The cessation of hostilities deal reached between the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party in Tigray on Nov 2/2022 in Pretoria, South Africa was widely acclaimed and was particularly welcome news to the US and EU who, kept expressing “concern” with numbing regularity over a 2 year period as genocide was unfolding in Tigray. Abiy and his fellow-genocidaires made no secret from the outset about their intention to wipe Tigrayans out. https://apnews.com/article/europe-ethiopia-africa ffd3dc3faf15d0501fd87cafe274e65a
Abiy’s senior advisor, Daniel Kibret who professes to be a pastor of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church said at a public forum “they should be the last of their kind, they must be erased from human memory and conscience” https://www.barrons.com/news/us-blasts-dangerous-rhetoric-by-ally-of-ethiopia-pm-01632159008. Such incendiary words are considered incitement to genocide and are punishable under Article III c of the Genocide Convention. Putting their hateful words into action, a total embargo including withholding of food and medicine was imposed on Tigray causing starvation and disease leading to the death of a tenth of the region’s population.
Hopes were high that the embargo would finally end when the deal was reached as the agreement stipulated that the federal government would immediately facilitate unhindered access to food and medicine, concurrently with the cessation of hostilities between the two parties. The TPLF made all the concessions to make this happen. The cessation of hostilities agreement has held so far but only a trickle of the humanitarian assistance has reached the people. Tigray remains under a complete communication black out with internet, telephone and all forms of transportation with the region cut off. Electricity and banking services have not been restored, and word from officials in Addis Ababa is that it may take weeks, perhaps months to do so. A case of déjà vu? I hope not.
The world’s deadliest conflict and worst humanitarian catastrophe has now entered its most perilous and unpredictable phase.
Amhara and Afar militia allied with the federal government and Isaias Afeworki’s troops are carrying out large scale military operations inside Tigray -and are doing what they always do-kill and rape, pillage and destroy. The oxygen plant at St. Mary’s Hospital in Axum is reported to have been dismantled and trucked to Eritrea a week ago. Eritrean troops are also abducting Tigrayan men and women and transporting them to Eritrea to an uncertain destiny. Some sources say the purpose of the abduction is to indoctrinate them and give military training to fight against TPLF, a diabolical long term plan to cause an endless civil strife within Tigray.
The so-called peace deal which some commentators have called the world’s deadliest conflict and worst humanitarian catastrophe leaves the civilian population of Tigray at the mercy of the invading troops, the very troops who committed ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity since the war began on Nov 4/2020. Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) and the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) have so far abided by the terms of the agreement and have refrained from hostilities against each other. Abiy, however has so far not taken the necessary steps to ensure withdrawal of foreign troops from Tigray nor have Ethiopian troops intervened to stop the war crimes being committed by the foreign troops
The AUC under its current chairman Musa Faki Mahamati and AU designated mediator, former president Obasanjo of Nigeria with the active participation and pressure of the US special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer midwifed the ill-conceived and hastily drafted document that can only be seen as setting the stage for a more horrific and deadlier resumption of hostilities since it leaves the many questions that led to the war unanswered and is deliberately left vague subject to different interpretations. There is also no mention of the invading Eritrean troops and their allies by name.
More ominously, the agreement has set a dangerous precedent for Africa and the world by accepting government sponsored starvation of a population as a matter for negotiation and rewarding perpetrators of the crime with a quid pro quo rather than demanding punitive action befitting the heinous crimes.
African solution for African problems has been bandied around lately by Abiy who, at the beginning of the hostilities, rebuffed African Elders (former presidents of Liberia, Mozambique and South Africa) who counselled dialogue and offered to mediate. They were unceremoniously dismissed telling them in essence to mind their own business as this was an internal matter for Ethiopia to resolve. So much for the Johnny-come-lately Pan Africanist who just discovered the mantra ‘African solution for African problems’.
The document’s failure to mention or acknowledge that the tenth of the population of Tigray has been wiped out by government sponsored genocide is a bloody stain on the AU and all its international enablers who should have considered a referral to the ICC. The mediators decided to gloss over this instead and have given a nod to any would be IL Duce who may wage a war of extermination on his own people knowing that he can get away with the crime of genocide with no accountability.
If there ever was an urgent need to invoke the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), it is the existential danger faced by the people of Tigray at this juncture. The AU and the international community can salvage whatever little credibility they have left by insisting on the government of Ethiopia’s responsibility to protect its population at risk. Any foot dragging or false promise by the government as it is bound to do is no longer acceptable. Its sovereignty, it should be made clear, is predicated upon its fulfilment of its obligation to protect its population.
That said, the following imperatives need to be essential and required supplements to the agreement if the cessation of hostilities is to be permanent leading to a sustainable peace in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa
1. Establish an independent investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity as documented in a joint statement by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. A war crimes tribunal needs to be set up. Those responsible from the top down the chain of command need to be held to account.
2. International expert assessment of the physical and psychological trauma endured by survivors of gender based violence is required. There are estimated 130,000 such survivors in Tigray alone. Long term medical and psychosocial support will be needed while perpetrators of the crime are held to account to the extent ascertainable.
3. Never again has become a phrase we keep repeating after each report of a genocide but such crimes keep occurring again and again with impunity. We cannot in all good conscience turn a blind eye to the crime of genocide as fellow humans keep getting slaughtered by self- absorbed psychopathic leaders. African lives (in this case 600,000 Tigrayans-10%of the population) should not be trivialized. Their souls/spirits will not find peace until justice is done.
4. Ethiopian government shall ensure “accountability, ascertaining the truth, redress for victims” says one of the articles of the agreement. To ask the very perpetrators of the crime to ensure accountability is like the fox guarding the henhouse. The African Union perhaps can redeem itself by filling this role with the financial and technical support of the UN and other international agencies.
Let Peace and Justice Prevail in Tigray and all regions of Ethiopia.
A Luta Continua
Mohammed A, Nurhussein MD