On 2nd November 2020, I had an argument with my friend from Afar about the looming conflict in Ethiopia. My friend said, “Abiy is a Nobel Peace Prize Winner,” he is not going to let war happen in Ethiopia. On the contrary, my argument was that no matter who is going to start, war is inevitable this month, if not this week. Of course, I never expected it to be a genocidal war.
On 3rd Nov. 2020, at about 5:00 AM, I was watching TV and heard breaking news stating that war was declared on Tigray. I had no patience until my friend woke up and watched the news. After watching the news, he had nothing to say about our previous arguments. Surprisingly, I noticed no sense of anguish from his side.
Even though I am a resident of the capital, Addis Ababa, I have been to a regional state that borders Tigray. I have seen several military developments immediately after the day the war was declared. The news was all about enveloping Tigray in all directions i.e., Amhara and Afar regional states and Eritrea. The invasion of Tigray by multi-forces, including the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and its allies (all regional state special forces and militias, Fano, and the Eritrean Defense Force (EDF) with the help of UAE and others was distressing for Tigrayans in and outside of Tigray. A few weeks later, in December 2020, the Federal government announced the control of the capital city of Tigray, Mekelle. Being a Tigrayan at that time was extremely harrowing; it has gotten worse since then.
After taking control of Mekelle, the disrupted public services such as a bank, telecommunication, electricity, and transport had partly resumed. Tigrayans living outside Tigray had the opportunity to reach out to their families via phone and were able to transfer money to their loved ones. Some NGOs also managed to send limited humanitarian aid to Tigray, yet life hasn’t been the same for Tigrayans everywhere. Mass killings, ethnic cleansing, rape, displacement, heritage destruction, deliberate livestock and crop destruction, and lootings had become common across the regions. The invading forces even destroyed Mekelle martyrs’ museum, “trying to kill the dead,” as Prof. Zeresenay Alemseged described the intention. Moreover, civil servants, excluding the Tigray transitional government the federal government imposed, were not paid their salaries for several months. Later as the mass arrest of Tigrayans intensified, most of the members of the ‘puppet’ administration were either imprisoned, ignored or exiled.
Guerilla fighting was prevalent throughout Tigray except in Wolkait and partly Irob, which are still controlled by the Amhara regional state and Eritrea. Heavy fighting was reported in Adet, Edaga Arbi, Neq-Sege, Samre, etc. Tigrayan forces, which morphed itself into the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF), launched numerous operations such as Operation Seyoum, Operation Alula, Operation Tigrayan Mothers, etc. During these operations, TDF was releasing victory news. Especially, TDF claimed operation Alula was detrimental and caused ENDF and its allies to suffer heavy losses.
The TDF, on 28 June 2021, took control of Mekelle back from the ENDF and its allies. At the same time, the federal government announced a declaration of unilateral ceasefire for the ‘benefit of the Tigray people’ while propagating hate and genocidal speech. Notably, the prime minister [Abiy Ahmed] stated that the Tigrayans [the people of Tigray] fought our forces using sticks, stones, machetes, and poisoning. He also boasted that he turned Mekelle into Bashasha, his birthplace, to explain the magnitude of destruction as if he was not talking about another country. He added, the government decided its forces to leave Tigray and stay with their people, Amhara and Afar [implying Tigrayans are not his people].
After the Federal government lost control of most parts of Tigray in June 2021, it implemented a humanitarian siege. All public services that were partially functioning were completely severed. Banks closed, telecommunication was cut, electricity was interrupted, and aid was completely blocked. The UN declared it a de facto blockade. Based on the evidence on the ground, one can imply as to what the purpose of the war was to begin with. For about a year now, money transactions have been completely blocked in Tigray.
In the 21st Century, how long could you stay without money, especially if you are not producing your food? how can one survive when the means of production are deliberately destroyed? When livestocks and crops are destroyed intentionally? How can you survive if you are unable to move within and outside your resident area due to lack of fuel and drone attack? What do you feel if you have millions in your bank account but you and your family are starving to death because you can’t access your savings? What about if someone wants to save you and your loved ones but is denied the possibility to do so?
Before the launch of the genocidal war, Tigray, like the rest of Ethiopia, was on the way to transformation. Although it is hardly deniable that an insignificant part of the population has been dependent on aid, the vast majority was self-reliant. Permaculture was booming in all villages of Tigray. Small enterprises such as apiculture, livestock fattening, irrigation, home gardens and biotechnology supported agriculture products were booming. Tigray even had female agriculture-based entrepreneurs [millionaires] such as Haregu Gobezay, who converted significantly degraded land into a fruit production area. However, these model agricultural transformations were deliberately destroyed by the genocidal forces to starve the Tigrayan population. Due to the orchestrated genocidal war, more than seven million Tigrayans, including the millionaires, are being starved and can do nothing but die a painful death. Millions of Tigrayans deposited their cash in the private and public banks, believing the institutions were trustworthy. Alas! Those who have millions in their bank are, like others, starving because they can’t access their account, nor can they get aid due to the siege. The fate of a Tigrayan millionaire in Tigray is perishing with his family. A Tigrayan millionaire can’t buy a piece of bread and is forced to watch her kids die of starvation.
It’s a pity that the world is letting the inhumane siege continue unabated. Some countries are even sponsoring it one or the other way. In light of the Tigray Genocide, the international community, such as the UN, seem willing to be misinformed and deceived by the Ethiopian government. The Ethiopian government declared a “humanitarian truce” on 25 March 2022, but only to deceive the world and interrupt the adoption of HR6600 and S3199. Since the announcement of the humanitarian truce, the Ethiopian government has allowed about 200 trucks (less than 3% of the aid needed) only for publicity. The siege has continued – public services such as banks, telecommunication, transport, etc., are not yet restored. All while, some regional government officials even announced that they were going to re-invade Tigray through joint forces and planned to ‘finish’ the war. A few weeks ago, a high-profile government advisor, Daniel Kibret, had been preaching his desire to the crowd to “Leave no Tigrayan to Tell” by providing Tasmania as an inspirational example. His statement was followed by huge applause. To fulfill their desire to Leave no Tigrayan to Tell, they are planning to re-invade Tigray during the farming season [spring-summer]. The first invasion was declared in November 2020 during crop harvesting time. As a result, farmers couldn’t harvest their crops. The war came after desert locusts destroyed a significant landmass in 2020. Before the invading forces were routed from the majority of Tigray, they killed and looted livestock and destroyed agricultural tools for the same reason that they are blocking aid; to choke the people of Tigray into submission.
What is happening in Tigray is an orchestrated genocide. Hundreds of thousands have already died and millions are starving in a besieged region. Unfortunately, no one, except Tigrayans, seems to care. For the international community, justice, it seems, is tied to geopolitical interests. Even the self-proclaimed human rights champions are watching idly as millions of Tigrayans perish for they lack geopolitical relevance.