Annexation of NGOs by Ethiopia against Tigray: Invasive Hatred!
Gedda Komma 1-12-22
About a month ago, I was chatting with a person of vast knowledge about NGO and other international organizations operating in Ethiopia. The person is one of notable figures in the NGO circles. We discussed about Tigrayans and employment possibilities in the context of overall prevailing situation in the country. This discussion came about in the middle of talking about the issue of layoffs of many Tigrayan professionals from several state institutions, which the former Ethiopian Federal Minister of Women, Children and Youth, Filsan alluded to in her interview with the - Washington Post, December 30/2021 edition. She also indicated that there has been national effort to hide harrowing stories of rape or other crimes committed in Tigray by Eritrean, Amhara, Ethiopian forces – instead stressed on emphasizing on the TDF’s alleged crimes.
The NGO sector is expected to support such government efforts. I also shared my own impression of the narrowing chances of Tigrayans being employed in NGO sector because several INGOs and even local counterparts fear employing them. This is because of polarized and charged political environment and therefore, employing Tigrayans might jeopardize acceptability of the employing NGO in the eyes of state officials or some beneficiaries in some regions. Sometimes, it is seemingly understandable because a Tigrayan staff may not be able to move to all projects’ sites in the regions due to ethnic profiling in the air against Tigrayans. These stuffs are likely to be subjected to arrests, killings and harassments at every turn. Wherever they go, ground level acceptance and cooperation may be difficult and even precarious to the extent of mob justice in some regions. It is more of a state problem and not the NGOs in some cases; while it is shared problem in other cases because some NGO elite themselves are biased.
Anyway, we kept discussing with the person as we sat in the cafeteria about who is being employed in NGOs and how. Those outspoken anti-Tigrayan elite are in charge of key places in Ministry of Peace, Civil Society’s Agency, National Security, and in Foreign Ministry among others. There is unwritten consensus that Tigrayans should not be employed in key local NGO positions, and in any international ones as much as possible. The NGO sector is systematically captured by Amhara leaning cabal, highly sophisticated anti-Tigray forces and pro-Prosperity Party elements. They are strategically placed in NGO sector to control Tigrayans if they are already in the organization, or prevent others from joining, influence agenda and decisions with the intention of aligning NGO sector with government-line narratives.
How do these NGO elite harm Tigray? First and foremost, they underplay the Tigray condition in the eyes of their partners or foreign bosses in effort to bias them. The second is they try to equate or even over emphasize the conditions in other regions as direr and more atrocious in order to divert resources plus attention. On yet another side as indicated earlier, these NGO elite ensure Tigrayans are not employed to decision making and even in lower positions in those NGOs. If there were already some Tigrayans in those organizations, they connive with security forces or fellow staff and ostracize them so that they may leave or not say anything about the situation. With my friend, we shared the existing impression whereby even some of non-Tigrayan NGO staff assigned to Tigray during provisional government, particularly those staff who come from certain region, were clearly simplifying the situation there. They seemed less caring about the immediacy, and intensity of problems faced by the people of Tigray. In general, the most of Ethiopian NGO staff were more politically Prosperity Party leaning and sentimentally against Tigray. The same is true in most of the NGO head offices as my friend confided with me. So, there is rising discrimination and alienation of Tigrayans in Ethiopia at the moment. The degree may vary from one organization to another but the existence of this problem at some serious levels is not questionable. It has abhorrent ethnic and political undercurrent. The intention is to achieve systematic suppression Tigray people’s story and humanitarian access.
The challenge is significant number of NGOs and national NGOs in Ethiopia seem to be already infested with highly polarized anti-Tigray experts at decision making levels. As a result of such increasing institutional systematic, civil society savvy anti-Tigrayan elements’ successfully creeping into many civil society organizations in Ethiopia, the discrimination will likely continue. To that purpose, the Ethiopian authorities provide political support to those NGOs and civil societies in various ways. This method very well factors into the government’s plan of diversifying its ways of controlling and damaging Tigray. In fact, this can be imagined in the wider scheme of things intended to muzzle and emaciate Tigray now and for the times to come. This scheme enables these NGOs or elite therein to connive with the government to systematically misrepresent Tigray issues at key levels and platforms. This may include some UN agencies, several International Organizations including religious and religious affiliated international humanitarian organizations working in emergency, peace, rehabilitation and development sectors. By the way, significant number of religious and NGO leaders of Ethiopia are already globetrotting to lobby on behalf of the government and blackmail Tigray side in view of absolving Ethiopian and Eritrean governments from the crime of genocide in Tigray. They are oriented to lobby their international counterparts in effort to confuse the international community about siege on Tigray, man-made famine, mass arresting of civilians and profiling of Tigrayans, while shifting the blame to TDF and concocting other foggy stories to support the attempt.
As my expert friend pointed out, in case siege is lifted off Tigray, due to the polarized situation at the moment, many of these experts will not take up potential posts in Tigray but they will control the decision at programmatic national levels. In particular, the experts with Amhara sentiments seem excessively present and active in this key sector which seem to be saliently alienating Tigrayans.
The international partners, leaders of UN, INGOs, religiously oriented international bodies, and national civil societies have to know that the Tigray condition is extraordinary and should be handled by either Tigrayan or international expatriate staff who should not be under these anti-Tigray NGO elite who harbor deep seated illogical hate for Tigrayans. To further pinpoint:
1. At the current rate of situation, never ever assume that NGO experts from some backgrounds in Ethiopia will fairly represent your values, principles while thinking, planning and acting on matters Tigray. It is likely, very likely that they will inflict some hidden damage on Tigray at least through omission.
2. For national directorship and executive positions at Ethiopia level, it is advisable to hire expatriate; and for the regions in question? a Tigrayan in case of Tigray the same for others.
3. When announcing vacancies, put clear criteria and ensure strict adherence during screening stages. Because during screening, in INGOs, some practice exists whereby the concerned staff leave out certain applications and screen whoever they want, as we discussed with my friend. In some cases, they even ask for money to hire you and there are even agents. So be personally involved in screening and interviewing. Do not leave it to Ethiopian staff!
4. Assign projects directly to Tigray based NGOs and actors instead of subjecting the resources and decisions at Country Office levels. Or you can have empowered regional offices with enhanced mandate for obvious reasons.
5. Ensure that there is reasonable and robust diversity in terms of background and regional representations at country offices. Your office should not look like one village of Amhara, Tigray, Oromia or any other region for that matter. No group should intentionally exclude.
6. When your organizations do consultancy work in Tigray or on Tigray issues please engage expatriate professional, Tigrayan professionals or both. A lot shall be at stake if you hire other professionals from certain region.
7. Have affirmative employment taking into account the reality whereby Tigrayans are intentionally laid off from various sectors. Such view is required and is perfectly in order.
It is also proper to mention that there are some few balancing and responsible I/NGOs which are not yet fully politicized against any group. However, in the present-day Ethiopia, the international community and partners of the country should understand that almost all of the Ethiopian sides be it NGOs, religious institutions, media, government and some Ethiopian experts-influenced INGOs can NEVER treat Tigray issues the way those issues deserve to be handled. Therefore, it is a matter of Leaving No One behind, Doing No Harm, and other relevant principles that Tigray issues be handled carefully and affirmatively. The levels of hatred at levels leadership in media, religious, academia, civil society, and state institutions are bizarre in nature and scope. Thus, traditional institutions arrangements, assumptions and approaches will not help, rather may cause harm to Tigray in various ways.
Back to Front Page