Yesterday Abiy Ahmed held a day long meeting with military and other government officials in Bahir Dar, the capital of the Amhara region where he stated according to the Addis Standard the Tigray military mission cannot be defeated by the Ethiopian military. Now that the Tigray Defense Force has captured Dessie and soon will have Kombalcha which will allow them to join forces with the Oromo Liberation Army no doubt the next step is to topple the government.
The Bahir Dar meeting ended with a call for all citizens of Ethiopia to rise up in an effort to stop the Tigray. No doubt Abiy Ahmed feels his strongest support is in the heart of Amhara. Geographically Bahir Dar is farthest from the Tigray Defense Force and has considerable untouched ground defenders as well as an airbase west of the city well protected which could hold drones and fighter aircraft. The lake to the north of the city is a natural barrier to invasion. The Oromo surround Addis Ababa but not Bahir Dar.
Abiy Ahmed has also been called to appear before Parliament by many members to explain his failure and plan for finding peace. By staying in Bahir Dar he can avoid this requirement.
So far today no official statement has been made from Addis Ababa. Did Abiy Ahmed stay in Bahir Dar? Will Abiy Ahmed make his last stand in Bahir Dar? Does he feel safer in Bahir Dar surrounded by Amhara loyalists then in Addis Ababa which is long contested as really being Finfinne, an Oromo city. Is it likely that if he stays in Addis Ababa local spontaneous revolt by disaffected Oromos will start up?
Whatever you might believe about the Tigray, the Oromo, or the Amhara the current situation has basically been about two armies and especially their leadership. The Ethiopian federal government under Abiy Ahmed had all the cards in his favor or so he thought. He professed that his intent with the invasion of Tigray was to do “enforcement”. His goal was to capture the rebel leaders to “liberate” the Tigray who like to be called the Tegaru.
I have never met Mr. Ahmed but I have had the pleasure many times to share airplane trips with Mr. Debretsion who is a quiet contemplative man who has an enormous intellect but at the same time understands the common man of Tigray. We always talked about what we were doing at the University and the hospital for the farmers.
The Tigray Defense Force has captured Dessie and now seems unstoppable while the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, says today from Bahir Dar that Ethiopia cannot win militarily over the Tigray. Rather than thousands dying in weeks of battle, the humanity of the Tigray Defense Force avoided extensive civilian causalities and offered humanitarian care of prisoners which encouraged the Ethiopian defense forces to surrender rather then die for nothing in Dessie. There is no doubt that what has happened in Tigray and northern Ethiopia is a human tragedy. Those who mostly suffered have been poor farmers whose lives are tied to a constant struggle to just survive even in times of peace. Years from now historians and political analysts will try to cast light on what lead to this catastrophe.
However, Abiy Ahmed’s hidden agenda, which was to annihilate the Tigray people soon become obvious. Instead of trying to compassionately motivate the people of Tigray that they had their interest by securing food, power, internet, medicine, education, and personal security they unleashed barbarous savagery of rape, thief, deprivation, destruction and hate.
In his mind and in his pronouncement to his followers, Abiy Ahmed, belittled the Tigray to subhumans incapable of doing anything well. He seemed to forget their history of being capable of elite light infantry campaigns in guerrilla and conventional warfare. The Prime Minister put his faith in military leaders who had previously been defeated by the Tigray in the Derg war. Finally, his cruelty to the Tigray people motivated her population to sustain a war effort not for domination but for survival. Meanwhile much of Ethiopia outside of the main combatants realized that the war was an instrument of destruction not unity. The old story of Amhara expansion that characterized the 18th and 19th century domination of Abyssinia over the Cushitic and Southern peoples is over. Medemer was exposed as lie. Apparently Abiy Ahmed has sent his family to Switzerland. I hope a new era will emerge.
As the Tigray Defense Force begins the final motions of capturing Dessie and Kombalcha international chaos affecting much more than Ethiopia is becoming evident. Turkey’s attempt to change the course of the Ethiopian Tigray war may in the end not only fail but cost it much in relations with other NATO members. The Ethiopian Tigray genocidal conflict has cost existing and future partnerships and investment with many Western democracies for Ethiopia and Turkey.
The expulsion of many Western diplomats from Turkey today in response to their public denouncement of the arrest and detention since 2013 of a prominent Turkish businessman and philanthropist, Osman Kavala, is the latest in a deteriorating relationship between Turkey and fellow NATO members. Through NATO confidential technology used in weapons systems including combat drones was shared with Turkey to allow them to share in producing NATO weapons. However Turkey has taken advantage of these technological secrets to sell weapons to participants in conflicts outside those normally allowed such as Ethiopia. Members of Congress in the USA have called for blocking further technology transfers.
Acquisition of weapons from Turkey, Iran, and possibly North Korea is also resulting in further deterioration of USA and other NATO members with those countries as well. Yesterday the Ethiopian Air Force tried to trick Mekelle Air Defense systems to mistakenly shoot down a UN aid flight. They did an airstrike on Mekelle while the UN flight was approaching to land. Although this did not happen, the Ethiopian government has caused the UN aid flights to be suspended. However, this flagrant and provocative action will only further increase calls for sanctions against the Ethiopian government.
Once claiming Tigray as fellow mislead Ethiopians, Ethiopian leaders now proclaim absolute hate for them. Yohannes Buayalew, an Amhara government official now proclaims a key factor to win a war was to foster and internalize hate of the enemy. “Artists should help promote hate among the people against the enemy. Hate is power needed to defeat an enemy. He called on Ethiopian artists and writers to make hate sink in the people. Previous denials by Ethiopian officials that their war against the Tigray was an intended genocide but was only a “law enforcement operation” are now changed to bold proclamations of the need to develop absolute hate of everything Tigray. Of course the reality is that this hatred has been present since Abiy Ahmed began planning his Tigray obliteration after his alliance with Ahmara expansionists.
Before Ethiopian, Amhara, and Eritrean forces even entered the Ethiopian Tigray war they were told by commanding officers and political leaders that this war was about permanently removing the Tigray people from not only existence but history. We now know that specific orders were given to kill all male children over the age 4 at least and if more the better. Tigray women were to raped to bear Amhara children or their wombs rendered sterile by mutilation.
Schools, hospitals, farms, electricity, water, internet, and banking were to be destroyed that no vestige of society remained. Even before the Ethiopian invasion the Ethiopian Federal government had already changed the budgets of universities and other facilities to zero. Factories built by foreign interest which were financed by the Ethiopian government were to be destroyed.
Almost no prisoners of war from Tigray and minimally from Oromo fighters have been taken. Most were just killed on the spot and left for the hyena.
There are even some reports of Amhara FANO removing limbs from both combatants and civilians leaving them disabled. I saw innocent mothers shot in the back running from enemy soldiers and then their babies semi-decapitated.
The hatred of the Abiy Ahmed and his followers has been so intense that Ethiopian Air Force bombing along the A2 Highway was allowed to kill many Amhara civilians as they could be sacrificed for the goal of genocide of the Tigray.
Ethiopian failure to deal with a failing economy worsens the credit crash and severely limits possibilities for further international loans to support the government. Despite promises to cooperate with foreign lenders no progress has been made. There is a growing possibility that the Ethiopian federal government may collapse.
In February 2021 under an agreement called the Common Framework for Debt Treatment Ethiopia agreed to work with the International Monetary Fund to find a way to renegotiate its debt payments. Currently the Ethiopian government is estimated to be $40-$50 billion in debt for loans to the Ethiopian Federal government as well as “hidden” loans backing private businesses deals in targeted industries. This means Ethiopia currently has to pay more than $ 2 billion annually in debt service. The debt service may now be almost 50% of the Gross Domestic Product which is five times higher than the normal upper acceptable limit of 10%.
The Ethiopian government was supposed to come to terms with a committee which included France and China starting in September but so far according to Mood’s Investment Services report that came out today there has been no progress. As a result Moody’s downgraded the credit rating once again to Caa2. Their assessment is that the Ethiopian economy has a negative outlook and now has no likely source at this time for obtaining any further loans.
Moody notes weak government, poor control of COVID 19, increasing political unrest and war, drought, locust outbreaks, inflation, and loss of foreign investment interest among the factors making economic growth and stability unlikely for Ethiopia in the near future.
Thousands are dead yet still the world will do nothing significant about the Ethiopian crisis. Diaspora influence and foreign government hesitance to see the real Abiy Ahmed greatly empowered Ethiopia’s descent into hell. The world cannot escape its responsibility in fomenting disaster. The world has to learn to not just to listen to words but also to measure the man who speaks them. To hold leaders accountable when they stray from their promises.
The impetus to finally fulfill the Ethiopian dream of a democratic state promoting ethnic unity and escape from poverty obscured the world’s view of the real Abiy Ahmed. Medemer, a promise of the blending of Ethiopia’s many cultures into a new national unity with equality for all, quickly deteriorated following the Prime Minister’s victory tour in the United States. During this visit and subsequently Abiy Ahmed progressively became influenced by the Amharic clerico-fascist movement that believed the greatness of the Ethiopian state lied in returning to the time of Amharic expansion and dominance of the 19th century. This metamorphosis of Abiy Ahmed was mostly sparked by the influence of diaspora Amhara who greatly also influenced domestic supporters.
This foreign diaspora influence is important to realize because it very much goes against the idea that what was happening in Ethiopia was all the result of beliefs and actions of domestic “Ethiopians”. Promises of aversion to war, new economic development, freedom of the press, release of political prisoners, and open dialogue about the future of the state were quickly retracted. Instead, references to the troubled time of “princes without a king” of the 18th century Ethiopia from which Amharic leadership provided “rescue” in the 19th century became the dominant theme of government forward looking policy. Medemer was a camouflage for the return of Amharic dominance, expansion, and repression of other Ethnic groups.
In the period of a year Ethiopia went from a booming economy with high levels of economic growth, foreign investment, improving educational and health care services to a devastating war that has killed thousands, displaced millions, genocidally declared Tigrayans (Tegaru) as needing extermination, bankrupting the economy, and the world view of Ethiopia as a pariah of the likes of Iran, Eritrea, and North Korea.
As I and others have written before, the function and the will of the United Nations and the African Union to to reduce the harm from this crisis is almost nil. Part of it is the disbelief that the Abiy Ahmed the world wished to see is not the evil man that ultimately emerged who kills, starves, and destroys. Now his victims are not just the Tigray but include all Ethiopians whose dream is now became a nightmare. The only recourse is to hope that the opposition forces of Tigray, Oromia, and others will be able to topple the evil.
Today Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed threatened to stop all wheat food aid saying it causes diseases and stopping the aid would solve “70%” of Ethiopia’s problems. Extensive studies have been carried out over the past few years analyzing the increasing wheat demand yielding solutions which the Ethiopian government has failed to put into place. The Ethiopian PM now seems to making a strawman argument against aid instead of admitting his lack of action on developing agriculture. He is also likely believing Ethiopia is facing imminent severe sanctions from Western democracies over the genocidal war with Tigray. The failing economy and falling birr will no doubt make it difficult to purchase the usual 4 million tons of wheat imports purchased yearly.
Ethiopia imports about 25% of its wheat needs every year estimated be over 6 million tons. Most of the purchased wheat imports, about 4 million tons, come from the Black Sea while the United States provides additional donations each year of 1.5 million tons. Since 2019 attempts have been made to increase wheat production in the Afar and Oromia regions which are most fit to raise the crop, however, this was not a main focus of the government.
A review of the problems of wheat production in Ethiopia shows that low tech farming methods and low payments to farmers make for failure to make production goals. Ethiopian market studies show that although teff to make the native bread enjera is preferred by the lower class, those that can afford to purchase wheat to make pasta and traditional breads, dabo and ambasha for example, are demanding more wheat every year. International authorities on wheat production had suggested aggressive breeding programs to make wheat more resistant to climate change and disease such as been done in Mexico but Abiy Ahmed government was slow to respond. Experts said that dealing with land erosion, seed breeding, and modernizing farming could make Ethiopia wheat self sufficient.
Reminiscent of Hitler’s actions in the face of defeat in World War II Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has done his own “Nero” Decree. Devastating loss of soldiers and equipment in the past week to Tigray Defense Forces have only hardened the Ethiopian Prime Minister to escalate further his grotesque acts of war crime and inhumanity. Many military analysts are saying setbacks of the Ethiopian National Defense Force may have reached a point of no return.
Ethiopian jet aircraft attacked a busy market in downtown Mekelle calling it the center of Tigray Defense Force communications near a well known hotel, Planet Hotel. Ayder Hospital reports there were 3 causalities. This is the latest action whereas earlier in the week the jets repeatedly area bombarded areas along the A2 highway in Amhara killing at least hundreds of Amhara and Afar civilians, his own Amhara forces, and destroying many businesses with little effect on the Tigray Defense Forces. Throughout the past 11 months under his command hundreds of thousands of innocents have been summarily executed, starved, raped, striped of health care, possessions, and communication.
In March of 1945 when Allied Forces crossed the Rhine and Russian forces were moving in fast from the West, Adolf Hitler made his infamous “Nero” Decree. He admitted to a few of his generals that defeat was imminent. He called for the destruction of Germany’s infrastructure and stepped up arrests of Jews and other undesirables as well as their executions. The similarity of using genocide and deprivation of Abiy to Hitler seems to become closer and closer with each passing day. One wonders if Abiy Ahmed has read Mein Kampf.
In public remarks Abiy Ahmed rambled between talking about avocados and that every Amhara citizen should stand by his house and fight to the death. While at the same giving frantic calls to the United States State Department to help him even though he does not want to negotiate with “Terrorists”. Meanwhile his supporters continue their chants “Hands off Ethiopia!” meaning they want no interference from the United States while complaining they want more food aid to Amhara even as they block it to Tigray.
Brain drain of university trained professionals and successful entrepreneurs may now be driven to even higher levels by the ongoing Ethiopian conflict with Tigray and other nationalities. Even though in the post Derg era Ethiopia built 33 universities including medical schools, engineering schools, and literally a whole gamut of professional training to help develop its economy, brain drain has always been a problem especially to Europe and the United States.
Academics describe that the “push factors” such as low pay, poor working conditions, and poor chance for advancement or continuing development combine with “pull factors” such as higher salaries, children’s education, favorable immigration policies, career development, political and economic stability drive professionals to leave their home country. Restrictive policies to trap professionals are against United Nations principles and just add to unrest.
Before the onset of the Ethiopian Tigray conflict Ethiopia had one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. While the salaries of professionals remained significantly lower than more developed Western democracies many young graduates elected to stay in Ethiopia because they saw that economic development was a possibility. They were motivated by helping their country, having jobs where they had significant responsibility, and also that future income would improve as the country grew. A forecast for improving political stability and quality of family life convinced them to stay.
After almost a year of war that saw severe devastation of not only Tigray but now spreading to Amhara, Oromia, Afar, Somali, and SNNP. The cost of war has rendered the national debt so high that the government will have little left after paying foreign debt service to invest in infrastructure development. Meanwhile the value of the birr drops to new lows every week. Professionals who never thought about leaving are now reassessing this decision in the face of uncertainty.
This past month I have had contact with many doctors, engineers, and other professionals not just Tigrayans who have left Ethiopia and do not plan to return. Many of them were Amhara from Addis Ababa who are in their third and fourth decade of life with extended families to support who see no future in Ethiopia. Even in Somaliland many merchants from Addis Ababa and other regions have been seen.
International economists have had varying ideas about what are the effects of brain drain. Certainly many professionals receive higher wages and then send remittances back to their home country. This remittances significantly improve local economies where they are received. Although diaspora may help developing countries develop most immigrants to developed countries never return to their country of birth.
In the past few years not only Ethiopia has had stability and growth in Africa. Many Ethiopian doctors and other professionals for example have recently left Addis Ababa to work in Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi where their skills are in high demand at salaries sometimes two or three times what they earn in Ethiopia. The high quality of Ethiopian university education combined with the fact that English competency is required opens the possibility for pursuit of careers in the United States, Canada, Australia, England and countries of the old British Empire.
The conquest obsession of Abiy Abid is rapidly fading any future of economic growth and financial independence for Ethiopia. They seemed to have missed out on the first lesson in any college freshman economic class about the “guns vs butter” trade off.
This month the inflation rate for Ethiopia will reach a record 50% in one year the highest in the world. The consumer price index is expected within a short time to also reach a new high of 300 points above normal. The Central Statistical Agency which normally posts this finding has actually closed its normal reporting website.
The Ethiopian government probably has less the $400 million to run the country for the next 11 months which normally requires about $2 billion. The International Monetary Fund has decided that Ethiopia’s finances are in such disarray that it cannot issue a report on growth. Although the official government report is 6.6% growth this year most analysts are saying it will exceed -2% net loss. Fantasy will not feed the hungry nor create sustainable businesses to drive economic growth.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has spent all cash reserves and transferred most gold reserves out of the country. France and China are trying to broker a new repayment plan for debt that exceeds $40 billion requiring payments of at least $2 billion year alone in debt service. Meanwhile Abiy Ahmed promises to guarantee private loan deals between private companies in Ethiopia and foreign interests have been discovered adding another $25 billion in debt previously hidden. His armies have destroyed hundreds of billions of birr worth of businesses and industries in Tigray. The war damage blight to Tigray now extends to much of Amhara with Ethiopian and Eritrean blanket destruction adding billions of birr in economic production loss and human life.
At this point the continued war and misery are no doubt going to leave what was formally the prosperous state of Ethiopia in tatters. Severe austerity measures will need to be imposed just to get any country to fund loan repayment and it is likely that natural resources will likely be the mechanism of repayment but not at any significant profit to Ethiopia. The dream of Ethiopia being a second world country that escaped poverty is gone. The previous decades of progress will be just a memory traded for the false promise of conquest and repression. Ethiopia has become another Eritrea.