Publisher’s note: This is Tghat’s translation of Tigray president, Debretsion’s statement which was broadcast on 29 January 2021 by Dimtsi Weyane in Tigrinya. There is a previous translation by Tigray Youth Network, which we also published at Tghat. But we think that translation is more of a summary, thus the need to do a thorough translation. Debrestion’s statement came, in an audio format, from the ‘liberated land’ which is the land of Tigray under the control of the Tigray government and its defence forces. The audio can be listened to here (from 1:43 to 14:43). The transcript (Tigrinya) of the statement can be found here. Teklai Gebremichael collaborated with Meron T. Gebreananaye for the translation.
My fellow Tigrayans at home and abroad:
Ladies and gentlemen, first and foremost, I feel greatly honoured to express my respect and appreciation to the people of Tigray from the heart of the battlefield in our defense against the invading forces.
Ladies and gentlemen:
We are all aware that a genocidal war is being waged against the people of Tigray because they defied the fascistic decree of the clique led by Abiy Ahmed and held democratic elections as an expression of the right to self-administration, to ensure existence and security, for which the Tigrayan people have vigorously fought.
People of Tigray: The enemy has invaded you to deprive you of the right to self-determination and self-rule, which you have bestowed upon yourselves through bitter armed struggle, and to exterminate you as a people by denying your identity and your right to life.
Since Tigray has been invaded by the allied forces of four governments and various regional militia forces, a power imbalance has been engendered between us and the enemy.
As has been already noted, one battalion of Tigray Defence Forces has been fighting against an entire army division of enemy forces, demonstrating extraordinary gallantry.
By making use of the additional capacity acquired from the Northern Command, we have inflicted heavy personnel, material, morale and other damages on the enemy.
Even so, however, due to the aforementioned power imbalance, the enemy has a temporary military superiority. We are working on finding ways to neutralise this advantage in our continued defensive efforts against the enemy.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
What is beyond the comprehension of those who think they can force the people of Tigray back — through harassment, looting or destruction of property — is that there is a fundamental asset inherent to the people of Tigray that they can not take away.
The main asset of the people of Tigray is not their material riches; rather it is the inalienable capacity to think, innovate and change that of each and every Tigrayan. This capacity cannot be taken away by any enemy.
The people of Tigray believe in bringing about change not through invading and looting foreign places but through education, progressive thinking, and working day and night.
This capacity – this asset – is something that cannot be taken away by anyone. The lootings will only spurn the people to work even harder to restore what has been stolen in a very short time.
The soldiers and their commanders looting and destroying Tigray might at best succeed in instilling a sense of resentment in the people of Tigray but their stone-age thinking of using destruction to take Tigray back to the past is a day-dream.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Some of the founders of the TPLF, who have led and fought for the last 46 years with an unwavering commitment to their principles, have recently been martyred. Others are still fighting, ready to make the same sacrifice.
The martyrdom of these heroes does not discourage us in the slightest; to the contrary it only strengthens our resolve to keep fighting.
They are fortunate to have given up their lives in defense of their principles and their people and it gives us a great sense of honour to have witnessed that. To have been a loyal servant of their people for all these years is a great honour not everyone is lucky enough to experience. Therefore, in the aftermath of the martyrdom of our leaders, our young people are flooding to the battlefields in the thousands, full of purpose and valour to follow in their footsteps.
Respected people of Tigray:
The fascist clique of Abiy Ahmed, the dictatorship of the EPLF and various chauvinist forces have joined forces to commit unspeakable crimes against the people of Tigray, with the intention of exterminating the people.
Villages and towns of Tigray are being relentlessly shelled with heavy artillery.
All the properties and assets you have accumulated over the last 30 years through your hard work are being destroyed and looted.
Your children are being hunted down and murdered for no reason. They are murdering those they can murder; exacting pain against whomever they can exact pain; and starving the rest to death by burning crops and properties, not sparing even animal food. And to make sure that those who become ill as a result of the pain and hunger don’t get medicine, they are looting all medical supplies in Tigray, and burning down whatever else remains. It’s a full-fledged attempt to force people to die from lack of medicine.
I call upon the people to unite and overcome against the enemy forces, leaving aside other differences, realising that every day the enemy forces stay in Tigray is an opportunity for them to cause more damage and injustice against the people.
Honourable farmers of Tigray:
Our enemy is trying to subjugate you by committing unspeakable crimes against you. However, you have been exhibiting great perseverance in the face of grave injustice and are registering significant and historical victories with your firm defense against the enemy. You are demonstrating that you don’t waver from your fight in the face of the enemy’s endless cruelty and all the injustice that is being unleashed against you. You are sending your children to the battlefields to fight against the enemy. True to the old mantra “weapons from our enemy; morale and food from our people,” you are feeding and taking care of our combatants. Your unique contribution will always have a special place in our long history of struggle against enemies, and as has always been said by yourself, you have made your village a fortress. I would like to reassure you that we will continue our fight with more determination until victory is guaranteed.
Honourable Tigrayans Residing in the Towns and Cities of Tigray and Ethiopia:
Notwithstanding the various crimes being committed against you by enemy forces and the attendant psychological trauma, you have taken the enemy and its agents in stride without flinching even though you are forced to live in their midst. This is something to be proud of. You are conducting a principled struggle by speaking up in gatherings organized by our enemies. We can only say well done! You are reaffirming that the people of Tigray do not hold their head down in the face of an enemy but rather fight for what they believe, come what may, including death.
Respected elders, young people, women, intellectuals, public servants, merchants and all others in different walks of life: I call upon you to continue your fight until our enemies are swept away.
Honourable members of the Tigray Defence Forces:
Whether it is our enemies or the invaders, they have come together and they are using everything they have to wipe us out of existence and consign us to the dustbin of history. Even though they have caused an unimaginable amount of injustice and damage up until now, we are proud of the fight you are putting up alongside your people and the legitimate government of Tigray. There is no doubt that you will continue to discharge the oath you have taken to your people and the legitimate government until we fully guarantee our right to self-determination.
Honourable young people of Tigray:
In order to wipe the people of Tigray off the face of earth, the enemy and the invaders are mercilessly murdering the next generation of Tigray. in an attempt to deprive Tigray of its brightest. The enemy is killing young people one by one. You have been uprooted from your homes and condemned to the wilderness. You have been forced out of your schools and plunged into darkness. Allowing the enemy to stay in Tigray would mean not only that the enemy would unleash more misery and injustice against the youth but also that the future and existence of Tigray is dark. Realizing this, you have been fighting under the umbrella of “digital weyane” and we are very proud.
Honoured women of Tigray
The crimes that are being committed against our women as part of the invasion by the fascistic clique of Abiy Ahmed, EPLF and allied chauvinistic forces to exterminate Tigrayans, is extraordinarily difficult to hear about, never mind to speak about. However, it is important to expose these crimes. Extremely ugly acts of individual and gang rape, by enemy forces arebecoming prevalent. Mothers and their daughters are being raped together. Your beloved children are falling prey to the enemy’s bullet. Your properties and possessions are being destroyed and ruined. Because each day the enemy stays in Tigray is an opportunity for the enemy to inflict more pain and suffering against women, I call upon you to organise and fight; make your villages and towns a living hell to the enemy; encourage all capable people to march to the battlefields.
Honourable Tigrayans in the diaspora:
Having fully understood the coordinated and concerted effort by the enemy forces to commit genocide against Tigrayans, you have taken up the role of being voices and ambassadors of your people. We are very proud of that. The struggle has only just begun and will continue until the right of the people to self-determination has been fully guaranteed.
I call on you to continue discharging your historical duty of exposing the atrocities of the regime to the international community and to persevere in your coordinated struggle through your time, knowledge and money.
Honourable members of the international community:
The fascist regime of Abiy Ahmed has co-opted Eritrean troops and other foreign powers to exterminate the people of Tigray. They have set out to exterminate Tigrayans by any means necessary – including bullets and manufactured starvation – and are striving day and night to realize that dream. Tigrayans are being mercilessly murdered only because they are Tigrayans. Tigrayan women are being gruesomely raped. Human and democrative rights of the people of Tigray have been totally suspended. The villages, towns, and cities of Tigray are being wantonly shelled with heavy weaponry. Places of worship are being bombarded and desecrated. Historical artifacts and places are being destroyed. Millions of people have been uprooted and subjected to economic and social hardships. Domestic animals have been left without food and a place to stay. In summary, the enemy has unleashed a clearly genocidal war against the people of Tigray. This is a punishment meted out against the people because they elected their leaders in defiance of the regime’s decree to cancel elections indefinitely. I call upon the international community to strongly condemn the genocidal war; to investigate all the crimes that have been committed; to take all possible measures against the invading forces; and, especially, to bring the main culprits of the war – Isaias Afwerki and Abiy Ahmed – to the international court.
Ladies and gentlemen:
Past generations of Tigrayans did not defeat past invaders because of their military might or their arsenal of modern weaponry. Rather, it is because they refused to compromise on their rights and succumb to the enemy’s demands. They faced off enemies safe in the knowledge that they were equipped with a just cause and a sense of purpose. We, in turn, ought to face the enemy with a similar sense of purpose. It is incumbent upon us to honour the dignity and history of the children of Tigray by defeating the enemy by uniting around our purpose and beliefs. We might face problems, ups and downs, but we have to strengthen our capacity to face and defeat any enemy to honour our dignity and ensure our right to self-determination.
Ladies and gentlemen:
The enemy has been shocked by our capability to defend ourselves. As a result, the enemy is bombing and invading Tigray afresh, using everything at its disposal. However, we will inevitably destroy the enemy and win. The enemy had better learn from the history of other invaders throughout the world that it is wise to pack up and leave. We would like our enemies and our friends to know that we cannot leave because this is our home and we have nowhere else to go. So, we are not going to flinch from our struggle until we have won. Victory is in our hands.
Victory to the people of Tigray and death to the enemies of Tigray.
I thank you