(By Aynalem Sebhatu, 16 March 2021) –
Much has been talked of the unspeakable horrors of massacres and unrelenting sexual violence of girls and women in Tigray. As if that is not enough, a gruesome parade of inhumanity is recorded in a video and shared in social media this week. The clips show a woman gang raped and violated with blunt objects by Eritrean soldiers and another clip show soldiers of the Amhara forces summarily executing innocent Tigrayans with ease and joy as if their diabolical acts nourish their soulless bodies. The barbarity of these acts is scary, shocking and sickening all at once.
Then, on the heels of such acts of egregious atrocities, the parade of hatred took place in Washington DC and Toronto tending to evoke a sense of solidarity and support for the genocidal war in Tigray. Some political rallies and their messages are noble and acceptable, some are harmless, but some are unacceptable and damaging. It is like the difference between using a pen to write and a pen to poke someone’s eyes. Which brings us to the demonstration of Ethiopians and chanting against the TPLF. It is their right to chant and oppose the TPLF as much as they would like. But the problem is this is happening when the international community’s attention is mesmerized by the horrors of the atrocities committed by the Amhara, Ethiopian and Eritrean forces. The political rally deliberately ignored the big elephant in the room. There is no ambiguity to the indifference of Ethiopians about the suffering of Tigrayans or any context in which a rational observer might think otherwise. It is unreal and morally repugnant and forces me to ask: are we living in the same universe? Never mind that we are living in the same country.
It is March madness in Washington DC and in Toronto. At this point in time, I will be surprised if the march of “fires of hatred” does not catch up with other major urban areas around the world. Perhaps the time has come, to borrow Norman Naimark’s title of his book “fires of hatred,” to characterize the rallying cry of diaspora Ethiopians and supporters of Isaias Afewerki in Washington DC. I gave them credit for their magnificent demonstration of the art of deception and denials. The point must be reemphasized; they made history in support of genocidal war and ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans within the limits of their chauvinistic and hypocritical mind-sets. What they did was to hammer out a vigorous justification for ethnic cleansing, committed by the Amhara forces and the Eritrean force, which would both reinforce the “law enforcement operation” of Abiy Ahmed and be acceptable to the people of Ethiopia.
At least, the participants of the demonstration could have condemned the unspeakable atrocities committed by the Eritrean army. Instead, they armed themselves with the “internal affairs” mantra; stood by Abiy Ahmed, the Isaias army and the Amhara forces when they were committing heinous war crimes and executing genocidal war with impunity. In this context, the demonstrators were also incomprehensible even by their own conduct of understanding of “ethnic cleansing.” They always talk about how wrong “ethnic cleansing” in Metekel, in Oromia or in other parts of Ethiopia is. In short, their stand on genocide and their messages were simply convoluted, grossly unethical and immoral by our 21st century standard of understanding of humanity.
In order to put the demonstration in proper context, we have to look at the history of the diaspora Ethiopians’ politics being dominated by Amhara extremists. No doubt the goals of the Amhara elites were subversive to the existing constitution and to the federalist political order for a long time. At the same time, they were endowed with certain potent political assets, such as the dominance of mass media and social media. At a risk of becoming boring, it must be reiterated again that the one weapon in their arsenal was an effective mobilization of public opinion by spreading lies, misinformation and conspiracy theories. Indubitably they were plotting to establish a much stronger central government led by Amhara elites thereby using the federal powers to exact revenge on their perceived enemies.
Given these ambitions, the Amhara political elites targeted and undermined the TPLF for a long time. The problem is they utilized their mass media and affiliated social media to demonize the TPLF as well as the people of Tigray without any distinction for a long time. They cultivated Amhara’s indignations; planted seeds of hatred in the political souls of unsuspecting people of Amhara, and they harmonized the torches of hatred against Tigrayans for a long time. Thus, the chauvinists must carry the fight into the immediately perceived enemy fortress and demand unconditional surrender. Rarely will the Amhara extremists settle for political tolerance, rational political discourse and resolve their grievances using law and order prescribed by the constitution of the country.
At the end, it should come as no surprise that they pushed for war against Tigray and that gave them a cover for exterminating, rape, looting, destruction of properties and expelling Tigrayans from the western and southern Tigray with impunity. Neither should it be a surprise that the rally ignores to condemn all the forces that are committing the unspeakable atrocities in Tigray.
While it is popular and convenient to blame the TPLF for the war crimes committed in Tigray, the Amhara chauvinists are providing political scapegoats and argue that responsibility cannot be laid on their doorsteps. This argument, while doubtlessly appealing to those with categorical hatred towards TPLF, strikes me as merely irrelevant and wanders off down a dead-end street. Because it always fails to distinguish between the people of Tigray and the TPLF. Here one asks, for example, Did Abiy’s “law enforcement operation” justify the killings, bombing, raping and looting of civilians? In fact, the fundamental responsibility for the war crimes in Tigray must be placed on the Amhara chauvinists and their political leaders, Abiy Ahmed and his military rank and files, Isaias army and those who incited and are encouraging the war crimes in Tigray.
Tigray will prevail!
Eternal glory to our martyrs!