By Makonnen Tesfaye; 3rd February 2021
Testimonies on War Crimes in Tigray
(i) “By remaining actively silent for three months, that is beyond the usual empty platitude of “concern”, “alarm” “worry”; and worse by not taking concrete actions, the UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council have become complicit in the War on Tigray, Crime against Humanity and the Making of Genocide of an African people and nationality”
(M.T. – MKTUK; On UN failure to date to stand up against a genocidal war in Tigray, Ethiopia)
(ii) “Emaciated refugees to crops burned on the brink of harvest, starvation threatens the survivors of more than two months of fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The first humanitarian workers to arrive after pleading with the Ethiopian government for access describe weakened children dying from diarrhea after drinking from rivers. Shops were looted or depleted weeks ago. More than 4.5 million people, nearly the region’s entire population, need emergency food. Hundreds of thousands might starve to death and some already had, according to minutes obtained by The Associated Press. There is an extreme urgent need — I don’t know what more words in English to use — to rapidly scale up the humanitarian response because the population is dying every day as we speak,”
(Mari Carmen Vinoles, head of the emergency unit for Doctors without Borders)
(iii) “No more whitewashing: Aid is still NOT reaching civilians in desperate need in Ethiopia’s Tigray. Hunger and malnutrition reach them faster. In 40 years as humanitarian, I’ve rarely seen an aid response so impeded. We are failing as an int’l community”
(Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council)
(iv) “We are horrified by the reports and allegations we have received of sexual violence during the conflict in Tigray. The survivors of these alleged attacks must not be seen as statistics but as individual women and girls whose lives have been profoundly altered by the violations committed against them”
(Gemma Connell; U.N. humanitarian chief for East and southern Africa)
(v) “I am greatly concerned by serious allegations of sexual violence in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, including a high number of alleged rapes in the capital, Mekelle. There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence. Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities, while medical centres have indicated an increase in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which is often an indicator of sexual violence in conflict. In addition, there are increasing reports of sexual violence against women and girls in a number of refugee camps.”
(Pramila Patten; Patten; The U.N. special representative on sexual violence in conflict)
(vi) “Diplomats are so conditioned to be diplomats that they consistently offer conventional responses in the face of unconventional horrors. The United Nations consists of diplomats who attempt to resolve every issue by talking it over, even when that simply will not work. In addition to this fault, the United Nations is set up as a faultily structured system”.
(Samantha Power, an expert on genocide and former US Ambassador to the UN)
(vii) “What happened in Rwanda showed that despite the creation of an organization set up to prevent a repetition of genocide – for the UN is central to this task – it failed to do so, even when the evidence was indisputable.”
(L.R. Melvern, an investigative journalist who researched the Rwandan genocide)
- Background and Context of the War on Tigray
1.1 It is now three months since the armies of the Ethiopian Federal Government, the Eritrean Regime, the Somali Federal Government Forces and the Amahra Regional Government Special Forces and Militia invasion and occupation of the Regional National State of Tigray, an autonomous and self-governing Region in the Federal Government of Ethiopia. In addition, the War on Tigray has been supported by drones and war technologies provided by the United Arab Emirates and with the active approval and support of the former Trump Administration as well as the knowledge and tacit approval of, or at best the indifference of the UK and French governments, to mention but some.
1.2 The motive for the invasion of Tigray are simple and obvious for those who are objective observers of Ethiopian politics since the advent to power of the dictatorial regime of Abiy Ahmed three years ago and the long standing political machinations and vengeance agenda of the President of Eritrea, Isaias Afewerki. The relative peace and tranquillity, the prevalence of law and order and the focus on economic development in Tigray prior to the commencement of war provided a sharp contrast to the dire conditions prevailing in the rest of Ethiopia, or the thirty years of absolute dictatorship and economic stagnation in Eritrea. Abiy Ahmed’s and the Prosperity Party rule outside Tigray was characterised by the break-down of law and order; rule by military command posts; civil unrest and ethnic clashes; the internal displacement of millions of civilians and an economy in a free fall. This contrast was unpalatable to the Abiy Ahmed and his cronies in the Prosperity Party, or Isaias Afewerki. Moreover, unlike Abiy Ahmed who unconstitutionally extended his power and Isaias’ thirty years of dictatorial rule, Tigray chose to hold a democratic Regional Election as prescribed by the Ethiopian Constitution, which to the detriment of the Federal Government signified its self-determination and autonomous self-rule. Furthermore, Tigray defended the democratic federal constitution against the supporters of the old regime who seek to throw Ethiopian politics back to the eras of the Monarchy and the Derg that undermined the self-determination of the 84+ oppressed nationalities that make up 80% of the population. Moreover, the TPLF refusal to join Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party and its fidelity to the former EPRDF’s policy on democratic federalism and a democratic developmental state vision of progress further antagonised the Abiy Cliques’ neoliberal dependent state political and ideological mission. In short, Tigray is a thorn to the ancient regime forces that seek to reverse the victory and establishment of a Democratic Federalist State by the oppressed nationalities of Ethiopia in 1991. The war on Tigray is the result of the combined Menelikian, Haileselassie and Mengistu retribution against Tigray, its people, its Government and its vanguard party, the TPLF, masterminded by the unholy alliance of Abiy Ahmed, Amhara expansionists and Isaias Afewerki.
1.3 The War on Tigray is utterly barbaric and total in character and operation. Not only is it waged by armies consisting of several hundreds of thousands of soldiers armed to the teeth and employing drones and war technologies, it is also aimed at destroying the social and economic fabric of Tigray and its people. It is characterised by mass atrocities and killings; common occurrence of massacres; the weaponisation of sexual violence and rape as an instrument of war; the use of hunger and starvation to subjugate the population; the commission of war crimes by depriving the people access to water, food, medicine, electricity, phones, transport or banking services. It has been deliberately and insidiously planned and executed during the debilitating Covid-19 Pandemic, the onset of a devastating Locust Invasion and just prior to the harvesting of crops that are vital to existential livelihood of millions of farmers. Moreover, the war on Tigray is also aimed destroying Tigray’s cultural and religious heritages as shown by the bombing of churches, monasteries and mosques that are Tigray’s depositories of its cultural and religious artefacts. Similarly, the bombing of civilian infrastructure, factories and industries, hospitals and schools is aimed at tearing down the social and economic fabric of the people and Region. In character, motive, operation and relative scale of Tigray’s population in relations to the invading forces of four countries, the War on Tigray has the cunning similarities to the barbaric Nazi invasion of Eastern Europe, or the Nanking massacres perpetrated by the Japanese militarists, or the carpet bombing of North Vietnam. Some have aptly described the crude and cruel indiscriminate mass killings of civilians and the wanton destruction and pillage of property by the Eritrean army, the Ethiopian Federal forces, and the Amhara Special Forces, Militia and Fano Paramilitary resembling the architype Genghis Khan’s armies. In short, the War on Tigray is not merely a conventional war between armies but is a total war of annihilation of a people and a nationality.
1.4 The War on Tigray is genocide of a people and a nationality in the making. This is because the regime of Abiy Ahmed is unashamedly and openly ethnic profiling, targeting and cleansing Tigrayans. This is well documented and verified, and is being done in broad day light in the Country’s Medina, under the nose of the diplomatic communities who reside in Addis Ababa. Tigrayans are cleansed in toto from the civil service, public agencies and enterprises including the Ethiopian Airlines, Ethio-Telecom and banking institutions. Tigrayans have been kicked out from public housing on the basis of their ethnicity. Hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans have been vilified, demonised, harassed and looted. Tigrayans right to travel outside the country is severely restricted. The barring of the daughter of the former PM of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, from travelling abroad is a case in point. Tens of thousands have been either imprisoned or interned in camps scattered in the country. Similarly, Tigrayans have been removed from the Federal Police, Army and security agencies. The Abiy regime has the audacity to even cleanse Tigrayans who work for foreign NGOs and international agencies, such as the African Union and the UNDP. This is happening without the diplomatic community raising an eyebrow. The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is being held incommunicado and under house arrest for being a Tigrayan. Even Tigrayans who reside outside the country and who work for international agencies are being targeted and vilified solely for being Tigrayans. If this is not ethnic targeting and cleansing what is it then? Ethnic targeting and cleansing is the precursor, or forerunner of the genocidal war that is being waged on Tigray. Through the physical elimination of the Tigrayan population and by weaponising hunger and famine the Abiy Ahmed-Isaias Afewerki axis of evil are engaged in the making of genocide of a people and nationality. To date and after three months of a barbaric war, short of platitudes of “concerns”, “alarms” and “worries” by international agencies and governments, there have been no concrete actions or sanctions to stop the war on Tigray and its horrendous and heinous aftermaths.
- The UN Secretary-General and UN Security Council’s Inaction and Aftermaths
2.1 The UN Secretary-General’s, Antonio Guterres’, stance, pronouncement and actions to date have been frankly disgraceful, in fact it borders on being complicit in the war on Tigray and the making of a genocide in the 21st Century. His one and only statement on the War on Tigray was on 7 December 2020 (one month after the start of the war and none since!) and it read:
“it is essential to quickly restore the rule of law, in full respect for human rights, promote social cohesion, an inclusive reconciliation, as well as to re-establish the delivery of public services and guaranteed unfettered humanitarian access. The UN is remains totally remained to supporting the African Union initiative. I have conveyed these to the PM Abiy Ahmed”.
First, the Secretary-General has bought into the narrative of Abiy Ahmed that the War in Tigray is about the “restoration of the rule of war” not an invasion of an autonomous Regional National State that sought to defend its constitutionally enshrined right to hold a regional election.
Second, the Secretary-General is satisfied that conveying his “concerns” to the authorities in Ethiopia is sufficient for addressing the problem. What did the Secretary-General expect from Abiy Ahmed? Did the Secretary-General expect Abiy Ahmed to admit his culpability and stop the war without being pressurised? Abiy Ahmed is on record for saying that he would continue the war until the complete annihilation of the region, people, Government of Tigray and its democratically elected governing party, the TPLF. He has publically refused the mediation of the African Union. He has publically refused to allow a humanitarian corridor for relief and emergency support of the millions of Tigrayans who are on a verge of starvation and famine. The one and only honourable and responsible course of action for the Secretary-General should be to report and advise the UN Security Council the facts on the ground and their catastrophic implications: the death of tens of thousands of innocent civilians to date (over 50,000 to date according to the three Opposition parties in Tigray); widespread starvation and a looming famine in scale similar to the 1984/85 famine; and the making of the genocide of a people and nationality. The abject failure of the Secretary-General to date to report and urge concrete actions to redress the calamities and catastrophes unfolding in Tigray by responsible powers and agencies is tantamount to condoning its horrendous and heinous aftermaths.
Third, the Secretary- General’s silence and total inaction since his last public statement on 7 December 2020 amounts to being an accomplice of the War on Tigray. There is no need to mince words, Mr Secretary-General! The silence is deafening. The inaction is devastating. We now know to our utter horror the war atrocities that have been committed in Tigray since. It is now more than three months since the Tigrayan population is deprived of access to food, water, medicine, banking, transport and communication. Tigray’s infrastructure, hospitals and schools have been deliberately destroyed. Tigray’s rich historical, cultural and religious heritage and artefacts are being either destroyed or looted. The occupying armies of the Ethiopian Federal Government and Eritrea are weaponising hunger and famine as a tool of war. Mass killings, wanton destruction of civilian infrastructure, pillage on an industrial scale; sexual violence and rape are common occurrences. The Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afewerki regimes have flatly refused to allow humanitarian corridors in Tigray for international emergencies and relief. Moreover, the Abiy Ahmed has categorically refused international mediation including from the African Union. Yet, the Secretary General is stuck to his early December 20020 stance, and refusing to report to the UN Security Council the catastrophes and tragedies happing in Tigray. It is by now very clear that the Secretary-General deafening silence and inaction is tantamount to being complicit in the war on Tigray and in the making of genocide of an African people and nationality. There is no escaping from this. One needs only to hear the horror felt by Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, quoted above, for the consequences of the abject failure to act by the international community, in particular the UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council.
2.2 The former Trump Administration prevented the War on Tigray from being discussed at the UN Security Council. This is in order to buy time for Abiy Ahmed to “finish the war on Tigray” (sic). The excuse provided was to let the African Union mediate between the Abiy regime and the Tigray Regional Government. Yet, it is abundantly clear that the Abiy regime has flatly refused Africa Union’s mediation. Hence, it is incumbent upon the UN Secretary-General to report Abiy’s refusal to allow a humanitarian corridor for relief and emergency support as well as report his refusal of African Union Mediation. Failure to do so by the Secretary-General is tantamount to complicity in the starvation of millions of Tigrayans, which amounts to war crime.
2.3 The inaction of Western governments, in particular the US, UK and France, to stop the War on Tigray and the making of genocide is complicity in war crime and crime against humanity. During the three months of this barbaric war all they have said to date is the usual platitudes and clichés of “concern”, “worry” and “alarm” which mean frankly nothing without concrete actions or sanctions. They have totally and completely failed the Tigrayan people to date through their indifference to at best, or tacit approval at worst of the war on Tigray. This is yet another black spot in the complicity of Western governments and a repeat of the failure of the West in preventing, or stopping war crimes and genocides as in Myanmar, Bosnia, Darfur and Rwanda.
- The African Union and the War on Tigray
3.1 The African Union’s silence and inaction on the War on Tigray and the making of genocide of an African people and nationality is yet again a manifestation of the failure of the institution. Moreover, the pronouncement by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, supporting the war mongering position of Abiy Ahmed is direct complicity in war crime and crime against humanity. This corrupt politician and condoner of ethnic targeting and crime against humanity must be exposed and condemned by all peace-loving people, in particular Africans. It is no accident that the Commissioner failed to defend his Tigrayan employees when they are ethnically profiled and deprived of their employment with the AU at the instigation of Abiy Ahmed. No doubt the Commissioner is motivated to preserve his employment as his position is open for re-election in March 2021, and he requires support by Abiy to keep his job. Shame to the merchant of war that he is.
3.2 The Abiy Ahmed Regime ethnic profiling and targeting of Tigrayans in the Capital is happing under the nose of the African Union whose HQ is in Addis Ababa. The regime has the audacity even to ethnic cleanse Tigrayans who work for the Africa Union without the institution raising an eye brow. This makes the African Union complicit in ethnic targeting and cleansing, which should have been an anathema for Africa after the tragedies in Rwanda and Darfur.
3.3 Mediation efforts, through the office of three former leaders of Africa, by the current AU Chair, Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, has been rejected by the Abiy Cliques so was the attempt to mediate by the PM of Sudan, Abdalla Hamdok. It is incumbent on these leaders to report Abiy’s refusal to AU mediation to the UN, least of all to thwart the so called “African Solution to African Problems” ploy used for inaction by the UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council. Yet, it is a tragedy that the AU has again miserably failed to stop a genocidal war in Tigray given its past abject failure in Rwanda and Darfur.
- The Way Forward
4.1 Cognizant of the abject failure of the UN Secretary-General, the UN Security Council and the African Union as well as the tacit approval, or indifference of Western governments to stop the war on Tigray, peace-loving peoples and agencies of the world must urgently demand actions from their governments to stop the war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed in Tigray as well as the making of a genocide of an African people and nationality.
- Specifically, they must urgently demand:
- the unconditional and immediate end of the War on Tigray;
- the immediate and complete withdrawal of the invading army of Eritrea from Tigray;
- the end of the use of huger and starvation to subjugate the population; and demand the unfettered access to Tigray for humanitarian relief and emergency support of the victims of war;
- condemn and demand the end of the weaponisation of sexual violence and rape as an instrument of war in Tigray;
- the investigation of war crimes, crime against humanities and the making of a genocide in Tigray by independent agencies; and bring to justice those responsible for the crimes; and
- the start of peaceful and democratic political dialogue to resolve the Country’s political challenges.
4.3 The Tigrayan people, nationality and Government continue the national liberation struggle; and Tigray, with the solidarity of peace and justice loving people, shall prevail.