The Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia yesterday issued a notice calling upon the “senior TPLF military and political leaders” to surrender lest they cause “misery of [sic] their people”.
The notice helpfully says that those who have not been suspected of having had a role in the alleged attack of the military command, which the office admonishes us to accept as a fact, can return to their normal life without any fear of retribution.
As to who has been suspected of having had a role, the letter does not say anything. It is as though there was a list containing those suspected that everyone is privy to.
Also absent in the letter is why the need to issue an ultimatum after the Prime Minister had said the war had long been over and that all that remained was for the federal police to apprehend suspects.
The attack on a military base myth
The letter starts by asserting the claim that the “dominant group within the TPLF violated the constitution and other basic laws of the land in attacking the defense forces” is an established fact.
This of course is not true.
Although the government maintains it was arm-twisted into war after “the TPLF attacked a military base,” no independent investigation has established that this is indeed the case. The TPLF maintains that whatever action it took, it took it in preemptive self-defense.
The PM himself does not disagree with the TPLF on this point. He has on multiple occasions said he had been meticulously planning the war, even going as far as to blindside the TPLF by hiding Ethiopia’s military prowesses so that the TPLF would feel emboldened to attack.
Moreover, multiple regime officials from the Amhara region have repeatedly said they had been preparing for the war, waiting for an opportune moment to attack. (Here the chief police commissioner of the Amhara region describes events leading up to the war. Here is an count by a scholar who was privy to some internal communications between military officials.)
So, not only is the claim not an established fact, a cursory look at the evidence suggests that the claim doesn’t have even a kernel of truth in it.
A minor point given that the Abiy regime is not known for clarity and precision but it is not clear who the “dominant group with the TPLF” is or what “other basic laws” refers to.
The war on the people of Tigray is premised on the belief that Tigrayans are “others”.
The PM once advised Ethiopians to be on the lookout for ethnic-Tigrayans. The implication was that ethnic Tigrayans should be seen as potential threats.
Seen in this light, it should not come as a surprise that as soon as the war started the Ethiopian army and security apparatus was cleansed of ethnic Tigrayans and why the war has targeted civilians.
But up until now, the regime had put on a good show of pretending that it did not consider the people as “others” in its official communications.
That changed yesterday when it said in its letter that the top TPLF hierarchy should surrender to save “their people”.
It could well be that it crept into the letter as a Fruedian slip but insofar as intent and belief are concerned, it does not matter whether or not it was a conscious decision to use that term.
In either case, the chillingly ugly term, “their people”, betrays the true nature of the Abiy regime with respect to the Tigrayan people – that it sees them as “others” that Ethiopia can do without.
A sickening philosophy to deal with “others”
The PM once said that ethnic Amhara and ethnic Oromo men who had gone to Tigray to defend their country against various enemies since the time of Menelik II did not leave Tigray without impregnating at least 10 women. This, his argument goes, was proof that there was no such thing as a pure Tigrayan identity. He was hinting at one way of homogenising Ethiopia, which he thinks is something that should happen to solve the “diversity problem”. This is not some wacky idea of a madman that we should laugh off and dismiss. There is ground to believe that the Ethiopian soldiers’ catch-to-rape attitude towards women in Tigray might have a philosophical underpinning, however sickening.
A rape victim who CNN spoke to said that the man we raped her said he was cleansing her blood line. Multiple outlets have also reported that the victims had told them they were at the receiving end of a government-approved plan to either exterminate or ethnically-cleanse them. CNN’s Nima Elbagir described the horror rape stories she had heard as chilling. Chilling as they are, they seem to be a part of government policy. Blood cleansing through rape, it appears, is one way the regime intends to rid ethnic others of their “otherness”.
Why ultimatum now
The takeaway message of the notice is this: if you [TPLF officials] don’t surrender, misery will be inflicted on “your people” and you are going to be responsible for it.
To understand why the regime felt the need to issue this ultimatum, or notice, as it has put it, we will need a bit of context about the status of the war in Tigray.
Buckling under pressure from the international community to end the war, the PM had declared the war over on the 28th of November, 2020.
Au contraire, the war has since been raging and that has put the PM in a bind, especially now with international media outlets reporting from the scene.
The PM must have thought that the way to get out of that conundrum is to go on a final offensive using whatever military power he has and really end the war.
Given that his adventures so far have resulted in him being on the brink of being accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, he must have thought one way to obviate similar charges in the future is to plant an exculpatory excuse in advance. Despots too learn from history, albeit the wrong lesson.
And so, having already planted this “notice”, the regime seems bent on devastating Tigray and then blaming it on the TPLF for refusing to surrender: I told you to surrender lest you cause misery to your people; you refused and brought misery on your people.
In other words, the regime has given itself a license to murder and destroy Tigray, having set up an alibi in advance to dodge the inevitable accountability.