With less than 2 months of funds left to run the government Ethiopia has been given a temporary reprieve from the International Monetary Fund of $408 million. The medemer reform of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his Properity Party which quickly turned to oppression and challenge to conventional economic norms has failed to create the celebrated economic growth of the previous regime under the late Meles Zenawi’s Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front which espoused the developmental democratic state concept.
Prior to Abiy Ahmed taking power in 2018 Ethiopia’s growth averaged over 9% from 2004 to 2019. Poverty declined from 46% in 1995 to 24% in 2016 as industry’s share of output rose from 9.4% in 2010 to 24.8% in 2019. However beginning in 2020 economic growth rapidly declined to now be less then 2%. Additionally the war prosecuted by Abiy Ahmed increased the government budget by 200%. Even if the war ends tomorrow it may take 10 years to get an economic recovery.
Although the Ethiopian economy was driven in a different direction then that recommended by Western financial analysts still the Ethiopian industrial plan under the EPRF before Abiy Ahmed saw manufacturing grew by 10% yearly during 2005-10, and by 18% during 2015-17. However once Abiy Ahmed took power, internal displacements increased throughout Ethiopia. The war prosecuted has also turned away most international investors and resulted in historical lows of the value of the birr.
Absence of clear central bank policies driven by economic rather political goals, lack of privatization, strictly regulated fuel and commodity prices, and the faulty “float system” of currency valuation are factors persisting in the financial policy under Abiy Ahmed which analysts note contribute to the progressive economic failure.
Beginning 300 days ago Mekelle University has suffered airstrikes, artillery bombardment, rifle fire, pilfering of its records and equipment. Today the halls of the university and the wards of its hospital are empty accept for refugees trying to survive. Many of our employees and staff have been killed not because they became fighters to defend Tigray but just for walking on the street or trying to evacuate their elderly parents from a village.
A year ago Mekelle University was teaching thousands of students from not only Tigray and Ethiopia but many surrounding countries. Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital was teaching medical school to hundreds and training specialists in pediatrics, internal medicine, general surgery, pathology, obstetrics gynecology, otolaryngology, oral maxillofacial surgery, orthopedics and trauma surgery, forensic medicine, and neurosurgery. We were starting training in master anesthesia, MD anesthesiology, oncology, neuroscience PhD, and many other fields. Leading research was done in agriculture, veterinary medicine, engineering, medicine, and many other fields.
Even though we were a “Federal University” we were abandoned by the Ministries of Science and Higher Education as well as the Ministry of Health. As soon as the war started they pretended we did not exist. The Mekelle community shared what little food, water, and shelter they had with students from other regions and countries. All payment stopped to employees. All medical supplies stopped. With the encouragement of the the Ethiopian military Eritreans were allowed to rape students, ransack buildings, and take any war booty meaning computers, lab equipment, etc. back to Eritrea.
It will take millions of dollars to rebuild the University and its services to the community. Unfortunately is is just a small part of the overall damage done to Tigray. Millions are still starving at the order of Abiy Ahmed and his hench man Isaias. But I can imagine it would be far worse now if the Tigray Army had not resurged and marched forward. It is not over but we pray God will guide them on their mission to find peace and eliminate the threat to the Tegaru from their man-made insufferable misery. Psalm 18:39
“For You have girded me with strength for battle;
You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.”
The narcissist state of denial of Addis Ababa’s leaders and prosperous citizens to recognize the reality of the Ethiopia Tigray conflict is ignorant of history and is only causing more needless suffering. Destiny is bringing change.
This week it has been widely reported that Tigray Defense Army has continued to move toward Bahir Dar, Gondar, and most importantly Addis Ababa. Over 50,000 fighters in Afar Militias and Ethiopian National Defense Forces have been killed trying to stop the TDA advance in the past few days.
In discussions with some folks in Addis that are not Tegaru or Oromia they tell me that there exists a prevailing attitude that Addis Ababa is an impenetrable fortress protected by a divinely protected Abiy Ahmed. While there are now millions of displaced persons throughout Ethiopia, millions in a famine state, and war in almost every regional state life in Addis seems little affected they say. Of course food, fuel, rent, and the price of just about everything else is going through the roof. Oromia and Tigray ethnic groups are often arrested and sent to hidden detention camps.
However, the followers of Abiy Ahmed believe that they cannot be touched. When I asked some of them what they know about the war a frequent answer was they were confident Abiy Ahmed’s army was ready to take back Mekelle any day now. That reports of the the entrance of Tigray deeply into the Amhara region were just propaganda.
While this week at a Ministry of Health special seminar on Food Groups devoted to encouraging Ethiopians not to get fat. Millions in Tigray are suffering famine with infants dying at Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital everyday. Where is the concern about these “Ethiopians”?
While millions of people are displaced without food, shelter, or security in Tigray, Amhara, Afar, Somali, and the Southern regions. Well to do residents of Addis are happy that new luxurious beds have been imported for sale in Addis Ababa.
The wealthy and middle class of Amhara who make up a significant part of the population and the lesser working class of Oromia and other regions make up most of the demographics of the city. Although the area was known as Finfinne (natural spring) by the Oromia who lived there it was colonized by the Amharic king, Menelik II, who ushered in many Amhara settlers to colonize the previously Oromia area. The name was changed to Addis Ababa meaning new flower just before the beginning of the 20th century. Tension has always existed about the proper name of the city and the inequalities of success of the Amhara and the native Oromo.
I remember the Ethiopian New Year celebration 2 years ago when I spent it in Addis Ababa. High tension was seen between Oromo and Amhara young men who marched in the streets carrying their respective national flags foretelling that there would be a future confrontation.
The newly found success of the Oromo Liberation Army now operating within a short distance of Addis Ababa in addition to the Tigray Army march may bring significant change to FinFinne.
The United States State Department is growing impatient with the lack of action of the Ethiopian government in stopping the war against Tigray and other rebel groups. The World Politics Reviewreports the heavy sanctions are being considered against two huge Ethiopian government businesses with hundreds of millions of US dollar assets who they say have contributed to the violations of human rights, sexual atrocities, killing of innocents, and displacements of millions of Ethiopian.
Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest airline, is one of the major sources of foreign currency to the government of Ethiopia. As of October 2020 it reported a yearly profit of $ 3.3 billion. with much of that coming from flights to and from the United States and Europe. There are considerable deposits of foreign currency and US and allied countries banks which could be frozen. Additionally stopping Ethiopians airlines flights to US and allied countries would devastate its revenue. Like most airlines Ethiopian Airlines carries large loans on its aircraft which could default if the business is shutdown.
Ethiopian Commerce Bank, owned by the Federal government of Ethiopia, is the largest bank of the country. Assets exceed 60% of all deposits, loans, and foreign currency holdings in the country. In part because of the instability of the birr and the safety of deposits in the USA the Ethiopian Commerce Banks maintains millions in deposit with the New York Federal Reserve which would be frozen.
Von Batten-Montague-York, L.C., a US based policy and advocacy group, announced that is likely that US Federal courts will begin to allow Tigray citizens and others who have been the victims of human rights abuses to begin lawsuits against assets of Ethiopia and perhaps Eritrea. This is allowed under a Federal law called the Alien Tort Statue. According to the Cornell Law School information “The Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”; also known as the Alien Tort Claims Act) refers to 28 U.S.C. § 1350, granting jurisdiction to federal district courts “of all causes where an alien sues for a tort only in violation of the law of nation or of a treaty of the United States.” Broadly speaking, it serves as a statutory instrument for gaining universal jurisdiction over violations of international law”. This law has been in existence since 1789.
Prejudice to preserve sovereignty of tyrants like Abiy Ahmed even in the face of severe violation of human rights especially for those whom the international community previous lauded is a UN fatal flaw. The case of Abiy Ahmed shows the damage such long standing practices can do to add to death and destruction arising from his unchecked leadership.
First reported by the Ethiopian Tigrayan website OmnaTigray in March 2021 United Nations officials in Ethiopia were doubting and trying to cover up the high incidence of sexual atrocities committed by the Abiy Ahmed order of invasion of Tigray starting in November 2020. Since that report there has been a lot of excuses given by the United Nations that fail to pass the test of honesty and transparency notes a recent review of the situation in Foreign Policy magazine.
Just this week many were baffled when during open discussion of the Tigray Ethiopia conflict at the United Nations where very little mention was made about human rights violations and atrocities or the role of Eritrea. Some representatives were seeming to suggest that the Tigray forces fighting for their peoples survival should just withdrawal with no guarantees of any relief except for pleas by the United States, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.
At the World Economic Forum in 2019 Abiy Ahmed was the golden boy of the meeting. Representatives of the prosperous nations swooned over the presence and words of the new Prime Minister of Ethiopia. There he described how the economy, GDP, and foreign investment over the past ten years had improved dramatically by previous Tigray lead government which he later condemned. He presented reforms to benefit all in Ethiopia. He proposed medemer uniting and combining the differing ethnicities of Ethiopia. Three pillars of progressing Ethiopia he presented were “vibrant democracy, economic vitality, regional integration and openness to the world”. None of which came to pass.
Following this he went on to receive the Nobel Peace Price for ending war with Eritrea. We know now this was about helping Eritrea escape crippling economic sanction in return for which Eritrea would help wipe out the existence of the Tigray in an unholy alliance with one of the worlds worst tyrants, Isaias Afwerki.
Now August 2021 is coming to an end and the world’s perception of Abiy Ahmed has turned 180 degrees. Under his leadership the number of political prisoners has skyrocketed, many of them his former allies who played key roles in his personal rise to power. Ethiopia’s debt is growing in excess of $40 billion with the birr value itself falling faster then ever.. By his command millions have been sexually abused, killed, and displaced. Rebellion against his government not just restricted to Tigray and Oromia but now includes strengthening factions in Beningshagul, Afar, Somali, Sidamo, Gambella, as well the Agew of the Amhara region. Everyday the portion of Ethiopia he controls gets smaller as the forces of rebellion approach the capital city of Addis Ababa.
The hope for a new harmonious national Ethiopian identity has now transformed to Abiy Ahmed and his blasphemers proclaiming killing, raping, and starvation are ordered by God to restore order. It is curious that Abiy Ahmed who claims to belong to a Christian denomination devoted to the Holy Spirit would so viciously act against it.
The Mulu Wongel (Full Gospel) Pentecostal church to which Abiy Ahmed claims membership began in the 1960s as a result of European missionaries. A key feature of this Christian denomination is that following initial baptism the believer seeks repeated episodes of intense connection with the Holy Spirit often evidenced by speaking in tongues similar to what the Bible describes in 1 Corinthians 14. The Mulu Wongel Church says it wants to be transformative to communities including families, women, and children while being transparent, impartial, and demonstrating humility.
This faith now claims 4.5 million Ethiopian believers. In interviews with the press the Prime Minister has stated that his “faith dictates his political vision and actions”. Detractors say what he is really doing is creating a grand deception.
After coming to power as Prime Minister in 2018 he sought expansion of his religious advisors seeking out Pentecostal and evangelistic diaspora in the United States and Europe as well as congregations of diaspora Ethiopian Orthodox Church from unrecognized Synods by the domestic Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Out of this expansion of support there arouse a new concept of how Abiy Ahmed began to see himself. Reinforced by his new friends, he began to espouse this idea of medemer which outwardly looked like a fusion of different Ethiopia ethnicities into a central national unity and purpose. He has confided to reporters that he does not understand why “others do not understand him”. As more opposition developed he became more and more heavy handed. Instead what was underneath the surface was really an old recurring idea going back centuries of building an Ethiopian Empire with Amharic elite leadership at the helm. Whereas before he had seemed to identify with his Oromo identity this was tossed away when he saw a chance to gain power with the Amhara elite.
Although Abiy Ahmed came to power as the last minute leader of Oromia soon he ditched his Oromia allegiances and friends. Jawar Mohamed, the charismatic Oromo leader who lead the Qeero movement which could be said was the major cause of Abiy Ahmed coming to power was placed in prison where he languishes today.
Soon all things he claimed to stand for with the Mulu Wongel church were sinisterly transformed. Numerous diaspora protestant and unrecognized Ethiopian Orthodox churches began to speak of prophecy. That Ethiopia had survived and prospered by the marriage of church which proclaimed a manifest destiny under committed leaders in the vein of the Amharic monarchy which had been deposed by Derg Regime. They drew an analogy to the struggles of the early Jewish nation in the Book of Judges. In the midst of current unrest throughout Ethiopia seen following the withdrawal of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front(TPLF) in 2018 from national power they called for a return to this old concept insisting it was the will of God and Abiy was the intended “King”.
Although Abiy Ahmed had previously made speeches praising the TPLF and told a reporter in a televised interview he had no intent to ever go to war with Tigray that promise did not last. Following his meetings with the tyrant Isaias of Eritrea although not clearly evident then Abiy decided that Tigray would be the strawman in his quest for power with Isaias as his henchman. He cared little that Isaias has tortured, imprisoned, and killed members of the Mulu Wongel Church in Eritrea.
The diaspora clergy who had modest congregations found a cash cow with Abiy Ahmed. Many of them created GoFundMe accounts sometimes taking hundreds of thousands of dollars or euros with firery speeches about the threats to the survival of Ethiopian nationhood if the rats or cancer of the Tigray and others was not removed. God was making special allowances for Abiy Ahmed and fellow believers to do whatever was necessary to preserve their vision of Ethiopian state. Following God’s will would in fact create a new divine superpower to lead Africa and dominate the world. Whatever was necessary would be allowable under God such that no sin could be committed because it was for a higher purpose.
They seemed to have forgotten Jesus teachings in the Bible about sin. Although Jesus does say governments may ask citizens to perform functions as a part of their duty to the state there is a certain sin which is clearly unforgiveable. Blasphemy is especially egregious when a leaders of a group encourages others to do evil acts in the name of Jesus.
“whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28–29)
In three Gospels Jesus makes abundantly clear that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgiveable especially if the offender shows no sign of remorse. It is curious that Abiy Ahmed who claims to belong to a Christian denomination devoted to the Holy Spirit would so viciously act against it.
During the plague of misery and abuse suffered by Tigray this year there has emerged a hero, a symbol of the persistent courage even in the face of overwhelming inhumanity to the Tegaru (the people of the Tigray regional state). In the midst of this unholy chaos a very young school girl who has come to be recognized as “Baby Donut” has reaffirmed the cultural character that defines Tigray.
She was outside of her school which was ransacked and taken by the invading armies when she was questioned by the enemy soldiers. She boldly asks them in a defiant manner why did they destroy her school. Why are they here in Tigray? They should leave and have done bad things. It should be remembered that this same group of soldiers had already committed terrible acts and this behavior put the young girl in real danger. The following video is a partial record of this encounter.
During the occupation of Mekelle and most of Tigray from November 2020 through the liberation of Mekelle in July 2021 horrible things were done to the people and civil institutions of Tigray. Ethiopian National Defense Force, Eritrean Army, and Amhara militias ransacked businesses, killed military age men down to newborns, raped and mutilated tens of thousands of women some as young as age 4. Such horrors are still going on in Western Tigray.
Now that at least Mekelle has been liberated President Debretsion Gebremichael (not pictured here) and advisor Getachew Reda welcome the visit of Baby Donut.
Is Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed now making deals with a Turkish anti-Christian cocaine dealer? Does the hypocrisy of Abiy Ahmed know no bounds?
Just this month a story published in the Nordic Monitor described that a jet owned by a close associate of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was caught smuggling 1.3 tons of cocaine into Brazil. The jet was owned by a company owned by Şeyhmus Özkan, a known oil smuggler who enjoys political cover thanks to his close ties to the Erdoğan government. He is a vital supporter of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The article noted that the response of the Turkish government to this event “bears the hallmark of a coverup by Turkish authorities”. Is Abiy Ahmed planning to use Ethiopian jets the same way to help his economy?
Components of Turkish Airlines have filed bankruptcy in last year and have struggled to do well in the international COVID19 pandemic. Additionally although offering low fairs which are probably violating international regulations on national subsidy to capture markets the airline suffers from a poor reputation of customer service. Frequent comments such as “worst airline ever” appear on the well known rating website Skytrax.
Although Abiy Ahmed presents himself as devoted evangelical Christian who promotes tolerance of religious diversity that is not the case with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who is coming under increasing international criticism for his suppression of Christianity in Turkey. Historically Istanbul once known as Constantinopol was known as the first nation to officially adopt Christianity by the Emperor Constantine. He is recognized and venerated by Ethiopian Orthodox followers as his mother, Helen, who is said to have found the relics of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. This is in fact an important holiday in Ethiopia called Meskel which means cross in the ancient language of Ge’ez used by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in its scripture. Why make deals with a man who mocks your own religion?
Whereas it was once commonplace for Orthodox Christianity and Islam to co-exist in Turkey that has changed under Erdoğan’s leadership. Christian churches are being converted to Mosques and Christians are frequently confronted by police and accused of treason. The celebration of Meskel as an open public celebration as done in Ethiopia is outlawed in Turkey.
A new sanction somewhat anticipated against Ethiopia has just been announced by Von Batten-Montague-York, L.C., a consulting group, the office of the President of the United States today informed the government of Ethiopia that they are in violation of the African Growth and Opportunity treaty signed with the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act of 2001. In order to avoid violation the government of Ethiopia must immediately withdrawal from Tigray, open communications, power, transport, and allow aid to Tigray. If they do not then a loss of over $444 million dollars in revenue from sales of tax free exports to the United States will be stopped.
The African Growth and Opportunity Act of 2001 gave Ethiopia a chance to export 1800 different products to the United States duty free. However to participate in AGOA To meet AGOA’s there are strict eligibility requirements including ” countries must establish or make continual progress toward establishing a market-based economy, the rule of law, political pluralism, and the right to due process. Additionally, countries must eliminate barriers to U.S. trade and investment, enact policies to reduce poverty, combat corruption and protect human rights.”
U.S. total imports of agricultural products from Ethiopia totaled $151 million in 2019. Leading categories include: unroasted coffee ($130 million), nursery products ($6 million), spices ($3 million), planting seeds ($357 thousand), and wine and beer ($271 thousand)
Only 9% of total imports to Ethiopia come from the United States. Ethiopia main imports are: foodstuffs, textile, machinery and fuel. Ethiopia main trading partners are: China (18 percent of total imports), Saudi Arabia (13 percent), Russia and India (9 percent)
Over almost a century the Tegaru people and their Tigray state has been at war three times with neighboring factions which always put them in a siege state. Long distance dependence for food, fuel, transportation hubs, and administrative government centers have adversely affected their ability to prepare and respond successfully to war time threats to their survival. Currently the Tigray Regional National State is in a fight for its existence with the Ethiopian national government and its allies while being held to a near complete siege.
Whether Tigray will be in a position to have self determination is not clear. The war continues without a clear victory at this point. But lets assume for the moment that either an outright military victory or a negotiated settlement happens. There are some belated lessons learned from the history of the Tigray state from the Derg war, the Eritrean war, and finally the situation of the Tigray state in the last years of Meles Zenawi as Prime Minister of Ethiopia which can no longer be ignored if the Tegaru people and the Tigray state want to stop the cycle of recurrent threats to survival.
Lessons from previous war experience that create siege risk for Tigray
The Ethiopian government under Meles Zenawi leadership made a big mistake not taking down the Esaias regime of Eritrea. This allowed Esaias to be like a snake in the grass whose venom became more poisonous waiting for the right day to strike. Additionally not incorporating Eritrea into Tigray would have give Tigray a seaport. Instead Ethiopia was left landlocked and Tigray access to a seaport was not under Tigray regional control.
Mekelle the capital of Tigray did not share in the grand development of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Mekelle University and the other smaller universities where smartly developed as centers for intellectual and professional development outside the Amharic elite environment which contributed to a continued strong sense of Tegaru identity and potential. However, the one Ethiopian airline was based in Addis Ababa and even though the Alula Abanega airport in Mekelle was well designed with capacity for large jets it was totally dependent of functions in Addis Ababa. There was no cargo or passenger service based in Mekelle, no maintenance or repair, and no aircraft inventory Mekelle based.
Although the Tekezé dam and Ashegoda windfarm turbines have the capacity to serve millions of homes and industry they were under national control from Addis Ababa without any local control or service functions.
Internet and phone service were mostly based on equipment and service from Addis Ababa.
The banking system was centrally controlled by Addis Ababa who could shut down its function literally remotely by controlling the computerized banking functions.
The Tigray Regional Health Bureau like the other regional states are very weak entities. Decisions regarding purchasing, development, personal management and development are centrally based to Addis Ababa
Similarly the University system was centrally controlled in terms of budget approval, staffing planning, program development. Thus customization to meet Tigray regional state needs and control were in Addis Ababa.
Even if the Tigray state rejoins the Ethiopian confederation it must continue to reserve the right to train and have its own defense force including the military academies in Mekelle. There should be ground forces, air forces, and significant equipment to provide a reasonable defensive capability. Additionally a strong mandatory military service of young men and women in their youth to maintain a well trained reserve that can be called in time of threat must be instituted.
Thus whether Tigray remains in an Ethiopian confederation or becomes an independent state it is absolutely essential that the new Tigray state must address the above mentioned issues or it will be once again vulnerable to be choked and starved once again by an enemy intent to dealing it a deathblow.