A footage posted on Facebook early in March shows Ethiopian soldiers and Regional Special forces, armed and non-armed local militia, accompanying a soldier who dragged a man, stripped naked, most likely tortured, and burnt alive.
Speaking in Amharic as they walked toward the main crime scene, the soldiers mockingly kept calling the victim ‘junta,’ a term often used to refer to ethnic Tigrayans. The soldier threw the man down on the ground, next to the charred remains of others who were also partially burned into ashes in roaring fires. The crowd rounded up the victim. They mocked him. They dragged him and cast him into the flames. The victim tried to get out of the fire, to no avail. They pushed him back using a stick. They also added wood and dry grass on the fire. They burned him as a human torch, alive.
The time and location of this gruesome crime is now confirmed. It happened on March 3, 2022 at a place called Aysid, Benishangul-Gumuz region. The victims were thirteen Tigrayan civilians, residents of the region, who were released the same day from concentration camps and were returning home.
This is, however, not an isolated incident, rather, a regular feature of the ongoing Tigray genocide.
Hate Speech and Dangerous Rhetoric
By the irony of history, and contrary to Tigray’s role in the historico-political process of state formation in Ethiopia, state-sponsored anti-Tigrayan rhetoric and policy is at its peak. Nothing, perhaps, better denudes the intentions of the architects of the war on Tigray than this dangerous rhetoric:
“….. after the fall of Satan, there was nothing like Satan that was created … Satan was the last of his kind. And they [TPLF/Tigrayans] must also remain the last of their kind … they should be wiped out and erased from historical records ….”
This claim, by deacon Daniel Kibret, social advisor to PM Abiy Ahmed, has in fact been the official policy, and also the mens rea, behind Ethiopia’s war on Tigray.
PM Abiy, whose solipsistic path of parthenogenesis has reached at its apogee, is the kingpin in the campaign of labeling ethnic Tigrayans with such dehumanizing words as ‘day-time hyenas hungry enough to devour the people,’ and ‘weeds that must be weed out,’ inter alia.
‘Let’s devour the hyenas, and repent!’ metaphorically, yet cruelly, answered Artist Debebe Eshetu, to the genocidal call of the PM.
Never has hate speech against a certain ethnic group assumed such official blessing in Ethiopia. It has found grim expression since the night of November 4, 2020, when the world’s peace laureate declared war on Tigray.
To this the PM himself has, in an unmatched eloquence, admitted: “Mekelle, the capital city of Tigray region, is no more the center of Ethiopia’s political gravity. We have obliterated Mekelle to the level of Beshasha (a small and underprivileged rural village where the PM was born).”
Also, Ethiopian National Defense Force’s (ENDF) deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Abebaw Tadesse has laid bare the deliberate damage his government has caused on Tigray, saying: “We have achieved our goals (on the war on Tigray). We have completely destroyed the administrative, military and physical infrastructures of the region.”
Now, are not these motives that have been projected into grim facts – unspeakable atrocities against civilians, ipso facto, unimaginable human sufferings and deliberate damages, genocide?
Article II of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Against this backdrop, we are led now very directly to some of the war crimes that make the war on Tigray genocide:
Massacres, Mass Killings and Forced Displacement: Acts of Ethnic Cleansing
Ethiopian and Eritrean armed forces as well as the Amhara Fano militia have committed large scale massacres and mass killings in various parts of Tigray: Mai-Kadra, Axum, Mahbere Dego, and the Togoga massacres are just a few among the many massacres sites that have so far been identified, where tens of thousands of innocent Tigrayan civilians were brutally butchered, using weapons of violence ranging from knives and machetes to armed drones. Experts who closely follow the war estimate up to 100,000 victims of direct killings.
Also, nearly two million people have been forcefully displaced from Western Tigray, so as to annex the area to the Amhara region. The US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken described it as ‘an act of ethnic cleansing’ while other diplomats and political analysts have called it ‘The Scorched Earth Policy and still others, more appropriately, ethnic and cultural genocide.
Mass Rape: ‘Let No Tigrayan Womb Give Birth’
Soldiers and militias subjected Tigrayan women and girls to rape, sexual mutilation and other forms of torture, often using ethnic slurs and death threats. When the widespread and systematic eaponised rape became public, PM Abiy, downplayed the crime claiming in parliament, “Tigrayan women were raped by our soldiers, whereas our soldiers were stabbed with dagger”.
Reports released in August 2021 by Amnesty International and World Peace Foundation reveal how women and girls were subjected to systematic sexual violence by members of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF), the Eritrean Defense Force (EDF), the Amhara Regional Police Special Force (ASF), and Fano, the Amhara militia group.
Man-made Famine, Mass-starvation: Silent Weapons of War
Man-made famine has been used as the most effective weapon of war against Tigray. Tigary is being deliberately starved. Everyday people, especially children, are dying due to lack of food and malnutrition.
Tigrayan farmers who were/are engaged in small-scale farming are impoverished. They were, and are still, being looted of their cattle and agricultural products, and seed grains they had/have for the next harvest. The looting of cattle and livestock had been unprecedented in its scale, especially in western Tigray and areas bordering Eritrea.
Ethiopian and Eritrean troops have also burned down entire villages, ransacking grain stocks and animal silage. From destroying farming equipment and irrigation projects to prohibiting farmers from farming, Ethiopia and Eritrea implemented a deliberate policy to create and exacerbate man-made famine in a poor region already ravaged by war.
Siege and Aid Blockade: ‘Even One Bread Is Not Allowed’
More than nine months have lapsed since Abiy Ahmed’s government has laid siege on Tigray. In fact, Abiy’s siege policy started with an economic blockade some three years ago. The main road that connects the federal capital to Mekelle had been blocked right after the coming to power of PM Abiy. The blockade of this road, which runs mainly through the Amhara region, was meant to obstruct such basic supplies as food items, agricultural and manufactured products and medical supplies from reaching Tigray, as well as to steamroll investment flows, inter-regional trade, business and economic activities in a bid to create political havoc by exacerbating the socio-economic problems in the region.
Now, aid agencies have completely suspended their operations in Tigray. Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers have been blocking, deliberately, access to humanitarian aid for almost ten million people who need urgent emergency relief.
Awal Qirba, president of Afar region on ETV recently said: “The Junta (often used derogatorily to refer to the TPLF) has to know, to save them or their children, is like to kill my kids. Even sending them single bread (humanitarian aid) will not be allowed.”
The government is using aid as a weapon of war – a silent weapon – to starve innocent Tigrayans.
Destruction of Civil Infrastructure, Health Care System
Tigray’s public infrastructures have been among the main targets of Eritrean and Ethiopian forces. Almeda Textile in Adwa, Addis Pharmaceutical Factory in Adigrat, Saba Dimensional Stones Plc in Adwa, Sheba Leather Factory in Wukro, Welkait Sugar Factory in Welkait to Goda Glass Factory around Edaga Hamus were completely destroyed. All the machinery and transport trucks were looted, ransacked and destroyed and their buildings burned down, in the first month of the war on Tigray.
higher education institutions and airports were not spared either. Axum airport, Adigrat University, Axum University as well as hospitals, clinics and schools in various towns to health posts in small villages, among others, were looted, vandalized, destroyed and burned down.
The Tekeze hydroelectric power station was also bombed using armed drones.
And yet, Tigray’s health care system has been hit hard. According to Tigray’s health bureau, over 80 percent of the region’s hospitals, 78 percent health posts and 72 percent of its clinics have been completely destroyed. Moreover, 90 percent of the medical supplies and equipment have been destroyed, vandalized and looted by these armed forces.
Lethal Airstrikes: Tigray’s Airspace Rains Bombs
The Ethiopian government has been extensively using armed drones, supplied by the UAE, Turkey and China, in its war on Tigray. They are being used not only on the battlefields, but also to strike non-military areas, targeting civilians in densely populated areas, including camps for IDPs.
Michelle Bachelet, UN human rights chief, told the UNHRC that her staff had recorded 304 deaths and injuries to 373 people in air strikes apparently carried out by the Ethiopian air force in Tigray.
No Banking, Salary, Electricity, Water, Fuel and Telecommunications
One of the salient features of the war on Tigray is that it has been carried out in a complete blockade of basic public provisions such as electricity, banking, clean water, telecommunications and internet services. And also, complete media blackout.
Ethnic Profiling, Mass Detention and Concentration Camps
Tigrayans have been killed, tortured, displaced, vilified and imprisoned en masse for years. Tigray and Tigrayans have been demonized to a point where they have become the boogeyman and a scapegoat for whatever wrong is in Ethiopia.
Ethnic profiling of Tigrayans has become the norm. They have been purged from regional and federal posts. Close to seventeen thousand Tigrayans who were serving in the army have been incarcerated in various formal and informal prisons; the whereabouts of several high ranking military officers is unknown.
“Message to the government: It is never late. Ethnic Tigrayans, even those who do not have any connection with TPLF must be sent to mass concentration camps.”
The following days, hundreds of thousands ethnic Tigrayans who have lived outside of Tigray, regardless of age, sex and health conditions, have been sent to concentration camps throughout the country.
Many have died due to lack of medicine, food, clean water and poor conditions of the concentration camps. Women and young girls have been subjected to rape and various forms of sexual violence. Thousands are still languishing in these camps, without any formal charges.
Looting, Destruction of Religious and Cultural Heritages: For Sale, including on eBay
Abiy Ahmed’s war on Tigray, simply, is not only a war that has almost wiped out Tigray’s 30 years of development and peace process, but also its priceless religious and historical heritages.
Ethiopian and Eritrean forces deliberately destroyed and looted Tigray’s religious and cultural heritages. In the first few days of the war, they shelled the Al Nejashi Mosque, the first mosque in Africa, and also many ancient Christian monasteries.
Recently several international media outlets have reported the surge in online sale of ancient artifacts which likely were looted from Tigray during the war. The Times reports: “A surge in ancient Ethiopian relics for sale online has raised suspicions about links to the reported plundering of churches and monasteries during the 14-month conflict in Tigray. Centuries-old manuscripts, Bibles and scrolls are being offered to collectors for as little as a few hundred pounds on sites including eBay, months after heritage experts warned of the ‘cultural cleansing’ of the northern Tigray region.”
The depravity and lack of humanity surrounding the war on Tigray shows the deliberate intention to cause ultimate harm and humiliation to victims – a collective punishment to the people of Tigray, which by any standards is a clear violation of international law.
With all its abominable facets the war on Tigray, rightly speaking, is a genocide.