(By Mekonen Tesfaye, 16 March 2021)
Testimonies of Crime Against Humanity and War Crimes in Tigray
(i) “Denial of genocide strives to reshape history in order to demonize victims and rehabilitate the perpetrators. Denial of genocide is the final stage of genocide. It is what Elie Wiesel has called a “double killing.” Denial murders the dignity of survivors and seeks to destroy remembrance of the crime. In a century plagued by genocide, we affirm the moral necessity of remembering – ‘or acknowledging and stopping it when it is happening’- MT”.
“Statement by Concerned Scholars and Writers, Armenian National Institute, April 24, 1998, accessed 3 March 2021)”
(ii) “A Pogrom is happening in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is killing its own citizens wantonly. That is chilling, but true: by attempting to extirpate Ethiopia of Tigrayan ethnicity and heritage, Ethiopia’s military and government stands accused of purposeful ethnic cleansing, a precursor to all-out genocide, as outlawed by the UN Convention against Genocide”
(Professor Robert Rotberg, Former President of the World Peace Foundation; 28 January 2021)
(iii)“In my 30 yrs humanitarian work in brutalised places e.g. Darfur, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Bosnia, I have never came across situations like #Ethiopia #Tigray where military deliberately sets out to occupy/destroy most health facilities. World Record in Human Degradation”
(Professor Mukesh Kapila; Writer, Author & Global Health Humanitarian; Twitter; 14 March 2021)
(iv) “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)
(v) “Ethiopian officials and allied militia fighters are leading a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in Tigray, the war-torn region in northern Ethiopia, according to an internal United States government report obtained by The New York Times. The report, written earlier this month, documents in stark terms a land of looted houses and deserted villages where tens of thousands of people are unaccounted for. Fighters and officials from the neighboring Amhara region of Ethiopia, who entered Tigray in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, are “deliberately and efficiently rendering Western Tigray ethnically homogeneous through the organized use of force and intimidation,” the report says. ‘Whole villages were severely damaged or completely erased’, the report said.”
(The New York Times; 26 February 2021)
(vi) “By completely buying into Abiy Ahmed’s false and empirically debunked narrative of the causes and incidences of the Genocidal War on Tigray, the UNDP Ethiopia has lost the semblance of impartiality, integrity and professionalism that are the core principles of the UN, thereby bringing the Institution into disrepute”
(GSTP; 11 March 2021)
(vii) “ When, for more than a year, the Abiy Ahmed regime conducted ethnic profiling, targeting and cleansing of Tigrayans in Addis Ababa under the nose of the diplomatic communities, including those who work for UNDP Ethiopia, the UN system failed to raise an eyebrow let alone protest. These have been the precursor of the now out-and-out genocidal War on Tigray”
(MT; MKTUK; 8 March 2021)
(viii) “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)
1.Background and Context of the War on Tigray
1.1 The UNDP Ethiopia’s “Leaked Note to the UNSG” penned by Achim Steiner and Ahunna Eziakonwa, UNDP Administrator and African Regional Director respectively, on 16 February 2021 on the current situation in Tigray and Ethiopia is a complete falsification and denial of the objective and subjective conditions prevailing in Tigray and Ethiopia at large. First, the Note denies the unfolding catastrophes of the Genocidal War in Tigray unleashed by the dictatorial regimes of Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, Isaias Afewerki of Eritrean and Amhara Expansionists, and their horrendous aftermaths to date. There is one and only one word for it, which is complicity in or whitewashing by denial – a label of Genocide Denier fits the bill. There is by now almost total unanimity globally based on verified and corroborated evidence from multiple sources that the War in Tigray is characterised by mass atrocities and massacres (e.g. the Axum Massacre of 800+ civilians and the Mariam Dengolat Massacre of 164 innocent citizens, amongst many other reported massacres); the wanton destruction of civilian infrastructure, property and cultural and religious heritage sites; the weaponisation of hunger and starvation as a stratagem; and the prevalence of sexual violence and rape as an instrument of war in Tigray. This is in essence what UNDP Ethiopia, Achim Steiner and Ahunna Eziakonwa deny is happening in Tigray. Second, they tell a completely false and biased narrative of the causes of the War on Tigray. It totally buys into Abiy Ahmed’s now largely debunked “law and order operation” justification for starting the war; and instead accuses the Tigray Government and the elected governing party, the TPLF[i]. The War on Tigray has been in the making since the advent to power of Abiy Ahmed, and in collaboration with Isaias Afewerki who has a vengeful agenda against Tigray and its Government, and Amahra Expansionists’ long standing goal of ethnically cleansing and annexing the land and people of Western and Southern Tigray[ii].
1.2 The War on Tigray was strategised, planned and executed under the euphoria of Abiy’s “Peace with Eritrea” and “Democratic Reform” in Ethiopia, which are now a farce and the opposite. There is no peace with Eritrea, instead it has invaded and occupied a Regional National State, Tigray, committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Abiy Ahmed invited a foreign government, Eritrean regime, to invade and occupy Ethiopian territory, Tigray, thereby undermining the country’s sovereignty. This deed of Abiy Ahmed is unprecedented in the country’s history. Moreover, it is treason of the highest order. All these for the purpose of settling domestic political difference. Abiy Ahmed is not a democratic reformer but a blood- thirsty dictator who has waged wars in every corner of the country, placing every region under military command posts and completely shut-downing the political landscape by imprisoning all the opposition politicians and silencing the independent media.
1.3 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 those who understand the long standing political machinations and vengeance agenda of the President of Eritrea, Isaias Afewerki, and Amhara Expansionists’ revanchist goals. Large segments of domestic and world public opinions were initially hoodwinked big time by Abiy’s false credentials, including as a Nobel Peace Prize Winner, which should now read Nobel War Prize Winner, if there was, god forbids, a prize for infamy. The truth, which has now transpired, is that 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 under Abiy Ahmed, 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 in Oromia, the South, Benishangul-Gumuz and the Somali Regions; widespread politically instigated civil unrest and ethnic clashes; the internal displacement of over two millions of civilians; the imprisonment of opposition politicians; the suppression of the independent media and an economy in a free fall. This sharp contrast was unpalatable and unsustainable to the Abiy Ahmed’s image and his cronies in the Prosperity Party, or Isaias Afewerki because it stands them in bad stead politically and ideologically.
1.4 The single most important cause of the outbreak of the War on Tigray was the Tigray Regional Election. Unlike Abiy Ahmed who unconstitutionally extended his power, or Isaias’ thirty years of absolute dictatorial rule in Eritrea, Tigray chose to hold a successful free and democratic Regional Election as prescribed by the Ethiopian Federal Constitution, which to the detriment of Abiy Ahmed and his party signified the assertion of Tigray’s self-determination and autonomous self-rule. It exposed the essentially undemocratic nature and the illegitimacy of the Abiy Cliques’ authority at the centre. Hence, Abiy’s political calculation of the unsustainability of the co-existence of elected authority in the periphery and unelected power at the Centre. For Abiy one has to give way. It was Abiy Ahmed who laid bare his intentions publically and unashamedly in his TV broadcast in July 2020 that if Tigray held its Regional Election that he would not hesitate to: “Unleash war on Tigray… that his Army has the capacity and readiness to do so….and that Tigrayan mothers and children will weep”. The mobilisation of the Ethiopian Armed forces, the troops of the Eritrean regime and the Amhara Expansionists’ Special Forces and Militia was in the making for months before the 4th of November. Similarly, the strategy of four-front encirclement and the total annihilation of Tigray was finalised by Ethiopian, Eritrean and Amhara General Staff and a Command and Control Centre that was co-chaired by Abiy, Isaias and attended by the President of the Amhara Regional State, ready for implementation and waiting for a trigger. The war intention and the subsequent act of war are facts that cannot be whitewashed by UNDP Ethiopia or others. The “law and order operation” justification following the so called TPLF attack on the Northern Command is a farce, a poorly cobbled drama (con artistry) made up not to appear as the instigator of the War on Tigray. The war was waiting to happen, in particular after Tigray held its Reginal Election in September 2020. It was a question of when not if when one examines Abiy’s policies and actions against Tigray for the preceding two to three years (e.g. the cutting of transport and telecommunication links with Tigray; the economic and budgetary pressures; cancelling of federal projects in Tigray; barring of foreign direct investment in Tigray; denying Tigray resources for fighting the Covid-19 Pandemic and the Locust Invasion; and the relentless propaganda and psychological warfare waged against Tigrayans, the Government of Tigray and the ruling party, the TPLF).
“The feud between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the ruling party in the strategically important Tigray region is escalating, raising fears of military confrontation. The tensions revolve around the regional government’s decision to press ahead with organising its own election for the Tigray parliament on Wednesday, in an unprecedented act of defiance against the federal government. But pro-Abiy hardliners, including former army General Kassaye Chemeda, have called for military intervention in Tigray: ‘The government should plan well, and they (TPLF) should be attacked,’ he said in an interview with the government-affiliated Walta TV. The International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank says that some federal officials have raised the possibility of retaliating by taking “punitive” action against the Tigray government”.
(BBC Africa, BBC Tigrinya Correspondent, Desta Gebremedhin; 5 September, 2020)
These should be known to UNDP Ethiopia, Steiner and Eziakonwa (with willing eyes and ears). Hence, to paint the cause of the War on Tigray otherwise is a deliberate falsification of realities in Tigray and Ethiopia.
1.5 An affront to Abiy Ahmed and Amhara Expansionists is Tigray’s defence of the Democratic Federal Constitution of Ethiopia. The Ancient Regime reactionary forces who now control the state in Ethiopia seek to throw the Ethiopian political order back to the eras of the Monarchy and the Derg Military Junta that suppressed the democratic rights and self-determination of the 84+ oppressed nationalities that make up 85% 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’ subservient-dependent state ideological mission. In short, unlike UNDP Ethiopia’s false narrative, 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 and concentrated Menelikian, Hailesellasiette, Dergist and their present-day political descendants’ vengeance. It is a politico-military retribution against Tigray, its people, its Government and its vanguard party, the TPLF. This masterminded and strategised by the unholy alliance of Abiy Ahmed, Amhara Expansionists and Isaias Afewerki.
2. UNDP Ethiopia Complicity in Ethnic Profiling, Targeting and Cleansing in Ethiopia
“To ignore evil is to become accomplice to it.” Dr Martin Luther King JR
2.1 The UNDP Ethiopia, by denying the facts and fabricating falsehood about the War on Tigray is complicit in the ongoing ethnic targeting and cleansing of Tigrayans in Ethiopia and the making of genocide of an African people and nationality in the 21st Century. 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 Capital, under the nose of the diplomatic communities, including the UNDP Ethiopia that resides in Addis Ababa[iii]. It is now common knowledge that Tigrayans are ethnically cleansed in toto from the civil service, public agencies and enterprises including the Ethiopian Airlines, Ethio-Telecom and banking institutions. Similarly, Tigrayans have been removed from the Federal Police, Army and security agencies. The ethnic targeting and victimisation extends to Tigrayan troops who serve under the United Nations Peace-Keeping Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISON), set up to fight Al-Shabaab terrorists. Tigrayans have been kicked out from public housing in Addis Ababa 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 high profile case in point. Tens of thousands have been either imprisoned or interned in camps scattered in the country. The Abiy regime has the audacity to even ethnically cleanse Tigrayans who work for foreign NGOs and international agencies based in the country, such as the African Union and the UNDP (e.g. the ethnic profiling of Tigrayans who worked for UNDP offices/projects in Bihar Dar on behest of the Amhara Regional Government). This is happening without the diplomatic community, including UNDP Ethiopia, 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. The Abiy Ahmed regime’s orchestrated campaign of vilification directed at the Director-General of the WHO, a Tigrayan, is an example of the extent the regime is prepared to ethnically target Tigrayans wherever they are.
2.2 The upshot is that ethnic targeting and cleansing is official, open, deliberate, systemic, widespread and relentless. It 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 four months of a barbaric war, short of platitudes and diplomatic clichés of “concerns”, “alarms” and “worries” by most international agencies and governments, there have been no concrete actions or sanctions to stop the horrors of the war on Tigray and its horrendous and heinous aftermaths. It is important that the falsehood and complicity of agencies, such as UNDP Ethiopia, are called out and held to account.
2.3 In contrast, humanitarian organisations, such as the MSF (Doctors-without-Borders), have highlighted, often working on the ground, the horrors of the War on Tigray:[iv]
“The attacks on Tigray’s health facilities are having a devastating impact on the population. Health facilities and health staff need to be protected during a conflict, in accordance with international humanitarian law. This is clearly not happening in Tigray. Hospitals, healthcare centres and clinics across Ethiopia’s Tigray region have been looted, vandalised and destroyed in a deliberate and widespread attack on healthcare, according to MSF teams on the ground. Of 106 health facilities visited by Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) teams between mid-December and early March, nearly 70 percent had been looted and more than 30 percent had been damaged. Just 13 percent were functioning normally and in some places the looting is ongoing.
(Oliver Behn; MSF General Director; 15 March 2021)
3. UNDP Ethiopia Supporting Dictatorship and Facilitating a Sham Election in Ethiopia
3.1 The UN, through the Department of Political and Peace-building Affairs (DPPA), provides policy, technical and logistics support to developing countries that endeavour to democratise. This support is implemented and co-ordinated through the UNDP country offices. The UN aims and objective of promoting and supporting democratisation by developing institutions and capacity-building is a noble idea and must be supported. The UNDP Ethiopia co-ordinates the “Supporting Elections for Ethiopia’s Democratic Strengthening (SEEDS)” project, set up in June 2019 with a budget of US$ 40 million (where the UK is the single largest contributor). The objectives of the project are to make the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) become more efficient, transparent and trusted institution; and to facilitate an inclusive, transparent and credible general election in Ethiopia.
3.2 Yet, since the start of the project the NEBE has become a complete stooge of Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party, and Berhanu Nega’s and Birtukan Mideksa’ EZEMA Party (aka. Kinigit – Neo-Neftegna Party), losing complete trust and credibility from the populace, in particular the oppressed nationalities that make up 85% of the country. The NEBE, on the behest of Abiy’s Prosperity Party (PP) and Berhanu Nega’s’ EZEMA, has excluded almost all the Opposition Parties from participating in the electoral process. Literally all the leading Opposition Parties including the OLF, OFC, TPLF, Somali, Afar, Benishangul-Gumuz and Gambella parties have been excluded, where their organisations are banned and their leaders imprisoned (including the well-known Jawar Mohammed, Bekele Gerba and Doud Ibsa who have huge and majority constituency in Oromia and Addis Ababa/Finfine, which alone is close to 50% of the population of Ethiopia!). The SEEDS project is staffed by PP and EZEMA party functionaries and allied consultants. Instead of expanding the political space and preparing the ground for free elections, Ethiopia is under the total grip of a dictatorship where the country is governed by military command posts, where wars are waged on nationalities that seek democracy and self-determination. All opposition parties are effectively banned with their leaderships languishing in prisons. All the independent media are closed where hundreds of journalists are imprisoned. It is under this context, and with the explicit collaboration and support of the UNDP Ethiopia, that the Dictator is preparing for a general election, which is a total and complete travesty of democracy. Yet, the UNDP Ethiopia has the audacity to pontificate about democracy in Ethiopia and seeks to cover the back of Abiy Ahmed. The UNDP Ethiopia has taken a completely patrician party-political position in defending Abiy’s Prosperity Party and in creating and supporting the illusion that Ethiopia is in a position to conduct a free, fair and credible general election in June 2021. The holding of a sham general election would only exacerbate Ethiopia’s political ills and challenges as well exposes UNDP Ethiopia’s negative roles and irresponsibility for the adverse consequences.
4. UNDP Ethiopia and SEEDS Project – A Bastion of Neo-Neftegna and Allied Elites?
4.1 The UNDP Ethiopia, the SEEDS Project and its network of consultants have become a bastion of Neo–Neftegna and Allied Elites who are hell-bent in undermining democracy and the oppressed peoples and nationalities of Ethiopia, in particular against the democratic and nationalist forces in Tigray, Oromia, Wolaytta, Sidama and Benishangul-Gumuz who are at the forefront of the struggle to defend self-determination, federalism and democracy in the country. Their negative roles and influence undermine the core principles of the UN, which are integrity, impartiality and professionalism as demonstrated by the UNDP Ethiopia’s patently false account and narrative of the objective and subjective conditions prevailing in Tigray and Ethiopia. This is no accident but apparent given the built-in bias within the UNDP Ethiopia.
4.2 The Steiner/Eziakonwa political malaise and their Neo-Neftegna Elites and Allies biased and negative influence on the whole policy positioning and actions of UNDP Ethiopia are extremely worrying. They undermine the fundamental UN principles of integrity, impartiality and professionalism. Mr Steiner’s profoundly mistaken narrative about conflicts in developing countries is not only about Ethiopia. In a similar context and commenting on the Yemenis and Libyan tragedies on Al Jazeera (12.01.2019), Steiner is on record in absolving UN responsibilities for the lack of concrete actions to redress the horrendous aftermaths of the wars, when he cynically remarked: “the UN cannot make miracles in Yemen, or Libya”. Similarly and in the context of Tigray, this is akin to saying: ‘Tigray is essentially on its own; the troubles in the Region are of its own making, or the TPLF’s; do not blame Abiy Ahmed; do not expect the UN to do miracles in Tigray’. Wow, with such friends who needs enemies! In other words, they are predisposed to blaming victims rather than the perpetrators and absolving the UN’s roles and responsibilities in defending human rights and redressing the aftermaths of conflicts and wars whether in Libya, Yemen, or Tigray.
5. Whither UNDP Ethiopia?
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” – Dr Martin Luther King JR
5.1 The deliberately ‘leaked’ Note written to the UNSG by Steiner and Eziakonwa is designed as a countervailing account to what is now the dominant narrative of the truths coming out of Tigray. This is but the UNDP is playing gutter politics on issues of war and peace. For Tigrayans and Ethiopians in general, it is adding insult to injury by the UNDP Ethiopia. It is doubling down on its complicity in the cover-up of the crimes against humanity in Tigray committed by the dictators Abiy Ahmed, Isaias Afewerki and Amhara Expansionists.
5.2 The UNDP Ethiopia presence is severely politically compromised, ditching the UN’s core principles. It is has become non-patrician and has been captured from within by the Neo-Neftegna political agenda, often playing an anti-democratic influence on the body politics of the country. Similarly, the UNDP Ethiopia is increasingly functioning as politico-bureaucratic-funder outfit of the Abiy Ahmed regime, sustaining and giving credence to his dictatorship and war-mongering.
5.3The UNDP Ethiopia are facilitating and funding a sham general election in Ethiopia scheduled for June 2021, and this must be called out and exposed. The conduct of an election under a completely closed political space and under a total dictatorship, and giving credence to such process will only exacerbate Ethiopia’s political challenges. These are bound to lead to the further disintegration of the state and society. The NEBE is a complete stooge of the Abiy Ahmed, Berhanu Nega and Birtukan Mideksa Cliques (the Troika of the nemesis of democracy in Ethiopia) and cannot be trusted to enable and facilitate a free, fair and credible general election under the current political landscape of the country, where there is a total prevalence of repression by a dictatorship and raging regional wars. The General Election is designed and bound to be the ‘crowing’ of a war-mongering and brutal dictatorship (as the‘7th King of Ethiopia’ according to the fabricated mythology of Abiy Ahmed).
5.4 It is important to call out this and identify the key culprits within the UNDP Ethiopia and bring them to account for bringing the UN to disrepute. It is also important to recognise that the views of the Steiner’s, Eziakonwa’s and their Neo-Neftegna allies are a minority narrative, and that the vast body of opinions, including within the UN system, on the War on Tigray is contrary to theirs. Indeed, Tigray has many friends and defenders who speak the truth:
“What is now abundantly clear to all is that Eritrean troops are operating throughout Ethiopia’s Northern Region and well-corroborated reports suggest they are responsible for atrocities. Multiple credible and widely corroborated reports from Tigray speak of widespread atrocities, including mass killings and abduction of civilians”
(Mark Lowcock; Head of UN OCHA, 4 March 2021)
“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)
5.5 The Secretary-General of the UN has now acknowledged the presence of and has called for the immediate withdrawal of the invading armies of Isaias Afewerki from Tigray. Notwithstanding belatedly, he has denounced the use of hunger and starvation as a stratagem of war, which is bold and to be commended:
“The intentional use of the starvation of civilians as a method of waging war is a war crime. This week I urged the @UN Security Council to seek accountability for these atrocious acts and to remind parties to conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law”.
(Antonio Guterres, Twitter, 13 March 2021)
5.6 Determined not to allow the repeat in Tigray the tragedies of Rwanda or Darfur, the resolute national liberation struggle of Tigrayans continues, and the truth shall always prevails.
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