By Mulugeta Gebregziabher
November 4, 2021, marked the 365th day of the war on Tigray that was waged by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his allies, the Eritrean government, Amhara forces, and other foreign actors. Since the war started, I have been reflecting and sharing my frustrations and agony about the war while also working on research that helps to raise awareness about the health and humanitarian crisis induced by the war (e.g. organizing a global health symposium in April 2021, APHA presentation in October 2021, several articles and interviews in local, national and international media). I have also been involved in organizations such as Security and Justice for Tigrayans (SJT) that advocate for the justice of Tigrayans who are suffering from the ongoing war and the resulting humanitarian crisis. It is in line with these advocacy efforts that I am writing now to make a new year’s call to the international community, especially my professional colleagues, to help stop the ongoing campaign of genocide on the people of Tigray.
As someone with a background in global health research in Ethiopia and a close observer of the situation in Ethiopia, I feared an impending conflict that could devastate the Tigray people and could even lead to genocide. I reflected this in my MUSC Catalyst interview as well as in articles I contributed and published with SJT. Sadly, my fears materialized, the conflict erupted and Tigray has been caught up in a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. The suffering of the people of Tigray is ongoing under a complete siege which is leading to starvation and lack of basic health services. The war of genocide continues and the suffering and worries also continue to increase with each passing day.
As a member of the Tigrayan community, I am trying to use every opportunity to appeal to the international community to uphold its responsibilities, set out in international laws, to protect civilians from arbitrary detention, harm and death. Learning from the failure of the international community in similar crises previously, I feel that this is an opportunity for my friends and colleagues in the US and my congressional representatives who are uniquely placed to take action to stop the ongoing genocidal war on Tigray. This is a ‘We Are The World’ moment for us all.
In an interview on NPR, Senator Menendez of New Jersey has unequivocally answered the question of what’s going on in Tigray – he called it a genocide. The same affirmative conclusion was made by other senators and congressional members. In fact, an amendment that calls for the proper classification of the crimes committed in the war on Tigray by the State Department had been approved in the House of Representatives as Amendment 555 to the NDAA bill (authored by Rep Tom Malinowski and Rep Sara Jacobs). However, these efforts have since stalled due to the reluctance of the US State Department to take action.
It’s not long time ago that the world failed Rwanda or Darfur-Sudan while a genocide that took the lives of thousands of people happened. The Tigray region of Ethiopia is not very far from Darfur in Sudan where genocide occurred. How many times should the international community say, ‘never again without taking any meaningful steps to actually ensure that genocide does indeed never happen again? Bill Clinton said:
“The international community, together with nations in Africa, must bear its share of responsibility for this tragedy, as well. We did not act quickly enough after the killing began.”Bill Clinton
More recently in an article, Lessons from Rwanda- dangers of an Ethiopian genocide increase as rebels threaten Addis, Professor Chidi Odinkalu also noted:
“Indisputably, the most important truth that emerges from our investigation is that the Rwandan genocide could have been prevented by those in the international community who had the position and means to do so. But though they had the means, they lacked the will. The world failed Rwanda.”
The same trends are observed in the current war in Ethiopia except that what is unfolding is actually on a much greater scale with the Federal Government of Ethiopia allied with several regional forces seeking to annihilate a small region with about 7 million people.
The Tigray genocide is further perpetuated by the mass detention of civilians in Addis Ababa and other Ethiopian cities as revealed by international human rights organizations Amnesty and Human Rights Watch as well as by the Media. The New York Times, for example, noted that ‘an ethnically-motivated detention campaign largely targeting Ethiopians of Tigrayan descent threatens to further unravel Africa’s second-most populous country a year into a civil war’.
More reporting has been done by the Telegraph in an article entitled ‘Ethiopia Tigrayans rounded, mutilated and dismembered by civil war’. Another recent report based on a joint investigation by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch reveals that thousands of people in Western Tigray are being ethnically exterminated by the alliance of Amahara Fano and Eritrean forces.
Unfortunately, however, despite the availability of abundant facts reported by UN agencies, USAID, US State Department, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The Crisis Group, and international media such as CNN, NYT, Washington Post, The Guardian, etc. (see references list below), the war crimes and crimes against humanity are continuing to this day. In repeated appearances, as witnesses in the US Congress, US State Department officials have indicated that the review and classification as genocide of the war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ethiopia have been completed but not yet released. However, there are no commensurate actions taken to stop this horror that my family and the people of Tigray are going through. The release of the genocide classification by the US might trigger the needed actions to stop the humanitarian catastrophe. It is therefore my hope that the US State Department responds to the call soon since the war is escalating and would eventually reach the corridors of Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia.
At this point, I believe that there shouldn’t be any remaining doubt left within the minds of the international community as to the intentions of the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments. It is to annihilate the people of Tigray by any means possible. The Ethiopian government conspired to commit a full-fledged crime of genocide in collaboration with allies from as far as UAE, Turkey, Iran, China, and Russia. Some of these countries have also blocked UN Security Council (UNSC) action to stop the war and atrocities.
As I write this, the government of Ethiopia is bombarding towns and villages, indiscriminately killing civilians. It bombed essential infrastructure like the Tekeze hydroelectric dam, the Adwa Textile Factory, and the homes of individuals. It also continues to indiscriminately arrest Tigrayan civilians who live in Addis Ababa and other Ethiopian cities and kidnap Tigrayans from neighboring countries including Kenya and Kismayo of Somalia as reported recently. Millions are starving to death beyond the reach of humanitarian aid.
Sadly, international journalists are repressed and intimidated not to document, investigate, and report the atrocities. The devastating impact on the victims, communities, and society can take generations to overcome and heal. In a nutshell, the conditions in Tigray today are desperate and catastrophic and require your prompt support and concrete actions to save the people of Tigray from extermination. As a result of these conditions, Ethiopia is also becoming a failed state which could cause regional instability.
In light of this reality my appeal to my colleagues is to collectively or unilaterally help with the call for:
- Enforcement of effective measures that allow unfettered delivery of humanitarian aid to rescue the millions of children and civilians who are dying due to man-made starvation and malnourishment and due to lack of basic drugs and medical supplies, as well, and find ways and means to assist the return of displaced people to their homes.
- Imposition of an arms embargo, and other sanctions to stop Mr. Abiy’s desperate air bombardments of civilian targets.
- Taking unequivocal and practical steps to stop financing Mr. Abiy’s genocidal war project, directly or indirectly, as this, unquestionably, enables him to procure weapons and allow the genocidal war to continue aiming at wiping out the entire population of Tigray.
- Ordering, in no uncertain terms, the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean troops and hold offenders accountable for the crimes committed against the people of Tigray.
- If you are a US citizen, urging your congressional rep to vote for the H.Res. 445 and get it passed through Congress. https://www.sjtethiopia.org/a-petition-calling-on-the-us-congress-to-fully-support-resolution-445/
- If you are a US citizen, urging your Senator to vote for a Senate Amendment to the NDAA that mirrors Amendment #555 in H.R. 4350 of the House, which charges members of the Atrocity Early Warning Task Force and the Secretary of State to promptly determine (within 60 Days of being enacted into law) if the atrocities in Tigray amount to crimes against humanity and genocide. https://www.sjtethiopia.org/petition-to-the-us-government-congress-and-senate-call-atrocities-in-tigray-genocide/
In 1984 celebrities rallied the world to stop famine in Ethiopia through the ‘We are the World’ campaign. It was an effective campaign to raise awareness and help to collect aid for the people who suffered from famine. We have a situation that asks for such involvement from everyone and especially the professional community.
- Tigray Ethnic cleansing:
- Ethnic cleansing and concentration camps https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/ethiopia-tigray-ethnic-cleansing-concentration-camps-b1914876.html
- ‘Leave no Tigrayan’: In Ethiopia, an ethnicity is erased United Nations Africa Memories Orthodox Antony Blinken | The Independent https://www.independent.co.uk/news/leave-no-tigrayan-in-ethiopia-an-ethnicity-is-erased-abiy-ahmed-sudan-ethiopia-id-cards-memories-b1827692.html
- Nobel peace prize laureate committing genocide in Ethiopia
- Revoke the Nobel Peace Prize https://www.ethiopia-insight.com/2021/06/14/revoke-the-nobel-peace-prize-from-ethiopias-abiy/
- Eliza Mackintosh, CNN: From Nobel laureate to global pariah: How the world got Abiy Ahmed and Ethiopia so wrong
- Weaponized famine
- Tigray war affecting farming: https://theconversation.com/how-ethiopias-conflict-has-affected-farming-in-tigray-166229
- Six Tough Questions We Need to Ask About the Famine in Tigray https://www.refugeesinternational.org/reports/2021/8/19/6-tough-questions-we-need-to-ask-about-the-famine-in-tigray
- Weaponized rape
- What ‘Rape as a Weapon of War’ in Tigray Really Means – Reinventing Peace https://sites.tufts.edu/reinventingpeace/2021/08/10/what-rape-as-a-weapon-of-war-in-tigray-really-means/
- ‘A Tigrayan womb should never give birth’: Rape in Tigray | Sexual Assault News | Al Jazeera https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/21/a-tigrayan-womb-should-never-give-birth-rape-in-ethiopia-tigray
- War crimes:
- Mulugeta Gebrehiwot (from Tigray): How do you expect to stop war crimes with a request?
- Gwynne Dyer: War-torn Ethiopia is on its way to becoming another Yugoslavia
- Mukesh Kapila: Following the Tigray conflict, the rocky road to peace in Ethiopia
- UN Reports on Tigray humanitarian catastrophe
- My publications and interviews
- The genesis of the war: https://www.sjtethiopia.org/the-tigray-war-of-genocide/
- op-ed: https://thehill.com/opinion/international/567825-the-assault-on-health-care-in-tigray
- My interview with the MUSC Catalyst: https://web.musc.edu/about/news-center/2019/08/19/professor-gives-back-to-ethiopia
- My interview: https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2021/0719/When-a-Nobel-Peace-Prize-winner-wages-war-who-loses
- My interview with the MUSC News Center: https://web.musc.edu/about/news-center/2021/07/14/immigrants-contribution-to-research-part-2
- My Interview in an Italian paper https://www.panorama.it/news/dal-mondo/draghi-posizione-genocidio-tigray
- My Interview in DW German radio https://www.dw.com/de/ein-jahr-b%C3%BCrgerkrieg-not-und-leid-in-tigray-nehmen-zu/a-59699292
- My interview with a Japanese paper: https://www.ganas.or.jp/20211208tigray/
- My interview with a German paper: Ein Jahr Bürgerkrieg: Not und Leid in Tigray nehmen zu: https://p.dw.com/p/42UVo
- My interview on the newsletter of the APHA Peace caucus: https://852970c3-1bab-4e32-8382-007db4fa121f.filesusr.com/ugd/feab26_d6f98180a09f47f7aafc54828d4738b7.pdf
- My APHA presentation https://apha.confex.com/apha/2021/meetingapp.cgi/Session/62525