The genocidal undercurrent powering the war on Tigray
There is a long history of ant-Tigrayan preaching in Amharic and also in Eritrea, especially from the fall of Tigray as a political center in the 1890s. Just to give an example of the demonization of Tigrayans in Menelik’s Ethiopia, Menelik’s Chronbicler, Afewerk Gebreyesus, writing in his book Menelik II, said “[when Tigrayans speak] in their language which lacerates the throat, pregnant women undergo miscarriage while the breast of women who just had delivery dries out.”
With time, the intensity of anti-Tigrayan hate and preaching has been growing. Emperor Haileselassie and Mengstu Hailemariam used to denigrate Tigrayans as the cause for the deterioration of Ethiopia’s international image. Mengstu used to say “it is because of this region [Tigray] that Ethiopia is seen as poor and hungry; there is no famine in the rest of the country”. We also find hate against Tigrayans in religious books and the hagiography of Ethiopian saints. Recently, there has been a large body of speech and text likening Tigrayans to the Jews of Germany and calls for “Ethiopians” to take lessons from “Nazi Germany’s heroic extermination techniques”. Of special relevance here are Eskinder Nega’s newspaper, Asqual, and ESAT, a 10-year-old Amhara diaspora television. Eskinder’s Asqual, under a column “exterminate the Jew” which run for more than a year, instigated Ethiopians to do what Nazi Germany did to the Jews.
ESAT, once a fringe diaspora anti-Tigray hate media funded by Isaias and Egypt, is now the main media for Abiy Ahmed and his circle. ESAT has, since its founding, preached anti-Tigray hate. In 2017, when Amhara and Oromo protests were intense, ESAT broadcast what it claimed was a message it received from Gondar and which called for the 95% of Ethiopians to exterminate the 5% [Tigrayans]. The message said the struggle was not between an oppressive government and an oppressed people, but between an ethnic group that wants to rule and the rest of oppressed Ethiopians. It recommended “one way to remove a stinky fish from the sea was to dry the sea in order to remove the fish”. The sea is a reference to the people of Tigray and the fish is to the Tigrayan politicians. This expression was also used by Megstu Hailemariam when it was fighting the TPLF. As part of this strategy, the 1984 famine was seen as an opportunity to exterminate the Tigrayan people once and for all. Denial of humanitarian assistance and indiscriminate massacre and bombing was used to make use of the opportunity that the famine created. I come from the village around Hawzen, and our town of Hawzen was bombed on a market day killing more than 2500 innocent market goers.
On February 15, 2019, members of ESAT were welcomed to Ethiopia, as heroes, with fanfare and by high-profile government officials. Among the high government officials are the deputy prime minister Demeke Mekonen, and the minister of tourism Hirut Kassaw. Abiy Ahmed, in a parliament session, honored ESAT as an exemplary media and its members as exemplary ‘journalists’. ESATnow gets its funding from the Abiy government, works with both Isaias and Abiy Ahmed, and is the main media through which Abiy Ahmed and Isaias disclose their intentions and plans. Every ESAT recommendation on Tigray has been implemented. The combined Abiy Ahmed and Isaias war was first recommended by ESAT. Before the war, ESAT recommended to surround, dismantle, subjugate and impoverish Tigray. It specifically said “actions that disrupt the Tigrayan people must be taken”. A couple of weeks after these recommendations, we see the war on Tigray and the massacre of Tigrayans.
Abiy Ahmed is in the network of people that believe in the extermination of Tigrayans, ala the jews of Germany. The founder of ESAT, former chairman of Ginbot , 7 Berhanu Nega, is now Abiy Ahmed’s best friend and advisor and a leader of EZEMA, a shadow party that has happily endorsed and cheered the war on Tigray. Ginbot 7, (now nicknamed EZEMA), according to Andagachew Tsige Ginbot 7’s secretary, is the one that provided the undisclosed roadmap that Abiy Abiy supposedly follows. Abiy Ahmed himself has added fuel to the burning hate preached by ESAT. Speaking in code words and in the pretext of attacking TPLF, Abiy Ahmed has dehumanized Tigrayans on several occasions. A few months after assuming the premiership, Abiy Ahmed spoke in code words to refer to Tigrayans saying “daylight hyenas”, and “unfamiliar others”, two dehumnizaing and hate-laden expressions in the Ethiopian context. Although he did not explicitly say Tigrayans, everyone understood who he was referring to, and there were widespread attacks on Tigrayans, especially in the Amhara region.
All state media have been directed to attack TPLF and Tigrayans to the extent that Tigrayans stopped being shocked. One documentary program on human rights violations in the past 27 years, broadcast on all TV stations, categorically portrayed all Tigrinya speakers as criminals and corrupt worthy of ostracism and persecution. In the entire program, supposed victims were made to explicitly attribute horrible crimes to Tigrayans by deliberately mentioning a rehearsed “Tigrinya speakers” as doers of the crimes. By this, the crimes were attributed to all Tigrayans, as opposed to individuals who have names. This caused a massive anti-Tigrayan sentiment and Tigrayans were made targets of hate by other Ethiopians.