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Massacre of “Ethiopianess” in the holy city of Axum

Massacre of “Ethiopianess” in the holy city of Axum

Aynalem Sebhatu 03-02-21

The harrowing and horrifying news of genocide that is taking place in Tigray are trickling out via the help of investigative power of journalists and human rights organizations. Even though the Ethiopian government, the Eritrean government and the Amhara regional state try their best to cover up their genocidal tracks, internal U.S. government reports collaborated by reputable human rights organizations found overwhelming evidence on the massacres of civilians and ethnic cleansing in Tigray. These reports are considered to be a preview for what is to come out of the war conducted in Tigray under the guise of “law enforcement operation” by Abiy Ahmed.

For any keen observer of the war in Tigray, it is very hard to escape from concluding that this is a well-planned genocidal war.  As I write this article; massacres, rapes, expulsions and lootings are hovering along every corner of the skies of Tigray.  Tigray is in effect an open-air museum of genocide. Tigrayans not only carry the burden of genocidal acts of Isaias Afewerki, Abiy Ahmed and the Amhara extremists, Tigrayans also bear the sacrifice and the tortured conscience of the country.

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While the international communities as a whole are slowly catching up with the realities of the genocidal war in Tigray; the Amhara regional state officials, the Eritrean and the Ethiopian governments are trying their best to deny the war crimes and making themselves busy in rewriting the history of denials in real time.  With the appearance of different reports of ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans by the Amhara and the Eritrean government, the speed and scale of an Amhara-wing disinformation machine jumped into the denial mode and its affiliated social media and Twitter megaphones are accusing the international media of spreading “fake news.” Never mind that the Amhara-wing disinformation networks were the main sources of all sorts of falsehoods and lies in Ethiopian politics thereby creating a fertile environment for genocidal war to be planned and executed with impunity.

In the last ten days or so, information has been coming out about the stepping up of the expulsion of thousands Tigrayans from western Tigray by the Amhara. It is ironic that the Amhara political elites are the ones who cry foul when innocent people of Amhara are expelled from different regional states. This shows that their hypocrisy has no boundary at all and It has always been characteristics of Amhara activists’ hysteria.  The Amhara elites’ fundamental mode of thinking about “Ethiopianess” from the era of Menelik down to our times has rested on the premise of that Amhara means Ethiopia and Ethiopia means Amhara. The notion of the designation of “others” is for sub-Ethiopians. Therefore, the wars waged by the Amhara in western and southern Tigray and in Metekel are merely the implementations and the expressions of their mode of thinking. Their view of citizenship leaves no room for diversity and equality under federalism. They are mostly proud of their glorious past history and amazingly suspicious about their future in federalist Ethiopia.


For centuries, the city of Axum has served as one of the holiest cities for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and it has occupied the hearts and minds of Ethiopians whenever they think about their history.  It no exaggeration to say that the city of Axum’s cultural, religious and historical contribution as the bedrock of “Ethiopianess” for many Ethiopians. Given this historical stature of Axum, the intense humiliation one feels about the massacre is beyond relief. It is even mortifying when one thinks the massacre took place by a foreign army invited by the leader of the country. Even the obelisks of Axum are “stunned” by the moaning and death rattles of the innocent souls perished by the merciless killers. In effect, Abiy Ahmed and the Amhara political elites sacrificed the country’s sovereignty, the “Ethiopianess” of Tigray and the holiness of the city upon the high altar of their political ambition.

The massacres in the holy city of Axum are the symptomatic of the political environments that exist to greater or lesser degree in villages, towns and cities in Tigray regional state. Due to its historical significance and its visibility, the massacres in Axum are more catastrophic because the magnanimity of Axum is bigger in the historical perceptions and formation of “Ethiopianess” that have taken on the country’s historical record in the last 3,000 years.

With the war in Tigray raging and the massacres springing up in every corner of Tigray, one could not avoid to critically dive into the meaning of Ethiopian citizenship and the meaning of sovereignty.  What is meant to “be Ethiopian” for Tigrayans now?  On the surface, Ethiopian citizenship symbolizes, at least in theory, a unity based on the principles of equality of all citizens regardless of their ethnic identity or religious beliefs which are enshrined in the constitution. Yet, the war crimes committed in Tigray and in Oromia, constantly remind us the people of Tigray and Oromia will never be truly Ethiopians because of who they actually are.  Unless nations and nationalities of the country are given the freedom to express their identities and self-govern their destinies, the ideals of equality and freedom remain hollow and deeply flawed.

The denial of the involvement of the Eritrean army in the war in Tigray has outlived its usefulness and it increasingly is used to divert away from the real issues.  The focus should be on how we can cope with the intricate dilemma we confront in the country’s sovereignty, war crimes and violations of human rights.  The country is increasingly finding itself in precisely this sort of dilemma and it is at crossroads. With the leadership of Abiy Ahmed surrounded by Amhara extremists and the unhinged dictator of Eritrea, any road the country takes leads to difficulties. It seems clear to me that Abiy Ahmed’s leadership no longer has any logical nexus with the historical and political reality of the country, and it has reached a dead end. It is obvious that the country and its leadership could not continue as if nothing happened and to ignore it in the hope it will go away is going to be a recipe for a disaster.

On a broader level, probably no historical period has left such a track record of hate and destruction in its wake as the war currently raging against the people of Tigray. When the Amhara Fano and the Eritrean army collaborated to mercilessly massacre innocent civilians, rape, loot, expelled, raze villages to ground, slaughter animals, burn farms into ashes and destroy private and public properties—Tigrayans feel an overpowering urge to abdicate from “being Ethiopians.”  At this point in time, Tigrayans feel not only abandoning their “Ethiopianess” but also feel an overwhelming urge to quit from the human race.   

Tigray will prevail!

Eternal glory to our martyrs!




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