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Force, not sanctions, stops genocide.

Force, not sanctions, stops genocide.


Alemseged Abbay


If the atrocities in Tigray were ordinary crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Amhara and Eritrean occupiers, the US sanctions (US Resolution # 97) would be commendable. However, what is going on in Tigray is not a conventional violation of human rights. It goes way beyond that. It is a textbook genocide which, obviously, must be stopped immediately and unconditionally, if there is the will on the part of the international community. Sanctions are too slow and too weak to force the genocidaires to desist from their heinous adventure. Genocide is time sensitive. Any number of innocent Tigrayans are killed and starvation is made to take 50-100 lives each passing day. It is worth recalling that all it took for the Hutu Power in Rwanda to kill 800,000 Tutsi was only 100 days!

If intent is what determines whether a given mass violence is genocide, the Tigrayan atrocities meet all the criteria for being a genocide. Unlike the 1894-97 Armenian massacres when the Bloody Sultan (Abul Hamid II) killed 200,000 innocent human souls to “put the Armenians in their place”, the ongoing Tigrayan mass atrocities are hardly punitive. They are annihilationist. The extermination intent was planned for a couple of years before the outbreak of war on November 3 and 4, 2020, giving the Tigrayan genocide its singular features.

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The Herero uprising against German colonialism preceded the 1904-07 genocide in South-West Africa. The Ottoman defeat in the eastern front during World War I preceded the 1915 Armenian Genocide. The Holocaust occurred a couple of years after the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The Cambodian Genocide followed the US invasion of the country (1970-75). The 1994 Rwandan Genocide came after the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) started its anti-Kigali guerilla operations in 1990. The Kosovar Genocide occurred after the appearance of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in 1997. Having been secretly and meticulously planned for more than two years by cold-blooded Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea and equally savage Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, war did not cause the Tigrayan Genocide. On the contrary, genocide created war for a pretext. Along with starvation, chemical weapons (white phosphorus), machetes, drones, cluster bombs, etc., war is merely a mechanics of committing genocide. As such, the Tigrayan Genocide is sui generis.

Soon after assuming power with the help of foreign forces in 2018, Abiy Ahmed incessantly spewed anti-Tigrayan venom, such as calling them “daytime hyenas” and “aliens”. For more than two years, all communication to and from Tigray was cut off. Tigray, unlike other regions, was denied its share of help against the locust plague and the coronavirus pandemic. Tigrayans were purged from government bureaucracies. Many thousands of Tigrayan soldiers in the national army were disarmed and dumped in remote concentration camps. Finally, Tigray was denied its annual budget. All these measures were part and parcel of the genocidal project.  Before Tigray was hacked to death, it had to be weakened. The weaker it was, the more sheepishly it could be dragged into its grave, so the plan seems to have been designed.  

The systematic project to slaughter Tigray involved atrocities that are so inconceivable and humanly so unimaginable that they are difficult to hear, let alone to report. Although everyone is targeted, the focus tends to be more on the youth. The intent is to prevent the propagation of a new Tigrayan generation and to render the rest of the society an easy prey. Just as in eastern Anatolia where the Ottoman genocidaires were telling their Armenian victims, “Now let your Christ come and help you!”, the Amhara and Eritrean genocidaires tell their Tigrayan victims, “We’ll see if America will save you!”

Tigrayans are completely helpless. The Eritrean and Amhara soldiers have absolute power over them and their properties, if they have any remaining. Starvation is manufactured and used as a weapon so much so that the genocidaires have destroyed 90% of Tigray’s farm crops and 80% of its livestock. Farm tools are destroyed. Those who still can farm are forbidden from farming. International aid workers are denied access to the needy and some, such as those of the USAID, are killed. Rape, too, is weaponized and the genocidaires have free access to mothers, wives, sisters. and daughters (irrespective of age). People are made to watch as their loved ones are raped. Tigrayans are made disposable, pure and simple.

Their churches and mosques have been defiled and ransacked. Some of the heinous atrocities have been committed in churches such as the Cathedral of Aksum and mosques such as al-Nejashi, Africa’s oldest mosque. And yet, people have not given up on their faith. Where else can they go for help? That is why “Fasting Tigray” was held on May 25-28 when people fasted and stayed at home. Artists use their skills to plead for international intervention. Teklit Gebrehiwot, for instance, sang “The world must listen to the people [of Tigray] and tell the truth [do the right thing]-- ዓለም ሓቂ ተዛረቢ፤ ስምዒዮ ትህዝቢ. Unfortunately for the Tigrayans, neither Allah/God nor the world seems to care about their plight. For two hundred days, people have been killed and starved to death as the world and Allah/God watch. The international community has given the genocidaires endless warnings, and now, slapping them with sanctions on the wrist. However, the agony of the Tigrayans continues unless and until the Amhara and Eritrean genocidaires do something extraordinarily foolish to get in the nerves of Allah/God and/or the international community. Otherwise, sanctions will not do it.

It is not difficult to imagine what would have happened to the European Jewry if the Allies did not defeat the Nazis in World War II, to the Cambodians if the Vietnamese did not defeat the Khmer Rouge in 1979, to the Tutsi and Hutu moderates if the RPF did not take over Kigali in 1994, to the Kosovar Albanians if NATO did not bomb Belgrade for eleven weeks in 1999. A slap on the wrist, sanctions would have allowed genocide to consummate its task of annihilation. 

Sanctions on the Amhara expansionists in Bahr Dar, the power wielders in Addis Ababa, and the autocrat and his lackeys in Asmara are destined to be as ineffectual as the sanctions that the League of Nations imposed on Fascist Italy when it invaded and occupied Ethiopia in 1936. As what NATO did to Belgrade in 1999, force needs to be applied on Bahr Dar, Addis Ababa, and Asmara. The dejected UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda) general, Romeo Dallaire, concluded his appeal to his institution in New York for the use of force to stop the Rwandan genocide saying, “Where there’s a will, there is a way”. In Tigray, too, the genocide that has been left to drag on for seven months can be stopped in days, not eleven weeks, if force is used. And that requires a will-- a whole lot of it. Short of that, only time will tell whether the ongoing genocide accomplishes its intent of annihilating the Tigray people.

Whereas the RPF did manage to overwhelm the French-backed Hutu Power in Kigali and bring the 100-days-long genocide to an end, the Tigrayan Defense Forces (TDF) have not succeeded in slowing down, much less ending, the seven-month-long Tigrayan genocide. Fairly and justly elected by 2.8 million voters, the Tigray regional government had all the wherewithal to defend its people against the Amhara and Eritrean genocidaires until the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and its drones joined the Axis of Autocrats. The balance of power turned terribly against Tigray when its entire mechanized army was decimated by the drones. Stripped of its mechanized force and completely defenseless, Tigray, instantly and most literally, ended up being the “slaughterhouse” of the Amhara and Eritrean genocidaires. Despite the concerted effort to conceal the heinous crimes, some of the massacres have been captured in videos and leaked to the international mass media such as the BBC, CNN, and al Jazeera. And the world has, seemingly nonchalantly, been watching the spectacle for seven months.  

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