After months in the wilderness Tigray President Debretsion on 29 January 2021 issued a statement via Dimtsi Weyane International, in which he called on fellow Tigrayans to continue fighting against the invading forces of Abiy Ahmed and Isayas Afewerki.
His out-of-the-blue statement came amidst claims by government-affiliated media outlets that he had been killed, and therefore his sudden appearance has been received with joy in Tigray circles and sadness and surprise among Abiy’s supporters.
In many ways, Debretsion is the standard bearer of the fight against Abiy Ahmed’s brutal war against Tigray. Pre-war, he always spoke of his loathing of war, but also of his unwillingness to bend to Abiy’s diktats. Which, in essence, is the reason Abiy, and previous governments, went to war against Tigray. So Tigrayans from all walks of life easily relate to and empathize with him. He is never a controversial man, always speaking in measured and well-thought-out words. As a result, he is now a folk hero-like figure and every word he utters carries weight. That is why his statement is significant.
Below is a translation courtesy of Tigray Youth Nework (NYT). We would like to kindly remind you that the translation is not official and that any discrepancy between original and translated content is entirely attributable to the author and not to the President of Tigray.
Honourable People of Tigray within Tigray and in the Diaspora
Ladies and Gentlemen
Let me first express my utmost respect and sincerest appreciation to you, the people of Tigray, as I speak to you directly from the heart of our embattled Tigray while in the middle of defending it.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As our people defend their safety and security to ensure their right to self-determination, we are faced with the ominous threat of the fascist forces of Abiy Ahmed, who are determined to collectively punish and subjugate the people of Tigray for simply exercising their constitutional right to hold democratic elections. As a result of this, a genocidal war has been waged upon the people of Tigray to illegally appropriate by forcing your identity and your basic right to existence.
This war’s invading forces have drawn on the combined forces of 4 countries and special forces of various Ethiopian regional states and descended upon Tigray, resulting in an uneven balance of power: one battalion of our Tigray Defence forces to one Division of the enemy invader forces. Despite this imbalance, the Tigray Defence forces have registered significant victories. Our successful operation on the Northern Command allowed us to minimize the debilitating attack planned by the invading enemy forces. Although they had planned on killing and humiliating the people, destroying the infrastructure, and looting their property, they failed to understand and thereby miscalculated that they can never rob or destroy the deeply entrenched psychological makeup of the people of Tigray. Now, with an even stronger commitment, we will rebuild Tigray again. They can never take us back to the stone ages as they had intended. “We get our armament from the enemies and our food supply from our people” This is the motto we always held high and, in this struggle, we continue to do so.
The bitter loss of our martyrs and heroes who have paid the ultimate sacrifice with their very lives only makes us more determined and to keep on fighting. These brave men and women of the TPLF, who gave their lives while fighting against the illegal invasion of enemy forces, have for 46 years continued to pay the price for the continuation of the peoples’ struggle. That is a blessing. There are leaders, and there are rulers. Tigray has the former while the latter are in charge of Ethiopia.
To all the people of Tigray:
Our enemies are committing the worst atrocities such as looting, destroying essential infrastructure, including health institutions and medical supplies, water facilities, telecom and power establishments, and much more. The fascist forces of Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afeworki are mercilessly slaughtering your children, bombing the institutions you worked hard and for 30 years to build. Nevertheless, this will not defeat us. It will only motivate us to fight harder.
To our most valued farmer:
I call upon you to send your children, as you have so gallantly done in the past, to join the struggle against the invading enemy forces.
To our people in the towns and villages in enemy territory:
You are facing daily horrors, including starvation, the merciless killings of your children, displacement, destruction of property and possessions, including the deliberate setting on fire of precious crops and animal feed. Despite facing such extreme challenges at these enemies’ hands, you continue to resist and support our struggle bravely. You have proven to the enemies that no matter the cost, you will never forcibly submit to the invading forces
To our Tigray Defence forces:
I say move on with our struggle for a just cause. I do not doubt as to its outcome. You will be victorious!
To the youth of Tigray:
Darkness has descended upon you. The invading enemy is killing you, forcing you to flee from your homes, depriving you of your fundamental right to self-development and education. Yet, you continue to resist employing courageous and systematic movements. You are awe-inspiring. I call upon you all to join the struggle.
To the Women of Tigray:
The enemies are committing unspeakable atrocities upon you; too gruesome to imagine, too painful to recount. Mothers and daughters are being raped side by side. Unbearable! All your resources are looted and destroyed. With time, the enemy’s opportunities are increased, resulting in more atrocities befalling on you. I call upon you to send your sons and daughters to join the struggle.
To the Tigrayan diaspora:
Your contribution to the struggle on behalf of your people is immensely appreciated. Furthermore, your clear understanding of this invasion’s true nature as a genocidal one has resulted in you taking on the role of ‘Ambassadors’ of your people and raising awareness among the international community, fundraising, and becoming the voices for the silenced people of Tigray. I urge you to take on your historic responsibility to consolidate your efforts and continue the struggle.
To the international community:
It is imperative that you fully grasp the magnitude of the atrocities being committed by the Ethiopian and Eritrean aggressors as well as other foreign powers. They are attacking the people of Tigray to exterminate them with bullets and weaponized hunger. The international community must recognize its responsibility and exercise its maximum efforts to bring these criminal aggressors Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afeworki [committing grave crimes against humanity] to an international court.
Our ancestors defeated their enemies not with heavy artillery but with a decision not to give their fundamental human rights away. Furthermore, they fought with a strong commitment. We, too, are ready to defend our territorial integrity with our foundational beliefs of resistance and unity. We will continue to be united and stay strong to defeat Tigray’s invaders until our right to self-determination is secured.
In the past few days, our enemies have once again launched a sizeable offensive. But we will continue to thwart it and remove them from our land.
Victory for Tigray! Tigray Will Prevail!