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A Ceasefire: Finger Pointing at the Victim is neither Just nor Acceptable!

A Ceasefire: Finger Pointing at the Victim is neither Just nor Acceptable!

 

Adi Haki 08-15-21

 

Some elements of the international community are unjustly putting pressure on the people of Tigray and their army, the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF), to halt their military advancement and withdraw from the Amhara and Afar regions of Ethiopia. While their desire for peace and mitigating human suffering in Tigray and the rest of Ethiopia is understandable, pressuring the Tigray people to stop their legitimate fight against the Abiy, Isaias and Amhara forces who have continued to impose a complete siege on Tigray and commit crimes as part of their ethnic cleansing and genocidal agenda, is morally and legally wrong.

 

The people of Tigray have been collectively murdered, raped, starved, arrested and harassed by the Abiy Ahmed, Isais Afewerki and Amhara forces for the last nine months. Serious war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed without a doubt. The apparent ethnic cleansing, atrocities, mass rape and wanton destruction of property would most likely amount to genocide subject to appropriate international inquiry. 

 

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A recent Amnesty Report reaffirmed that sexual violence has been used by the aggressors as a method of war in Tigray. Despite the so-called unilateral ceasefire declared by the Ethiopian despotic regime following the major military defeated it has sustained in Tigray, the Abiy Ahmed regime has continued putting thousands of innocent Tigrayans in to concentration camps; the regime has recently passed death sentences and life-imprisonment sanctions against thousands of Ethiopian army officers of Tigray origin; and the regime continued to use starvation as a method of war by deliberately hindering humanitarian aid.

 

Despite all these continuous crimes, some countries such as the USA and others are putting pressure on the TDF to halt its war effort against the genocidal forces. They are doing so in the name of a ceasefire. It is wrong to blame the Tigrayan side and deny their right to defence themselves for the following reasons.

 

First, despite some of the condemnations made and modest actions taken by some democracies against the genocidal forces, there is no question that the international community has essentially failed to protect the people of Tigray from collective crimes and horrendous destruction. They were at the verge of total eradication a few months ago as an ethnic group. This led them to fiercely fight for their survival and protect their fundamental values and freedoms. 

 

Although Tigrayans have made significant progress towards full liberation and security, they are still under complete blockade and continue to be subjected to collective punishment and harassment within and outside Tigray. Most significantly, the enemy forces are reenforcing their manpower and artillery power to return to Tigray to get rid of the ‘weed’ and the ‘cancer’ from the face of the earth.

 

The people of Tigray are entitled to neutralise the existential threat they face on their survival by taking necessary and proportionate military measures within and outside the Tigray region. They have no any other option unless the international community steps in to protect them from actual and future international crimes and abuses. Hence, any call upon Tigrayans to halt their war, political and diplomatic effort must not contravene this principle.

 

Secondly, the comparison that some made between the call they make on the Amhara and Eritrean forces to withdraw from Tigray and TDF’s withdrawal from other parts of Ethiopia is fundamentally wrong. The former are illegally occupying Tigrayan territories by forcibly evicting Tigrayans, killing and abusing them to death. They are doing so with intent to permanently take over western Tigray contrary to constitutional norms.

 

In contrast, the TDF is in hot pursuit of the criminal armies and associated militia with the purpose of neutralising their capability of returning to Tigray to perpetrate and compete their heinous crimes and threaten the very existence of Tigrayans.  It has to be recalled that senior army officials of Ethiopia are vowing to return to Mekelle and wipe out the ‘cancer’ by mobilising the entire Ethiopian public against Tigrayans.

 

The seemingly diplomatic or scholarly balancing exercise of blaming both sides of the war for continued fighting and calling upon both sides to silence the guns is therefore unjust. Diplomatic and scholarly pressure must target the offenders and not the victims who are exercising their natural rights.

 

Thirdly, some called upon the USA to sanction Tigray military and political leaders so that they stop their just war. This is an extremely dangerous idea that must be rejected by policy makers for several reasons:

 

 (a) while failing to take concrete action to halt war crimes, crimes against humanity and a potential genocide against Tigrayans, it would amount to an apparent double standard if one acts to hinder the legitimate right of self-defence against offenders;

 

(b) some of those who suggest measures against Tigray leaders refer to the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF); this approach would be a grave mistake as the Tigray resistance against the enemy is a people’s movement; even those who oppose the TPLF are fighting and leading the war effort; any action taken in the name of the TPLF would therefore amount to attacking all Tigrayans, in effect victims of systemic and collective crimes such as rape, extrajudicial killings and starvation and forced eviction; this would be considered by victims as sending sticks to their wounds; and

 

(c) any sanction and action must target those who have continued to breach international norms by murdering, arresting and abusing Tigrayans en masse and hindering humanitarian assistance; a generic punishment that does not distinguish the offender from the victim would send a wrong message to the criminal regimes and their cronies to continue with their offences against the people of Tigray or other ethnic groups.

 

Fourthly, it seems that some are making judgements on the struggle of the Tigray people based upon the deliberate misinformation campaign conducted by the Ethiopian, Eritrean and Amhara leaders and their propaganda machinery. This is particularly rampant with respect to accusations of enlisting children, committing atrocities and targeting historic sites.

 

The world knows that the Abiy, Isaias and Amhara alliance has committed flagrant breaches of the laws of war by massacring civilians, targeting their objects and raping and starving the people.  In contrast, the Tigray forces has never fought a war in civilian areas and targeted civilian sites, including in the Amhara and Afar regions. This must continue until the war is over.

 

Some use the Mai-Kadra and Afar incidents to accuse the TDF. However, it was later revealed that the Mai-Kadra victims were mostly Tigrayans and not Amhara labourers. Whether the victims are Tigrayans or Amhara does not matter. It is criminal offence to target civilians during an armed conflict. Appropriate and independent investigation must therefore be conducted before blaming the Tigray forces. The same is true with respect to the Afar incident. The aggressors executed the Tigray youth in a broad day light when they were in full control of Tigray; now they are campaigning against Tigrayan children as if they have interest to protect them. The media, researchers and others must thus be careful of not being victims of such fake news and propaganda. 

 

Finally, it is a shame that some members of the international community still consider the Abiy regime as legitimate (and elected) regime; this is so despite its involvement in serious international crimes; continued ethnic cleansing and profiling practice and policy; and its gross violations of human rights against Tigrayans and non-Tigrayan politicians, journalists, business people and others.

 

They back the Abiy regime under the pretext of supporting the integrity of Ethiopia, while this regime is working with the despotic regime of Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea to obliterate the Ethiopian state. While the two are in power in the Horn of Africa region any national interest of western or non-western  powers with respect to combating terrorism or promoting economic interest won’t be advanced. 

 

To conclude, coercing Tigray to unilaterally halt fighting and withdraw from other parts of Ethiopia while its enemies have continued their genocide through blocking basic necessities such as electricity, water, telecommunication services, banking and transport which is critical to deliver humanitarian aid is morally and legally unjustified. Coercing Tigray while western and other parts of Tigray  are under an illegal control of the Amhara and Eritrean forces amount to condoning the crimes committed by the aggressors. Contemplating to punish Tigray leadership would amount to another round of failing the Tigray population that is under siege and grave threat coming from the three forces and their foreign backers. The pressure to halt the war and mitigate humanitarian suffering must therefore target the Ahmed, Afewerki and (Demeke) Mekonen criminal partnership to end the Tigray blockage, collective punishment and innumerable abuses against Tigrayans.  Such injustice must stop immediately and without any precondition  if a credible and sustainable ceasefire is going to be agreed upon and implemented. Otherwise, a time buying ceasefire would only server the evil plans of the partners in crime to complete their genocidal war against Tigray.  Supporting, facilitating or condoning such a plan in the name of ceasefire and humanitarian relief provision and fingering at the victim is not only unjust but also unacceptable!

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