The forgotten People of Tigray

The forgotten People of Tigray

With a population of approximately 7 million people, the war in Tigray has some horrific statistics:
150 thousand people killed;
2.2 million internally displaced;
60 thousand have taken refuge in Sudan (a third of them are children);
5.2 million people need food assistance;
400,000 are experiencing famine conditions.
This genocide is also being conducted through weaponisation of hunger and rape in addition to ransacked healthcare facilities, mass killings and war crimes at the hands of Ethiopian troops (supported by the Eritrean army). Plus, the Ethiopian government continues to disregard to comply with UN recommendations.

Tigray is the northernmost region of the federal state of Ethiopia; it is landlocked and bordered by Eritrea, Sudan, and the Afar and Amhara regions of Ethiopia.
This wonderful land is known for its mountainous terrains that have often helped the people protect their territory from invaders, such as the Greeks, the Turkish, and the Italians.
The region is geo-politically strategic in the Horn of Africa, being rich in minerals, gemstones, and potentially petroleum shales.
The history of Tigray is very ancient, and it started one thousand years BC with the D’mt Kingdom: that’s why the area hosts many historic monuments as well as buildings from the three major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which were brought over to Ethiopia across the Red Sea.

Although some other factors are at play (religious and economic for example), the differences in ideologies between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed are at the core of the conflict.

Attesting to this, we can see what happened in the crucial last years: the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was selected to lead The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (a coalition of parties that included the socialist Tigray’s People Liberation Front) and to start a progressive reform agenda, but he quickly moved to distance himself from the coalition and the country’s multi-nationalist constitution and in 2019 he even dissolved the EPRDF coalition to form the liberal Prosperity Party.
TPLF, the leading party of Tigray, did not agree with the Prosperity Party’s reform methodology and felt like it strayed from federalism disregarding the democratic reform process, and which side-lined ethnic minorities, including Tigrayans.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front rejected unelected Prime Minister Ahmed’s newly formed Prosperity Party to voice their condemnation for a centralist system.
The federal system is vital to the TPLF, the biggest Tigray left-wing party, and other minority or marginalized ethnic groups in Ethiopia, and they helped to organize the current Ethiopian federal system that had been enforced since 1995.
According to People of Tigray, returning to a unitarist or centralist system denies the oppressive relationship that led to the wars of liberation and the formation of the 1994 Constitution and it ignores the complexity behind the foundation of the Ethiopian state.

A recent turning point has been the fact that Tigray Government implemented the right to self-determination granted by the constitution in Tigray’s 2020 regional election, and this decision was immediately opposed by the PM Abiy Ahmed.
In an already overheated situation, one particular event lit the match: on 29 June 2020, the Ethiopian civil rights activist and singer Hachalu Hundessa was shot in Addis Ababa. He was killed a week after criticizing PM Ahmed’s reforms. His death sparked mass protests and 239 youth were killed by police and military: in response the government started to take down the internet to not allow people to organise an opposing reaction.
According to the NGO Human Rights Watch, the politically motivated Internet shutdowns have intensified in severity and duration under the leadership of Abiy Ahmed despite the country’s rapid digitalization and reliance on cellular internet connectivity in recent years.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde shakes hands with Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed Ali in Washington, DC. July 27, 2018.
Photo by IMF – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

By 2020, all regions in Ethiopia, except for Tigray, had a president appointed by the Prime Minister. This exacerbated further uprisings amongst the ongoing democratic struggles in Oromia, Qimant, Wolayta, Benishangul Gumuz, and Sidama to which the government and regional police responded with violent suppression, which resulted in massacres and mass displacement in the millions.

PM Abiy Ahmed postponed the 2020 elections in August, by citing COVID-19 as a justification. TPLF called it unconstitutional and an attempt to extend his term and illegally consolidate power, but PM Abiy Ahmed warned TPLF that if they were to hold regional elections, then conflict would ensue, “mothers would mourn and buildings would be destroyed.”
Tigray regional government decided to move forward by holding elections in September and TPLF won by a landslide.
Eventually, on 3 November 2020, the Ethiopian federal government led by the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Abiy Ahmed Ali, declared war on Tigray and the People of Tigray!

The PM enforced a telecommunication shutdown on the entire region and asserted that the domestic operation would not kill any civilians and would only last 3-5 days.
Also, PM’s Office suspended the licenses of BBC and Reuters, two of the largest international media organizations covering the conflict.
As the conflict worsened, PM Abiy rebuffed any suggestions of mediation by the African Union despite TPLF leadership continued requesting negotiations and an all inclusive dialogue.

On 21 November the Ethiopian military warned civilians that there would be “no mercy” if the residents don’t “save themselves” during a final offensive to capture the capital Mekelle. Shortly after, the PM declared the war was over although the war continued.

In addition, from north the People of Tigray have to face another enemy, the Eritrean forces of the President Isaias Afwerki, a totalitarian dictator responsible for systematic human rights violations and crimes against humanity. The federal government repeatedly denied claims of Eritrean forces involvement in the war, however government officials publicly admitted the Eritrea’s presence in Tigray after mounting evidence was revealed: a few days ago Ethiopia’s army used the country’s flagship commercial airline (Ethiopian Airlines) to shuttle weapons to and from Eritrea.

Photo by Albertus Zerk3 –  Demo in Genf in April 2021 – released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

Also, women in Tigray have been subjected to obscene sexual violence by Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers and local militia men from the Amhara region who are supporting the genocide.
On top of starvation, internal displacement, and the kidnapping of their children, women in Tigray are facing the daily use of rape as a weapon of war in their communities.

The war is being fought in the dark, with a communication blackout, independent journalists barred, internal journalists intimidated, and NGO volunteers threatened or killed.
Tigray is under siege.

The International Community of western “democratic” countries that prized Abiy Ahmed with the Nobel for Peace should be able to find a solution and stop him continuing with this massacre, as well as they should stop selling weapons to Ethiopia.

Are they accomplices?
Our answer is: yes, they are.
And their dirty game is facilitated by the fact this genocide is not highlighted by the mainstream media.
Help People of Tigray by spreading the message about what is happening to them as much as possible!

Sources: Tigray Youth NetworkOmna Tigray.

Cover photo: Xevi V – Noies Tigray – released under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

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