The Betrayal on the People of Tigray: Overall Consequences and a Beacon of Hope

The Betrayal on the People of Tigray: Overall Consequences and a Beacon of Hope

Who is responsible for the treason?

Since the Abiy regime waged war on Tigray on Nov. 4, 2020, news of massacres, atrocities, starvation, displacements and destruction have dominated local and international media outlets. 

International agencies, aid organizations, different governmental and non-governmental bodies are expressing their deep concerns about the atrocities being committed. The destruction of different infrastructures, artillery shelling of thousands of civilians and cities, the killings of tens of thousands of civilians, raping of women and girls, the use of starvation as a weapon, the blockage of basic necessities , the involvement of foreign troops and weaponry have now been documented and are beyond any doubt. However, we  have been hearing a lot of conflicting stories regarding who started the war ; questions of whether or not the people of Tigray and its democratically-elected party, the TPLF, betrayed Ethiopia;  or, if, on the contrary, Ethiopia betrayed the people of Tigray and the TPLF. What is the reality on the ground? Unraveling of the uncovered secret, dispelling of the lies and clearing confusions demands first-hand eye witnesses and credible evidence. Although both warring parties agree that the war started on Nov. 4, 2020, they don’t agree on the manner with which the war started or about who started it.  In this article, I attempt to present the chronicle of events leading up to the war, in the hope of answering questions like who started the war, why it was started and who has betrayed whom.  

Why did it happen? 

For more than two decades until 2018 Ethiopia was ruled by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, a coalition party that consisted of four ethno-linguistic-based regional parties fromTigray, Amhara, Oromia and Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPR). Just before Abiy Ahmed Ali came to power in 2018, the EPRDF went through serious internal reforms to address the demands of its people expressed through mass  protests, mainly in the Oromia and Amhara regions. Abiy Ahmed was selected by the EPRDF general assembly to replace Hailemariam Desalegn, with limited responsibilities of implementing reforms stated by the EPRDF. As per the constitution he subsequently became the default prime minister of the country. However, Abiy went far beyond his mandate to lead until election; sidelined the TPLF; dissolved the EPRDF; and established the Prosperity Party (PP), now ruling the country. Mr Abiy has since undertaken many unexpected steps that have targeted Tigrayans, while the promised reforms have been ignored . In a few months’ time since Abiy came to power, tensions spiked between the TPLF and the Abiy administration. Election  was suspended indefinitely under the pretext of the Covid-19 pandemic.The government of the Tigray regional state opposed the postponement of the national elections and held their regional level election, in defiance of the federal government but in accordance with the constitution .  The decision by the Tigray government to go ahead with the elections fueled the tension further and that was the actual reason Abiy waged war on Tigray. 

Immediately after the Tigray election, the Abiy administration  started to withhold services that Tigray is constitutionally entitled to. In one such move, the Ministry of Education excluded Tigray from the list of regions to receive life-saving masks for students. 

 The government also refused to help Tigray when it was hit by a heavy swarm of desert locust.   As though these unjust and cruel measures against the people were not enough, the federal government also cut-off food aid and food-for-work, called Safety Nets, which is funded by international donor agencies. Finally, the federal government suspended and  froze the annual budget for theTigray regional state and the regional state withdrew its representatives at the federal level. Parliamentary and other high-level decisions were therefore subsequently made  without representatives from Tigray.  

Who is  treasonous? 

 One week before the Tigray war broke out, I moved from Mekelle University to the Oromia regional state for a research and a consulting job with an international non-governmental organization. I was working in the rural districts of Bishoftu, Adama and Assela. One day before the war broke out, I was on my way to the second field work from Addis Ababa to Dejen and Bahir-Dar, the latter two cities in Amhara regional state. In between the two trip fieldworks, however, I had a break for three days. So, I headed straight from Adama through Mojo to Hawassa for a weekend vacation. It was during that time that I learned the war was planned and was about to be declared on the People of Tigray. 

My thirteen-year life in Hawassa as a staff member at Hawassa University  provided me with a lot of opportunities to work with many colleagues and make friends at the university and outside, such as , members of the South Command Defense Force, Federal Police and Regional Police. Meeting former colleagues and friends was part of my plan in Hawassa. On Saturday, Nov. 1,  2020, I met one of my friends, a member of the military officials of the Southern command for a coffee  and we discussed current national affairs. After minutes of silence, he whispered to me about a planned  military operation against Tigray  that was kept secret between a few trusted officers. Newly graduated commandos, organized by a battalion and a brigade, boarded  a plane for Gondar and then to the Tigray border towns like Kirakir in different busses on Friday, Oct. 31, 2020, he added. Earlier, other groups of commandos were sent to Eritrea to prepare for similar missions. These insiders added that the commandos who traveled for the mission were secretly told where they were going and what they were going to do, but that war was about to begin in Tigray. 

The next day, Sunday, Nov. 02, 2020, another friend of mine from the Southern Command had an appointment with me to meet for  breakfast, but  the time clashed with another meeting he had, so  we rescheduled the meeting for lunch. During lunch, he told me that he had attended the meeting in a spirit of sadness and that he was deeply concerned about the purpose of the meeting. He confided in me that he had been in Tigray for a long time. The main purpose of the meeting he had attended was to inform and prepare the troops for the trip to an unkn destination.According to him, the most loyal commanders were told that the trip was to the Tigray border. The trip was in preparation for a military operation against the  TPLF. The operation was planned to be carried out  before anyone in Tigray became aware of the plan. 

On Monday, Nov. 03,  2020, I was heading to Dejen and Debub Achefer woredas along the Bahir Dar way. I was thinking day and night about the planned war between Tigray and Ethiopia I heard before. South West of Bure town near to the Bir Sheleko military academy was very busy with  military vehicles crowded with heavy military  personnel and troops. Few kilometers after Bure, heavy military trucks carrying different logistics were heading to the Bahir Dar direction. It was easy for me to  link it with the war and invasion of Tigray that I had heard two or three days ago. 

What I did not know was when the war and the invasion would begin; but then I realized that it was almost to erupt.  When we reached Debre Markos, heavy trucks of the Ethiopian Defense Forces were moving in an unusual way. Our field collaborator was a native of that area, and he was telling us about the landscape, culture and tradition of that area. He  told us which of the celebrities was born in which neighborhood. But I did not pay attention to it because I was thinking about the war and the invasion. We arrived at Debre Markos and spent the night in one of the hotels in the town. I was so tired that for a few hours I was able to get into the barracks after a few exchanges with people who had some ideas about the situation. When I woke up the next morning, the Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed; Temesgen Tiruneh, former president of the Amhara region;  and  Colonel Abere Adamou, Amhara Regional State Police Commissioner,   were on a televised speech that looked like a script that was given to them.. It was a declaration of war on Tigray and TPLF. I was shocked  they all accused TPLF of having  attacked the Northern Command,  the military command then based in Tigray. They  all accused Tigray and TPLF of having betrayed Ethiopia. 

 The government still maintains that the brutal war against Tigray is a “law enforcement operation” to bring those behind the alleged attack to the court. If that is the case,  why were the commandos sent to the borders in Tigray some four days in advance? Why were they encircling Tigray all-round from Dansha to Wolkayit and Weldya and other directions? Why was the South Command secretly told to go to an unknown place three days earlier? Why  did they beg Sudan to close its border with Tigray,  as  admitted to by the spokesperson of the Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Ambassador Dinna Mufti? Why, three days before, was it told to loyal members of another ethnic group that the Tigrayans were not going to take part in the operation? Why did they exclude Tigrayan members of ENDF from the operation? Why was there an unusual military and logistical operation in the Bahir Dar a few days before the war started? Why were Ethiopian commandos sent to Eritrea? Who is  treasonous? Many questions can be raised and the answer remains clear : The war  had long been planned. It disingenuous of the regime for it to blindly accuse TPLF of starting the war. We have seen the developments during the course of the war and independent bodies as well as some PP officials and military generals confirmed that the Ethiopian government invited the Eritrean army, approving $ 1 billion compensation in two installments for being involved in the war in Tigray. Surprisingly, the  illegitimate government has denied Eritrea’s presence in Tigray. Many analysts say the PM  is a pathological liar. Almost nothing about what the regime says is trustworthy. That is why we should call for an independent investigation into how the war started and the crimes committed in the aftermath. The consequences of the war are extremely worrisome. International media and human rights organisations have published reports of extremely serious atrocities and massacres. The reports call for an independent investigation. 

Kinfe Asayehegn Gebreeyesus

Kinfe Asayehegn (PhD) is an academic and researcher. He has worked at Mekelle University and Hawassa University. He is currently a research fellow at SupAgro Montpellier, Seattle.

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