The Tigray Ethnic Cleansing:
Intensified Atrocities Necessitate Urgent Global Action
Ezana H. (from Mekelle) 17.03.21
Mass crimes, denial and pressure
The Eritrean, federal and Amhara forces have intensified their massacring, torturing, raping and abusing Tigrayans en masse in the last few days and weeks. Looting, pillaging, destroying private property of peasants, town and cities dwellers and small and medium businesses by the Eritrean, federal and Amhara forces are commonplace in the region. These forces are also using starvation as a weapon, while trying to deceive the international community by fabricating statistics of those who ‘received’ relief.
Despite the plight of the Tigray people, diehard backers of the partners in crime are dancing and chanting on the streets of some major cities of the United States and other countries, denying the on-going mass atrocities and economic vandalism by the armed forces and militia they strongly support. People such as Andargachew Tsige who have facilitated and engineered the Abiy-Isayas-Amhara criminal alliance are busy of attacking those who stand for justice and truth. This is consistent with the badly failed Ethiopia and Eritrean regimes’ policy of denial, cover-up and falsehood.
These radicals are pouring salt to the wounds of our mothers, fathers, sisters and young people who are suffering brutal collective abuse at the hands of invading forces in the name of a fake Ethiopia-Eritrea unity. The Washington DC radicals have even danced to Sha-ebia revolutionary Tigrayan songs that insult and humiliate the Ethiopian army that fought Sha-ebia for three decades before Eritrea got its independence.
Irrespective of the Amhara-Eritrea unity fiasco of extremists and their denial of Tigray atrocities, including name calling and the like, the international community, the US, and European powers in particular, are building up pressure on the Abiy and Isayas despotic regimes and their Amhara associates.
The White House, in their press briefing of 11 March made it clear that the United States President is fully and daily engaged with the Tigray case with emphasis on undertaking an independent inquiry into the atrocious human rights abuses, providing a full humanitarian access to all Tigrayans, the withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces from Tigray, and on stopping the fighting without delay.
The European Union is further considering smart sanctions on individuals who are hindering free access to humanitarian assistance, and the United Nations Secretary General has called upon the Security Council to take action against those who use starvation as a means of warfare. There is no question that Tigray is among the prime cases he has in mind when making that strong statement.
The renowned US diplomat and Horn of Africa expert, Herman Cohn, has been the first to call Abiy Ahmed to immediately resign and account for the crimes he has committed in Tigray through his partnership with Eritrean dictator Afewerki. Mr Cohn has also underlined that while dictators Ahmed and Afewerki are in power, the region will not have peace and stability.
Despite the efforts of the international media, human rights groups, some democratic countries, and friends of Tigray, to expose the crimes being committed there, and push for collective action, a concrete measure is yet to be taken to stop the on-going ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide against Tigrayans.
Intensification of ethnic cleansing
Without reiterating the widely exposed cases of massacre such as those at Axum, Mariam-Denglat, Debre-Abay and other cases, the following horrendous examples that have been revealed, or committed, in the last couple of days or weeks (but until 15 March), evidence the continuation and intensification of the on-going ethnic cleansing in Tigray.
71 civilians, including mothers, children and young people were summarily executed in the village of Mahbere-Dego, not far away from Axum city, by the federal army. The summary execution of some of these victims was video recorded live at the time of the massacre and released to the world wide web during the second week of March. The officer who led the unit, allegedly from Gondar, is heard saying ‘execute them but do not waste more than one bullet’. He was also heard saying ‘I wish I had a gas’ and ‘I fancy burning’. A link to a graphic YouTube video is deliberately avoided from being used here for reasons of decency and to respect the victims.
46 civilians have been murdered in the Saharti-Samre area, in villages called Enda-Gabriel and Berezba; victims were denied a respectful burial by the killers and deliberately exposed to hyenas. The plea of religious leaders and the elderly to bury them before their bodies were despoiled was rejected by the Eritrean and Ethiopian armies. This report fits in to the pattern of atrocities previously reported by The Economist in the area.
Over 100 civilians have been collectively massacred in a village called Enki-Kumol which is located between Shire and Enda-Baguna in western Tigray at the beginning of the second week of March. The victims include, young people, women and children of the village. Ethiopian and foreign media outlets have reported the incident.
We also heard from a local association the cold-blooded murder of 63 civilians in the Erob district and Alitena locality close to the Eritrean border committed by the Eritrean murderous army; VOA has also reported, citing witnesses, the murder of 100 people by Eritrean forces in districts of Erob, Saesae Saeda Emba and Tahtai Koraro.
In the Gijet area of south-west Tigray, Sky News recently revealed the massacre of hundreds of civilians, including over 80 people in just one village, by the Eritrean army.
These collective massacres show the level of the on-going barbarism against Tigray’s civilians. They also elucidate the fact that the crimes are committed by the federal army as much as by the Eritrean and Amhara forces. Sadly, it seems to be the case that before or after the end of the Tigray war, we will find some rural communities, villages and even towns without dwellers as a result of all family and community members having been eliminated by the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces in a systematic and barbaric manner.
The ethnic cleansing project is accompanied by additional vile persecution of Tigrayans. A few examples are offered here. Extreme and horrific sexual violence, including gang rapes, and the horrific act of putting harmful objects into the genitals of women have been reported. A Deutche Welle report, Maria Gerth-Niculescu told the world on 12 March that 150 and 174 cases of rape have been reported in Mekelle and Adi-Girat cities respectively in the last week or so. She underscored that all women, especially from rural Tigray, may not have come forward due to security and other challenges. As the two cities are under the ‘full control’ of the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces and the interim administration they have installed there, there is no anyone else is to blame but the leaders and commanders of the three forces.
Similar pattern of sexual violence and rapes have been reported in the Ofla district of southern Tigray, the Amhara and federal forces are the culprits of these offences there.
Another shocking report heard this week was the eviction of 587,000 Tigrayans from western Tigray by the Amhara forces, which is a continuation and intensification of ethnic cleansing by the Amhara forces. The US Secretary of State, Tony Blinken rightly characterised this as an ethnic cleansing. These people are evicted and thrown to the other side of Tekeze without their possessions as the Amhara forces expropriate them without mercy and shame. The regime in Addis is protesting against the use of the term ethnic cleansing whilst all the evidence proves that they are part of the killing, looting and eviction scheme; there is no evidence that they have taken measures to stop and investigating the crimes either.
It is further reported that eight hundred Mekelle residents are languishing in an army illegal mass prison at Enda-Yesus with no court or police arrest warrant. They sustain torture and other forms of ill treatment. The army and security officers there use this secrete mass detention centre as a source of income; they receive a bribe of up to 25,000 Birr per person to release someone from the detention facility. This report is consistent with the recent account of the arbitrary detention of a BBC journalist a few weeks ago in Mekelle. A YouTube clip is also circulating showing a group of federal army soldiers severely and cruelly assaulting a youth, including inflicting repeated punches to his head and face.
A mass arrest of 300 town dwellers was reported in Ofla district of southern Tigray by the Amhara forces. Most of the detainees are civilian business people who have been suspected of supplying foodstuffs to the Tigray forces.
Most troubling and concerning is that Tigrayans who live in all cities, towns and villages under the control of the three forces are regularly terrorised, searched and intimidated; it is very common that soldiers enter residential homes and undertake a house-to-house search pointing their guns at mothers, fathers and children, asking and searching for the presence of male members of families. They often accuse them of helping what they call the ‘junta’. Gunfire is very common in cities and towns such as Mekelle at night and during broad day light.
Disturbingly, 21 people have also died out of hunger in Gulomekheda district of Tigray; their names and other details are known; they include women, children and the elderly. There are also credible reports coming from western Tigray suggesting that those who have been evicted by the Amhara forces are left in the bushes between the Tekeze river and Shire—several of them are dying out of hunger. Credible reports have been further heard that 20 trucks of food aid sent from the international community to Tigray were diverted and distributed to locals in the Afar region of Ethiopia. This was followed by the very sad news that 23.5 million Ethiopians will need humanitarian assistance in an era of ‘prosperity’ and ‘reform’ movement led by Col. Abiy Ahmed Ali and overseen by dictator Isayas Afewerki.
Finally, the indiscriminate and deliberate targeting of civilians in villages and towns by the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, as witnessed in the Samre area of Tigray, a pattern frequently reported by human rights groups, has intensified. It was further reported this week that 58 civilian homes are burnt down to ashes by the brutal Eritrean forces in Erob just for allegations that the homes belonged to Tigray’s militia forces. More serious cases were reported a few weeks ago by esteemed media outlets. The systemic and widespread looting of property by Eritrean and Ethiopian forces is continuing, too, as reported by the UN.
Time for urgent global action
All these cases are evidence of the perpetration of serious violations of international law in Tigray by the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies and the Amhara forces. In fact, the crimes have been intensified as the various credible reports denote. For these reasons, urgent action is required to spare the Tigray population from further atrocities and destruction.
One of the primary actions should be to stop the ethnic cleansing without delay through a concerted international action. If the Eritrean and Amhara forces accept to leave Tigray and stop their crimes without any condition, subject to impartial monitoring and verification, that would be welcome. If not, the UN or like-minded states must take enforcement action ASAP to stop the ethnic cleansing, persecution, and also what appears to be genocide. The federal army must also be contained in designated military camps and perhaps replaced by neutral security forces.
If the two leaders and their political military and security allies are not willing to stop their madness they have to be subjected to swift and stringent economic, travel and similar sanctions.
Most importantly, the perpetrators of these crimes by Ethiopia and Eritrea ought to be held accountable immediately. The usual generic reference to Ethiopian, Eritrean and Amhara forces must end and the world must begin to identify the real suspects and human-beings who are behind all these grave crimes. The two commanders-in-chief of the armies of both countries, their high-ranking military and security officers, regional commanders and the political, security and police officials of the Amhara region must be named and investigated. Those who provide cover up to thereby facilitate the mass killings and hinder accountability, either through denial of the undeniable, through propaganda, diplomacy or intimidating victims and witnesses must also be held accountable. In short, every case of massacre, abuse, destruction, eviction and rape must be directly related to the leaders, army commanders, officers and administrators, that caused it. Each crime must have at least one perpetrator, so that the full force of the law can be applied to them.
Furthermore, the investigations into the atrocities and various crimes must be conducted by an independent global body as the crimes at issue are mass crimes that offend the conscious of humanity; their containment and ensuring that justice has been done for victims, their families and the people of Tigray are the responsibility of the whole global community. The Ethiopian and Eritrean authorities must not be allowed to investigate their own wrongdoings.
Similarly, the African Union has shown neither the required political commitment or impartiality to uphold the foundations of its Constitutive Act nor does it have the resources and the experience to deal with such a magnitude of international criminal inquiry. They could, and should, contribute to a UN-led inquiry but should not be allowed to use the shield of ‘African solutions to African problems’ to derail the endeavour made so far, even if gradual, to halt the on-going ethnic cleansing and genocide in Tigray. It would be a grave mistake and dereliction of duty on the part of the UN and global powers to leave this matter to Ethiopia or the AU. Sadly, there are only a few African countries and leaders who have shown commitment to the international rule of law and dictates of justice on matters of mass atrocities, when they were allegedly planned and executed by their fellow leaders.
The man-made famine and its consequences must also be averted by allowing and enforcing unfettered access to relief by international actors before it is too late. The UN Secretary General must ask the Security Council to take immediate action against the Ethiopian, Eritrean and Amhara leaders for their continued use of starvation as a weapon.
Finally, the international community must not directly or indirectly fund the regime(s) so as to sustain their ethnic cleansing and genocidal operations. Arms embargoes and various forms of economic sanctions that do not directly affect the Ethiopian and Eritrean poor ought to be on the table to ensure compliance with international obligations. It is a shame that some democracies are providing political and financial backing to the Ethiopian regime while it is fully implicated in heinous atrocities and abuses of human rights in Tigray, Oromia, Beni-shangul, Addis Ababa, and many other places in Ethiopia. Double standards must therefore be fiercely exposed and challenged through grassroot and other high-level campaigns and pressure.
This hard fight is, of course, between Tigrayans and those who stand for justice on the one hand, and two despotic regimes, their state machineries and their domestic and foreign backers on the other. Yet, as justice and truth are not on the side of the latter, the Tigray people must therefore win the battle in the end.
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