Every few decades, Tigray has witnessed a cycle of war and famine that has decimated its population and developments and left its future generation incapacitated. External forces, with arms and power, have waged genocidal campaigns against Tigrayans. It is a cycle that has been going on for centuries and, as a political community, Tigray has not been able to break or escape.
Tigray has not only suffered from the cycles of violence and wars but also from historical amnesia, selective memory, and willful and collective negligence of past traumas and injustices. During the peak of war times, leaders and community members vow to “never forget” and promise to change approaches, only to revert back to business as usual once calm returns. As often witnessed, Tigray’s leaders opt to gloss over violations, discourage public expressions of the experiences and calls for justice, and sideline individuals and groups calling for accountability.
Tigray has yet to emerge from the devastating war of the last two years that is estimated to claim 10 percent of its population, leaving millions displaced and thousands of women with deep psychological and physical trauma. As Tigray enters an era of fragile and negative peace, we are alarmed to see among leaders the repeat of historical amnesia and negligence of the trauma of Tigrayans who have paid with their lives. As much as we are relieved to see the people of Tigray getting a respite from the relentless genocidal war campaigns from multiple actors and understand the need to put in efforts to maintain it, we would like to raise our concern about the rushed pace and insensitivity of the ongoing rapprochement.
We, concerned citizens of Tigray, believe that we are:
- Writing on behalf of the more than 600,000 people who have perished in the course of the war in Tigray.
- Writing on behalf of the thousands of women who had been raped and violated and left with deep physical and psychological trauma.
- Writing on behalf of the thousands of children who have become orphans and left vulnerable.
- Writing on behalf of the millions of internally displaced persons across Tigray.
- Writing on behalf of Tigrayans suffering in the occupied territories of Western and Southern Tigray.
- Writing on behalf of the Irob and Kunama communities who are still paying the price and are still occupied by foreign forces, and whose existence as separate communities is severely threatened..
- Writing on behalf of Tigrayans who still are languishing in prisons and camps across Ethiopia.
- Writing on behalf of the Tigrayan refugees in Sudan, who have nowhere to go.
- Writing on behalf of Tigrayans who have suffered violation of their rights and dignities.
We call on the Tigray Interim Administration:
- To recognize that the wounds and trauma of the war victims have not healed yet and practise a measured and victim-centred politics of rapprochement.
- To recognize that there is no peace without justice and accountability and refrain from framing the quest for justice as an obstacle to the pursuit of peace.
- To stop obstructing justice and accountability both in words and actions. We request public speeches and interviews to reflect commitment to justice and accountability.
- To recognize that the required documentation and investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity is incomplete and strengthen local and diaspora led initiatives dedicated to such endeavours.
- To prioritise the documentation of massacres and destruction in Tigray, including facilitating access and allocating adequate funds for researchers and organisations tasked with collecting data, and conducting collaborative discussions with the local and diaspora community.
- Allocate funding opportunities to lawyers and lawyers associations to conduct advisories to the victims and families of victims on options for justice and required steps to pursue a legal case.
- Provide regular updates on the humanitarian conditions in accessible areas. This includes the number of IDPs currently residing in the camps and what special cases are observed, such as high malnutrition rates and disease outbreaks.
- Schedule public consultations with the survivors and families of victims of massacres, sexual violence, and several other violations.
- Encourage and allocate enough airtime on regional media to programs discussing the genocide and related topics. In association with this, we request the reversal of the decision to suspend the program Hiwyet.
- Publicly apologise for the highly criticised and counterproductive commentaries by members of Tigray’s Interim Administration on justice and accountability, articulating the genocide committed on Tigray, refraining from naming the perpetrators of the genocide on Tigray and descriptions used to refer to subgroups of the Tigrayan community.
- Notify the families of Tigray Defense Force members of the list of martyrs and source and allocate adequate funding to address the various needs of members of the defence force and their family members.
- Discharge members of the Tigray Defense Force as soon as possible so that those who need to register for their education can do so prior to the set deadlines in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with the demobilisation process. Members of the Tigray Defense Force were forced to join the military training in the wake of the genocidal war wedged on the Tigrayan population. These brave men and women will need to be back to attend to their pre-war lives urgently in light of the signed agreement to disarm, demobilise, and disengage. The longer their lives remain in limbo the worse the negative impacts will be on their wellbeing.
- Consult with civil society organisations on what is considered the progress of the implementation of the Pretoria Agreement and what needs to be highlighted when communicating with the negotiating team and members of the regional and international community.