Abiy Ahmed speech and actions follow a well recognized historical pattern of genocide

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.”

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed gives the “Cancer of Ethiopia” speech on July 18, 2021

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.

Mehmed Talaat, commonly known as Talaat Pasha or Talat Pasha, was a politician of the late Ottoman Empire who served as its de facto leader from 1913 to 1918

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”.

Rwandan fugitive Leon Mugesera (C) is escorted handcuffed by policemen to a police vehicle on the tarmac as he arrives at Kigali International Airport late on January 24, 2012. Mugesera, a linguist who had lived in Canada since 1993, is wanted by the Rwandan authorities for alleged incitement to genocide in a speech he delivered two years before the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of 800,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis. (Photo credit should read STEVE TERRILL/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

Adolf Hitler speech to the Reichstag on January 30, 1939 where he condemned the Jews

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”.

Author: Professor Tony Magana

Professor Tony Magana is Head of the Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia. He directs a neurosurgery residency and training program as well as neuroscience research.

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