the fact that his act will impose sanction according to international or domestic laws there is a justification to hold him criminally responsible. (Ibid). Earlier to this, international military tribunal (IMT) recognizes the duty of foreseeability in light of the principle of legality at the Nuremburg trial.

According to this trial although the crimes are new which are not ratified by the concerned state they had become recognized by all “civilized nations” as violations of the laws and customs of war (International military tribunal, 1946). Some scholars have reached a conclusion that since Nuremberg and Tokyo, the international community has assumed that the prosecution of grave international crimes has become common knowledge (Paust, 1997). Mr. Krstić in the ICTY was accused based on foreseeing the destruction of the Bosnian Muslim population and tried in the crime of genocide because he must have known that the displacement of the women would contribute to the physical destruction of the Bosnian Muslim population (Prosecutor v. Krstic, 2002). Furthermore, the UN Secretary General noted that ‘‘the application of the principle of nullum crimen sine ledge does not prevent the tribunal to interpret crime in light of customary law such as international humanitarian law (UN Secretary General Report, 1993). The most important point in the characterizations of ethnic cleansing towards genocide is distinguishing the intent to destroy with the primary aim of the “intent to displace”. ICJ recognizing the possibility of incorporating ethnic cleansing under Article II of the Genocide Convention warns the interpretation to consider ethnic cleansing accompanied by the intent of dislocation and ethnic cleansing accompanied by destruction (ICJ advisory opinion, 2008). To recap, this paper concludes that ethnic cleansing committed with the requirement of the international genocide law shall be prosecuted based on crime of genocide. Ethnic cleansing lacking this element will fall under other core international crimes in particular crime against humanity as far as it was made accompanying through widespread or systematic attack.

5. The Criminal Code of Ethiopia and Ethnic Cleansing
Neither the FDRE constitution nor the criminal code employs the word ethnic cleansing. The constitution under the caption crime against humanity provides that criminal liability of persons who commit crimes against humanity, defined by international agreements ratified by Ethiopia and by other laws of Ethiopia, such as genocide, summary executions, forcible disappearances or torture shall not be barred by statute of limitation. The revised criminal code criminalizes genocide captioning under crime in violation of international law. Those provisions adhere assimilation approach to crime of genocide and crime against humanity. One may confuse in the wording of the two stipulations in the constitution and the criminal code. While the former says crime against humanity and only mentioned genocide as other crime without defining it, the later termed genocide saying nothing about crime against humanity. The 1957 penal code adhering a mixed approach of crime against humanity and crime of genocide explicitly says crime of genocide and crime against humanity in Article 281 though with no substantial difference in the content of the crime except intent requirement. Jean Graven the drafter of this code believed that genocide and crimes against humanity overlap each other (Yacob, 1999). In the eyes of this author, both the constitution and the criminal code endorse certain vagueness. The constitution only mentioned the words without certain definition and content. Of course, one may argue the constitution is general and it has paved the way to define based on domestic and international laws (with recognizing all defects in terms of definition and element thereafter). The criminal code seems to incorporate at least based on the element of crime against humanity broadly in time of armed conflict from article 270-273. However, firstly, crime against humanity is not recognizing in time of peace. This is contrary to international law abandoning the nexus between crimes against humanity and armed conflict. This glaring omission will lead us to the conclusion that, one, if the act has committed with the required intent it will qualify as crime of genocide. Two, a crime committed in the non-existence of armed conflict though widespread or systematic if it lacks the required intent to qualify as crime of genocide it will not be tried based on crime against humanity at least in accordance with criminal

Almost a similar problem was encountered the ICTY that, in the Yugoslavian penal law no provision was there dealing about crime against humanity. In such case one may question how would the court handle the interest on the principle of legality and the interest of punishing the perpetrator? The tribunal however, resolved in an interesting stratagem, stating the Yugoslavian law reserves most serious penalty such as crime of genocide which is similar in nature with crime against humanity (Prosecutor v. Erdemovic, 1996). This statement of the court was similar to the stand adopted by the IMT discussed above. The ICTY in particular recognizing crime against humanity is a serious crime imposing severe punishment, considered the importance of article 15 (1) of the ICCPR while providing the principle of legality empowers the court to trial and punishment which is a criminal according to the general principle of law recognized by the community of nation. The argument towards applying the law governing crime of genocide to crime against humanity was mentioned by the Central High Court in a case between Mengistu Hailemariamand et al., confirming genocide is one kind of crimes against humanity (Special Prosecutor v. Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam et al., October 1995, Para. 106). Therefore, the prosecutor needs to prove that the intent of the perpetrators was to exterminate or destroy in whole or in part, the members of the group to charge based on crime of genocide in other case committed in a widespread or systematic manner would be considered as crime against humanity.

Yet, the criminal code itself lacks inclusivity in terms of incorporating list of acts even in crime of genocide to constitute crime against humanity contrary to accepted international jurisprudence. To overcome this problem this theme proposes alternatively, first, since the international criminal law jurisprudence after the IMT and Tokyo trial abandon the link or nexus between crime against humanity and armed conflict, attack against civilians under article 270 of the criminal code may be interpreted as equally applicable in time of peace as well. Second, acts such as killing, bodily harm or serious injury to the physical or mental health, compulsory movement etc. provided in the criminal code article 269 can be interpreted broadly to include any conducts bringing the consequence of harm, mental or physical abnormality. In such case if, the act does not fall under the realm of genocide because the perpetrator lacks the required intention they would be prosecuted based on crime against humanity as far as the act is committed systematically or in a widespread manner. Nevertheless, in approaching the crime based on this, one shall distinguish aggravated homicide

(Usually committed against individuals) and crime against humanity. Among the objections’ raised by the defense lawyer in Mengistu and et’al case against the charges and dissenting judge opinion was that, it did not distinguish between the crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity as well as aggravated homicide and willful injury (Firew, 2007). In a majority judgment of two to one, the court convicted the accused through genocide while the dissenting judge found them guilty of aggravated homicide (Yalemfiker G. Moges. March 2010). The third possibility is following the FDRE constitution article 28 so that crime against humanity can be defined based on international laws. Of course, it is not only through the constitution, but the criminal code also itself caption it as crime in violation of international law strengthening this term of argument. This is consistent with Ethiopia’s international obligation to criminalize acts condemned by international conventions or customary international criminal law as fundamental crimes . An international core crime against humanity as defined somewhere above, have the status of Jus cogens constituting obligatio erga omnes (Malcolm Shaw, 2003: pp 68-84). This obligation is not subject to derogation. In such case, although Ethiopia is not a signatory of the ICC statute we can refer based on the idea of cross-fertilization as well as the developed jurisprudence of ICTR and ICTY. The other layout would be widening the scope of crime against humanity in the constitution or genocide in the criminal code via explicit recognition of crime against humanity (in peacetime) and ethnic cleansing in the long run through amendment.

6. Conclusion

To sum up, no doubt, perpetrator of ethnic cleansing may go unpunished nor is applying ordinary provision of the criminal code sufficiently address it, criminalizing ethnic cleansing must be studied in light of international criminal law and jurisprudence. Based on this if ethnic cleansing has been committed with intent to physical destruction of a specific group in a place accompanied by the underlying offense of genocide constitutes as crime of genocide. In the absence of such particular intent of physical destruction but committed in a widespread or systematic manner, it must be considered as crime against humanity.
Conflicts of Interest
The author declares no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this paper.
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Firew, T. (2007). The Trial of Mengistu and Other Derg Members for Genocide, Torture and General Principle of International Criminal Law. ICRC Advisory Service for International Humanitarian Genocide. New England Law Review, 35, 287-296.
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Malcolm, S. (2003). International Law (5th ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mamdani, M. (2007). The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency. London Review of Books, 29, 5-8.
Manashaw, L. (2005). Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing: Why the Distinction? A Discussion in the Context of Atrocities Occurring in Sudan.
Margaret, N. (2004). Ethnic Cleansing Shame of Sudan, the Scotsman. Members in the Case of Special Prosecutor v. Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam et al. A.
Micol, S. (2009). Expanding the Crime of Genocide to Include Ethnic Cleansing: A Return to Nations.
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Paust, J. J. (1997). It’s No Defense: Nullum Crimen, International Crime and the Gingerbread Problems of International Codification, the Atrocities in Cambodian and Kosovo.
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Categories: Etiopia

InterAction released the following statement on the humanitarian crisis and ethnic cleansing in Ethiopia:

Ethio Observer - Sat, 09/10/2021 - 15:01

InterAction released the following statement on the humanitarian crisis and ethnic cleansing in Ethiopia:
“For over 11 months, humanitarians have endeavored to provide life-saving assistance to the people of Tigray, Ethiopia, under extreme duress. 5.2 million people in the region are now in need of aid, with 400,000 living in man-made famine-like conditions. Recent reports state that as little as 10% of the needed humanitarian supplies have been allowed into Tigray since mid-July.

“Yet, the severity of this humanitarian crisis, triggered by all conflict parties’ egregious conduct, has not been widely reported in the media. This is in part due to threats, both veiled and overt, targeted at humanitarian organizations seeking to fulfill their lifesaving mandate of providing principled inter-alia impartial, lifesaving relief to civilians across Tigray and other regions now embroiled in the conflict.

“The Government of Ethiopia’s recent expulsion of seven U.N. staff, coming after the suspension of three reputable humanitarian organizations in late July, are the latest examples of intentional actions to intimidate humanitarians, isolate civilians, and increase human suffering.

“Since late June, the government’s de facto aid blockade has ground the Tigrayan economy and the humanitarian response has come to a halt. The telecommunications blackout has made communication all but impossible and effectively shuttered the banking sector. Medicine, food, cash, and fuel are all but impossible to move into the region. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the actions of the Ethiopia National Defense Force (ENDF) and its allies amount to anything but ethnic cleansing in Tigray. The term “ethnic cleansing” does not indicate any single definitive act and is not a legally defined crime. Rather, ethnic cleansing is the sum of several individual acts and crimes that – taken together – have the effect of ‘rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove persons of given groups from the area.’

“There is no other way to define what is happening to the people of Tigray than by ethnic cleansing.

“The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has also committed brutal violations of international humanitarian law, particularly in its recent counteroffensive in Amhara and Afar. Despite the conflict emerging from deep-seated grievances, nothing justifies reprisals taken against civilians by all parties to the conflict in direct violation of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law.

“Numerous organizations have observed the widespread killing of civilians, the organized use of sexual violence by armed groups, indiscriminate attacks on civilian property, the use of starvation as a method of war, the recruitment of child soldiers by all parties to the conflict, as well as the targeted destruction of roads, bridges, schools, and hospitals.

“We call on all parties to the conflict to take meaningful steps to minimize civilian harm in their military operations and ensure compliance with IHL and International Human Rights Law (IHRL), specifically to refrain from attacking civilians and civilian objects, destroying critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, hospitals and schools, looting, destroying crops, engaging in any forms of sexual and gender-based violence, obstructing humanitarian aid delivery to populations in need.”

Categories: Etiopia

Opinion: Ethiopia’s widening war could be catastrophic for millions. The U.S. needs to step up pressure.

Ethio Observer - Fri, 08/10/2021 - 23:55

The Post’s View
Opinion: Ethiopia’s widening war could be catastrophic for millions. The U.S. needs to step up pressure.

Members of the National Defense Force march during a rally to celebrate Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Oct. 4. (Tiksa Negeri/Reuters)
Image without a caption
Opinion by the Editorial Board
Yesterday at 2:11 p.m. EDT

The rainy season is coming to an end in Ethiopia’s conflict zones, which means that the fighting season could be about to begin. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, freshly sworn in for a new five-year term on Monday, has been massing government forces near Tigray, a rebellious province in the country’s north. Barring de-escalation, the consequences — especially for the 6 million people of Tigray, at growing risk of famine — could be catastrophic.

De-escalation seems to be the furthest thing from Mr. Abiy’s mind. Three weeks ago he answered the Biden administration’s push for a negotiated solution with a three-page open letter in which he declared: “Ethiopia will not succumb.” More ominously, his government recently ordered seven U.N. aid workers in charge of humanitarian relief for Tigray expelled from the country, on the purported grounds that they have sided with Tigrayan rebels. The U.N. Security Council devoted a meeting to that issue Wednesday. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres denounced the “unprecedented” expulsions and warned of an “immense humanitarian crisis” — and Ethiopia’s representative responded by accusing the U.N. officials of falsifying Tigray’s plight.

Ethiopia’s ouster of the U.N. team came shortly after the chief of the U.N.’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had said Mr. Abiy’s forces were mounting a “de facto blockade” of Tigray, making it impossible for more than about 10 percent of needed food aid to reach the area and contributing to a crisis that has left 5.2 million people dependent on outside relief, of whom 400,000 are already living in near-famine conditions, according to the United Nations. Officials fear a repeat of the 1984-1985 starvation that Ethiopia’s then-ruling Marxist military regime engineered, in part to crush Tigrayan resistance, and which killed up to 1.2 million people.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which ruled Ethiopia — undemocratically — before Mr. Abiy’s rise to power in 2018, is hardly blameless. Its forces responded to a series of heavy-handed measures by the central government with a violent uprising in November 2020, triggering a joint offensive by Addis Ababa and its allies in neighboring Eritrea. The two nations’ campaign was marked by widespread human rights abuses. Yet the TPLF withstood it and counterattacked — seizing territory outside Tigray and committing atrocities of its own. Thousands are believed to have been killed in the war and 2 million displaced, numbers that are sure to rise if all-out combat resumes.

Until recently, Ethiopia was Africa’s fastest-growing economy, demonstrating a potential that makes the prospect of another era of famine and war doubly tragic. Seeking to avoid such an outcome, the Biden administration in mid-September announced new authority for sanctions on leaders of any side — whether Mr. Abiy or his foes — guilty of human rights abuses, obstructing humanitarian relief or blocking peace talks. Framed evenhandedly, the plan wisely anticipated Addis Ababa’s inevitable charges of bias. President Biden also delayed actual implementation — for what officials said would be “weeks, not months” — to give diplomacy yet another chance. Judging by recent events, it may soon be time to stop threatening pressure on Mr. Abiy, and start exerting it.

Categories: Etiopia

Ethiopian intentional punitive defunding and diversion of Tigray medical supplies

Ethio Observer - Fri, 08/10/2021 - 23:50

Ethiopian intentional punitive defunding and diversion of Tigray medical supplies
October 8, 2021
By: Professor Tony Magna

Intentional starvation and complete blockade of medical supply are primary strategies of the Ethiopian government towards the Tigray state in violation of not only moral propriety but also international law.

In discussion with displaced and in place faculty of Mekelle University this week I have learned that Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital has more than 60 infants and children dying of starvation in the hospital averaging 2 or more deaths per day. Today there is no medicine, no nutritional supplements, no baby food or bottle formula, no laboratory, no x-ray, and the staff is all working voluntarily without pay. Every day children and adults are dying of simple treatable acute and chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, childbirth, pneumonia, and accident just to name a few. This intentional complete abandonment of the Ethiopian government’s responsibility to care for innocent noncombatants is a violation of international treaties and the Genocide Convention of the United Nations to which Ethiopia is a signatory.

I previously published that we now can accurately estimate that the crude death rate, that is the number of expected deaths per 1000 population per annum will raise from its pre-war level of 6 by %500 to 32 (its level in 1950 when there was almost no health care) meaning over 228,000 people will die in Tigray each year due to complete lack of health care.

For the previous year while the Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara regional governments were planning their invasion of Tigray there was also a plan to defund Mekelle University with reduction and stoppage of many routine payments such as for a routine repair of the MRI scanner and CT scanner.

Then following the Ethiopian Eritrean occupation of Mekelle in late November 2020 the medical supply, maintenance support, and even communication with Ethiopian Ministries of Science and Higher Education and Health were gradually completely cut off to the federally funded Ethiopian Mekelle University and it’s referral and teaching hospital Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital.

The acting President of Mekelle University, Dr. Fetien Abay, and Chief Academic Head of the College of Health Sciences, Dr. Hayelom Kebede, went to see the military commander of the Ethiopian occupying forces in early December when the hospital’s supplies were already near exhaustion at Planet Hotel. He told them that the Ethiopian military and government had no responsibility to care for the civilian population. Subsequent discussions with Mulu Nega, the first appointed governor of the Tigray Interim Administration appointed by Prime Minister Ahmed to preside over the occupation, and then the Eritrean Abraham Belay, long time supporter of Isaias Afwerki, dictator of Eritrea and now the defense minister for Ethiopia who replaced Nega he was too “lenient”. Communications with Belay were that Ethiopia had no responsibility to offer any civilian support or assistance because civilians were not supporting the Ethiopian government.

Since the occupation and extending even up to the recent few months intermittent conversations with Dr. Lia Tadesse by Dr. Hayelom Kebede and others have proven failures. She has expressed regret in telephone conversations that she is not allowed to take any action to supply Ayder Hospital or the Tigray Regional Health Bureau because the Prime Minister has forbid it.

Almost two years ago I was consulting with a group working with multiple international nongovernmental organizations to propose a plan to help improve the function of Ethiopian government purchasing. This included discussions about joint ventures on producing medical consumables in Ethiopia. The plan was rejected after our presentation to the Ethiopian Investment Commission because the funder of a factory wanted to build it in Tigray. Out of this work came a discussion with high officials of the Korea Hospital that they had tried a similar goal before and discovered that Ethiopia was selling some of the supplies it purchased at discounted price or partially subsidized price to other African countries at higher prices to get “hard currency”. It now appears that some supplies that were collected and meant to be shipped to Tigray since the onset of war may have been just given to Eritrea or instead sold as means to collect hard currency.

Featured Image: According to a study by MSF, more than 70 % of health facilities were vandalized, looted, or completely destroyed.

Categories: Etiopia

UAE Air Bridge Supports Ethiopian Military in Tigray War

Ethio Observer - Fri, 08/10/2021 - 20:22

UAE Air Bridge Supports Ethiopian Military in Tigray War
Oryx Friday, October 08, 2021 Bishoftu , Debre Zeit 2 Comments

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans in collaboration with Gerjon

Amidst an increasingly deterorating security situation throughout large parts of northern Ethiopia, the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) has embarked on an international shopping spree in an effort to acquire new weapon systems that could help it to halt the seemingly unstoppable advances of Tigray forces. As part of its efforts, Ethiopia has sought to acquire arms from countries like the UAE and Iran. Recent data collected by aircraft tracker Gerjon reveals the scale of the air bridge maintained by these countries to keep the ENDF supplied with all the weaponry and equipment it needs. [1]

In 53 days, at least 51 suspicious cargo flights reached Ethiopia, most of them landing at Harar Meda air base. A total of 45 of those cargo flights originated in the UAE while six came from Iran. In the latter case, it can be presumed that the Boeing 747 and Il-76 cargo aircraft used carried Mohajer-6 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) confirmed to have been delivered to Ethiopia onboard, although the delivery of other types of Iranian weaponry to the ENDF can’t be ruled out either.

In order to maintain plausible deniability, the UAE uses a number of front companies for the delivery of weaponry to countries where it has no official involvement. This was previously witnessed in Libya, where the UAE sought to overthrow the internationally-recognised government of Libya by installing warlord Khalifa Haftar as the ruler of Libya. To deliver arms and equipment to Ethiopia, the UAE makes use of the UAE-based Fly Sky Airlines (flying Il-76 cargo aircraft registered in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan).

When also including suspicious cargo flights from China the scale of the air bridge becomes even more extensive. In mid-September 2021, an An-124 of Ukraine’s Antonov Airlines flying out of Chengdu, China landed at Harar Meda air base after a brief stopover in Islamabad, Pakistan. [2] It is currently believed that this aircraft carried several Chinese-made Wing Loong I UCAVs and associated equipment onboard. Perhaps not by accident, the Wing Loong I is manufactured in Chengdu. The Wing Loong Is add to a growing arsenal of UCAVs recently purchased by Ethiopia, so far confirmed to include types from the UAE and Iran. [3] [4]

Although the contents of most of the aircraft’s cargo can currently only be guessed at, they are almost certain to contain military-grade items, with humanitarian aid instead delivered to the country’s civilian airports. The Il-76s operating on behalf of the UAE regularly land (sometimes twice daily) as Iranian aircraft of the same type bring in weapons systems as well, a clear indication of the sheer volume of arms being shipped to Ethiopia on a daily basis.

Despite the large number of cargo flights going back and forth between Ethiopia and the UAE, surprisingly little weaponry and equipment originating from the UAE has so far been sighted in Ethiopia. Weaponry known to have been recently delivered to Ethiopia by the UAE include a type of VTOL unmanned aerial combat vehicle (UCAV) armed with two 120mm mortar grenades and several types of small arms from the Caracal company. It should be noted that in the latter case these small arms were already sighted in Ethiopia before the outbreak of the Tigray War in November 2020.

Categories: Etiopia

Time is running out for Abiy’s ‘new beginning’ in Ethiopia

Ethio Observer - Fri, 08/10/2021 - 20:17

Time is running out for Abiy’s ‘new beginning’ in Ethiopia
October 8, 2021
Source: Atlantic Council [By Cameron Hudson]

After being sworn in this week in front of tens of thousands of jubilant supporters, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed promised “a new beginning” for Ethiopia as he begins a new five-year term. That’s precisely what Ethiopia needs after his first three years in office.

Inflation stands at a record-high 34 percent, the nation’s debt has reached a crippling $30 billion, and efforts to privatize some of the country’s corporate crown jewels, such as Ethio telecom, have floundered amid allegations of genocide and predictions of mass starvation as the conflict over the country’s Tigray region rages on. With the country’s trade benefits under the US African Growth and Opportunity Act likely to be suspended by the end of the month, what was once one of the world’s fastest growing economies suddenly finds itself on life support.

Cheering crowds and soaring rhetoric cannot hide the fact that Abiy’s troubles run deeper than just one restive region.

Since war broke out nearly a year ago in the northern region of Tigray, Ethiopia’s ethnic patchwork has only unraveled even further. Ethnic-based violence in the regions of Benishangul-Gumuz, Somali, Oromia, Afar, Amhara, and Southern Nations all suggest that Abiy’s original political ideology of “medemer”—an Amharic expression to convey a coming together beyond ethnic identity—has failed. Facts on the ground demonstrate that a military response alone will not suffice in addressing these mounting security threats and the level of displacement they’ve engendered.

As part of his “new beginning,” Abiy pushed through a new parliament—94 percent of which is controlled by his Prosperity Party—as well as the appointment of new cabinet ministers at the finance, defense, and peace ministries, nominally from opposition groups, in a move spun by his office as his “commitment to inclusivity.” But in tapping close allies and former subordinates, the move has prompted many to instead view the personnel change as style over substance—a deliberate attempt to re-assert control over key ministries involved in the war effort in advance of a new offensive intended to achieve a total victory.

Abiy’s biggest promise this week to mollify domestic opponents and international critics has been to convene a national political dialogue, which he claims will address the shortcomings associated with his original vision of “medemer.”

But nothing suggests the dialogue will fundamentally alter the failed attempt to create a unitary Ethiopian state and dismantle the system of ethnic federalism that lies at the heart of Ethiopia’s current crisis. With his strongest opposition likely to be excluded from that dialogue—particularly armed groups from Tigray and Oromia, which have been labeled terrorist organizations—there is reason to question the sincerity of any reconciliation process that does not engage the specific grievances that caused Abiy’s foes to take up arms.

Lower on Abiy’s list of priorities, but no less important, should be an effort to re-establish some goodwill with the international community before actors such as the United States make good on the punitive measures they’ve long threatened. With the expulsion earlier this month of seven high-level United Nations (UN) officials from Ethiopia on grounds—labeled by the UN secretary-general himself as baseless—of meddling in the country’s internal affairs, Abiy has instead put himself on a collision course with countries that questioned the legality of that decision and have demanded the officials’ reinstatement.

Will Abiy budge?
If he fails to abide calls to bring back UN officials, it’s difficult to imagine that the United States won’t designate top Abiy aides under the sanctions regime it introduced last month. But it’s even harder to imagine Abiy publicly relenting at this point in the face of international pressure after ignoring so many off-ramps to avoid punitive measures.

His government’s continuing humanitarian blockade of Tigray—beyond the widespread human-rights abuses that prompted the US government to open a genocide investigation—means that any national reconciliation must be preceded by mediation, peace-building, justice, and accountability for all the transgressions of the past year.

Judging by the triumphalism of Abiy’s remarks this week, that feels like an unlikely scenario. As the rainy season ends this month, fueling fears of a massive new government offensive, the situation on the ground in Tigray is likely to get far worse before it gets better. As the already dire humanitarian and human-rights situations worsen, so too will Ethiopia’s foreign relations.

But with an electoral victory, a vast parliamentary majority, and a seeming mandate to lead, Abiy now has some of the political capital he might need to begin to escape from the corner into which he’s painted himself.

As a first step—and on the advice of the three African members of the UN Security Council—he could compel his compliant parliament to rescind the terrorist designations against the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Oromo Liberation Front, an essential first step toward ceasefire talks and eventual political dialogue. It is also entirely within his power to lift the blockade of Tigray and save as many as one million lives in the process.

To help him on this path, the African Union recently deployed a lifeline in the form of its new Horn of Africa envoy, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. Privately, Ethiopian officials seem open to an African solution to their decidedly African problem: They appear to have faith in Obasanjo’s ability to keep Western powers at bay while offering Abiy a face-saving way to de-escalate, going so far as to invite him to establish a backchannel to the TPLF. As he builds out his team, Washington would do well to communicate its support for Obasanjo’s mission—but also stay at arm’s length, since any American fingerprints on this process could well undermine it.

Abiy’s call for “a new beginning” suggests at least an acknowledgement that Ethiopia is at a perilous point in its history. Although he continues to blame and punish those who oppose him, we must hope he realizes that more of the same war-making, ethnic division, and human-rights abuses will only produce more of the same poor results for the economy and his foreign relations. Abiy still has the possibility to live up to the spirit of the Nobel Peace Prize he received in 2019 for making peace with neighboring Eritrea. Let’s see whether he can do the same within his own country.

Cameron Hudson is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center and a former director for African affairs on the staff of the National Security Council.

Categories: Etiopia

Nobel Committee: Please don’t award the Peace Prize while Ethiopia’s Prime Minister still has his!

Ethio Observer - Fri, 08/10/2021 - 00:24

Nobel Committee: Please don’t award the Peace Prize while Ethiopia’s Prime Minister still has his!
Norwegians have joined the Tigrayan community in Norway to protest against the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, while he starves the children of Tigray.

A campaign in Oslo that began on Tuesday is growing every day. On Friday the Nobel committee is due to award its prestigious Peace Prize once again. The protest calls for this not to happen.

The UN estimates that some 5.2 million people are facing starvation and 400,000 are in “famine-like conditions” according to the UN.[1] Children are dying every day.

As Mark Lowcock – until June the UN’s Emergency Relief Co-ordinator argued:[2]

“Abiy has two objectives in Tigray. The first is to starve the population either into subjugation or out of existence. The second is to do that without attracting the global opprobrium that would still, even in today’s fractured geopolitical environment, arise from deliberately causing a massive famine taking millions of lives.”

Categories: Etiopia

How to Destroy a Country: Does Ethiopia Have a Future?

Ethio Observer - Thu, 07/10/2021 - 03:30

How to Destroy a Country: Does Ethiopia Have a Future?
OCTOBER 6, 2021
Mark Lowcock
Here’s an easy five-point plan for the leadership of a country which has emerged from civil war and dire poverty over recent decades and now wants to destroy itself.

First, pick a fight with a corner of your territory run by a previously powerful minority ethnic group. Cut off their resources. Provoke them into a response. Send in the army. Invite a neighbouring army in to rape and kill civilians and destroy their crops, businesses, schools, and clinics. Persuade the victims they are about to be subject to a genocide and promote hate speech about them among the rest of the population.


Mark Lowcock
Distinguished Non-Resident Fellow
Second, divert resources from other parts of your country with a history of ethnic tensions. That will stir up things there too.

Third, tank the economy. Print money, order weapons you can’t afford from abroad, aggravate inflation and, especially if you are landlocked and dependent on imports, incite attacks on your supply lines.

From Displacement to Development: How Ethiopia Can Create Shared Growth by Facilitating Economic Inclusion for Refugees
Fourth, alienate your most important international supporters, particularly those you rely on for finance. Public attacks on their leaders work quite well for this, as does whipping up antipathy towards them among your own population. Buying weapons from their enemies is good too.

Fifth, antagonise a few of your immediate neighbours. Inflaming arguments over disputed land is one option; giving them reason to think you plan a grab on shared water resources is another.

I don’t think Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and other leaders in Ethiopia actually want to destroy their country. But an intelligent observer from outer space with an insight into the human condition might, having watched what has happened in the last 12 months, easily conclude that they do. Let’s run through the list to see how the five-point plan has been executed.

It was foolish to send Ethiopian Federal troops to Tigray last November in an attempt to resolve what was essentially a political argument. It was beyond reckless to invite the Eritrean army in to help. And it was criminal to abet and incite the campaign of mass rape, killings, and destruction of property that followed. It was also counterproductive: the population of Tigray concluded they faced a genocide and reacted to defend and protect themselves accordingly.

Ethnic tensions have been high across much of Ethiopia in recent years. It is said that years ago, Nelson Mandela tried to persuade then Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi that he should be trying to create a country in which people from the many tribes and groups that make up the country see themselves as Ethiopians first, and members of their ethnic group a distant second. The examples of Tanzania under Nyerere and (more controversially) Rwanda under Kagame were cited. For whatever reason, it did not happen. This has proved Ethiopia’s Achilles heel. Meles was, with difficulty, able to keep the lid on. But things crumbled after his death in 2012. In early 2018 I met people from towns along the border between the Oromia and Somali regions in south-eastern Ethiopia who had just been displaced by fighting over resources and political power. In January 2019, in the south of the country, I met some of the nearly one million people forced to flee violence over access to land around Gedeo and West Guji. There are many other conflict areas, especially in the western half of the country. Federal forces deployed to maintain order have since been diverted to Tigray. Watching what is happening, groups elsewhere have armed their own militias ready to defend their interests. Hardliners have gained influence all over.

Notwithstanding the huge economic progress Ethiopia has made over the last 30 years, which I recalled in The Washington Post nearly a year ago, the macroeconomic position has always been a juggling act between maximising growth and avoiding over-heating. Inflation, foreign exchange, and fiscal risks, already growing because of the pandemic, are now acute.

Meanwhile, the reaction of the international community to events in Tigray has evolved from concern and alarm to threats and sanctions as the crisis has grown and Abiy has continued to throw fuel on the flames. Western countries are (whether they should be or not) proud of the contribution they have made to progress in Ethiopia in recent decades, especially what their development aid has helped achieve. Using the national propaganda machine to whip up popular feeling against them, as the authorities in Addis Ababa have done in recent months, is a provocation. If the calculation is that others, like China, will compensate for lost resources from western countries and international institutions, it is quickly going to be proved wrong. The World Bank alone has been giving Ethiopia more than a billion dollars a year in grants and very cheap loans in recent years, most of it financed by taxpayers in North America and Europe. No-one will replace that if it dries up. Even worse, widely circulating rumours that Abiy has bought attack drones from Iran make it look like western money is subsidising the Iranian defence industry.

And closer to home, Abiy’s need for support from the Amhara population complicates the scope for de-escalating the border dispute with Sudan over Al-Fashaga, an area covering 600,000 acres of fertile land and river systems in western Ethiopia. Most of the Ethiopians living there are Amhara. Likewise, the completion and full operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, one of the world’s great current infrastructure projects, which I visited in 2016, is now at risk. The project, to which many Ethiopians have contributed their own money from the little they have, is a national totem. It is designed to be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa, and the sixth largest in the world, relieving the country’s acute energy shortage. Regulating the flow of the Nile more consistently through the year, as the dam could do, would help both Sudan and Egypt. But concern over the rate at which it is filled and fear that water might be diverted for agriculture in Ethiopia have put the Egyptians on red alert. A previously unknown armed group has become active in the local area. This should all be soluble. But the febrile atmosphere has heightened tensions.

All this threatens the stability of the whole country, but the immediate priority must be averting imminent catastrophe in Tigray. In June, in my last few days working for the UN, I made clear I believed there was then famine in northern Ethiopia. I said a re-run of 1984, when a million Ethiopians died in what may have been the world’s worst famine of the last 50 years and the regime responsible for it was subsequently deposed, was not fanciful. A cessation of hostilities and access for humanitarian agencies could prevent that. But time was running out.

African sentiment has recently swung against Abiy. In a carefully crafted statement in late August on behalf of all the African countries on the UN Security Council, the Kenyans, who had been among those previously biting their tongues, called on him to accept offers of mediation. They urged the government to scale back ethnic attacks and remove barriers to a political dialogue. They warned of an uncontrollable spread of violence and bloodshed. They urged that Tigrayan forces, which had surprised many by their success in defending themselves, pull back too. They called for unfettered humanitarian access and a resumption of basic services to the people of Tigray. They urged the west to provide humanitarian assistance and, once a mediation effort was properly underway, offer economic support too. And, importantly, they explicitly rebuffed those in Ethiopia calling for war to be given a chance.

But the penny hasn’t dropped. The screws on Tigray have been turned further in recent weeks. Fresh recruits to the Ethiopian military, summoned by mass mobilisation campaigns praying on their patriotism, have been deployed in human wave attacks against Tigrayan defensive lines. This has so far failed: the main result is tragic piles of corpses of young men and boys. But the Tigrayan population of 6 million face mass starvation now. Their farms, businesses, and schools were destroyed, and their access to banks, electricity, water, and health services cut off, in the early months of the crisis. The government claims to be willing to let aid in, but its flunkies harass aid workers crossing lines and intimidate truck drivers in UN convoys, so many are now too terrified to show up for work. Barely ten per cent of the food needed is getting through. Recent eyewitness reports from aid workers describe people eating nothing but green leaves for days, exponential increases in starvation in both rural and urban areas, and even the children of the staff of the main hospital in Mekelle, the regional capital, showing signs of malnutrition. Humanitarian workers managing to get seats on the rare flights to the region have, as the Associated Press recently reported, been told they cannot bring dental floss, multi-vitamins, personal medicines or things, like flash drives, that could have a use in documenting what is going on.

All this reveals – or confirms – that Abiy has two objectives in Tigray. The first is to starve the population either into subjugation or out of existence. The second is to do that without attracting the global opprobrium that would still, even in today’s fractured geopolitical environment, arise from deliberately causing a massive famine taking millions of lives. It is also clear that the second objective is less important than the first. That is the message to be taken from the threatened expulsion last week of UN humanitarian leaders from Ethiopia. Abiy would rather take the criticism for that than allow them to see what he is trying to do.

The irony, well-informed experts privately say, is that Abiy’s game plan cannot work. If he tries and fails to destroy Tigray, he will be destroyed himself. If he succeeds, he will never survive the backlash that will follow. His only out is to take up the African Union’s call for dialogue. But does he see that?

Scenario planners in leading countries and institutions now think Ethiopia may disintegrate. They assess the consequences to be very bad. For everyone. Not just in Ethiopia, but further afield too. Is it still possible to pull back from the brink?

Governments and Development, Corruption, Transparency, and Governance, Africa, Migration, Displacement, and Humanitarian Policy, Humanitarian Assistance, Fragile States
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.

Categories: Etiopia

CNN documents how Ethiopian Airlines transports weapons in Tigray war

Ethio Observer - Wed, 06/10/2021 - 18:46

CNN documents how Ethiopian Airlines transports weapons in Tigray war
Source: CNN

Ethiopia used its flagship commercial airline to transport weapons during war in Tigray
Exclusive by Nima Elbagir, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Katie Polglase and Barbara Arvanitidis, CNN

Updated 0403 GMT (1203 HKT) October 6, 2021

(CNN)Ethiopia’s government has used the country’s flagship commercial airline to shuttle weapons to and from neighboring Eritrea during the civil war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, a CNN investigation has found.

Cargo documents and manifests seen by CNN, as well as eyewitness accounts and photographic evidence, confirm that arms were transported between Addis Ababa’s international airport and airports in the Eritrean cities of Asmara and Massawa on board multiple Ethiopian Airlines planes in November 2020 during the first few weeks of the Tigray conflict.
It’s the first time this weapons trade between the former foes has been documented during the war. Experts said the flights would constitute a violation of international aviation law, which forbids the smuggling of arms for military use on civil aircraft.
Atrocities committed during the conflict also appear to violate the terms of a trade program that provides lucrative access to the United States market and which Ethiopian Airlines has benefited greatly from.
Ethiopian Airlines is a state-owned economic powerhouse that generates billions of dollars a year carrying passengers to hubs across the African continent and all over the world, and it is also a member of the Star Alliance, a group of some of the world’s top aviation companies.
The airline previously issued two denials about transporting weapons.
Responding to CNN’s latest investigation, Ethiopian Airlines said it “strictly complies with all National, regional and International aviation related regulations” and that “to the best of its knowledge and its records, it has not transported any war armament in any of its routes by any of its Aircraft.”
The governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
Military refills
Long-simmering tensions between Ethiopia’s government and the ruling party in the Tigray region exploded on November 4, when Ethiopia accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front of attacking a federal army base.
Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister, ordered a military offensive to oust the TPLF from power. Government forces and regional militias poured into Tigray, joined on the front lines by troops from Eritrea.
Thousands of people are estimated to have died in the conflict, which by many accounts bears the hallmarks of genocide and ethnic cleansing. While all sides have been accused of committing grave human rights abuses during Tigray’s war, previous CNN investigations established that Eritrean soldiers have been behind some of the worst atrocities, including sexual violence and mass killings. Eritrea has denied wrongdoing by its soldiers and only admitted to having troops in Tigray this spring.
Documents obtained by CNN indicate that flights carrying weapons between Ethiopia and Eritrea began at least as early as a few days after the outset of the Tigray conflict.

Air waybill showing transportation of ‘RIFFLE & DFS’ — in reference to rifles and dry foodstuffs per airline sources — on an Ethiopian Airlines flight on November 12.

On at least six occasions — from November 9 to November 28 — Ethiopian Airlines billed Ethiopia’s ministry of defense tens of thousands of dollars for military items including guns and ammunition to be shipped to Eritrea, records seen by CNN show.
The documents, known as air waybills, detail the contents of each shipment. In one document, the “nature and quantity of goods” is listed as “Military refill” and “Dry food stuff.” Other entries included the description “Consolidated.” The records also had abbreviations and spelling mistakes such as “AM” for ammunition and “RIFFLES” for rifles, according to airline employees. They told CNN the spelling errors were introduced when the contents were manually entered by employees into the cargo database.

Ethiopian Airlines cargo manifest for the same flight carrying rifles on November 12.

Benno Baksteen, chairman of DEGAS, the Dutch Expert Group Aviation Safety, told CNN that these waybills were required for all commercial flights as the crew on board need to know the contents of the cargo to ensure they are transported safely.
On November 9, five days after Abiy ordered a military offensive in Tigray, records show an Ethiopian Airlines flight transported guns and ammunitions from Addis Ababa to Asmara, Eritrea’s capital.
An air waybill and a cargo manifest from that date show that Ethiopian Airlines charged Ethiopia $166,398.32 for about 2,643 pieces of “DFS & RIFFLE WITH AM (sic)” on that flight. DFS is a reference to “dry food stuff,” according to airline sources.

Air waybill showing ‘military refill’ being transported on an Ethiopian Airlines flight on November 13.

Another air waybill from a few days later, November 13, has the same shipper and consignee. The content of that shipment was “military refill and dry food stuff,” according to the document. The shipments came at a time of increased military activity; security sources in the region told CNN the Eritreans needed re-supply for the fight in Tigray.
As planes went back and forth between the two countries, massacres of Tigrayans in the city of Axum and the village of Dengelat by Eritrean troops took place on November 19 and November 30 respectively.
Cargo documents show that the series of flights between Ethiopia and Eritrea continued until at least November 28, 2020.
Some current and former Ethiopian Airlines employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, said the flights continued past this date but that the majority of arms trips to Eritrea were in November.
Both cargo and passenger planes were used in the operation, though CNN has no evidence that commercial passengers were on any of the flights carrying weapons. Many of these flights do not appear on popular online flight tracking platforms such as Flightradar24. When they do, the destination in Eritrea is often not visible and the flight path vanishes once the plane crosses the border from Ethiopia.
The employees told CNN the staff could manually turn off the ADS-B signal on board to prevent the flights being publicly tracked.
The flights were often assigned the same flight numbers, primarily ET3312, ET3313 and ET3314, with ‘ET’ being the code for Ethiopian Airlines. All the planes mentioned in the cargo files seen by CNN are American-made Boeing aircraft. The airline has been in a long relationship with the US aviation giant.
A Boeing representative declined to comment.
Ethiopian Airlines workers described witnessing other airline employees loading and unloading arms and military vehicles on flights directed to Asmara. A few even claimed they helped load the weapons on the planes themselves. All spoke of being ethnically profiled for being Tigrayan.
CNN has seen the Ethiopian Airlines’ ID cards of these employees and confirmed their identities.
One former employee told CNN they were instructed at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport to load guns and four military vehicles onto an Ethiopian Airlines cargo plane that was due to fly to Belgium but was sent instead to Eritrea.
“The cars were Toyota pickups which have a stand for snipers,” the employee said. “I got a call from the managing director late at night informing me to handle the cargo. Soldiers came at 5 a.m. to start loading two big trucks loaded with weapons and the pickups.”
“I had to stop a flight to Brussels, a 777 cargo plane, which was loaded with flowers, then we unloaded half of the perishable goods to make space for the armaments.”
The former employee warned soldiers that the vehicles were carrying far more gas than was allowed under international air transport rules, but said they were overruled after a direct call from an army commander.
“He [the commander] said we are going to war and we need the fuel to be loaded,” the employee said. “Then I referred the issue to my manager and my manager took responsibility and allowed them to load it.”
The flight, loaded with both weapons and flowers, traveled to Eritrea, then returned to Addis before flying on to Brussels the following day, the employee said. CNN cross-referenced this testimony with Flightradar24 and found the record of an Ethiopian Airlines aircraft returning from the direction of Eritrea and flying to Brussels the next day, but could not independently verify it was the same flight referred to by the employee.
Days later, the employee said they were temporarily suspended from work. They believe they were suspended for being Tigrayan but also for the incident with the soldiers. The employee fled Ethiopia in March.
Ethiopian Airlines told CNN in its statement that no employees had been suspended or terminated due to their ethnic background.
New video of Ethiopia massacre shows soldiers passing phone around to document their executions of unarmed men

New video of Ethiopia massacre shows soldiers passing phone around to document their executions of unarmed men
It appears to be not the only long-distance international flight with unplanned stops. A flight from Addis Ababa to Shanghai on November 9, 2020, took a long detour via Eritrea according to the ADS-B signal that tracks the route on Flightradar24.
Several employees at the Addis Ababa airport said they saw multiple weapons flights leave for Eritrea each day at the outset of the conflict. They also spoke about flights carrying weapons from Eritrea back to Ethiopia. It’s unclear why armaments were being transferred back to Ethiopia.
One said they saw tanks and heavy artillery loaded onto planes coming to Addis Ababa, while small arms — mortars, launchers — were dispatched to Asmara. Employees told CNN they believed the smaller weaponry were being sent to Asmara to arm Eritrean troops.
All the employees said they were instructed by the airline to delete photos of the weapons from their phones. Not all of them did.
In June, photos circulated on social media platforms showing crates containing mortars on board an Ethiopian Airlines flight and the same crates being loaded on the plane in Massawa, Eritrea.
The company released a statement strongly denying the allegation that its planes were transporting weapons and claimed the photos were photoshopped.
However, CNN has corroborated the photos using visual analysis techniques, interviews and documentary evidence, dating them to a 777 Freighter cargo flight that flew from Ethiopia to Eritrea and back between November 8 and 9.
The images show a variety of mortars stacked up in the crates. Dan Kaszeta, a London based defense specialist and an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, identified the mortars as 832-DU 82mm mortar rounds, originally made in Russia but with many versions subsequently manufactured, including in Bulgaria.
CNN has contacted the Bulgarian government and reached out to Bulgarian arms producers but received no response. According to the EU’s public database, Bulgaria sold weapons to Ethiopia as recently as 2020.
Another image features an employee wearing a uniform that matches with the Ethiopian Airlines uniform. The interior of the plane also fits the layout of an Ethiopian Airlines 777F cargo plane. The expiry date of the Emirates SkyCargo straps tightened around the crates — November 2023 — can be seen in the photos. Since these particular types of cargo straps — TSO C172 — have a lifespan of three years, they would have been used in November 2020 at the earliest. CNN has confirmed that these Emirates SkyCargo straps have been used on other Ethiopian Airlines flights.
A representative for TSO C172 cargo straps manufacturer AmSafe Bridport declined to comment. CNN has sought comment from Emirates SkyCargo.
CNN has learned that the cargo plane in question took off on November 8 from Addis Ababa empty before landing in Massawa, where local workers were tasked with manually loading it with a variety of weapons, including these mortars.
People are seen loading crates of weapons onto an Ethiopian Airlines plane at an airport in Massawa, Eritrea. Some faces have been blurred by CNN to preserve anonymity.

People are seen loading crates of weapons onto an Ethiopian Airlines plane at an airport in Massawa, Eritrea. Some faces have been blurred by CNN to preserve anonymity.
A cargo manifest from that day, seen by CNN, confirms the flight was empty when it reached Massawa.
A screenshot from the Ethiopian Airlines internal database taken by an employee and sent to CNN reveals a flight on November 8 to Massawa that is hidden from flight tracking sites. The weapons were then dropped in Bahri Dar, Ethiopia, before the aircraft returned to Addis Ababa on November 9.
‘A lot of legal repercussions’
Several aviation experts CNN spoke to on these findings said Ethiopian Airlines appeared to be in violation of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, commonly known as the Chicago Convention, which prohibits commercial carriers from transporting “munitions of war or implements of war.”
Pablo Mendes de Leon, professor of air and space law at The Hague, told CNN there are several indications that these flights were commercial flights — not military or state aircraft — including “that [the flights] carry a commercial flight number of Ethiopian Airlines in conjunction with the fact that an airway bill has been issued.”
“I have now arrived at the conclusion that [these flights have] been operated by civil aircraft falling under the terms of the Chicago Convention,” Mendes de Leon said, adding that CNN’s findings “have a lot of legal repercussions and conditions, all of which may not have been met.”
Ethiopia’s status as a regional economic powerhouse is partly dependent on Ethiopian Airlines’ dominance in cargo. The country and the airline have benefited from an American trade program that provides favorable access to the US market for countries that meet certain criteria.
This relationship matters for both countries: in 2017, US exports to Ethiopia consisted primarily of aircraft and aircraft components from Boeing, valued at more than $857 million.
But a clause in the US African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) stipulates that eligible nations must not engage in “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”
Previous CNN investigations found atrocities committed by the Ethiopian government and its allies bore the hallmarks of genocide and ethnic cleansing.
In late August, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai warned Ethiopia’s chief trade negotiator that “the ongoing violations of internationally recognized human rights” in Tigray “could affect Ethiopia’s future [AGOA] eligibility if unaddressed.”
On Tuesday, a spokesperson told CNN that Tai’s office would conduct its next review of eligibility for AGOA in 2022, “based upon compliance with standards that include adherence to internationally recognized workers’ rights, rule of law, and human rights.” After the review, Tai could “possibly recommend that the President add or remove certain countries from AGOA beneficiary country status.”
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Categories: Etiopia

Emirati Small Arms in Ethiopia

Ethio Observer - Tue, 05/10/2021 - 16:41

Emirati Small Arms in Ethiopia
Oryx Monday, October 04, 2021 Addis Ababa , CAR 816 0 Comments

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

The continued delivery of arms and equipment to the war-thorn country of Ethiopia remains largely unreported on, and its impact on the situation on the ground is at the moment largely unknown. What is known however is that the constant attrition of Ethiopia’s military arsenal has led the country to scrounge the planet for anyone willing to supply it with additional weaponry, which has even included Mohajer-6 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) from Iran. These UCAVs now operate alongside Israeli and Chinese designs, showing just how complicated the modern day network of foreign arms suppliers has become.

Another country that has repeatedly voiced its support for the Ethiopian government is the United Arab Emirates. What exactly this support has so far entailed is still the subject of debate. The oft-repeated claim of Emirati drones operating out of the UAE’s Assab air base in Eritrea on behalf of the Ethiopian government appears to hold little ground in reality, with no evidence pointing towards the presence of Emirati Wing Loong UCAVs over the battlefield either in 2020 or now.

Nonetheless, large Il-76 transport aircraft frequently fly between the UAE and Harar Meda, Ethiopia’s largest air base. [1] Although the contents of their cargo can only be guessed at, they are likely to contain military-grade items, with humanitarian aid instead delivered to the country’s civilian airports. The Il-76s operating on behalf of the UAE regularly land as Iranian aircraft of the same type bring in weapons systems as well, a clear indication of the sheer volume of arms being shipped to Ethiopia on a daily basis. [1]

Previous UAE arms shipments to Ethiopia are known to have included large volumes of small arms produced by the Caracal company, which produces a number of modern small arms designs. Much like the Israeli TAR-21 assault rifle also in service with Ethiopia, the weaponry supplied by Caracal was solely distributed to the Republican Guard (RG). The RG is tasked with defending Ethiopian officials and important buildings from threats and attempted attacks. For this purpose it operates a number of modern small arms designs and light (armoured) vehicles. In recent times the RG saw its tasks expanding to the point where they now actively participate in the Tigray War as one the country’s better-trained forces.

Arguably the sleekest Caracal design delivered to Ethiopia is the semi-automatic CAR 817DMR designated marksman rifle chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. Equipped with a 10 or 20 round magazine, the CAR 817DMR offers considerable improvements in all relevant parameters over the PSL and SVD DMRs in use with the Ethiopian Army. Although presumably in use with Republican Guard forces currently deployed to stem the Tigray Defence Force’s (TDF) advance into Ethiopia, no captured examples have shown up in the hands of TDF fighters so far.

Another Caracal product that entered service with the Republican Guard is the 5.56x45mm CAR 816 carbine. The weapon can be ordered in multiple barrel lengths from 7.5” PDW to 16” AR. Ethiopia appears to have been a customer of the Carbine 14.5″ variant, supplementing the Israeli TAR-21 also in use with the RG. Like the CAR 817DMR, no CAR 816s appear to have been captured by the TDF so far. Of course, using a different type of munition than the AK-series of rifles otherwise seeing use in Ethiopia, such armament would only be a useful asset to the TDF until its munitions run out.

The last Caracal product known to have been delivered to Ethiopia is the CSR 338 sniper rifle chambered in .338 Lapua Mag. The CSR 338 is also the only Caracal product known to have been captured by Tigray forces, which now employ several of the sniper rifles against their former owners. Their light weight (just 6.35kg) will surely be appreciated by both forces in the often mountainous battle terrain of Ethiopia.

Wether the continued influx of weaponry to Ethiopia will be enough to save a military that is increasingly dependent on militias remains to be seen. The small numbers of UAE small arms will undoubtedly have little impact on the ultimate outcome of the civil war. However, these weapons are representative of what in the meantime has become a highly diverse arsenal of weaponry in service with the Ethiopian military, an arsenal that will assuredly continue to play a significant role in a war which is about to enter its second year.


Categories: Etiopia

Ethiopia: The drone identification plate pointing to Turkish drones being used in Tigray

Ethio Observer - Tue, 05/10/2021 - 16:33

This drone identification plate was discovered in the Mersa and Haro area by Tigrayan forces. A Turkish manufacturer can be identified from this.

The MAM-L (written on the fragment label) appears to refer to a laser guided bomb produced in Turkey and able to be delivered from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) (drones) as well as from aircraft. It also suggests that it was of very recent manufacture – May 2021.

MAM stands for Mini Akıllı Mühimmat, or Smart Micro Munition produced by Turkish defence industry manufacturer ROKETSAN.

Turkey and Ethiopia have been strengthening their relations in recent months – just as ties with the United States soured. In February 2021 Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu visited Addis Ababa. Then in August Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed paid a return visit to Ankara. He signed new co-operation agreements with President Tayyip Erdogan. This included a fresh military-financial agreement.

This article from the manufacturer suggests what the munitions are capable of.

MAM-L Boosts Effectiveness of UAVs
Defence Turkey, Issue 78

The Smart Micro Munition (MAM-L), developed by Roketsan in line with today’s battlefield requirements, attracts attention as a solution that increases the efficiency of air platforms with low payload capacity, especially that of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). MAM-L, a variant of the Laser Guided L-UMTAS (Long Range Anti-Tank Missile System) that is also developed by Roketsan, the only difference being that it does not have a rocket motor and glides in the air has already been integrated to the “Bayraktar” and “Karayel” tactical UAVs that are currently being used by the Turkish Armed Forces. The MAM-L, which is being successfully used in various operations involving UAVs, stands out as a munition that has proved itself in the field.

With its low weight of about 50 pounds and a length of 1 m, the MAM-L offers a cost-efficient solution for light attack aircraft as well as UAVs. The MAM-L, with its high explosive fragmentation warhead, is highly effective against light structures, unarmored ground vehicles, radar antennas and soft targets like weapon pits and personnel, in a 25-m radius. The other version with tandem high energy anti-tank warhead is effectively used against heavy armored tanks. The munition can be used efficiently at ranges of up to 8 km, depending on the altitude from which they are released.

Meanwhile, the fact that MAM-L is a member of the same family with Roketsan’s medium range anti-tank missile OMTAS and long range anti-tank missiles UMTAS/L-UMTAS, offers a significant advantage to its users in terms of training and logistics.

Roketsan also gained considerable experience in the integration of the MAM-L into air platforms. As long as the air platforms have the required infrastructure, Roketsan can operationalize the MAM-L by completing all the related integration works within a few months. In the event of the infrastructure requiring additional elements, Roketsan also offers its customers integration support.

Mr. Selçuk Yaşar, President and CEO of Roketsan, states that the MAM-L will soon become the preference of many countries: “The design and application concept of the MAM-L provides its users with the capability of effectively neutralizing time critical targets, particularly those that arise during reconnaissance and surveillance missions. Meanwhile, thanks to its precision guidance and small dimensions, the MAM-L offers a solution with a low collateral damage. When compared with all the other capabilities of the armed forces, a combination of the MAM-L and a tactical UAV is the most cost effective solution. We believe that soon other countries will also start taking an interest in this solution.”

Categories: Etiopia

UN says Ethiopia has no legal right to expel 7 UN officials

Ethio Observer - Sat, 02/10/2021 - 19:18

FILE – In this Tuesday, May 11, 2021 file photo, Abeba Gebru, 37, from the village of Getskimilesley, holds the hands of her malnourished daughter, Tigsti Mahderekal, 20 days old, in the treatment tent of a medical clinic in the town of Abi Adi, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. In an interview with The Associated Press Tuesday, Sept 28, 2021, the United Nations humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths calls the crisis in Ethiopia a “stain on our conscience” as children and others starve to death in the Tigray region under what the U.N. calls a de facto government blockade of food, medical supplies and fuel. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)
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FILE – In this Tuesday, May 11, 2021 file photo, Abeba Gebru, 37, from the village of Getskimilesley, holds the hands of her malnourished daughter, Tigsti Mahderekal, 20 days old, in the treatment tent of a medical clinic in the town of Abi Adi, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. In an interview with The Associated Press Tuesday, Sept 28, 2021, the United Nations humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths calls the crisis in Ethiopia a “stain on our conscience” as children and others starve to death in the Tigray region under what the U.N. calls a de facto government blockade of food, medical supplies and fuel. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations chief informed Ethiopia on Friday that it has no legal right to expel seven U.N. officials and warned that severe restrictions on desperately needed aid to the conflict-wracked Tigray region have created a humanitarian and human rights crisis that is “spiraling out of control.”

Tigray is facing a near-blockade by the government on deliveries of food, fuel and other humanitarian supplies, and children are reportedly dying of famine.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at least 5.2 million people in the region need humanitarian assistance including at least 400,000 “living in famine-like conditions.” Child malnutrition levels are now at the same level as they were at the start of the 2011 famine in Somalia, he warned.

Ethiopia announced the expulsions on Thursday, accusing the seven officials of “meddling” in the country’s affairs and giving them 72 hours to leave. In a new statement Friday, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry accused some U.N. staff of failing “to fulfill their mission independently and impartially” and listing “grave violations” including the alleged diversion of humanitarian assistance to Tigray forces fighting government troops.

Guterres said in a letter informing the U.N. Security Council of the expulsions, which was obtained by The Associated Press, that Ethiopia’s decision to expel critical members of the U.N. leadership team “creates yet another obstacle to reaching Ethiopians, at a moment when all efforts should be focused on working together to save and protect lives, protect human rights and avert a humanitarian catastrophe.”

The Security Council held emergency closed consultations on Tigray’s humanitarian crisis and expulsion order but took no action.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said a diplomatic note sent to Ethiopia’s U.N. Mission and conveyed to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during a phone call with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday stated the U.N.’s “longstanding legal position” that the doctrine of declaring someone “persona non grata” — or unwelcome — does not apply to U.N. personnel.

“The application of this doctrine to United Nations officials is contrary to obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and the privileges and immunities to be afforded to the United Nations and its officials,” he said.

The doctrine of declaring someone persona non grata applies between one state and another state, Haq said. “We are not a state.”

When issues are raised regarding U.N. personnel, Haq said, “the requirement is that such concerns are appropriately conveyed to the organization.”

“It’s then for the secretary-general to make the necessary determinations and take the necessary steps to address the matter,” the spokesman said.

The diplomatic note to the Ethiopian government from the U.N. Office of Legal Affairs, which was also sent to the Security Council, said the secretary-general can’t make a determination on the conduct of the 7 U.N. officials based on information provided by the foreign ministry. It noted the “unprecedented nature” of ordering the staffers’ expulsion “without any information provided as to conduct that may have been incompatible with the performance of their functions.”

The legal office requested that the 7 officials “not be required to leave” Ethiopia and resume their official functions with the United Nations. It also requested that they be granted visas in compliance with the government’s legal obligations, “including the privileges and immunities to be accorded to the United Nations and its officials.”

Secretary-General Guterres said Thursday he was “shocked” by the announcement and expressed “full confidence” in the U.N. staff, saying they are guided by impartiality and neutrality.

Friday’s statement from Ethiopia’s foreign ministry echoed the government’s earlier accusations that humanitarian workers are supporting the Tigray forces who have been fighting its soldiers and allied forces since November — which aid workers deny.

Thousands of people have died in the conflict marked by gang rapes, mass expulsions and the destruction of health centers, with witnesses often blaming Ethiopian soldiers and those of neighboring Eritrea.

The U.N.’s humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, this week told The Associated Press that the crisis in Ethiopia is a “stain on our conscience” as children and others starve to death in Tigray under what the U.N. calls a de facto government blockade. Just 10% of needed humanitarian supplies have been reaching Tigray in recent weeks, he said.

The remarks were one of the sharpest criticisms so far of the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade. Memories of the 1980s famine in Ethiopia, which killed around 1 million people and produced images that shocked the world, are vivid in his mind, Griffiths said, “and we fervently hope (this) is not happening at present.”

The AP, citing witness accounts and internal documents, last week reported the first starvation deaths since Ethiopia’s government imposed the blockade in June in an attempt to keep support from reaching Tigray forces.

Richard Gowan, U.N. director of the International Crisis Group, told AP: “The UN has worked very hard to maintain good relations with the Ethiopian government throughout the crisis (and) some diplomats, including U.S. officials, have felt that the U.N. was being too solicitous towards Addis Ababa.”

But he said “Abiy seems to be angry that Martin Griffiths would take such a firm line on the crisis” during his recent AP interview.

Other “grave violations” by U.N. staff listed by the foreign ministry on Friday were violating security agreements, transferring communications equipment to be used by Tigray forces, “dissemination of misinformation and politicization of humanitarian assistance” and “reticence” in pressing for the return of trucks used in aid deliveries.

Ethiopia’s government alleges the trucks are commandeered by Tigray forces; humanitarian workers have said instead that truck drivers fear further intimidation upon leaving Tigray and that there is little fuel.

“We are confident that the provision of humanitarian assistance will not be affected” by the expulsions, the statement said, adding that Ethiopia will continue to cooperate with the U.N. and its agencies “provided that their activities do not undermine the sovereignty of Ethiopia and pose a threat to its national security interests.”

Guterres said the U.N. and its partners are committed to providing aid, but it can’t “without adequate humanitarian supplies, including at least 100 trucks a day to Tigray alone, with additional supplies to Amhara, Afar and other regions.” Fuel is also essential to deliver aid and provide critical services including water and health care, and cash is required to pay staff and suppliers, he said.

A cease-fire and political dialogue “are urgently needed,” he said, warning that “attempts to politicize humanitarian assistance undermine the core efforts of the United Nations” to support the people.

Guterres also warned that “if the current trajectory continues, I fear for the future of many Ethiopian lives, and indeed for the stability of the country and the region.”


Associated Press writer Cara Anna contributed to this report from Nairobi.

Categories: Etiopia

US embassy reveals Eritrea manipulation of Ethiopian social media

Ethio Observer - Thu, 30/09/2021 - 23:54

US embassy reveals Eritrea manipulation of Ethiopian social media
“The Harvard study on disinformation in the narrative over Tigray also makes an interesting observation: that many pro-Ethiopia social media platforms are actually operated by Eritreans, and that a loop exists whereby PFDJ social media platforms post material purportedly from “objective” sources or individuals which is then amplified by the Eritrean Ministry of Information.”
Source: US Embassy Asmara

There is a lot of disinformation on ALL sides of the conflict in Tigray. This is a fascinating analysis of the current “information war” going on by three researchers working with the “Media Manipulation Casebook,” a project of the Technology and Social Change project out of Harvard University.

One of the biggest offensives in this war was the attempt to delegitimize Amnesty International’s report on the massacre of civilians by Eritrean forces in Axum in November 2020. The “false priest” narrative was one way detractors, including Eritrea’s Information Minister, sought to obscure and deny the truth. The fact is that the Axum massacre happened; attempts to deny it are an outrageous affront to its victims. See also the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission’s preliminary findings on the massacre (link); their final report is due out on November 1.
Quoting from the report (though the whole thing is worth a read):
“Another key tactic of pro-government campaigners was to undermine witne
ss credibility….The belief that the TPLF are posing as victims of violence to misinform the world became a central theme in pro-government discourse throughout the conflict. The most notable example of this came in the aftermath of Amnesty International’s report on the massacre of Tigrayan civilians in Axum. Pro-government accounts pushed the notion that TPLF had infiltrated the media and biased the report, gaining traction with hashtags like # FakeAxumMassacre and # AmnestyUsedTPLFSources. Although they achieved fewer overall tweets than the opposing Tigrayan hashtags sharing the content of the report, our analysis shows that pro-government accounts tend to have higher follower counts than Tigrayan accounts and are therefore able to reach a larger audience with fewer tweets.

Government supporters also shared information from state-affiliated media outlets as part of their campaigns. Information spread by government supporters was also sometimes traded up the chain and circulated by government officials and state-owned media. The Ethiopian state plays a major role in the media landscape in the country, directly owning at least a third of all broadcast media. Moreover, some media outlets that appear privately owned are actually funded by parastatals managed by regional governments, according to a report by the European Institute of Peace.

Efforts to undermine critical reporting were also employed. Following Amnesty’s Axum report, for example, the state-affiliated Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) interviewed an investigative journalist who claimed that one of Amnesty’s witnesses was named Michael Berhe, and that he had not been in Axum at all – claiming that he was really a man based in Boston pretending to be a priest. That same day, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Archdiocese of New York confirmed to FANABC—Ethiopian state TV—that Berhe was not a priest, but a man working as an interpreter in Boston. Researchers with Amnesty say they never spoke to Berhe, and that he was not one of the witnesses in the report.
Nevertheless, the “fake priest” misidentification, which began on state media made its way to Twitter, resulting in government supporters incorporating the hashtags # ShameOnAmnesty and # AmnestyUsedTPLFsources in their click-to-tweet campaign…
A blog post citing the “fake priest” narrative was even shared in a (now deleted) tweet by the official Ministry of Foreign Affairs account. Leaked government documents from early March show that Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry was instructed to explore options to have him arrested and tried for crimes against the Ethiopian state.

In reality, Berhe does work as an interpreter in Boston but he never spoke with Amnesty, nor has he ever claimed to be a priest. He became the subject of this controversy by agreeing to take part in a clearly labelled re-enactment video directed by the SWT Campaign, where volunteers read dramatized scripts based on testimony from Tigrayan victims of violence reported in the media, according to interviews with the SWT campaign organizers. Somehow, possibly because the video was released immediately before the Amnesty report and because it discussed the Axum massacre, the two were linked in government supporter circles.

Moreover, outright denials that the Axum massacre occurred were also deployed. In March 2021, major nodes in pro-government advocacy networks circulated a false news story claiming that USAID had “debunked” the Amnesty International report, and that no massacre had occurred. Shortly after, USAID Ethiopia tweeted that they “neither conducted an investigation nor sent a team to investigate the reported events that took place in Axum.” At the end of March, however, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission concluded that “more than a hundred” civilians were killed by Eritrean soldiers in Axum.

In spite of growing consensus that the massacre did in fact take place government supporters continued to promote the narrative that the report was fake, designed to distract the international community from their alleged crimes against the Amhara population in Mai Kadra, Amnesty had in fact also reported on the Mai Kadra massacre in early November, citing witnesses who blamed the TPLF massacres against Amhara civilians. In July, a detailed investigation by Reuters showed that a series of massacres were perpetrated by Tigrayan and Amhara militias in mid-November. Government supporters alleged that Amnesty’s reporting on Axum was based on interviews with Mai Kadra perpetrators. Amnesty denied these claims, and released additional information detailing how they corroborated testimony from remote interviews.

The Harvard report (see our previous post) described efforts to delegitimize Amnesty International’s report on the massacre of civilians by Eritrean forces in Axum in November 2020, including with the “false priest” narrative. The report debunks this false narrative in comprehensive detail. Information Minister Yemane, perhaps unknowingly, helped propagate these false narratives, including the “false priest” fake story, by retweeting false information.
We respectfully request that Minister Yemane, in the spirit of his tweet on September 14 that denounced Tigray conflict disinformation, retract his tweets and his February 26 “fake priest” retweet, and acknowledge that the Axum massacre was real and that AI’s report is accurate. The continued propagation of this disinformation is disrespectful to the memory of the victims and to their families.

The Harvard study on disinformation in the narrative over Tigray also makes an interesting observation: that many pro-Ethiopia social media platforms are actually operated by Eritreans, and that a loop exists whereby PFDJ social media platforms post material purportedly from “objective” sources or individuals which is then amplified by the Eritrean Ministry of Information.
“In late March, the Ethiopian government confirmed reports that Eritrean troops were involved in the conflict and were committing atrocity crimes—allegations that had been circulating since December 2020. Several high-profile Eritrean Twitter accounts joined the pro-Ethiopian government Twitter campaigns at this time. For example, # ScapegoattingEritrea became a prominent hashtag in the aftermath of human rights reports or media reports detailing Eritrean troops committing atrocities against civilians.

Several of the individuals behind these accounts have links to Eritrea’s ruling party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), and the young wing in the diaspora. Some accounts in the Eritrean networks list as their website in their Twitter bios, which is the website of the Eritrean Ministry of Information, and have had their work shared by the Eritrean Minister of Information. Zeleke said that the interactions with Eritrean social media campaigns are largely informal. ‘There are some issues where we have common interests and others that are not common, but there is cooperation and communication,’ he said.”

Categories: Etiopia


Ethio Observer - Wed, 29/09/2021 - 20:14

September 17, 2021
By Dr. G. A. Z

On March 17, devastating news came out showing that the United Nations human rights chief. Mrs. Michelle Bachelet agreed to a sinister request from the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) “to work together”. Tigrayans from all walks of life strongly rejected the proposal. Various International humanitarian organizations also reflected their concerns, and suggested that the proposal be reconsidered. Unfortunately, the March 25 OHCHR-EHRC joint press statement showed that these valid concerns and oppositions were neglected.

The March 25 OHCHR-EHRC joint press statement reads “The agreement to collaborate in a joint investigation is…founded on shared objectives to advance and strengthen respect and protection of human rights as well as accountability for violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law committed by all parties in the context of the Tigray conflict”.

The fact of the matter is, Ethiopia pushed the Ethiopian Human rights Commission, a government appointed body, to join the investigation, to manipulate the investigation and evade accountability, not otherwise.

In one occasion, Mrs. Michelle Bachelet admitted that she was forced to involve the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission into the investigation by her boss, Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres, a source inside UN informed me.

As was rightly predicted, Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission has started to blatantly discharge its mandate of twisting the truth, discarding evidence, distorting facts, and corrupting the entire process. That is what the latest joint OHCHR-EHRC report showed.

Why Ethiopian Human Rights Commission should not be part of the investigation… and Unheard Truth About Mai-Kadira:
Credible reports from victims, international human rights institutions, the media, and Tigray-based political parties have indicated that serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law have been committed. Human rights organizations have said that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Tigray.

Eritrean forces have been engaged in large-scale looting, mass massacres, rampant sexual violence, and crimes against humanity. Amhara forces have also perpetrated ethnic cleansing in the Southern and Western and North-Western zones of Tigray. Some 700,000 people have escaped to Central and Eastern Tigray from the west, which is currently controlled by Amhara militias and special forces. Furthermore, the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) appear to have used collective rape and starvation as instruments of war.

For the entire 10 months of the war, human rights organizations, human rights defenders, and activists from Tigray have been calling for an independent investigation in to the perpetrated crimes. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has also emphasized the importance of an independent investigation.

The Ethiopian government rejected any form of independent inquiry, on the pretext of “sovereignty” for several months. However, following Amnesty International’s report on the Aksum massacre, the government-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission(EHRC), which had been silent for the entire 4 months after its twisted report on Mai-Kadira, had no option but to play “neutral”, producing its own report, and called for a joint investigation.

Consequently, OHCHR accepted the “call” by EHRC and announced that it was prepared to carry out a joint investigation with EHRC.

However, there are various valid reasons that make EHRC’s participation in the investigation counter-productive in exposing the truth and bringing about justice and reconciliation.

Lack of Institutional Independence:
The current leadership came to power right after Abiy Ahmed came to the Premiership. The leadership was chosen based on loyalty to the Prime Minister and his party, and an old grudge against the leadership in Tigray.

Structurally, the commission may seem an “autonomous” federal institution; however, the EHRC is part of the government, appointed by the government, and funded by the government. The commission has never been an independent institution since its inception; the current commission is not any different(if not worse).

From a legal standpoint, the EHRC is accounted to the House of Peoples’ Representatives. The parliament is meant to represent all the people of the federation. However, currently, the people of Tigray, who are the primary receivers of the atrocities, are not represented in the parliament. There is no representation of Tigrayans in the government which appointed the body, in the parliament, and in the commission.

Partiality, the commission itself being a party in the conflict
The government appointed commission has issued three preliminary reports regarding the human right violations in Tigray over the course of 10 months; all of them were not only problematic, but also extremely sinister and with clear motives of distorting the truth to suit the government’s narratives.

In the first report on the Mai Kadra massacre two weeks after the incident occurred, the commission blamed TPLF and Samri, a youth group allegedly affiliated with the TPLF, for attacking ethnic Amharas.

Evidences showed that a EHRC team didn’t even visit the crime site, and that the cooked report was compiled from its office desks in Addis Ababa. Atrocities of that scale require months of extensive study; but, for EHRC, that was not necessary. EHRC hurriedly came out with a one-sided preliminary report that presents ethnic Amharas as the sole victims, and Tigrayans to be the perpetrators. The report completely disregarded alternative accounts of Tigrayans who fled to other parts of Tigray and neighboring Sudan for it had a pre-determined purpose.

Even more sinister, in a subsequent interview, the Chief Commissioner of EHRC, Daniel Bekele, without any investigation accused refugees in Sudan of being perpetrators of the Mai Kadra massacre, and said “there is a need to be cautious about their testimonies; the refugees may have been perpetrators of the massacre”. His accusatory statement is consistent with what the Prime Minister said to the parliament.

Beneath, I will briefly write about the tragedy in Mai-Kadira: The Misinformation and facts

News of a massacre in a small town in Western Tigray, Mai-Kadira came on the early hours of November 10. Within few minutes of the news, state and prosperity party affiliated media in Ethiopia came with a uniform, monotonous narrative regarding the massacre. They presented the news in the most sensational, graphic way, and with evident jubilation. The state and party owned media, in one word, claimed that the massacre was “conducted by Tigrayans”, and that “the victims were Amhara”. The perpetrators of the crime were said to have a group name “Samri”. On that same day, the state and Prosperity Party affiliated media started to accuse Tigrayans of all kinds of crimes, and curse them with all sorts of derogatory insults and dehumanizing terms.

Within three days (until November 12), the entire Tigrian population in Mai-kadra has been either killed, put in concentration camps, or driven away into Sudan and other parts of Tigray.

The EHRC in less than 2 weeks came up with a 5-paged “preliminary report”. The Ethiopian Humans Rights Commission said that “they dispatched a team to investigate the massacre 5 Days after the incident”, and came up with a “report” which simply consolidates the narrative that has been set by the media since day-1. The commission said a Tigrayan youth group called “Samri” and TPLF were the perpetrators, and the victims were ‘Ethnic Amhara’.

The EHRC succeeded in misleading Ethiopians and the world. That helped the government of Ethiopia and its domestic and foreign allies rally public support to conduct a campaign of genocide against Tigrayans.

However, evidences from witness accounts give us a different picture. According to a non-published preliminary study Seb-Hidri Civil Society Tigray (which the author of this article had access too), conducted through interviews with the victims, survivors, families of victims now sheltered in Sudan and inside Tigray(inMekelle, Shire, Adigrat), the massacre was conducted by Amhara Special Forces, Amhara Militia and An Amhara youth armed squad called “Fano” with a clear direction from Amhara regional state and the Federal government was watching it.

A minor conflict erupted on November 9 after Tigray’s forces left the town; three Amhara and 7 Tigrayans were injured and the conflict calmed. On the next three days (November 10, 11, 12), Amhara government sent its militia and special forces in to the town; 600-800 young men(known as “Fano”), mostly from Gonder, armed with guns, machetes, and axes came in to the town, and mobilized the Amhara youth in Mai-Kadira to rise up and “finish” the Tigrayans in the town. Amhara militia and Amhara special forces backed them. The Ethiopian National Defence army was around. The Tigrayans in the town were defenceless. According to the study by Seb-Hidri, and according to evidence collected by the author, 1320 Tigrayans and 3 Amhara were killed in the massacre between November 9 and 12.

What all the evidences show is that the massacre in Mai-Kadra was planned and conducted by the governments of Ethiopia’s and Amhara and their allied forces.

It shall also be known that there was no Tigrian youth group named “Samri” in Mai-Kadira; that’s a fabrication.

Only truly independent investigation could exactly tell what really happened in Mai-Kadira. It is true that, with the help of the Ethiopia Human Rights commission, the Amhara government has been working to eliminate all possible traces of evidences, but, with conviction and honesty, nothing is impossible.

To the writer’s understanding, the massacre in Mai-Kadira was condcted to serve four basic purposes:

1. To eliminate, cleanse Mai-Kadra of its majority Tigrayan population;

2. To scareand drive away the entire more than 1 million Tigrayan population in Western Tigray;

3. To fuel anti-Tigray sentiments throughout Ethiopia, incite violence and aggression against Tigrayans, and rally the public in the campaign of genocide against Tigrayans;

4. To give Ethiopian army a strong drive to conduct the atrocities on civilian Tigrayans that it has already conducted.

Axum Report: with regards to EHRC’s report on the massacre in Axum, there are numerous issues to raise. EHRC, which claimed to have “dispatched a group to Mai-Kadira in just 5 days” had to wait for 4 months, and had to wait until the PM partially admits that Eritrea’s army is present in Tigray and that atrocities were committed. The report was also a month after Amnesty’s report, and 20 days after Human Rights Watch’s.

A review of the content of the preliminary reports conducted by EHRC on the Tigray war also reveals serious inconsistencies and prejudices with regard to indicating accountability. In its controversial Mai Kadra report, the commission concluded authoritatively that Tigrayan elements were solely responsible for the massacre. However, it did not place responsibility on the Ethiopian government for atrocities committed by members of ENDF in other reports.

Whatever Ethiopian Human Rights Commission says about the Axum Massacre shall not be taken as a “proof of the Commission’s independence, credibility or impartiality”; absolutely not!

One can assume that, had Ethiopian Human Rights Commission been the first to investigate the massacre in Axum, it would have certainly come up with a completely different report, probably denying it all, or projecting the blame to somebody else, like what it did in Mai-Kadra. After investigations by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, that was not possible, and had to play “impartial”. After the reports by Amnesty international, HRW, the government and its appointed body- the commission understood that there was no way to conceal it and that the best option was for the commission to save itself, and avoid being left out in future investigations in Tigray.

It is to be remembered that Amnesty International made its findings public on February 26. According to a statement by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, “it dispatched a group to Axum to investigate” on February 27, a day after Amnesty’s report, adding that “previous attempts were impeded”. One should ask “after sitting idle for 4 months, what changed overnight?”

EHRC’s Axum report was never about Axum, but about saving yourself and saving a place in other investigations in Tigray in the future.

In a related note, in a press conference organized by the Geneva Press Club and the Network of Ethiopians in Geneva for Action Taskforce (NEGAT) in collaboration with the Ethiopian mission in Geneva early January 2021, the commission’s Chief, Mr. Daniel said “as the military operation unfolded, It is comforting to learn that the operation didn’t result in as severe consequences as it was originally feared to be”. He further said that “the campaign of misinformation will be tarnished as the operation concludes and roads are opened”, without conducting any investigation. This alone sproves that not only is Daniel a partisan, but also a morally degraded and dangerous person. It is to be remembered that by December, Ethnic cleansing had been committed in Western Tigray, with 2.3 million people already displaced.

In a press conference organized by the Geneva Press Club and the Network of Ethiopians in Geneva for Action Taskforce in collaboration with the Ethiopian mission in Geneva, Daniel denies the scale of the atrocities and calls them “misinformation”
The use of the term “military operation” which was in line with the government’s propaganda, too says a lot about the mindset of commission and its chief.

Furthermore, despite the fact that the commission published findings of 108 rape cases in Ayder, Adigrat and Mekelle hospitals, it has not specified responsibility. But, the victims, the media, independent human rights institutions, and the interim administration officials of Tigray have given testimonies accusing Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Amhara forces. This pattern of bias says a lot about the overall independence and integrity of the institution.

Partial list of Victims of the massacre in Maryam Dengelet by Eritrean army
The commission failed to conduct a prompt preliminary investigation into the atrocities committed in various parts of Tigray such as Dengelat, Bora, and Debre Abay, Bora Chellena, Mahbere-Dego, Mai-Kinetal, Adwa, Zelabessa, Irob, Wukro, Tembien e.t.c in over 10 months.

Civilian Massacre in Mahbere-Dego by Ethiopian Army [Videos first shown by TMH; corroborated with investigations by Amnesty, CNN, BBC, Newsy]
The commission didn’t also utter a word on the chemical attacks in Tigray.
The commission didn’t condemn the arbitrary arrest and killing of Tigrayans throughout Ethiopia.
The commission didn’t say a word while hundreds of civilians are killed in Humera and their body is thrown in to Tekeze river.
One thing is consistent with EHRC: only when victims are Amhara; or when there is a window to distort the report [to make the victims ethnic Amhara, will it make a swift ”investigation” and provide “report”.
Tigrayans Protesting Against the campaign of genocide that has been going on for more than 10 months now [Social Media]
Lack of trust
If we are to have an independent, credible investigation, it has to be victim-focused. That is, survivors’ and victims’ testimonies have to be at the heart of the investigations. However, it appears that Daniel’s EHRC is not fully trusted by Tigrayan victims. That is why the announcement of a joint investigation was met with fierce opposition from Tigrayans.

Ethnicity also plays a role in this mistrust as many Tigrayans feel that the EHRC has a well established bias against Tigrayans. EHRC’s one-sided Mai-Kadra report has intensified this concern and created, among Tigrayans, the perception that EHRC is a pro-Amhara organization that cannot be trusted. for that matter, the entire hierarchy of EHRC is controlled mainly by ethnic Amhara; there are also Eritreans with an Ethiopian passport in the commission.

Taking this into account, an investigation that involves EHRC might be tantamount to sidelining victims and survivors – the very group of people that should be at the heart of the investigations.

In fact, taking the ethnic orientation of the conflict in Ethiopia, the OHCHR should take great care of the employees and the interpreters it uses in the investigation.

Institutional Capacity
On top of the challenge of bias and lack of integrity, the EHRC does not have the capacity or experience to conduct such a wide-ranging, sensitive, and intricate investigation.

EHRC’s organizational reform is still underway and it has not yet demonstrated its institutional capability. Indeed, its record with regards to human rights inquiries over the last three years has been unremarkable. Ethnic conflicts and massacres in different parts of Ethiopia such as Guji, Gedeo, Konso, Shashemene, and Metekel were not investigated promptly and in-depth.

The process of conducting investigations into grave atrocities such as the one in Tigray is a complex task that requires first-rate institutional capacity. There is a process of collection and verification of information, thorough registration of events, preparation of documentary evidence for further investigation or prosecution, recommending actions to correct breaches, provide justice and redress to victims, and hold perpetrators accountable. EHRC is not prepared for that.

Bad precedence:
It is important noting that the UN’s decision to conduct a joint investigation with the EHRC is unusual. The UN has never allowed national human rights institutions, like the EHRC, to jointly investigate allegations of serious international crimes, including ethnic cleansing and war crimes. A joint investigation with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, an organization that is effectively part of the government, wouldn’t bring about justice and reconciliation. Indeed, this flies in the face of the principles of justice, independence, and fairness.

Ethiopian Human Rights Commission actively trying to sabotage the investigation:
The latest report by OHCHR and EHRC included 12 towns, irrelevant Bahirdar and Gondar among them. The sites of the most gruesome massacres like Axum, Mahbere-Dego, Debre-Abay, Tembien, Mai-Kinetal, Dengelet, Zelambessa, Irob e.t.c were not included. Eastern and Central Tigray, where the majority of massacres were recorded next to Western Tigray are left out. The reason given for this was “security reasons”. The truth is, there is no active fighting in Central and Eastern Tigray, and the only reason could be because these places fell to TDF first. The fact that OHCHR/EHRC could do its investigations in and when only government forces control an area, is malicious that only EHRC could push for. Leaving Axum, Dengelet and similar sites of massacre, and including Bahirdar into these investigations can only be a joke.

In conclusion: it is true, EHRC’s lack of adequate institutional capacity, experience, integrity, independence, and credibility are major problems on themselves; but, more important is on the eyes of Tigrayans, EHRC itself is a party in the conflict and in the crimes against humanity (including Genocide) committed on Tigrayans, having cooked a fake document which fueled the conflict and aggravated the anti-Tigrayan sentiments.

For Tigrayans, EHRC is a party to be investigated, not a “neutral” party to independently and honestly investigate”. It shall not be involved in any of the investigations in Tigray in the future. A UN-led, truly independent investigation in to the war crimes and grave crimes against humanity is all that Tigray demands. All the investigations conducted jointly shall be discarded, and a new, Only-UN-led independent investigation shall be restarted.

Therefore, the OHCHR should review its wrong decision and launch a genuinely independent investigation that does not include parties in crime, and that victims, survivors, the broader Tigrayan community who are at the receiving end of the genocide, and the broader international community could trust.

[The author of the article, Dr. G. A. Z is a Physician, Civil Rights leader, and an Activist ]

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Categories: Etiopia

Ethiopia: The Grim Search for Political Light in a Crisis

Ethio Observer - Tue, 28/09/2021 - 18:42

Ethiopia: The Grim Search for Political Light in a Crisis
For a political system in a country like Ethiopia that is a “no-accountability zone” for state actors and powerful political elites, the social field is critical to building a political community that is more democratic and more in sync with the logic and sociality of “the governed”, argues Semeneh Asfaw. 41 Published 2 months ago on August 6, 2021By Semeneh Ayalew Asfaw Download PDFPrint Article Ethiopia is suffering. It has become a large community of pain. A dizzying daily multiplication of death and violence in various parts of the country, an all-out war and mass starvation in Tigray, a disquieting feeling of a society at war with itself, describes our current situation. The war continues to spread across the country. Mistrust between communities, fear, insecurity, hopelessness, a crushing inflation, a sense of a deteriorating future, and a constantly declining social world, define the mood of our times. This situation, coupled with political and social tensions, has been slowly building up since 2014.

A popular upsurge in the following years resulted in an implosion within the ruling EPRDF regime, culminating in the ascension of Abiy Ahmed to power, as prime minister, in April 2018. Inter-communal conflict and political violence continued to put a heavy strain on the country in the years that followed, albeit with a new vigour. Social suffering as a function of war, displacement, migration, and political and structural violence is, in the main, generated by state and military powers. The un-acknowledged pain and social misery of individual communities by the larger society besets the crisis of the social. “Enemy”-making discourse has pitted organized political actors against each other in wars of negation, injecting and provoking frightening levels of social antagonism between communities. Discursive and actual wars are waged against simplistically defined single enemies who are often constructed as the culprit of all evils, and all social, political and economic problems. Reckless and unhinged political language is crowned as “truth”, while human suffering is often dismissed as hyperbole. Powerful political players, in and outside the state, with significant sway and influence on political discourse, gave rise to this condition.

For that reason, seeking the solution to our predicament must involve the political elite. However, this on its own is not a sufficient remedy; as polarization and hostility between communities is upsetting the social-structure, “fixing” the problem by relying on a narrowly defined political solution would not suffice. Beyond a state that is on the brink of collapse, we are facing a social fabric that is fast decomposing, unable to hold together its diverse constituent parts. Caustic political rhetoric and insidious political discourse have contaminated the “power block” or the political structure, and have gone further to cause a considerable wound to our social relations. This ubiquitous crisis that is a manifestation of the entrenched, political, social and moral adversity that the country is facing calls for a more imaginative approach, beyond conventional politics. To deal with the implications of the crisis of politics on the social demands that we implore and pay attention to the emotive, to help us connect with one another as a society. In the absence of a collective outrage, individual communities are left to grieve massive death, displacement and starvation in isolation. The general public is far too divided to speak in unison.

This is perhaps most apparent with the war in Tigray—between Federal and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces—that has left in its wake atrocities and destruction on an enormous scale. Very few in the larger public are willing to imagine the deprivations of daily life and the feelings of isolation that Tigrayans are undergoing as a result of this ruinous war. Death, hunger, persecution or the violation of the female body as a site of a cruel game do not seem to move the larger public. Nevertheless, the enormity of the destruction that this war has caused in Tigray does not make the case of Tigray singular. Rather, this war is but a climactic landmark that expresses the debilitating effects of selective outrage on the social. Human fatality, dislocation and the devastation of towns, cities and livelihoods due to political violence have become numbingly mundane and superfluous in the past three years. No regional state or linguistic and cultural communities have been left unaffected. The casualness of suffering has cast aside an alibi for a fundamental crisis that has befallen the country—the social fabric is witnessing the crumbling of its covenants. The social assets that held the society together are eroded, and appear too frail to avert our downward spiral into a moral abyss.

Shared social norms like tur (ጡር) or neg bene (ነግ በኔ) that dissuaded people from engaging in acts of injustice on others, that had long sustained the social compact, despite the historically widespread violence, and the despotism of the Ethiopian state, have been eroded. This glue that has long been the life force of the social-fabric is everywhere desecrated. The social that has been the bulwark of interconnections between heterogeneous communities and groups is fracturing under the weight of the crisis of conventional politics. The enormity of the destruction that this war has caused in Tigray does not make the case of Tigray singular. However, recognizing that the crisis of the moment has permeated society or that there are cracks in the social fabric should not hinder us from appreciating the political validity and vitality of the social. While the condition for the proliferation of social suffering is indifference and disregard for loss and pain, collective mourning of all suffering could be a site of possibility for healing. This recognition should motivate us to strive to rescue the social from further degradation so that we can connect with each other—to feel beyond our political affiliations and identities, and to envision a politics of the social that is based on reherahe ርህራኄ (“radical empathy”/radical humanity). Rebuilding the social As politicians are taking us down the bottomless pit, there are way too many of us in this society who are too preoccupied with trailing behind and echoing self-absorbed “leaders”.

In this epoch of populist un-reason, vitriolic political language heaved in a discursive climate dominated by a sinister, invisible virtual space, seduces its clients to speak without bounds—without care. Politics is condensed into an art of following. The political arena has depoliticized social actors and turned the public into “users” and “consumers”, whose “political” role is largely limited to “liking”, “disliking”, “re-tweeting”, “sharing” and ultimately, doing the bidding of powerful political actors and “social media patriots”. The journey to the precipice continues and the tragedy multiplies, if we as a society continue to refuse to feel the pain that we see meted out everywhere in our common land. Even if the social is more than its national identification, it is largely reduced to its “political expression”—“the nation”—in this moment of crisis. And the nation, either in its pan-Ethiopian or particular forms, has become the chief arbiter that determines whose pain, agony and loss matters. It has come to define communities in contradistinction against one another. Rather than nurturing and struggling for the positive, free expression of community and publicness, nationalisms of all vintages have mobilized war-making speeches that caricature presumed opponents. Contenders are seen not as adversaries to engage, but as enemies to be annihilated. Simple answers are sought to complex political, economic and social problems.

In such a highly polarized context, the instinctive human identification with pain and loss appears to lose its force. Pan-Ethiopian nationalism, or identity politics, while privileging the concerns of some, appears to predicate their activism on the negation of, or insensitivity to, the pain of what they consider to be the other. In our failure to identify, empathize and value all suffering, our society is morphing into a horrifying assemblage of disjointed, antagonistic, mutually cancelling communities. I believe the question we must ask in this moment of crisis needs to be, what can we do when conventional politics has failed and “love for country” or “love for the nation” is the vector of the war machine? What can be done when jingoism and oppositional nationalism justify war and when they deepen the crisis by excusing impunity and carnage as “collateral damage”? What do we do when speech is muted by “sheer violence” and “rational” deliberation appears impossible? What can we do where politics is held hostage by political elites? Where do we seek our answers when structural decline and calls for more war are threatening to engulf us all? In our failure to identify, empathize and value all suffering, our society is morphing into a horrifying assemblage of disjointed, antagonistic, mutually cancelling communities. To my mind, from the vantage point of society and social actors, the remedy is to be found in the effort we make to rebuild and reconstitute the social. In a society that is so intermingled, where interconnections are far too many to disentangle and a common future is unavoidable, recognizing suffering is imperative to re-build the social fabric.

Our survival as a society depends on our ability to empathize with one another. First and foremost, recognizing the social demand that we “bear witness” to pain to reclaim and take back our human ability to empathize with others. Through reherahe (ርህራሄ)—a term that is often used in Ethiopia to describe the radical humanity of mothers— we transcend the limits of our supposed inability to identify and reconnect with the anguish and distress of others. Hence, if we were to allow reherahe as a shared sentiment for all, we could open it up to reshape society and repair our disintegrating inter-communal relations. As a “civic virtue”, it would be freed from its narrow confines as the “natural” preserve of our mothers, and could be used to govern this polity and transform our political life. The poesis of collective mourning and the politics of the social We need to reaffirm our connectedness through an act of collective mourning. Our survival does not depend on our commitment to die or sacrifice for “the nation”. Rather, the survival of the social fabric depends on our ability to recognize suffering in the entire society. This demands the unequivocal rejection of the conditions that engender the explosion of social misery. And the precondition for this is the rejection of all wars of negation fought in the name of “the survival”, “unity”, or “the love of” the nation. Instead of relying on political actors, or sinking into the passion of our hearts, we must insist on relating to one another with the depth of our humanity, our wailing guts and emotive faculties. In these wars of the people against the people, nothing makes sense except mourning all suffering through commonly shed tears.

Until and unless we do that, we have no real victories to celebrate, no heroes to praise, no flags to wave. Nothing but the hollow, Pyrrhic victory that is in fact the demise of our social world. The only victory that makes sense is one that expiates and affirms our social ties. And this victory starts with the repudiation of these wars of negation. The alternative we have is to let these wars continue to not only destroy our future, but also to repudiate the ways we lived in the past. We must acknowledge that despite the injustices and inequities of the past, wrought by successive ruling regimes, the social domain has never seen the levels of polarization and social antagonism that we are currently witnessing between linguistic and cultural communities.

The resilience of the social-fabric was such that it was able to maintain, throughout the 20th century, a level of social decorum that retained a sense of community within and between different communities. Sure, this larger community was not a community where every group was politically alive and treated the same. Nor was it a community that lived “in harmony” and “tolerance”, as some would like us to believe. Nonetheless, it was at the same time a heterogeneous and multi-ethnic community that shared cultural assets, sentiments and experiences, whose common ties nurtured similar socialities. In spite of its in-built inequities, differences, rivalries, contesting interests and conflicts, it was a community that was bound and enlivened by shared values of moral restraint with a deep sense of human fragility, inter-dependent social life and mutual-aid. Beyond the act of collective mourning to re-build the social fabric, the social field should also be a space for thinking about the otherwise, to envision a better future. Where the social is conceived as a site of political transformation, it could create the condition of possibility for the activation of the affective and moral ties that have long bound the social compact.

Social assets such as mutual-aid and solidarity with the aggrieved can serve not only to repair the social fabric but also to remake a more robust social realm. Our survival does not depend on our commitment to die or sacrifice for “the nation”. Ritual practices like Leqso (the communal act of mourning with the bereaved) and edir (the mutual aid association of neighbours) that are shared social assets across various communities in the country, could be calibrated to repair our troubled inter-communal relations and our beleaguered social world. Leqso and edir, that form key elements of our social existence, have long forged a sense of neighbourliness among members of heterogeneous communities. Members of edir who visited and counselled mourners, and fed and catered for the bereaved, as well as the leqestegnoch, who gathered to participate in collective acts of mourning, made up the community. This guild of mourners grieved together as a community. Many grieved the dead among them.

Some grieved loved ones who were long departed while others mourned the “prospective death” of loved ones as well as their own mortality. Leqso and edir produced the platform for communal care, and prompted the engagement of communities with the human condition. They forged and strengthened communal bonds and created the possibility for collective healing to occur. In this moment of crisis, a politics of the social that insists on collective mourning and healing is most imperative, as it obliges us to re-think and activate inbuilt social devices to bridge communities pulled apart by hostile political discourse and political violence. The politics of the social that emerges from the sentimental, normative and communitarian practices of everyday people could thus rely on such shared social assets to rebuild and reconstitute the social. While recognizing that “the political” and “the social” domain are imbricated and that their energies flow into in the constitution of one another, there is also political value in distinguishing the social as a sphere that has its own logic of existence and raison d’être. This recognition entails that the assets of the social must be made more visible to animate, humanize and democratize the political arena.

For a political system in a country like Ethiopia that is a “no-accountability zone” for state actors and powerful political elites, the social field as a “site of dynamic [political] possibility” is critical to building a political community that is more democratic and more in sync with the logic and sociality of “the governed”. The political domain should reflect and respond to the associated life of its heterogeneous groups, as well as their concerns and aspirations. By capitalizing on our social assets, this moment of crisis is a moment when we need to seek to reconstitute society as a field of co-existence and co-creation for a multi-ethnic “labouring community”. Such a society could allow for the emergence of a community that does not just merely co-exist peaceably, but one that strives to create a substantively equal and just political community.

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The Elephant – Speaking truth to power.

Categories: Etiopia

Eyewitness accounts, video confirm reports of Tigrayan children held in concentration camp

Ethio Observer - Sun, 26/09/2021 - 15:02

Eyewitness accounts, video confirm reports of Tigrayan children held in concentration camp
Satellite images support survivors’ accounts: Ethiopian forces held thousands, including children, in brutal camps
Tigrayan refugee girl in Um Rakuba, Sudan. (Photographed by Jonathan Hutson)
Tigrayan refugee girl in Um Rakuba, Sudan. (Photographed by Jonathan Hutson

In the Tigray region of Ethiopia, beginning in November 2020, children who should have been laughing with friends and studying in school were instead locked up, crying, starving and abused in concentration camps, according to multiple eyewitness reports that have been corroborated by satellite imagery and analysis, as well as cell phone video footage smuggled out by an escapee.

Ethiopian federal forces, abetted by special forces, paramilitary groups, militia and police acting under the authority of the Amharan regional government, locked up in multiple locations hundreds of children of all ages — and even pregnant women, infants and toddlers — along with thousands of Tigrayan adults and senior citizens. These people appear to have been held in harsh conditions, systematically starved and beaten because of their ethnicity and with no judicial process or valid legal pretext. That is the definition of a concentration camp. This is a previously unreported part of an ongoing genocidal campaign led by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed — ironically enough, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate — against various ethnic groups, including Tigrayans, Kimant, Gumuz, Ogaden (Somalis), Agew, Irob, Afar and Sidama, as well as Oromo people who fight to exercise the constitutional right to self-administration within a federal system.

The current civil conflict within Ethiopia is too complicated to explain here, and this report concerns just one aspect of it. As often happens in war, accusations and counter-accusations involving alleged war crimes have been made by the warring factions, which are primarily, the Ethiopian federal government forces, the Tigray regional government forces, the Amhara regional government forces and Amhara militia, and the Eritrean government forces. The Ethiopian embassy in Washington has not responded to Salon’s questions about the specific and detailed evidence of human rights abuses presented in this report. If an official response arrives subsequent to publication, it will be included here.

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This report is based on eyewitness accounts by dozens of people from five ethnic groups, including 11 former prisoners who were interviewed in four different refugee camps in eastern Sudan. Doctors have recounted their treatment of another seven former prisoners, including young children. Satellite imagery from Maxar (a space technology company based in Westminster, Colorado) and Planet Labs (an Earth imaging company based in San Francisco) corroborates these eyewitness reports. So does video footage which one former prisoner shot on his cell phone before he escaped a previously unreported concentration camp in western Tigray, located in the notorious Abbadi warehouse compound in Mai Kadra.

The cell phone footage admittedly does not conform to classic notions of what a concentration camp looks like, as in World War II films.There are no bars, guard towers, German Shepherds, barracks, searchlights or coils of razor wire. In the videos, prisoners can be seen eating popcorn, drinking coffee, teasing each other and making jokes in Tigrigna, the language of the Tigray people.

Dr. Mebrahtom Yehdago, 37, in Tenedba refugee camp, Sudan
Dr. Mebrahtom Yehdago, 37, in Tenedba refugee camp, Sudan. (Jonathan Hutson)

“Young children who were imprisoned and abused”
“We are seeing a generation of Tigrayan refugee children, many of whom are growing up with a sense of hopelessness,” said Dr. Mebrahtom Yehdago, 37, from Humera. He is a Tigrayan doctor and refugee in Tenedba refugee camp in eastern Sudan. “As a doctor, I feel so disturbed, sad, and angry to see these kinds of situations. These children are innocent. These are young children who were imprisoned and abused. How can we get the world to pay attention and do more to help the children?”

Dr. Mebrahtom outlines the cases of former child prisoners in concentration camps whom he has treated: four boys, ages 2, 9, 13 and 15. The two-year-old was imprisoned with his mother in the Mai Kadra concentration camp – which satellite imagery shows is in the Abbadi warehouse compound, a bit north and across the street from the police station, just as eyewitnesses reported. They were imprisoned from Nov. 14 to Nov. 27, 2020, until the mother paid their captors — the Fanu, the Amhara militia and the Amharan Regional Police — a ransom of 50,000 Ethiopian birr (about USD $1,086) for their release.

The toddler presented with physical complications, Dr. Mebrahtom said, including recurrent diarrhea, dehydration, malnutrition and pneumonia, as well as psychological issues. For example, when the boy sees a large group of people, he starts shouting and crying. His mother says he is remembering their hardship in captivity.

Their captors provided no food or water. About twice a week, according to former prisoners who escaped, Doctors Without Borders (or MSF, its French acronym) workers from Abdelrafe would distribute packets of digestive biscuits and fill two large water tanks. MSF repaired one water tank and installed another, without which the prisoners would have had only a few sinks in the bathrooms, where toilets and floors were overflowing with feces. MSF also built a new bathroom. The prisoners in Mai Kadra, like those in other concentration camps in western Tigray, survived by pilfering and roasting sesame seeds stored in the warehouses where they were held captive. This meager sustenance came from bags of seeds that the Amharan forces had looted from Tigrayan farmers and hauled to the warehouses on trailers pulled by tractors. The tractors in Mai Kadra were stolen from the Abbadis, a wealthy Tigrayan family who had owned the warehouse compound.

Satellite imagery shows tractors hooked to trailers near the compound garage. Some prisoners who had Amharan relatives or friends, and who could get money brought to them, paid bribes to Amharan militia guards. In exchange, the guards would allow two or three small boys, around eight years old, to run to the market and return with a kind of flat bread called injera, which the prisoners would distribute.

Former prisoners estimated that the total number of prisoners in Mai Kadra was more than 3,000; some said the number was closer to 8,000. And of that number, eyewitnesses reported that at least 400 were children of all ages. There were more than 10 pregnant women, at least two of whom gave birth in a warehouse (one with severe complications). There were newborns, infants, babies, toddlers, young children, preteens and teenagers, as well as elderly people, some in their 70s and 80s. Multiple witnesses reported seeing “two old men who starved to death.”

Mostly the children cried, former prisoners reported. They cried because they were hungry and had no money for injera. They cried because they were separated from a parent. They cried because they were sick.

Solomon Kahsay
Solomon Kahsay, holding the Tecno cell phone that he used to shoot video from inside a concentration camp in Mai Kadra, photographed in Um Rakuba refugee camp (Jonathan Hutson)
Resourceful resisters
The Tigrayan prisoners proved themselves to be resourceful resisters. They boys who fetched injera from the market started running other errands, to get smuggled cell phones recharged, or to buy solar chargers. One escapee, Solomon Kahsay, 32, posed for a photo holding the Tecno cell phone with which he shot three videos inside the concentration camp. He shot the videos on Nov. 30, 2020, during Hidar Tsion — an annual religious holiday dedicated to St. Mary — which the prisoners celebrated with coffee and popcorn brought by a boy from the market. Before he was locked up, Solomon drove a three-wheeled taxi called a bajaj.

Satellite imagery from Planet Labs geolocates the cell phone footage as a strong positive match with the Abbadi warehouse compound, according to analysts with the London-based nonprofit Vigil Monitor. Several eyewitnesses, interviewed separately in different refugee camps, authenticated the videos and identified people, places and things in the videos. For example, eyewitnesses recognized a three-year-old boy whom his mother carried on her back and an eight-year-old boy in a green, striped T-shirt — one of the market runners.

Screenshot of cell phone video taken by Solomon shows an eight-year-old boy in a green striped T-shirt. Escaped prisoners reported that this boy was one of several captive boys whom Amhara militia guards would allow to buy food from the local market.

“We are here to kill you”
Dr. Mebrahtom described the case of a 15-year-old boy, imprisoned in the same place in Mai Kadra. He is an insulin-dependent diabetic. When he asked for permission to buy insulin from a local pharmacy, his captors said, “We are not here to treat you; we are here to kill you. We are gathering the Tigrayan refugees here to kill them.”

The dividing line between a normal jail, prison or detention center and a concentration camp is clear enough: The latter is defined by arbitrary arrest and detention in harsh conditions based on ethnicity, during a conflict and without judicial process, especially where people are locked up indefinitely for no valid legal purpose (such as a quarantine or relocation on humanitarian grounds for the purpose of saving lives). The Abbadi warehouse compound in Mai Kadra appears to qualify as a concentration camp under those standards.

The Fanu freed the Tigrayan teenager on Nov. 29, 2020, after extorting from his family 15,000 birr (about $326). He had been locked up for two weeks. Although the boy now lives in a refugee camp, he has fallen through the cracks due to apparent corruption and lack of bureaucratic oversight, the doctor and other refugees explained. The boy has no ration card and does not know where he will sleep on any given night. When the doctor offers him money, the boy responds, “What is the importance of this?” He argues that his life is pointless.

Dr. Mebrahtom explains that the abuse of Tigrayan children in Mai Kadra was not unique. It was part of a pattern which the doctor has seen, and which other eyewitnesses confirmed in interviews, which also involved children locked up in various sites in the regional capital of western Tigray, Humera. For example, the doctor has treated a 9-year-old boy who had been imprisoned for four days in the old police station in Humera.

Eyewitnesses who had been incarcerated in the old police station, and who were subsequently transferred to the Yitbarak warehouse in Humera, from which they escaped, reported that the only food and water available in the station (administered by the Amhara Regional Police) was whatever the prisoners could buy and have brought in from outside. And in the Yitbarak warehouse (sometimes called the Tabarak warehouse), prisoners subsisted by pilfering sesame seeds from bags looted by the Amhara and stored in the warehouse. So this young child, like hundreds of other children and adults imprisoned in multiple locations, had to survive on handfuls of seeds and a little water, with an occasional supplement of a piece of injera or a few digestive biscuits. I asked the doctor who had arrested the 9-year-old boy, and why.

“The Amhara militia arrested him and beat him with sticks on different parts of his body because they said he is the son of a Tigrayan militia member,” the doctor recounted, reading from his medical notes. “They traumatized his left eye, which he lost.” His uncle ransomed the boy for 1,000 birr after four days.

The boy’s eye socket healed with a clean scar and no infection. But he has no prosthetic eye, not even an eye patch. So the boy does not see himself as a whole person. Inside, the doctor said, he carries deeper scars.

“He has suffered psychological trauma,” Dr. Mebrahtom reports. “He has poor appetite and difficulty sleeping. He cries. He is not interested in playing with his peers. His mood is depressed. He is withdrawn and communicates very little. He stays near his mother.”

The mother reports, “He wakes up at midnight and cannot go back to sleep. He stares and says, ‘For me, it is meaningless to live.'”

There is a psychologist available in the camp, whom the boy has seen. But the boy says that he feels that talk therapy makes no sense for him because they cannot replace his eye. He cannot imagine living a productive life without an eye.

The doctor cites the case of a 13-year-old boy, the son of an Orthodox Christian priest, who was arrested while watching cattle. The Fanu stole his family’s cattle and brought him to the Dansha police station, where he was imprisoned from Nov. 10 to Nov.18, 2020.

“The Fanu tied his hands behind his back with a rope,” the doctor said. “They beat the ligature with a stick. As a result, he experiences weakness, a partial paralysis, in both hands. He did not receive medical treatment in detention.” The Fanu released the child after his father paid 1,000 birr (about U.S. $22).

“He is depressed; his mood is very low. He is distracted, doesn’t sleep well, and has lost hope,” the doctor reported. “He says, ‘I have no means of living a good life because my hands are useless.'”

The boy reported: “The Fanu said, ‘We were created to cleanse your people from the surface of the earth.'” The boy believed them.

“The beaten children said nothing. But tears slid down their faces”
Ashanafe Syoum, 27, a Tigrayan man who escaped from Humera
Ashanafe Syoum (Jonathan Hutson)

Ashanafe Syoum, 27, is a Tigrayan man who saw captive children when he was locked up in two locations in Humera. He reported:

On the fourth month, day nine of the Ethiopian calendar (Dec. 18, 2020), I was arrested and jailed in Humera because I am Tigrayan. The Amhara Regional Police arrested me and put me in the Gatar police station. When I entered, there were 180 Tigrayan male and female detainees, including about eight or nine children.

The Tigrayan children ranged in age from 10 to 15. The children sat near their families. They were so quiet because they were afraid. The children saw the police beat us, and they were afraid that they would be beaten, too.

I saw the police beat some children with sticks, too. When they beat the boys, they would say, “You are the son of the junta [a reference to the Tigration People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF].” When they beat the girls, they said, “Daughters of junta.” If they found children without their father, they would assume that the father must have left to fight for the TDF [Tigrayan Defense Forces]. The beaten children said nothing. But tears slid down their faces.

I was jailed there for two months and one week. The police gave the detainees nothing to eat or drink. But some prisoners collected money to send one person to go buy bread and water and bring it back, so that we could share it. We would each get a two-liter bottle of water for drinking and a three-liter water bottle per person for washing, about every three days. But sometimes, we could go a week without more water. Neither the Red Cross nor the MSF came when I was there.

After two months and one week [on Feb. 25, 2021], they transferred me to another prison, called Bet Henset, or House of Corrections. It was bad, too. If family members came to the prison to provide food to a prisoner, the Amhara special forces, who guarded us, would say, “No. It is enough. Go away.” Sometimes, we did not get enough water there.

There were a lot of children in Bet Henset. There were more than 50 babies, ranging in age from a one-month-old,to a six-month-old to a one-year-old. There were about 70 children who were about five or six years old. Some would sleep next to their mothers; others would sleep next to their fathers. There were about 50 children who were around 10 to 14. There was no infant formula, baby food or special food for the children. When I was there, I did not see any Red Cross or MSF workers or hear about any coming to Bet Henset.

I was in Bet Henset about two weeks before four of us escaped.

Dr. Mebrahtom and three escapees, including Ashanafe, gave permission for their photos to be published, showing their faces and using their names. One escapee, Solomon, is photographed holding the Tecno cell phone which he used to shoot the cell phone videos showing children and adults inside the Mai Kadra concentration camp.

Escape from Mai Kadra
Kiros Berhane, the first man to escape from the Abbadi warehouse compound in Mai Kadra
Kiros Berhane (Jonathan Hutson)

Another escapee, a 38-year-old tractor driver named Kiros Berhane, was the first man to escape from the Mai Kadra concentration camp, leaving through the south-facing warehouse door in the first of four groups who escaped over a four-day period. He reported:

When I arrived [in early November 2020], there were more than 6,000 detainees. The buildings are huge. There are two big warehouses inside the compound, and other two-story buildings for offices. They were not fully finished. The construction was still taking place. There were walls on top where they planned to build an additional floor. But the roof had not been added yet.

The roofless walls atop the warehouses appear in satellite imagery and in the cell phone video footage.

Kiros continued:

I can’t say the exact number of children, but there were a lot. The children smelled bad because most had been beaten and injured. They beat us all when they captured us outside the warehouse. They beat everyone again as we entered. And they cut the cross from my necklace when I entered. They took crosses from the necks of many detainees. They tried to take every detainee’s money, phone and some clothing, too. But some detainees were able to have phones. For example, some of us were sending children from the warehouse to the market, after three or four weeks, to bring us injera and to smuggle us some cell phones. The children had to get written permission from the Amhara to run errands. But this opportunity came later.

I know of a man named Solomon, who drove a bajaj. Solomon had a phone and was locked up with us.

For the first month, all we had to eat was sesame seeds which had been looted from a Tigrayan guy named Gerbreselasay. “Fento” was his nickname. Fento means the Ace from a deck of cards; Fento used to like to play cards. They killed Fento outside and stole his tractor with the sesame seeds and put it in a warehouse. These sesame seeds were in addition to the sesame that had belonged to Abbadi, which was already in the warehouse. I saw them drive off some of Abbadi’s sesame seeds with a tractor. And I saw a tractor bring in seeds looted from Fento.

They started collecting us and making us stand in lines. Some Welkait Amharans who had grown up with us, and who knew our names, started making lists of our names and ethnicity. They took 180 Tigrayan people and put them in a separate room. Within a day, they took the 180-some young men; they took them away but did not bring them back to the prison. I saw this and decided to escape.

They also took a group of pregnant women, women with young children, old people and sick people, about 400 people, put the women in a bus and the men in a truck. They drove them toward Shire. They said, “We will take you to Shire.” Some people said they left them near the Tekeze River, toward Shire. Some people say the Eritrean Army soldiers found them on the road and killed 80 of them.

The mother and her three-year-old boy who appear in the cell phone video footage were among the prisoners released on the western side of the bridge that crosses the Tekeze River toward Shire, the gateway to central Tigray. It is not known whether they survived the reported ambush by Eritrean soldiers.

Kiros continued, explaining how he decided to lead an escape at 5 p.m. on the 12-hour Ethiopian clock, on the fourth month, day 19 of the Ethiopian calendar. For Americans, that would be 11 p.m. on Dec. 28, 2020:

In the fourth month, day 19, I decided to escape after I saw them make a list of the young Tigrayan men and took them away, never to return. I believed that I would soon be with them. We had been studying the metal door at the rear of the warehouse for a month. The door faces south. The main door is huge, big enough for a tractor to drive through. There is a little door inside it.

There was a sliding latch on the inside of the little door. At the same time, there was an automatic lock with a key for use on both sides of the door. But the automatic lock didn’t work. So, we learned that we could just slide the inside latch to open the door. If the automatic lock had worked, then we could not have escaped.

The little door opened toward the inside. It did not squeak when we opened it initially. A lot of people escaped after us, over a period of four days. It is possible that one of the later groups lubricated the door hinges. But the first group of escapees did not.

We played with the guards by giving them money to play cards and drink alcohol, and get drunk, so that we could escape.

The first group escaped in the fourth month, day 19. I am the one who decided to escape. I am the one who opened the door after a group of us had been studying the door and thinking about it for a month. There were eight men in the first group. We escaped at 5 p.m. on the Ethiopian clock. It was in the night. We ran west, toward Sudan. We had four one-liter bottles of water, which we call Highlands, plus some digestive biscuits from MSF that we had saved.

We ran without rest all night and the following day. We slept when we neared the border with Sudan, on the Ethiopian side, in a place called by its owner’s name, Yamane’s “gerag.” We used to fix our tractors in his garage [“gerag”], next to his field. So we knew he was a friendly Tigrayan who had been born in Shire. But no one was there when we arrived.

We crossed the border with Sudan at a place called Allow. We were tired. We could not find water. We found Sudanese militia working in the fields. We went to them. They took our phones. But they gave us water. We entered deeper into Sudan, in a big agricultural camp called a “campo.” After that, Sudanese civilians drove us in a big lorry filled with sesame seeds to Hashaba. They brought us to Hashaba and dropped us on the road. Some villagers led us to Village 8 refugee camp in Hashaba.

Over the next three days, other groups escaped and made their way here. Some females escaped, and some men and women were shot outside Mai Kadra while escaping. I am fine today. We are in a good situation. We have food. We have something to drink here. We can eat good meals from our country. Maybe soon, we will be able to go back to our country.

“We told jokes to keep from going crazy”
One man who was caught in an escape attempt suffered a severe beating, according to the accounts of former prisoners. They said the Amharans tied his legs and tied his arms behind his back and made him lie in the sun for two days in the courtyard, outside the shade of the big neem tree that stands there. Prisoners stopped attempting to escape after the fourth wave, when the Amharans reportedly began shooting escapees in the streets.

Every former prisoner referenced the neem tree, which is visible in satellite imagery and in the cell phone videos. Prisoners also described unfinished construction atop the warehouse roofs, and the fact that the two warehouses sat inside a compound at right angles to each other. They referenced outside stairs leading to a warehouse roof. They described tractors as well. All these features and objects can be seen in satellite imagery and cell phone video footage.

Solomon reported that he shot the videos on a religious holiday when prisoners with connections had pooled money and paid bribes to send young boys to the market to bring treats, which they shared with those who had no money. He explained, “We told jokes to keep from going crazy. We smiled on the outside. But inside, we had different emotions.”

Screenshot from cell phone video taken by Solomon, showing a red tractor in the courtyard of the warehouse compound in Mai Kadra, and uncompleted construction atop a warehouse roof, just as former prisoners had described.

Five paths to freedom
There were five paths to freedom from the Mai Kadra concentration camp:

the Amharan regional government released some who paid a ransom — an illegal act of extortion which confirms that there was no valid legal purpose for holding the prisoners;
they released some who claimed Amharan ancestry, which confirms that the Ethiopian government was arresting Tigrayans because of their ethnicity;
after several weeks, they released some old people, sick people, pregnant women and women with young children, although one witness among the released prisoners — a woman who returned to Mai Kadra — reported that the Amharans released these Tigrayans into a deadly ambush by Eritrean soldiers allied with Ethiopia’s federal government;
more than 150 Tigrayans escaped Mai Kadra over a four-day period; and
some died of starvation and disease due to lack of adequate nutrition or sufficient medical care in captivity.
At the end of each interview, each eyewitness considered the question, “When peace comes, how will your life be different?”

They said that peace must come for everyone, on all sides of the conflict. They spoke of their yearning to reunite with family members, to rebuild their homeland and to return their children to school and to normal routines. Not a single person spoke of a desire for vengeance. They all hoped that the world would hear their stories and that the international community would respond.

Categories: Etiopia

The Rise and Rise of Fascism in Ethiopia

Ethio Observer - Fri, 24/09/2021 - 22:03

The Rise and Rise of Fascism in Ethiopia
Debating Ideas is a new section that aims to reflect the values and editorial ethos of the African Arguments book series, publishing engaged, often radical, scholarship, original and activist writing from within the African continent and beyond. It will offer debates and engagements, contexts and controversies, and reviews and responses flowing from the African Arguments books.
“No land in Ethiopia must create and sustain a weed like them. We must ensure that people like them are not born. Just like the devil, they must be banished forever.” Daniel Kibret, advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and prominent Deacon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Since November 4, 2020, Ethiopia is embroiled in a horrific civil war bearing the hallmarks of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and man-made famine. Underneath this grisly reality lies an appalling politics of hate that was deployed in full-scale and is currently permeating the social, political and cultural facets of the country. In her insightful book, Fascism: A Warning, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright cautions us to be wary of leaders who sow fear and anger and not to be tempted to give away freedoms, or the freedom of others, to leaders promising law and order. She challenges us to ask the following questions and adds that the answers will either provide grounds for reassurance, or a warning of fascism that must not be ignored: Do the leaders exploit the symbols of patriotism, the flag and the pledge in a conscious effort to turn one against another? Do they solicit our cheers by speaking casually and with pumped up machismo about using violence to blow enemies away?

Jason Stanley’s book How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them also offers an illuminating examination of the birth and rise of fascism in societies. Drawing on historical research of the early 20th century, he argues that fascist ideology exhibits the characteristics of a mythical past, ultra-nationalism of some variety (ethnic, religious, racial or cultural), an “Us” versus “Them” rhetoric, victimhood, propaganda and the promise of law and order.

In a scramble to make sense of what is happening in Ethiopia, these books provide a useful guide. While contemporary fascism has obvious variations from that of the early 20th century, its basic tenets remain consistent. Stanley argues that fascism starts by separating people between “us” and “them” appealing to various forms of ethnic, religious, linguistic or racial divides to ultimately shape its ideology and policy. The “us” casts itself as the righteous citizens and the “them”, by contrast, as the enemy – a criminal collective whose behaviour poses an existential threat to “us”. As the fear of “them” grows, “us” becomes to represent everything that is virtuous.

Secondly, fascism finds its genesis in a mythical and romantic past that it seeks to restore. It laments the tragic loss of a glorious history and harnesses feelings of nostalgia. According to this mythology, such a glorious past is free from any dark moments and has been lost due to the humiliation brought on by the current politics of the “others”. It extols national identity above all other identities. Ultra-nationalism of the “us” represented by the state and draped in national symbols is fervently deployed.

Third, violence is intrinsic to fascist politics. It is used both discursively and physically to pursue the project of cleansing politics and people of the perceived enemy. Significant resources are spent on incessant use of propaganda to influence perceptions of reality and ultimately shape the course of violent events on the ground. Using propaganda and conspiracy theories against segments of the population, the state seeks to limit the capacity for empathy among other citizens, paving the way for the execution and justification of mass atrocities, concentration camps and imprisonment, expulsion and in extreme cases, mass extermination.

And finally, fascist politics has a vocal proponent at the helm of the state and society. It is led by an authoritarian figure regarded by followers as singularly trustworthy leader. A master in exercising self-delusion. History tells us that fascist politicians convince citizens that they are in pursuit of a noble cause, conveying the message that they are representatives of the common good. None illustrates such delusion more than Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Final Solution, who said: “I did no wrong. I was only trying to save a country that I loved.”

For a casual Ethiopia observer, it is an inescapable reality that fascist politics has rapidly thrived over the past year. The roots and rise of such political dispensation require a deeper historical and social inquiry. However, its frightening escalation is a phenomenon of the past three years following the appointment of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in 2018. A relatively unknown figure, Abiy was catapulted to state power on the heels of a popular youth movement and a political settlement achieved between the embattled members of the then ruling party, EPRDF. Ethiopians desperate for change celebrated his emergence pinning their hopes and aspirations on a more democratic future. Abiy launched his premiership preaching love and forgiveness and promising a new dawn for Ethiopia. He sought to mend grievances locally and internationally. He undertook bold and rapid measures to liberalize the economic and political space. He released political prisoners, invited exiled opposition parties and broke a two-decade old stalemate with neighbouring foe, Eritrea. As a result, his popularity rose and a full-blown “Abiymania” gripped the nation, with some referring to him as “Moses” and a divinely ordained Messiah. The international community followed suit, crowning him with the coveted Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. Abiy not only basked in such adulation, he claimed it was prophetic. In a speech to members of parliament, he claimed he always knew he would one day become the 7th king of Ethiopia.

What started out as a promising reform quickly faded. Communal violence, political assassinations, instability and mass displacements were recorded in all regions of the country. At present, Abiy presides over a country devastated by a brutal and intractable civil war which started in November 2020 and is threatening to tear the whole country apart. What preceded a bitter political dispute and an escalation of tension between Abiy’s Prosperity Party and his former colleagues of a regional party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), evolved into an all-out war triggering a chain of catastrophic events. Abiy ordered a military campaign in the northern region of Tigray to quell a military and political rebellion. He dubbed his military move in Tigray as “rule of law” and “surgical operation” on the “criminal clique” of the TPLF.

Nothing proved further from the truth.

The “operation” unleashed a monstrous evil on the civilian population in Tigray fuelling fears of genocide. To win the war, Abiy deployed his federal forces and recruited the help of Tigray’s historical adversaries. Eritrea, led by the despot President Isayas Afeworki and neighbouring Amhara regional militias, and having a historical land dispute with Tigray, descended into Tigray with a carte blanche to conduct a revenge war. A scorched earth military campaign saw widespread war crimes committed. Civilians were deliberately targeted for massacres. Military jets bombed busy markets. Industries and essential infrastructure were decimated.

Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers took pleasure in systematically gang-raping women and girls. They went on a door-to-door rampage searching and executing young and able-bodied men. They attacked villages, burning crops, shooting animals and looting properties. With no apparent military objective, they went after Tigray’s cultural and historical heritages, vandalizing churches, mosques and desecrating spiritual symbols. Soldiers enthusiastically film and flaunt images of their dying victims. Some even sneaked smiley selfies. Footages of bemused soldiers casually shooting at civilians on a mountain cliff were shared on social media. Reminiscent of the Rwandan genocide, dead bodies were dumped in rivers and washed down through international borders into Sudan.

Beyond the battlefront, the state’s assault on ordinary Tigrayans reached the military and civil service. Thousands in the military were detained for perceived collaboration and support to the TPLF. Tigrayan diplomats and military officers working overseas were either dismissed or recalled. Those working in international organizations were fired. Some were extradited from neighbouring countries.

In his rhetoric, Abiy led a campaign of vilifying his political opponents. He aptly played the blame-game, putting all the evils befalling Ethiopia on the TPLF, recasting the period prior to his appointment as one of darkness and manipulating people’s genuine grievance for his own political ends. Conveniently erasing his active role in the service and sustenance of the intelligence apparatus of the EPRDF/TPLF, he effectively plays into people’s amnesia to portray himself as distinct from his predecessors. He routinely uses incendiary language like “traitors”, “satans”, “daytime hyenas”, “cancer”, “weeds”, “tumour”, and “backstabbers” to refer to his Tigrayan adversaries. Such virulent attacks were not directed at known individuals, rather at an ambiguous collective of Tigrayans deliberately stoking fears among the populace. He doubled down on the rhetoric by encouraging citizens to expose enemies living among themselves (euphemism for Tigrayans). The state propaganda apparatus dutifully followed the pattern to excessively push narratives of victimhood and fear.

True to fascist politics, Abiy’s violent crusade is sold to Ethiopians as a law-and-order operation with the noble mission to “Save Ethiopia” or a campaign for the “Survival of Ethiopia”. Human and material sacrifices vanish in the name of Ethiopian patriotism and the promise of renewal. European fascism of the early 20th century tells no different story in war ravaged countries.

All the while, Ethiopian elites cheered on such depravity serving as the state’s reliable fascist base. Leading intellectuals, known personalities, artists, activists, religious and social leaders, “opposition” political parties all joined the chorus of war, pledging allegiance to the military and its (mis)adventures in Tigray. Few that spoke against the war were either harassed or forced into silence. Once pro-democracy activists transformed into leading war protagonists. The overwhelming evidence of mass atrocities committed against civilians is lost in the face of fascist politics. In an Orwellian state of affairs, an alternative reality is created in which Ethiopians only believed stories they were convinced to be true.

In the wider society, anti-Tigrayan sentiments deeply festered. Citizens willingly collaborated with the state to expose Tigrayans in their communities, easing the state’s ethnic profiling for random searches, mass incarceration and harassment. People with personal grudges randomly tipped police allowing random detention, seizure of Tigrayan properties and closure of prominent and small businesses. Individual greed and the legitimization of crackdown on Tigrayans gave bureaucratic vultures opportunity to profiteer. Tigrayans were compelled to pay hefty bribes to secure release from prison or exit out of the country.

This grim reality continues unabated. The history of Ethiopia is fraught with ethnic frictions, repression and a vicious cycle of war and violence. But today’s episode is distinctively different. Nations have risen against each other. Mistrust and discord are sown among communities and violence is glorified.

Heeding the warnings of Madeleine Albright, we must confront the Ethiopian reality for what it is. Fascist politics, brutishly propagated by the state and uncritically embraced by society, has taken hold of the country. While the role of leaders in fomenting hate for political expediency cannot be discounted, such discursive and physical violence does not exist in a vacuum. Perhaps the politics is a symptom of a deeper, structural and societal malaise that needs to be urgently interrogated. If there is any chance of reversing such tragic course, it must start with the recognition and rejection of the fascist politics of hate, “othering” and its violent consequences.

Categories: Etiopia

Biden administration considering Tigray genocide determination

Ethio Observer - Fri, 24/09/2021 - 22:00

Biden administration considering Tigray genocide determination
US State Department has launched legal review examining whether Tigray humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia amounts to genocide

Children receive aid from the World Food Programme in Tigray, where a civil war has displaced millions of people. AP

Bryant Harris
Sep 24, 2021
A senior US official told The National on Friday that the State Department is conducting a legal review into whether Ethiopian and Eritrean actions in Tigray amount to genocide.

“I don’t want to get ahead of any process, but obviously the reports about the violence against women, the murders and the mass events that we’ve seen do give pause and could potentially lead to some sort of official determination regarding the acts that we know have been committed,” the senior administration official told The National.

“But that is a legal process that we have to let play out.”

The House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that would require Secretary of State Antony Blinken to determine whether the humanitarian crisis in Tigray amounts to genocide, but the senior administration official indicated that the State Department has already initiated the review.

“It’s a process that is not taken lightly and it’s a process that’s under consideration by the State Department,” said the senior official.

“We will just let the secretary determine whether or not, based on reports and things that we’ve seen and information that we have, whether or not that designation will be made.”

The US legal code defines genocide as “the specific intent to destroy, in whole or in substantial part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”.

Mother Roman Kidanemariam, 35, holds her malnourished daughter, Merkab Ataklti, 22 months old, in the treatment tent of a medical clinic in the town of Abi Adi, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. AP Photo

President Joe Biden signed a broad executive order last week paving the way for sanctions on actors responsible for human rights violations in the Tigray civil war.

The Biden administration has said that it would enact those sanctions on the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments as well as the Amhara Regional Government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front within a matter of weeks unless the parties agree to a ceasefire.

The US last month sanctioned the chief of staff of the Eritrean defence forces, Filipos Woldeyohannes. The Biden administration has repeatedly called on Eritrean forces to withdraw from Tigray.

Although Ethiopia has maintained an internet, phone and media blackout in Tigray, witnesses have described widespread human rights abuses, including the displacement and murder of civilians, gang rape, the destruction of civilian infrastructure and the burning of crops.

An Amnesty International Report released last month found that Ethiopian forces and their allies “subjected hundreds of women and girls to sexual violence”, war crimes that may also amount to crimes against humanity.

Fighters from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front have also retaliated with their own abuses during raids on villages in Amhara, including a massacre this month that killed 120 people.

Categories: Etiopia