Although it is no longer headline news, the civil war in Ethiopia continues. An Ethiopian refugee in South Africa explains and reflects on the conflict in his homeland.
(Dailymaverick)—Countries like Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Egypt and Kenya are known as terrible war zones and places of instability in Africa. They are characterised by dictatorship, corruption, failure of leadership and the political system, bureaucracy and poverty – and interference by Western and other foreign powers seems to be one-size-fits-all.
But to understand the continuous conflict it is necessary to know something of the history of Ethiopia and its different peoples.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is a political party established on 18 February 1975 in Dedebit, northwestern Tigray. Within 16 years it had grown from about a dozen men into the most powerful armed liberation movement in Ethiopia.
TPLF leaders are known for 20 years of dictatorship, brewing ethnic tensions and divisions, and for the brutal arrest and killing of dozens of people in various regional states. These leaders were highly corrupted and involved in various criminal activities.
Abiy had been a member of the TPLF since the age of 16 and actively involved in many of the party’s activities, from military to intelligence, including cyber hacking and torture. He was even head and founder of the Information Network Security Agency before becoming prime minister.
After he gained power in 2018 he formed the Prosperity Party and was accepted by the majority of the people of Ethiopia, who hoped he would bring peace and unity to the country.
Abiy invited all opposition parties, including the rebel Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), and freed the TPLF leaders without accountability or prosecution. The leaders then hid in Mekele, the capital of the Tigray Region, and started working with other opposition parties like the OLF, which had been labelled as a terrorist group by the TPLF during its administration.
A new reign of terror follows Nobel Peace Prize
Soon after the prime minister received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 dozens of people started dying at the hands of OLF rebels, mainly Amharic people who lived in the Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz regions.
The death of popular singer Hachalu Hundessa and the arrest of opposition figures Jawar Mohammed from the Oromo Federalist Congress, Eskinder Nega of the Balderas for True Democracy Party, leaders of the OLF and journalists, including a Kenyan and the founder and former president of the Ethiopian Democratic Party, Lidetu Ayalew, have been the main causes of unrest over the past two years.
Now the TPLF wants to regain power by orchestrating ethnic and religious conflicts and killing innocent people because of their ethnic background, with the support of the OLF. The prime minister is also criticised for his unethical relationship with the dictator president of Eritrea, Isias Afwerki.
Unfortunately, this has led the country to civil war.
In November 2020, TPLF rebels attacked and stole military equipment from the mechanised base of the Ethiopian Defence Force in Tigray, claiming the Ethiopian government and the Eritrean leader wanted to attack Tigrayan people.
The federal government then declared war on TPLF leaders hidden in Tigray. This caused the migration of more than 30,000 Ethiopians to a refugee camp in Sudan. They invited Eritrean soldiers led by Isias to kill their own people. Since then about 2.2 million people have been displaced.
While we are all focusing on the current civil war there are dozens of massacres still happening all over the country, focusing on people of Amhara ethnic origin.
According to Amnesty International, a massacre on 9 November 2020 was revealed using photo and video analysis and interviews with witnesses who said retreating forces loyal to the TPLF were responsible for killing ethnic Amhara residents of the town Mai Kadra.
One witness said: “We ran out of town to find safety. I saw men in civilian clothes attacking villagers with knives and axes. Corpses were lying in the streets. On the road I saw at least 40 bodies. Some had bullets in their heads, others had been stabbed… When I went home, my house was on fire and my husband and two sons had disappeared.”
Many elders, women and children are victims of hunger, brutal torture, killings and migration.
But neither side cares about the lives of innocent people, only their political agendas.
The Aksum massacre of between 720 and 800 civilians took place on the afternoon and evening of 28 November, continuing on 29 November, with smaller numbers of extrajudicial killings having taken place from 19 November. It was attributed by Amnesty International and the Associated Press to the Eritrean Defence Forces and involved indiscriminate shooting. The bodies were brought to churches, including the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion (Maryam Ts’iyon), for burial. Due to a communication block, news of the massacre was only revealed internationally in early January 2021 after survivors escaped to safe locations.
But the killing has continued.
On 7 March 2021, armed assailants slaughtered at least 32 people in front of their loved ones in an attack in Western Wollega zone (Oromia). Between 700 and 750 people were also displaced by violence near Guliso. Local officials claim the attack was carried out by members of the Oromo Liberation Army, who targeted members of the Amhara and Gurage ethnic groups after soldiers stationed in the area withdrew for unclear reasons.
On the same day, in the Metekel Zone of Benishangul-Gumuz Region, several people were killed because of their ethnicity.
Despite many international governments, diplomats, human rights organisations, the UN, Amnesty International and media reports, Abiy keeps denying his role in these killings. Now, to our surprise, he has declared there will be a fair election in June 2021, while he detains the main opposition party leaders who are denied any right or freedom of association or protest. No debate between parties or campaigns is allowed.
Guess who is going to be the winner?
I have never seen such cruelty and hatred in our society. I have never been more ashamed to be called Ethiopian and embarrassed than in the past three years, and feel shame to see such evil acts and killings.
We left our country opposing this kind of oppressive leadership. We were the victims of the previous leadership for 27 years. We thought this time things would change. But in less than three years millions have been displaced and thousands have been killed by the security forces.
Many households, buildings and hotels, including businesses owned by world-famous Ethiopian athlete Haile Gebrsellasie have burned to the ground in different parts of Oromia. Our mothers and sisters were brutally abused, raped and killed in several parts of the country.
Once more, many are leaving the country to avoid arrest and save their lives.
People of Ethiopia live in fear again, with no freedom of speech or association. We really do not know about the future of the country and its people. We have never seen such daylight corruption, genocide and now civil war.
We all know most developing countries in Africa are highly dependent on donations and aid from Western nations. East Africa has been the target for many years, from the colonial era until now, of foreign powers like China, the US, France and Russia for political and economic gain and, through its geographical location, to control the rest of Africa and the Arab world.
These powers invest an unbelievable amount of money in East Africa, creating conflicts, supporting rebels, even putting into power whoever they want to serve their other hidden colonial agenda and political gain.
The Arab world is also now in competition with the above foreign nations by investing in different sectors to gain dominance. This creates continuous political instability, war, drought and migration.
Our people live in fear, hungry and suffering because our leaders bend to these powers and turn their head against the promise they made to their people.
This is the perfect time for the world to stop the Ethiopian government from killing innocent people and be held accountable for the genocide.
The terrorised people are crying for help – from God and the international community – amid the bloodshed. Right now Ethiopia is “Akeldama”.
Please, let’s pray for Ethiopia.
I believe it is our duty as Africans to start from our own home, because everything starts from home. We need to teach our children African history, to love and respect each other and respect others, love neighbours and be kind to one another. Other African leaders should do more advocacy in bringing peace and harmony among other African nations and the people.
Please pray for Ethiopia. Peace and one love for Africa. DM/MC
Eyasu Mengistu is not the writer’s real name. His real identity is known to Maverick Citizen. Previous articles include Life as a Refugee in South Africa and Xenophobic attacks: ‘We expect it at least once a year like Christmas’