RECRUITMENT OF UNDERAGE CHILDREN IN WAR IS AGAINST HUMANITY AND A VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW.

“Moreover, beguiling and misleading underage Irob children to fight and kill their own Irob people  in favor of the destroyers and persecutors of Irobs  is not any better than becoming, and making the children of  Irob the dregs and lees of the Irob society, and their glorious history and culture!”

Even though I read most of the news and peoples’ opinions posted on ethiopiafirst.com and aigaforum.com about Ethiopia, this is my first time to try to post my opinions and comments on a web page.  Even now, I still have some self-contradicting feelings inside myself. On one hand, I have a feeling that I can say something very helpful to my Irob people but I do also doubt a little bit if I would be able to express myself in a reasonable and rational manner.  The main reason for my skepticism is not hesitation about the appropriateness of the subject I wish to post but mainly to avoid suspicion and distrust among us Irobs in particular, and between other concerned parties and Irobs in general.  Moreover, the other strongest factor of my hesitation and skepticism is doubt about the truthfulness of the allegations. It is impossible for me to believe that any Irob would be involved in recruiting underage Irob children to fight and kill Irobs being alongside today’s Sha’ebiya. Even so, the words of our Prime Minister Melles Zenawi have eventually overwhelmed me: “Regardless of the mode and way he expresses himself and/or his opinions, what he had said to you is the truth and that is how and what he feels and believes!” Thus, as an Irobman proud of being Irob, Tigrean and Ethiopian, I really feel that I have to overcome the doubts, fears and hesitations and express my feelings and invite my fellow Irobs to do the same. As a matter of fact, if what I have heard from my Irob people back home is true, I would be very proud to sacrifice everything I can to save those underage children and extinguish the flames of fire being kindled among our Irob people and between our Irob people and their government. IF WE UNDERSTAND, THE RISKS AND DANGERS WHICH IROBS AND THEIR CHILDREN ARE LIVING INAT HOMERIGHT NOW ARE ENOUGH, IF NOT FAR BEYOND ENOUGH!

It has been more than a decade now since the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea has begun undercover of “Ethio-Eritrean Border Crisis”. However, when one examines what has been taking place in The Horn of Africa for decades and the ever flip-flopping decisions of The Hague carefully and rationally, this appears as one of those crises of easiest and shortest resolutions of our times. Sadly though, it is one of the most costly crises in history in terms of human lives. It cost us over 70,000 lives and tens of thousands of war disabilities of people who belong to the same mother within a matter of a week or so. The news media often attribute this crisis to the leaders and governments of the two sister countries. Or even better, they put it as a crisis between a mother and daughter countries. In some sense, it looks like so. However, I personally feel it in a very different sense. I absolutely object to the opinion that the local leaders and governments would be the mastermind and strategists of the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. An Irob proverb says it all: “Ku’inti kolih-anih qalil!” which literally means, “Your eye is so light (insignificant) until it is with you”.  This is to say that the significance of something extremely important is not recognized well when you have it. Similarly, it is very likely that the leaders, governments, and people of The Horn of Africa are lacking some important knowledge and understanding of the significance of their own Horn of Africa in terms of its history and ancient civilization, and its strategy for political and economic control. In the other way round, I do not think I would be exaggerating if I say that an ordinary non-African businessperson, say a European or an American, understands the political and economical significance of The Horn of Africa more than a million fold times better than a professional politician of the Horn of Africa. Personally, I feel that the same is true for the whole of Africa. I can give a typical example. I had professors from different parts of the world like the USA, Europe, Asia, South America, Canada, etc. I have never heard them talking negatively about their countries and their governments. I feel very jealous of these professors who understand the following points very well: Firstly,  is like what a slave-mother said to her king-son who was hiding her away from the sight of his noble invitee, “…Whether you accept it or not, whether you like it or not, I am your real (biological) mother!” Similarly, these professors understand well that whether their countries are heavens or hell, or their governments are angels or devils, their countries are their countries and their governments are their governments. Secondly, they understand well that external power, help, support, or whatsoever type of relief may be effective if and only if the local people can understand, accept and utilize them appropriately. Otherwise, they are more a disaster than a promotion towards development and progress. Thirdly, they understand well that behind every external humanitarian relief or support of whatever form and source, there is a hidden mission! Fourthly, these professors understand that degrading their countries and governments in front of their international students in class hurts their countries and people more than it helps them. I doubt if that is true for our expertise that live outside their countries. It is very common to observe Africans slamming their cultures and governments. It is also very unfortunate to see that others know and understand about us much, much more than our expertise and professionals do.

In 1995, someone invited me for a cup of coffee and we went to a café bar. It was in Rome. The bar was owned by an Eritrean young lady. It was one of those places where so many Ethiopian and Eritrean friends were meeting for a cup of coffee and a drink. At the bar, they were serving food, coffee, tea, and some soft drinks and beer. On the wall over the bar above the area where those drinks were offered, there was a map of Ethiopia and Eritrea with Eritrea separated. An Ethiopian gentleman - who seemingly had some beer over-dose, approached and said to me, “My dear friend, look at that map! Does it look the map of Ethiopia? Should we accept this map as a map of Ethiopia any more?” this was my answer: “Sir! That is not an outcome of indulgence with beer in Rome like you and I do! It is a result of a very bitter struggle of years which cost lives of millions. So, go to the mountains and forests of Ethiopia and get it back to where it originally was!”  In connection to the above idea, I would like to mention some important points about the Diaspora and their impacts. The Diaspora can be classified into different groups but almost all the groups have certain factors in common.  The first factor which is most common among almost all the Diaspora is that none of the Diaspora has left his/her own country to save their nation and their people; rather, to LIVE A BETTER LIFE FOR THEMSLEVES. A very small minority of them might claim to have left their country to save their lives and/or escape their crimes. That can be true but those are mostly individuals who have the blood of the innocent underneath their finger nails or else, they are embezzlers and robbers. The other fact is that most of the Diaspora help their families and some of them invest their money and this is an outstanding help to the government and the country. This is in fact appreciable.

 Nonetheless, it is undeniable that this adds up to nothing compared to those who have sacrificed their own lives to save their people and their country, and who had been devoured by beasts and vultures in coverts and deserts. Consequently, I personally believe that those people who have forgotten their lives to save Ethiopia and her people are far more valuable to Ethiopia and Ethiopians than those who have betrayed their country to seek a better life for themselves. Personally, I feel I am of zero value compared to an individual Ethiopian hero who walks on crunch as a result of his/her commitment to defend Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Thus, I am sure that a single war-disabled Ethiopian hero perceives, knows and understands the best strategies that contribute to the development of Ethiopia better than even any professor who had teaching in one of the best universities in the world.  It is also undeniable that this hero gives a lot more dedicated and wholehearted services to Ethiopia and Ethiopians than the whole Diaspora put together. The reason is very simple: Unlike the Diaspora who have left their country and people for their own better life, this hero has once-and-for-ever given up his non-replaceable life for that purpose; he/she has once-and-for-ever placed his/her country and people prior to his/her own life; he/she has been disabled for that purpose and he/she is working for and living in it! This is not to deny the great contribution of most Diaspora.  There are people who support their families and friends to be educated and become the future hope of Ethiopia and Ethiopians and these can also be considered as Ethiopian heroes.  Likewise, they would be much better heroes if they could support their government in any way they could but at least not interrupting or not being an instrument of interruption and threats would also not be counted as less patriotism.

To come to the main point of my paper, I do have a lot of points that disturb my mind and conscience very much. However, lack of time and capacity are limiting me to focus my comments on those points which I got as feedbacks from my Irob People in the past three-four years. In the last eight years, I had been to Ethiopia four times, each time for three summer months. Usually, I leave USA for Addis Ababa around mid-May and pass the first month or so around Addis Ababa and the vicinity, and a month and a half between Mekelle and Irob. In Summer of 2007 I met with some parents whose underage children had gone to Eritrea. My family is one of the victims of that loss of underage children. I was trying to ask people why these underage children were leaving their families and homes for Eritrea but not many of them were having the courage to be so explicit to me. Nevertheless, some of them were making sarcastic and implicit remarks that may refer to the European and American Diaspora.  I would like to quote some of these remarks here. They were saying to me, “We do not believe that there would be anything hidden from you those who live abroad. … We always expect the best and most reliable news and the truth from you who live overseas. ……” Others were coming to me asking if I hear from their children in Eritrea and what and how they were doing there.  Amazingly, some of those people were mentioning that their underage children were told that they will be given money by the United Nations and they will live a decent life in Eritrea. These children facing the truth of those golden-grave like words after entering the camps in Eritrea. The reality was that what they were told was untrue and that the aim of their sheltering in the bosom of their persecutor was to be trained to join the soldiers of Sha’ebiya to kill their own people and their own country. Once they have been trapped by Sha’ebiya, they were also being brain-washed that the TPLF Government was going to kill them if they return to Ethiopia. Thus, the only choice these underage children have was the choice which was set for them: condemn TPLF and the government of Ethiopia and join Sha’ebiya to kill their own people and fight their own country. I was also told that some of the returnees claimed to have been sent to Asmara to achieve a mission. Even so, at that time, it was very difficult for me to comprehend all these. I was totally ignorant about the matter.

However, approaches were much clearer during my last summer in Ethiopia. Most Irobs who talked to me were claiming that they believe the Irob Diaspora in Europe and the USA are behind those smuggling of their underage Irob children to join Sha’ebiya to kill their own parents, brothers and sisters who had once carried them on their backs or shoulders when the same Sha’ebiya had sent them into exile killing their civilians and destroying their possessions. Some of them were even alluding that some Irob individuals share the leadership chair of the group of those Irob underage children and other Tigreans which Sha’ebiya and its puppies have organized.  Even more amazingly, there are some DOCUMENTED FACTS which I intentionally leave unexposed here now. As they say, these are confessions of some underage girls and boys who have returned from Eritrea. The young girls and boys have claimed to have been sent to Asmara to accomplish a mission and returned to Ethiopia after achieving the goal. Yet the Irobs keep this as a secret in order to avoid any avenge among the Irobs themselves. It is also alleged that some members of the Irob Diaspora in the USA, in connection to their relatives in Saudi Arabia and Asmara, have been the mastermind and planners of this mission. For me all this was and is still a nightmare. There was no way I could believe that there would be even a single Irob person who would support the idea of organizing underage Irob children in order to fight and kill the Irobs and Ethiopians armed alongside their persecutor. I could not believe it at that time and I can still never believe it. I do not mean that a documented fact is not a documented fact! I believe a fact is always a fact and it is a more solid fact and it is true!

For good or for bad, sharing feelings and opinions is mostly a good idea and I shared these ideas with some of my intimate and trustworthy friends in the USA when I returned. I was literally ashamed when I discovered that I was the last one to hear and know the least about these rumors and allegations. However, none of them could confirm that they really believe that these allegations would be true. Nor do I honestly still believe that there would be even a single individual Irob person who dreams of favoring the idea that Irob children would stand alongside today’s Sha’ebiya to fight and kill Irobs and Ethiopians. While saying this, I am not talking about personal issues of each Irob individual with TPLF or some of its individual members or even the government of Ethiopia. All what I am saying is that it is absolutely impossible for me to believe that there are Irobs of such cheap zeal and ardor to invite and organize Irob minors in order to fight and kill Irobs being alongside their killer and persecutor, the killer and persecutor of their parents, destroyer of their peace, country and properties.  What I personally strongly believe is that every Irob of today dreams of the returning of those days when the Irobs used to breathe a pressure-free air in poverty but with serenity, tranquility, peace and love of one another. Consequently, every Irob believes that Sha’ebiya has destroyed all these and it is more reasonable for me to believe that there is no single Irob person who would favor coordination and organization of Irob groups to fight and kill Irobs and Ethiopians in favor of Sha’ebiya. I feel it is absolutely against the historical culture, practices, ardor and zeal of our Irob ancestors. I do personally feel that this is like an insult to our Irob ancestors and their glorious culture and history, if it is not like digging out our ancestors’ remains from their graves, and I do honestly believe that every Irob feels like that even stronger than I do.

Even though I do not believe that there would be something like that among Irobs, regardless of who is behind it, I do also strongly believe that deceiving shepherds and underage children to use them as an instrument for their retaliation is against humanity, and unethical and illegal. I do believe that there are no such Irobs explicitly and I do also know that no single Irob believes that there are any like that at all.  However, if the allegations are true and there are any, be it an individual or a group, who are getting involved in exposing our Irob minors to war and fire alongside “today’s Sha’ebiya” for their personal purposes or revenge against the government of Ethiopia or TPLF or any individuals in the offices of the Ethiopian Government, I guess it will be the prompt of every Irob to unite and fight such shameful attitudes and actions. It must be clear to us the Irob Diaspora that we are being unfair and unjust to our own Irob people if we are creating such a hostile atmosphere between our Irob people and our Ethiopian Government in order to support our persecutor. This is not what is expected of us. If we want to be heroes, let us take advantage of the conditions which the Ethiopian current government has created for the whole of Ethiopia and the world and help at least ourselves and possibly our people by standing by the side of our government instead of standing by side of Sha’ebiya, the destroyer, violator and invader of our country, peace and properties. It would also be very egoistic and narrow-minded of us if we just take advantage of our security and refuge in someone else’s country and risk our people’s life by adding gas to the burning flames. On the other hand, we should not forget that the government of Ethiopia, the TPLF and the individuals they assign to serve the people of Ethiopia are the ones who arrive first when our people are in need of any help or protection in this fragile situation. That is not the only rationale. The government has all the responsibility of protecting its country and people from whatsoever type of internal and external aggression.

As I have already quoted above, I am not trying to talk about personal issues of each Irob individual with TPLF or some of its individual members or even with the government of Ethiopia. If there are individuals who have their personal issues with the government of Ethiopia or individuals in the government offices, let them be prudent enough and resolve their problems with them. If they believe they can make it, let them have the prompt and ardor to fight the government as an answer to the beer-man in Rome, “Sir! That is not an outcome of indulgence with beer in Rome like you and I do! It is a result of a very bitter struggle of years which cost lives of millions. So, go to the mountains and forests of Ethiopia and get it back to where it originally was!” and GOOD LUCK! If not, letting our people lose their future hope is being unfair and unjust to our people and destroying the future of our Irob ethnicity and identity. Also, using underage children for war to retaliate for hidden personal reasons and purposes is illegal. Again, I have not happened to come across any Irob who is involved in favoring Irob underage children to flee to Eritrea and march alongside the soldiers of today’s Sha’ebiya to invade, raid, fight and kill Irobs and Ethiopians but if there are any hidden attempts as it is being alleged, we should all be aware that it is impossible to live hidden for ever and the day that is exposed, relationships among us Irobs, and Irobs and others may go wild.          

Finally, I would like to conclude my paper by re-emphasizing the main motives and goals why I have written this paper.  The first main motive for sacrificing my golden time to write this paper is to share my feelings with my fellow Irobs and other readers. Secondly, I want to find out whether or not other Irobs in the Diaspora whom I haven’t talked to yet know anything about these allegations. Thirdly, if they are already aware of them to some degree, I want to discover how much they know, how they feel, what their opinions are and if there had been any attempt to tackle them. Fourthly, I wanted to express my opinion openly and invite other Irobs who really love their country and people to express their feelings and concerns openly and clearly in a similar manner. Fifthly, I want to invite all Irobs to unite to stand against any act of beguiling our underage Irob children to kill their parents, brothers and sisters in favor of their historical persecutor and destroyer. Personally, if it is really true, I doubt if this would be any better than planting, like the Irobs say, “fire-in-the-manure” among the Irobs. Sixthly, the Federal and Regional Governments of Ethiopia are doing their best to settle down and solve the differences and conflicts even with their Opposing Parties by table discussion, and they invite everyone of us to so. Thus, if we are really concerned about our people and we do also love them, let’s have the bravery to stand in front of the government to be the voice of our people and express our reasonable concerns because the government of Ethiopia is welcoming and resolving reasonable and legal requests and concerns of every Ethiopian. Otherwise, we should not forget that the primary responsibility of the government of Ethiopia is defending the nation and its people against any internal and/or external aggression, anarchy and threat. We should not also forget that the government is also responsible for executing traitors under the breach of betrayal of their homeland, and hence, for threatening the peace, security and sovereignty of their own country standing by their own persecutor, invader and destroyer! Finally, the core message of my paper is that even though I do believe and hope that the allegations are never true, I still believe that if there are any Irobs of such inclinations, I am trying to remind them that beguiling underage (Irob) children to fight and kill their own people is, besides being illegal, a threat to the people of Irob and Ethiopia. It is also kindling a very dangerous fire that can never be extinguished. If there are Irobs who are involved in organizing and coordinating underage Irob children to kill their Irob parents, brothers and sisters joining their persecutor, or trying to make a deal in the name of Irobs, I personally do not see them being any better than traitors,  and so, dregs of the Irob society and their glorious history and culture. The final point I would like to emphasize very much here is the significance of the “DOCUMENTED FACT” that the Irobs keep as a secret in order to avoid any avenge among Irobs and that could be a good teacher to those alleged masterminds of that evil mission, and to those – if there are any, who are intentionally or unintentionally planning to make a deal with those individuals.

 

Written by:

 

Hagos Yohannes

Indiana, USA.

November, 2009.