The death of Asmelash Weldeselassie and the lie how he was killed ‘shame Ethiopia forever’

Eritrea Tigray

(Source:, 15 january 2021) –

In a war the death of one person sometimes comes to symbolise an incident. The death of Asmelash Weldeselassie seems to be one such event.

Asmelash Woldeselassie
Asmelash Weldeselassie
Tigray National Anthem ዘይንድይቦ ጎቦ (zeyndybo gobo) - YouTube
This is what the Ethiopian media had to say about his death.

“The Ethiopian Defense Force on Wednesday confirmed that former Minister for Foreign Affairs Seyoum Mesfin was killed after he resisted to surrender.News updates from the defence force said that they were killed during a joint operation with the Federal police but did not specify when that happened. Seyoum Mesfin was killed in a cave area along the Tekeze river bank (the river is 608 kilometers long).Some Ethiopian activists on social media speculate that it has been several weeks since he was killed and that the government is releasing the information now to divert attention away from the massacre in the Benishangul region of Ethiopia.Two other top Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) officials, namely Abay Tsehaye and Asmelash Woldeselassie were also killed during the operation.”

Much of the attention has concentrated on the death of Seyoum Mesfin, who was well-known to the international community. There’s been little said about Asmelash Weldeselassie.

Asmelash was – according to those who knew him – intelligent, affable and humorous. He was also completely blind. Just how he would “resist surrender” during a military operation is hard to grasp. Perhaps the report should be filed alongside reports of  shot “trying to escape” or “assaulting an officer”.
The Border War and after
Asmelash lost his sight during the war against the Derg of 1974-1991. He later lost his left arm during the bombing of Mekelle during the 1998-2000 border war with Eritrea.
It is a tragic incident, today little recalled by the outside world.
This is what the Boundary Commission established by the Algiers Peace Agreement of 2000 said about the event.

“On June 5, 1998, Ethiopia and Eritrea exchanged air strikes, Ethiopia attacking the Asmara airport and Eritrea attacking the Mekele airport. Each accuses the other of striking first, but that is a question the Commission need not address, because both airports housed military aircraft and were unquestionably legitimate military objectives under international humanitarian law. Ethiopia’s claim in the present case is based not upon deaths, wounds and damage at the Mekele airport, but upon the fact that Eritrean aircraft also dropped cluster bombs that killed and wounded civilians and damaged property in the vicinity of the Ayder School and the surrounding neighborhood in Mekele town. Ethiopia states that those bombs killed fifty-three civilians, including twelve school children, and wounded 185 civilians, including forty-two school children.”

Among those who were injured was Asmelash, who was already blind in both eyes. He lost his left arm during the attack, helping lead a group of citizens who were rescuing children.
When he finally recovered he was badly disabled – but he was determined not to be limited by this affliction.
He went to study law at Addis Ababa University, following this up with a Masters at the University of Amsterdam. Asmelash was working on his PhD when he was killed in this week’s operation.
Those who knew him well describe Asmelash as warm and engaging. He was someone who was always active, always engaged with his community.
Now he is mourned by those who knew him.


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