This is a full English translation of an address to the press released by the Prime Minister’s office on June 30th, made by the following group of Tghat volunteer translators: @asadi_selam @TsenatSaba @Hintsaweezy.
If you look back to two years ago, try to remember how much discussion we had to have because we asked to take out our weapons and soldiers [from Tigray, referring to the national army troops stationed in Tigray to guard the Eritrean border] because we were aware external enemies were thinking, wanting, and preparing to attack us, and because we have to defend ourselves from foreign enemies. Young people laid down before the artillery and they said the weapons are ours and the soldiers can not leave. Until things came to head very clearly at the beginning of this conflict, the argument was one of us asking to take out our artillery and being told we cannot. You remember all of this.
This situation has been completely and successfully resolved as a result of the operation conducted now. We have taken out what we need, we have withdrawn our soldiers too. If there are things being considered by other forces (attack) we have an opportunity to prepare now.
Based on some of the reactions that I saw yesterday, I would like to say some things so that you can teach people and correct how you look at things. When it was said yesterday that our soldiers have withdrawn we heard activists and people that claim that they are journalists, and people who have phones claimed: “Amhara is in trouble, betrayed and done for.” What does this mean? One should stop and reflect on what is being implied by this type of claim.
This denies that the Amhara are a people capable and known for defending themselves from anyone – be it Sudan, Tigray, or any other that seeks not [to live in] love but to subjugate (lit. make to kneel) them by force. It is not only denying that but it reflects a mentality that emphasizes failure and a desire to gain notoriety amidst defeatism by declaring ‘you are lost, you are useless, and you have no choice but to listen to me.’
By the way, you may have gone to that area and seen for yourselves, that the people of Armachiho, Welkayite, & Tegede have clung to their Ethiopian and Begemider heritage even in the face of all of the abuse that was rained upon them over the last thirty years, let alone now. They have died, migrated but they are still here today. Today too. It is not an area that will budge. Nor will it be taken easily (lit small effort).
This thing might be politics for us, might be a gamble for us, but what are we saying to our children? “You can’t do it!”, “you should be afraid when aggression comes from somewhere else”? We should stop and think of what we are saying. People in the media should (refrain) from this type of narration; which contributes blocks for creating a fearful generation that sees one region as superior and itself as inferior.
Secondly, the balance of power that existed two years ago – [in terms of] economic preparedness, military preparedness, (and) governmental apparatus] is no longer in place. For example, if we compare the governmental apparatus of Tigray was not proportionate with other regions. Because of what has happened, now it is either inferior or on an equal footing. With the way things stand at this time, there is no longer a credible reason for concern of swift attack, in the short term.
For these reasons, this type of narration is not only about winning or losing but also creates fear and uncertainty in an entire people as a people. Therefore journalists should consider this with utmost care and educate [others]. [Because] it is not only false, it diminishes our victory.
Another thing, yesterday when we started leaving Mekelle, many people panicked. You panicked too. When we went to Mekelle seven-eight months ago, the conflict at the time was between a center of government and a center for both known and unknown resources. When we withdrew – with the exception of 80,000 more people that have been embedded and left (in the population) to steal and rob – It is not at this time any different from Abiy-Adi, Sheraro, or Beshasha. It is no longer a center with any power [economic or military] as it now stands. As things stand we see no difference (now) between Mekelle, Abiy Addi, or any other places.
Based on the reality now, when it is seen militarily, it has nothing.
There is nothing that makes it a center [military and economic] or which makes it appealing to us – as it was when we first went there [start of the war].
First, occupation is not our goal. What we said when we set out was that our troops and our troops have been seized some individuals have broken the law – we didn’t say let us liberate Mekelle. You know this, You participated in it.
But now I will bring up the reasons for deciding to withdraw from Mekelle to some extent. I’m bringing it up because these narrations need to be corrected.
Second, we see, here and there, people who say the enemy is claiming to have won, to have fought and I captured it [the city] and worry that we have been defeated. By the way, the enemy has never been defeated [according to them]. When we entered Mekelle we all did so because they allowed us to come in for a week and relax [according to them]. But it was not because they were defeated. They destroyed us every day. They eliminated us, every day. They killed us every day. We are being defeated every day. On Facebook and Twitter. And I don’t think it is surprising, especially to you, because, even when we were attacking and advancing and you were closely reporting on that they used to report “we won”, “ We destroyed the 25th”, “ we destroyed the 23rd”, “We killed this person,” “We killed Abebaw,” “We captured Bacha”. Don’t you know this?
If this force lies now too, I don’t think there should be any surprise.
However, when it comes to the media, as I said earlier on there is a dangerous problem with narration. An unwitting mistake you (our friends make this mistake unwittingly) make is multiplying and amplifying the false news of the enemy and diminishing our own news, [this] is a disease that is amongst us just like COVID.
When the enemy releases a false report, all the formal and informal media gives ears too and multiplies that. What does this mean with regard to the media?
The enemy tells you repeatedly what it wishes, its weaknesses within, and you are amplifying that.
One thing from this war, in terms of psychological warfare, that we should learn is – whichever side it comes from – we should ignore propaganda efforts to magnify one’s victories and diminish the other. The more we watch it (give it attention) it will give the impression that there is an audience for this and a person that is used to lying will keep on lying every day. And it will mean that we contributed for the lies to continue. We can still see this inclination.
Media professionals should know, avoid, and teach about this. We only repeat what we want but If we amplify those that insult us, lie to us and deceive us; media is not something that can be restricted to controlled easily and many people can access it [what is put out] including children. For this reason, it can result in a false history being transmitted, we should [therefore] be careful.
TPLF’s goal is not winning. It is not winning. You have heard them say it repeatedly recently. It is not a bid – like last time – to come to power or anything like that.
(They are saying) “ We have been reduced to ashes so let us all be reduced to ashes”; we have been humiliated (lit covered in dust), so let’s all be humiliated; We have been shattered so let us all be shattered together, and we don’t want to consider any way out (parachute).” This is the tactic, strategy, and process that they are working with. This is their goal. I can give you many examples to illustrate this. Right now in Ethiopia, the Corona pandemic is ongoing. Thank God, COVID is not as bad as it was expected it would be, but it is still here.
People demand that the Ethiopian government should supply adequate oxygen. You hear this because it is also your job. On the other hand, there is the GERD dam project which is
People demand that the Ethiopian government should supply adequate oxygen. You hear this because it is also your job. We also have the GERD dam project, which is the dearest wish and dream of all of you. People want the GERD to be finished and start producing electricity. On the other hand, however, because of some issues that are related to GERD, there are some who insist 40, 000 to 50,000 Ethiopians should be deported back to their country (Ethiopia) because they want to put pressure on us through this. Bringing those people, transporting them, even though it is for a few days, feeding (them) is the burden of the government.
Ethiopia not only has to contend with COVID, GERD, deportees, there are also low-income people in the cities – may be including yourselves – who are barely able to survive daily because of inflation.
This means even if we could import a limited amount of wheat, oil, and sugar, it would have helped the inflation to some extent. With all of these responsibilities on hand we have, in the past 8 months without taking into account the military expenses, (i.e) ammunition, logistics and uniforms not being included, Besides that, we have spent 100 Billion Birr in Tigray for roads, electricity, schools and other infrastructures in addition to food. 100 million birr.
100 Billion is 20% of our current annual budget, 100 Billion is more than 13 to 14 folds of the annual budget allocation. We set about 8 Million. 100 Billion is a lot more (of money).
Nevertheless despite all of this effort and expense, not a single entity – the international community and other communities [have acknowledged this?] People who had gone there to reconnect power have died. They have been killed while distributing food, giving wheat. They have faced a lot of dangers while laying telephone lines and other infrastructures.
Yet we are yet to encounter a single individual who can say you are doing a good job, keep it up. We only received allegations like “Famine is coming because of you; a humanitarian crisis is happening because of you; you are blocking access; you are blocking communication; you did not agree to a ceasefire; you invited Eritrean troops”. As if this wasn’t enough, after we withdrew, after taking what we would take, hit what we needed to hit, and captured our arsenal – we never had a plan to stay because what we wanted from the start was to leave and turn our attention to other fronts.
We needed to prepare because there were other forces that were a threat to us. It is a matter of priority. A nation’s current priority is going to be different from the one it will have tomorrow. If someone at a university wishes to be a journalist and you ask him to get married, (he will say),” Let me find a job first, and then I will get married.” He won’t say no but he will say “ let me get a job first”.
It is the same for a nation. There are priorities. It handles its issues in order of priority. Because we don’t have the same type of threat coming from there – in terms of both economy and military – as we had last year, If we continue to fight in Tigray while ignoring the threats we have now, it will only lead to a double loss and we won’t get anything out of it because we are fatigued.
At the beginning of the war, our enemy had a formal military that was organized. It took us 15-20 days. We didn’t find that kind of war much of a challenge.
Although the next (enemy combatant) wasn’t as strong – we were facing small groups of fighters that were moving around – it was hard looking for them because of the landscape it was still possible to catch and eliminate some. Because it was also possible to use technology.
But the current war is completely different.
Whichever villages the soldiers go to, they don’t see any (signs of) the enemy. They only see civilians. If the number of soldiers that enter is small – if it is a small group numerically – before they can pass through assuming that the enemy is not around, they get surrounded and attacked by many people with rifles and with machetes.
For example, what we encountered in one village was – [because] when our soldiers leave a village the “junta” kills and executes people separating people from their families saying that they didn’t support them and execute them publicly – they (the villagers) asked the soldiers “why are you not protecting us, they are executing us?”
The troops as you know – if for example, the soldiers in Tigray are 50,000 or 100,000 unless the soldiers are positioned [in large groups] 20,000 in Mekelle, 20,000 in Adigrat are expected to cover the mountainous areas, it can’t be done be unless they are split up in groups of 100, 50, 200. They are going to be moving in small groups.
So when they asked the defense (force) in that village, “protect us; they are going to come and kill us.” The defense (force) believed them and assigned not more than 20 people and continued their search. The people that had said “Guard us, don’t leave us” in the morning, came out in great numbers and killed those few soldiers in the afternoon.
When incidents like this started to happen more and more (often), the fight that was happening in the last 15, 20 days – although I won’t mention the detail – a single armed soldier was facing a large force of people and would kill a lot of people, finishes his bullets and dies. Many heroes, that you wouldn’t expect – higher officials, have killed themselves.
For example, only a few people are assigned to a brigade command commander of a division. The main forces are sent out on every mountain.
In those areas, when those [assigned there] were faced with civilians they chose to commit suicide instead of shooting at civilians
Many killed (as much as they could) finished bullets (then) got caught (or ) killed.
There is no problem when this is happening in isolated incidents. When this happens in some places, it will be identified and fixed.
But after a while it became customary. Especially in Mekelle, to make it clear to you, we had a very large force.
We had about 4 divisions around the Mekelle area. That is over 20,000. Let alone the “junta”, [this force] was highly capable of defending itself from anything. But that feeling I told you about earlier was being deeply felt by much of the army. They were beginning to consider that all the people they see are enemies.
In some places, they [the soldiers] had heard priests calling people to fight with a Kalashnikov and a microphone. In many churches, where it is said that many were dead and buried, well you know, when people are buried in mosques or churches, you understand that it is Ethiopian culture to dig burial places. But it is arm depots that are buried to look like people there.
Arms stashes are being buried everywhere while it is said that people have been buried.
If we had the troops stay in Mekelle for maybe a week more the shock here now would have been for 100% the opposite thing. When one is fighting on one’s side for example, when we were first fighting against Sha’abia (Eritreans), First we fought in Badme. Then one of the reasons that we had to return after reaching Tokombia and Barentu is because we moved too far away from our base of support.
But while we were in Badme, the ones in the front fought, when they got wounded, there was no problem. (They were moved) to the back. There is a base of support.
If a fight is not carried out that way, it will result in fatigue. We are going to be fighting (struggling ) for 10+ years as we did back then. What we decided, so as to avert a historic attack by the army against the Tigray population because of a sense that they are enemies en masse; creating a terrible dark mark that would cause our army to be shamed and the world to rise up with severe condemnation against Ethiopia was to move back to a people we can consider our base of support and give the people of Tigray – as we said during the election a time of reflection. We decided to give the people time for reflection.
I am confident, in 15 days, 1 month, 2 months, we will see the hard work of the Ethiopian defense force and the Ethiopian government. It will make sense soon.
(We have been sharing our meager resources with them but all (we) got is accusations for whoever dies, starved and gets wounded. And because the force that is “standing for the people” but giving its back to them is being attacked every day. If we give them a break, we won’t have anything threatening today, unlike last year.
We have taken out the missiles. We have taken our weapons. There is nothing to fear like yesterday. In addition to that, based on the situation now, because we have another agenda to prioritize this summer. We are going to channel out money, manpower, and weaponry. We should focus on our main agenda.
What if this doesn’t happen? Today’s decision was (to be made) in a matter of time.
During the Derg regime, the time of Ethiopia Tikdem (Ethiopia first). The main and basic reasons for Woyane (Tigrayan forces) to win that war were Derg’s weapons, Derg’s training, and Derg’s food/supplies.
After they captured soldiers, they would ask them to train them and they would do so. (then) they take their (captured soldiers) weapons (and) food. This is how Woyane grew and organized itself.
Now after it has taken on a fascistic character, what we have observed is the stealing of clothes, water…anything really. Deflating tires. If cars are going they would put rocks on the road and block movement.
As time went by, we became a conduit for rearmament. In regards to food (aid), if a family has 5 family members, they would register themselves as 7, 8,10. They take food for 10 people. They eat 5 of it and give the other 5 to the “Junta”.
The defense force, in some places – they will tell you themselves later – when there is a continuous engagement in the war for 4-5 days, they were prohibited from getting water. But the force we call “junta” force drinks “Highland” and “yes” (referring to bottled water brands).
We discussed this for weeks saying that we shouldn’t tolerate this anymore.
When we left Mekelle yesterday, there were talks that Mekelle was captured by them (TDF).
However, there wasn’t a single “JUNTA” who arrived at Mekelle, until I came to this event earlier.
The people who were cheering in Mekelle are people, who were there, who had hidden their Kalashnikovs and other things and waited for this moment.
What you saw at Adigrat last time is the same as what you saw now.
If they are going to celebrate when we turn around, while we are the ones giving them wheat, then they need time to reflect.
We will control and continue to hold places that we believe we should. If any force comes there in an organized form, we will be glad to entertain them. We do not have any problem with that.
When decisions like this are made, Ethiopians find it hard to accept such decisions. This is due to their desire for a quick victory.
However, we are in the position of leadership, not to be driven with emotions like the rest. But to think calmly and do what is best for Ethiopia for the long term.
If the cessation of Eritrea was ultimately inevitable, all that was was in vain. It is a loss. No one will defeat Ethiopia and Ethiopianism.
What will make Ethiopia and Ethiopianism prevail is fear of God, prayer.
What will make Ethiopia and Ethiopianism prevail, is the wisdom of our forefathers.
What will make Ethiopia and Ethiopianism, is the vigor of the youth, and to bring Ethiopia into one narration and unity. not continuing to engage in an extremely taxing endeavor because you have started it anyway. Now, we need wisdom, Ethiopia will prosper, and we will see our people [their circumstances] changed. We have scored astonishing victories, this will continue. Since your part in all this is crucial, I implore you to be sharp-witted and brave, and forward-thinking. Thank you.