Growing dissension between Ethiopian National Defense Forces and Amhara militia of the defense of Northern Amhara. The FANO militia group is attacking ENDF soldiers and even civilians for retreating from Tigray Defense Force movements to capture Amhara cities.
As of today August 5, 2021 the cities of Lalibela and Woldiya have been captured by the Tigray Defense Force. We know from multiple sources that several occurrences have happened this week to indicate a weakening of the resolve of the Ethiopian National Defense Force in the face of a string of defeats as well as increasing friction with the Amhara militia.
When the regular ENDF forces tried to withdrawal from W0ldiya their movement out of the city was opposed by the Amhara militia group, FANO, who actually shot the Oromia commander and blockaded the street with large objects including trees. Anonymous sources have also revealed that the commanders of Lalibela had expressed their displeasure of the tenure of the war because the tactics used in Tigray had inflamed such a passion in the TDF forces attacking them. Similar to W0ldya we are hearing reports that there were sometimes violent clashes between FANO and the regular ENDF before the TDF captured the city today. It was reported that FANO robbed and killed civilians as they left the city to avoid fighting TDF. Then a few hours later placed Woldiya under an artillery bombardment that have injured and killed civilians.
The President of the Amhara, Agegnehu Teshager, region has consistently for the past two weeks complained to the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that he is not receiving enough support from Addis Ababa in terms of reinforcement. Now he is called for all adults to join the fight in the face of the TDF advances.
As the TDF advances northwest into Amhara it has now come to light that official communication released today from the Amhara Prosperity Party have become even more genocidal and bizarre. They are spinning that the ENDF and Amhara militia are doing a strategic withdrawal to lead TDF into the mountains of Northern Amhara where a “trap” will be sprung. Great sacrifice of the Amhara will be necessary they say to defeat the TDF however for the TDF they say “Our farmer is determined to fight the herd, to strip the barn, to rape his wife, to kidnap his son, to kill the young”
Failure to timely resolve the Tigray Ethiopian conflict will kill the hope of Ethiopia emerging into a middle income country. The resurgence of the Tigray Defense Force and the refusal of the Ethiopian government to negotiate with Tigray’s leaders predicts a prolonged conflict triggering decline into a state of increasing poverty and dependency .
Most of the members of the United Nations clearly see that there is humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region of Ethiopia reminiscent of the previous famines. The clear obstruction of international aid and even communication to the region is perceived as mostly the fault of the Ethiopian government. The presence of the headquarters of the African Union as well the continental headquarters of the United Nations in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa along with its frequent role as an intermediary in solving African conflicts stands in stark contrast to the “no negotiation” stand of the Ethiopian government.
The Tigray Peoples Liberation Front leaders have stated they wish to negotiate a peace on the following conditions: that restoration of its pre-war condition of semi-autonomy as called for in the Ethiopian constitution. All invading forces of Eritrea, Amhara, and the Ethiopian National Defense Force must leave Tigray. Blockage of power, fuel, food, travel, banking, and communication would be ceased. The 1991 borders of Tigray would remain unchanged. A decision on whether to stay a part of Ethiopia or become independent would be decided by referendum. Those who committed war crimes must be brought to trial.
The increasing isolation of the Ethiopian government from the international community has implications for the welfare of its people and economic growth. The highly touted visit of Samantha Power, recognized genocide expert and now head of the USAID, was basically shunned by the Ethiopian Prime Minister and his ministers. She accused Ethiopia of “brutal treatment of Tigray.. that personal issue were favored over national issues”.
During her brief one day stay she found 58,000 metric tons of international aid stored in a warehouse in Addis Ababa which apparently the Ethiopian government had no plans to distribute.
The United States, Britain, and the European Union have called for withdrawal of Tigray forces from outside its traditional borders present prior to the this conflict as well as withdrawal of Eritrean and Ethiopian forces out of Tigray. Much of what the Western democracies are calling for is similar to the Tigray conditions. All parties must cooperate with the flow of aid to Tigray and the restoration of power and communication.
The reality is that the crisis of Ethiopia is not just in Tigray. At this point the Ethiopian birr is trading at 75 birr per US dollar which is a historic high. Inflation is over 40% for this year alone. Huge multibillion dollar deficits exist between Western countries and China with Ethiopia. The economic output from the country does not meet its import needs of food, fuel, and basic materials for industrial and agricultural development. According to the World Bank Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world with a real per capital income of only $850 pear year. Although its annual rate of growth has been positive this is a false indicator because the denominator is so low. Before the Tigray conflict 1 in 4 Ethiopians was requiring international food aid to survive. The continuous waves of COVID-19 in a country with minimal hospital resources and vaccination have further impeded its attempt improve the lot of its people.
Rebellion against the Ethiopian government is not just in Tigray. The attempt to consolidate power into a single political party, the Prosperity Party, coinciding with a movement towards a national Ethiopian identity has incited opposition in almost every region. As I previously wrote about this identity is more accepted by the Amhara ethnic group and others who are educated in Addis Ababa. Much of the opposition not just in Tigray is a really a revolt to oppression of the national identity felt by the regional states.
When you combine the effect of ongoing poverty, war, pandemic, and political struggle for identity it is hard to see a bright economic future. In the current global environment of cautious economic growth where the only major gains have come upon a greater reliance of internet transactions it seems likely that Ethiopia will have a difficult time participating. Ethiopia has very poor communications. Only 40% of Ethiopians have a cell phone or any phone and 20% have any connection to the internet. The internet present in Ethiopia is very slow and very expensive.
Millions of people from Tigray, Amhara, Afar, and the Southern regions of Ethiopia are now displaced by ethnic conflict. The locust swarms of the past year caused by an usual wet season added to a severe reduction in harvests that feed the population and sustain farming families who make up 90% of the economic output of Ethiopia. Even before the Tigray Ethiopia conflict the need for food aid was rising.
Prime Minister’s bold claims that Ethiopia will emerge as a superpower rivaling China and the United States by 2060 and the dominant force of Africa in this decade are obvious fantasies. Instead it seems likely that failure to resolve the war will add to the general decline of Ethiopia into a state of stagnation, increasing dependency, and misery. The author hopes the Tigray leaders and the Ethiopian Prime Minister will cooperate with finding a solution for the benefit of all parties.
The recent language and actions of Abiy Ahmed, PM of Ethiopia historically and scientifically analyzed show him to be a classic example of genocidal leader. His actions and words follow a well documented pattern of genocidal intentions used by other dictators whose purpose is solely to gain personal power at the expense of a persecuted minority. By February 2021 the U.N. special adviser on genocide prevention warned that without urgent measures the risk of atrocity crimes “remains high and likely to get worse.”
In the earliest records of primitive civilization there are records of genocide when the local of one group of people decided that another group needed to be essentially wiped out for false perceptions of being a threat. One recurrent theme that has survived as a justification for genocide into modern times is the need to “purify” the state. What usually happens has been studied vigorously by social scientists and historians is that a leader of state starts to portray a recognizable group within the society as the source of economic and social problems hindering the welfare of the population as a whole. They point out how this group is different from the rest of the society and that it is acting in contradiction to the benefit of the whole. The named group is dehumanized by referring to them as pathogens infecting the state.
Examples include the Ottoman Empire calling the Armenians “tubercular microbes” which the state like a good doctor should remove. In the case of the Rwanda, genocide the chopping up of Tutsi men was called “bush clearing” and slaughtering women and children was labelled as “pulling out the roots of the bad weeds”.
As a neuroscientist I have been working with a European NGO on developing methods of teaching good communication skills for business executives. This is based on a new field called neurolinguistics. It is based upon the concept that the human brain has developed to favor engagement in mutually beneficial relationships which favor survival. Language developed to serve this purpose of finding and maintaining these relationships. This language theory of forming relationships helps to explain how manipulative leaders can come to power.
As such we can apply these understanding to how political leaders use political propaganda to secure their political positions. Using language which clearly identifies a “common” threat they are able to unify the population and draw them to trust the political advocator. Under normal circumstances the use of drastic restrictions of human rights or even violence is felt immoral by a majority of the population. However if political propaganda marks the targeted group as outsiders to his constituency and then vociferously proclaims they are threat to the well-being and survival of the greater society this then dehumanizes the targeted group. The society becomes desensitized so that the previous objection to human rights violations and/or violence becomes allowable or even encouraged to an alienated minority.
We can compare Adolf Hitler’s speech to the ReichStag (German legislature) on January 30, 1939 where he said “If the international Finance-Jewry inside and outside of Europe should succeed in plunging the peoples of the earth once again into a world war, the result will be not the Bolshevization of earth, and thus a Jewish victory, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.” with Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia “ cancer speech of July 18, 2021 where he described Tigray as the “cancer of Ethiopia” , that it was root that needed to be” totally uprooted so that it never budded again”. He clarified that the Tigray were the “weed” and the rest of Ethiopia was the “wheat”.
Recovery of Tigrayan genocide victims downriver from Humera shows how they were likely targeted by cultural markings and suffered horrible murder.
Over the past week increasing numbers of dead bodies have been found floating in the Tekeze river which borders between Western Tigray and Sudan. At least 40 bodies have been recovered in area downriver from the Tigray city of Humera which is under control of Eritrean and Amhara militia. It is the rainy season there and the current is quite swift making recovery difficult for local fisherman so only a few bodies have been able to be collected which have been buried by the local Sudanese.
According to reports by AP and others many have been found to be bound with hands behind their back and suffered burns before death. Tewodros Tefera, a Tigrayan general surgeon refugee who is helping Tigrayan refugees in Sudan and Sudan doctors examined the bodies and recognized the characteristic Tigray facial marking on some of the bodies and identified another with a tattoo in the Tigrinya language. Some of the bodies have suffered gun shot and axe wounds.
For centuries at least the Tigrayans often called the Tegaru have practiced ritual face marking. This is not unusual in Africa although the specific way the Tegaru do it is unique. In early childhood two parallel small incisions are made lateral to the eyebrow. Locally it is called the “eleven”. Sometimes this was done at the time a child showed febrile illness. There is a cultural belief that this mark protects health. Unfortunately this mark is known to those committing genocide in Tigray such that those bearing it become the targets of abuse or murder. In previous times the Derg regime and bands of Amhara militia have gone on hunting parties to kill those with these facial scars. These markings leave no doubt that it is Tigrayans who are being killed.
Tigrayans living in Addis Ababa are facing increasing difficulty in routine daily activities of urban life. Restrictions on civilians of Tigrayan ethnicity
are blocked from travel, moving about in the city, and even making simple purchases while facing a constant risk of detention.
The government of Ethiopia has openly called for “extermination of the weed” of the Tigrayans. Now more than 50,000 Tigrayans have been imprisoned with many being sent to detention camps in the the southern and eastern regional states. Even for those Tigrayans living in Addis Ababa the capital of Ethiopia just walking on the street and obtaining necessities is becoming impossible. I have heard from several Tigrayans living in Addis Ababa that police are coming to their home insisting on an immediate donation of at least 50% of cash assets to pay for war costs. They are further told to cease all business activities. Properties have been confiscated including motor vehicles and buildings without any type of legal proceeding or charges.
Now in an even greater restriction has been placed on several Tigrayans when trying to withdrawal money from the bank or even buy groceries from a store when they have been asked for identification. Upon seeing that they are Tigrayan they were informed that the store has been told not to perform any purchases from Tigrayans. Ethiopian banks such as Ethiopian Commerce Bank are freezing accounts of Tigrayans all over Ethiopia. Whereas before this activity was more limited to those with accounts or businesses in Tigray it is now becoming commonplace for those who have lived and worked in Addis Ababa.
It has become routine in many neighborhoods for Tigrayans driving a motor vehicle to be stopped by police who upon discovery that the driver is of Tigrayan ethnicity to be told he or she is not allowed to drive permanently. Almost no Tigrayans are allowed to leave the country by airline.
Modified from a report by Martin Plaut
This is a story of a woman – I will call her ‘Hewa’, a Tigrayan Ethiopian Airlines Stewardess who has been deprived not only of her job, but of the country she loves. She reports ethnic profiling started as soon the current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018. Even though she had senior status for long term routes the Tigrayans regardless of status were only “allowed short-haul destinations in Africa or the Middle East. They are more tiring as there is a rapid turn-around. And the pay is worse. There are no stop-overs or per-diem payments.”
When she inquired as to why no answer was ever forthcoming. Her union was not giving answers or help to Tigrayans.
In October last year Hewa took leave and went to see friends in America. When she was scheduled to return her leave was extended. Then she was put on indefinite, unpaid leave. The airline had, in effect, abandoned her. Hewan asked repeatedly why this was. Her bosses were evasive, or refused to reply.
Now she is staying with a friend of her brothers. They are back in Mekelle with arrest warrants out for them. She says “I feel so oppressed. My friends call, but I can’t say anything to them. I am almost crying on the phone.”
A mother, in her early thirties, Hewa is now seeking refugee status in the USA. She has left behind her little son and a mother in her sixties. “I feel very sad. I had a life in Addis; I had my son and my family. I never thought of leaving,” Hewa says. Separated from family and the life she loved in Ethiopia, with security officers monitoring her house in Addis, there seem few options for Hewa.
Many respected news media organizations including the The Telegraph (UK), BBC, New York Times, and Martin Plaut have been reporting this type of behavior for many Tigrayan employees over the past year which Ethiopian Airlines denies. The United Nations has expressed concern that discrimination against pilots, stewardesses, and security guards among others is concerning.
The rapid movement of the Tigray Defense force in recapturing Tigray and moving into the Amhara region is due to their successful understanding of fighting in the mountains during the rainy season. The Tigray-Ethiopian conflict is centered in Northern Ethiopia which for the most part is a very mountainous regions. From June through September especially in the mountains is the rainy season called Kiremt . It has been known for centuries that weather must play a role in how a war is fought if it is to be won. In 1917 the Harvard Climatologist, Robert Ward, wrote about the effect of weather on World War I being fought in Europe. He said “ war does not make the weather but weather does make the war”
The soldier must have weather protection, be able to move to contact the enemy efficiently , and have functional armament. He must be disciplined and trained to make difficult maneuvers. The added stress of fighting the elements as well as the enemy requires that the will to fight is present. The surrender of enemy forces now numbering over 30,000 to the Tigray Defense Force demonstrates this factor is with the Tigray Defense Force. The video attached shows the TDF marching on foot through a city near Lalibela in the cold rain. Many of the fighters do not have uniforms but they have multiple layers of clothing and rain gear which often the ENDF does not have.
The current rapid movement of the Tigray Defense Forces through the northern Amhara region is an example of military tactics made with weather in mind. Soldiers must be trained and equipped in a way that they can move through mountainous and often slippery terrain efficiently. During much of the year in Northern Ethiopia valleys and low points are dry but during the rainy season can be transformed to rivers. There are few good highways so often corridors of travel may be little more than a dirt path which can become so muddy that it becomes to difficult to even move in it.
The frequent rain and thunderstorms curtails the ability of the Ethiopian forces to move their troops by airplane or helicopter. It also makes it difficult to carry out airstrikes with any precision. The placement of artillery units becomes difficult because they get stuck in the mud or cannot be placed accurately. The Tigray Defense forces tend to move over mountain trails in unexpected directions making it difficult for the Ethiopian forces to pursue or track them in the weather.
Whilst the TDF moves on foot through mountains the ENDF prefers to use trucks on highways that are passable during the rainy season making it easy to guess where they will pass. They practice poor convoy management in their movement to contact which is why they are so often ambushed successfully by the TDF.