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.
Is it reasonable to starve your enemy? At this time the United Nations and members of the African Union are calling upon the Ethiopian government and allied militia of the Amhara state to stop the intended blockage of food aid to Tigray which has resulted in dangerous ongoing famine for millions especially children. There are those promoting starvation of the Tigray region saying that it will weaken them and bring fighting to an end sooner. The Bible in both the New and Old Testament specifically forbids this practice. Classic Judeo-Christian values sees violence to easily become a self propagating recycling of increasing harm to the parties involved.
I have previously written about the recognized justifications of both Islam and Christianity for a just war and how the Tigray Defense Force for the most part has met and exceeded this criteria. Additionally I did say that there was an argument that Christ calls for complete pacifism as the only way to go. Which of these is correct has been controversial for centuries?
Now I am going to write about justification from the point of view of the Ethiopian government and recent statements by the President of the Amhara region that what they are doing is a holy war.
In the Old Testament in Proverb 25:21-22 it says
“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.”
Here the burning coals recalls an Egyptian expiation ritual, during which a guilty person, as a sign of repentance, carried a basin of glowing coals on his head. Meeting violence and hate with charity and generosity stops this escalation of harm.
This message is repeated by Saint Paul in Romans 12 where he writes:
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
As I have previously written, invoking Jesus name to commit clearly forbidden acts is a form of blasphemy so severe that it is recognized as the sole unforgiveable sin.
For Ethiopians previously not affected by the Ethiopian Tigray conflict it is now time to come to reality. Now is the time for all to realistically assess where to go from here. It is a time for prayer and contemplation. Ethiopians not affected by the war so far need to realize they soon will be.
Wars always start too early and end too late. Having fantasy notions about a coming Ethiopian miracle will only cause more misery. Whatever becomes of Ethiopia is going to happen regardless of what further futile military action is done by Ethiopia.
One in four people in all of Ethiopia are approaching a state of famine and for Tigray that is approaching 500,000. Ethiopian Airlines and mining interests are so disrupted by the war that the economy of Ethiopia is falling fast. Abnormal rain patterns as well as war now occurring in Tigray, Amhara, Afar, Oromia, Beningshugal, Somali, and the SNNPNR will surely reduce the major harvest this year. Inflation for the year is approaching 50% and the birr may reach 75 to the US dollar very soon.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has left to meet Isaias in Eritrea and then on to Turkey. It may happen that the Bole Airport may be overtaken by Oromia Liberation Army forces before he makes it back if he really intends to comeback. So far Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has refused to negotiate but instead promising a massive counterattack which has never materialized. The Tigray and their allies have at least offered to negotiate.
At this point it is clear by many military and strategic analysts that Ethiopia cannot mount a significant counterattack to defeat Tigray. Now the Tigray Defense Force is being joined by fighters of liberation armies from Agew, Afar, Somali, Beningshugal, Oromia, and Gambella.
The Tigray Defense Force and their allies are driven by a need to free their people from perceived tyranny and abuse from Amhara elitism. The Amhara elites and their allies claim they want to preserve a chance for a unified Ethiopia that will become a more modern state. Unfortunately they cannot force their point of view upon others. As I and others have stated previously Ethiopian has always been an empire of subjugated nations. The prejudiced view of a united state of Ethiopia quickly fades from view as soon as you leave Addis for the countryside.
Thousands of Ethiopians are displaced now. Dessie Hospital and others in Amhara are overwhelmed with casualties. Most of the fighting equipment of the Ethiopian national defense force has been destroyed or taken by the Tigray Defense Force. Supply lines to both Tigray and Amhara as well as from Djibouti and Kenya are cut off. It may be just hours to days before the Bole Airport is closed. As of now no Ethiopian airline flight is flying domestically. Civilian traffic between major cities is severely restricted. The isolated and tormented people of Western Tigray will soon be freed.
A prayer from His Eminence Archbishop Abba Kewestos Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarchate:
In the name of the Father and of the Son And of the Holy Spirit one God, Amen.
For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:
Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
And who is he that will harm you if you will be followers of that which is good?
But if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meakness and fear;
Nationwide food shortage, inflation, and lack of regional autonomy in all of Ethiopia are driving a new coalition from many regions to act against the rule of Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party. Although the Tigray conflict gets the most attention armed resistance is now active in Oromia, Amhara, Afar, Somali, and Gambella regions of Ethiopia. These other actions are clearly becoming more aggressive given the recent advances of the Tigray Defense Force.
Since 2018 the government of Abiy Ahmed and the Prosperity Party has focused on city improvement in Addis Ababa to make it a “true capital city of Africa” Meanwhile food production and agricultural improvement projects throughout Ethiopia have been put on a low priority. Many local government leaders were pushed aside or forced to join the Prosperity Party which obligated them to this Addis Ababa first policy and abandoning local concerns.
The World Food Program forecast for food security extending to January 2022 of Ethiopia sees famine to crisis level conditions continuing in not only Tigray but also the whole south regions of Ethiopia. Somali region will have below levels of food supply. The worst area remains southeastern Tigray.
Recurring drought over the past decade without real attention to improving overall production has added to the need for necessary food imports to have remained at least 15% and may grow. Higher prices for seeds and agricultural materials like fertilizer along with inflation (now at 45% this year -the birr trading near 50 per US dollar) means it will harder for farmers to be ready to plant their crops or at least do so in lesser volume. Lesser rains limit the amount of pasture grazing available to raise livestock such as goats, sheep, and beef. Sheep are the most demanding and its availability is now sharply curtailed.
Ethiopia has major growing season and minor growing season extremely dependent on rain patterns. Belg is the shorter season from February to April, and meher is the main season from May to September (they have different names in different regions). These patterns have become increasingly unpredictable. Total annual grain production (including mainly corn, wheat, sorghum, barley, and teff) greatly depends on rainfall patterns during the belg season.
The rapidly cooling relations between Sudan and Ethiopia has implications to the Tigray Ethiopia conflict. There have been growing tensions between the Ethiopian government of Abiy Ahmed and Sudan for several reasons. Tigray leadership has discussed the need to open a western land route for supply which means through Sudan. Could Sudanese Tigray relations be warming up? Logic would suggest Sudan will move to at least neutral if not passively supportive of the Tigray cause.
Sudan Prime Minister recalls ambassador to Ethiopia
The recall of the Sudanese ambassador from Addis Ababa occurred after an internationally supported plan for Sudan to mediate negotiations between the Tigray National State and Ethiopia was flatly rejected. The Ethiopian spokesperson added to their usual statement that they do talk to “terrorists” that they have “trust” issues with Sudan. This was a diplomatic slap in the face to Sudan.
Territorial Dispute between Ethiopia and Sudan
There is a very productive agricultural area the Sudanese call al-Fashaga and the Ethiopian’s call Mazega. Previously the TPLF leader Meles Zenawi had worked out a joint sharing agreement for its use. When Abiy Ahmed came to power the influence of the Amhara elites who claimed this area as theirs become vocal that it belongs to Amhara.
There are frequent skirmishes between Sudan and Ethiopian forces along the disputed farmland with Ethiopia currently holding a captured Sudanese officer. Skirmishes including military movements and exchange of fire have happened when Eritrean and Ethiopian National Defense Force invaded Sudanese territory to capture escaping refugees or search for elements of the Tigray Defense Force.
Dispute over Grand Renaissance Dam
Recently Sudan signed a joint defense treaty with Egypt regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Both parties feel that Ethiopia is not cooperating with their rights to the Nile flow. They have wanted the dam to be slowly filled over many years rather than rushed filling the Ethiopian government has done. I have had discussions with some quite familiar with current Egyptian policy makers who tell me that Egyptian Sudanese cooperation of the GERD plan of action have decided to avoid aggressive action because they expect that if there is a Tigray takeover negotiation will be easier to reach a compromise.
Dispute over Refugees from Ethiopia
Tens of thousands of refugees have fled from Tigray and recently more from Amhara, the Qemant in numbers of at least 3000, because of the Amhara aggression to non-Amhara. Sudan is complaining to the UN that they do not have the resources to care for them. Local Sudanese authorities have exhibited shock at the growing number of bodies of tortured Tigrayans found floating in the Tekeze river bordering Sudan and Western Tigray currently occupied by Eritrea and the Ethiopian National Defense Force.
Sudan is hosting opposition to Eritrea
The Sudanese are also hosting the organization of a shadow opposition government against Abiy Ahmed ally, Eritrea, and may be allowing organization of opposition military forces. This is occurring even though the ruler of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, visited Sudan just a few months ago where they reportedly agree to more mutual cooperation. So one must assume the relationship has taken a turn for the worst.
The methods and motivation of the Tigray Defense Force are analogous to the Biblical hero, Gideon, in the victory of the Midianites in ancient Israel. Gideon is a venerated saint in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church with a connected legacy to the Tigray. They are using a method of strategic encirclement of intended targets and showing their tactical superiority in night attack followed by negotiation with local leaders to bring surrender leaving the local authorities in charge. In this way they have captured much equipment and prisoners but with minimal civilian casualties. Like the ancient Israelis they are making alliances to make their former potential adversaries see who is real enemy.
The Tigray people or Tegaru trace their heritage to the ancient Saba people who lived around the Red Sea who would give rise to the Semitic peoples including the Arabs and Israelis. Thousands of years ago the Saban Queen of Sheba bore a son from King Solomon of Israel who went on to form the Axumite Empire based in what is now the city of Axum in Northern Tigray. The early Tigrayans were followers of Judaism until they converted to Christianity under King Ezana. Their particular form of Christianity, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, is similar to Eastern Orthodoxy and still follows many Jewish customs such as dietary restrictions. The story of Gideon who is recognized as a saint for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is found in Chapter 28 of the 1 Megabyan book of their Bible.
In the Old Testament following the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt there were many ups and downs in trying to become established in Israel. Early in their history they had strayed from following God and built an altar to the false god, Baal. As a result of this God had rendered them to be constantly besieged and attacked by the Midianites who would take their crops and occupied their land. The Midianites were relatives of the Israelis, in fact Moses wife Zipporah had come from this tribe, but over the years the Midianites never accepted the covenant the Israelis had made with God. The king of the Midianites rather than having his people worship God wanted the people to worship him in a cult. God sent a prophet named Gideon to help the Israelis find their way and punish the Midianites.
The Israelis where vastly outnumbered in the tens of thousands so Gideon had recruited more than 22,000 fighters for battle. However, God said they had to be righteous so he tested with with how they would drink water from a pond. Only 300 passed the test. In order for the Jews to win the battle they had to follow God’s instructions. Gideon’s army was well trained and disciplined. Using trumpets and torch proclaiming their righteousness they were victorious in a disciplined night attack against the Midianites.
The government of Ethiopia while claiming a law enforcement operation has committed genocide to the people of Tigray and turned Tigray into a concentration camp.
What is the definition of a concentration camp?
According to the highly respected encyclopedia Britannica a concentration camp is “defined as an internment centre for political prisoners and members of national or minority groups who are confined for reasons of state security, exploitation, or punishment, usually by executive decree or military order”. What the Ethiopian government has done to the Tegaru, Irob, Agaw, Kunami, Afar, Orthodox, Catholic, Christian, and Muslims who live in Tigray meets every requirement stated in this definition of a concentration camp and in every way just a deadly as those recalled from previous examples when evil predominated a society.
Actions of Ethiopia against Tigray are more than law enforcement
When the Ethiopian National Defense Forces and Eritrean Army units invaded the Regional National State of Tigray in November 2020 the leadership of Ethiopia specifically stated that was being undertaken was a law enforcement action to capture the leaders of a “terrorist group”, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and that there was no intent to take action against the civilians of Tigray. In fact they explicitly stated they were proceeding with this invasion to not only capture the leadership but also to protect the security and life of their “brother” Ethiopians.
At the time of invasion I was Chief of Neurosurgery and on the faculty of Mekelle University, a federal university not under the Tigray state, which had medical students and specialty trainees from almost every regional state in Ethiopia as well as surrounding countries. Additionally it administered Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital which served a population of about 10 million including not only Tigray but also Afar, northern Amhara, and recently even Eritrea intermittently when the border was open. Additionally we occasionally cared for patients from Addis Ababa and the SNNP (Southern Ethiopia).
Following the complete take over of Tigray we were initially told by the Interim government and military commands that the government, medical, and educational services would be quickly restored. But instead they quickly deteriorated well before the reorganization and re-emergence of the Tigray Defense Forces. Except for a very short time of a few weeks early on the following have been cut-off and never restarted including banking services, electricity, telephone and cell, internet, water, civil infrastructure management, hospital supply, schooling, etc.
Although the Federal government claimed it was giving 70% of the trickle of very basic aid that was coming in reviews by well established international authorities revealed it was less than 3% of the total which was in itself dramatically less than required.
As the weeks progressed the undeniable evidence was increasingly seen that sexual abuse of women now estimated to be in the thousands, extra judicial killing of whole villages, routine execution of males even those below or above that generally considered to be militarily capable were reported even by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. Although there may be a possibility of some actions by Tigray militia which also require investigation the exponentially greater magnitude affecting hundreds of thousands of violation of human rights and killing by soldiers under the direct command of the Ethiopian government cannot be denied. If not stopped the number being threatened will rapidly accelerate to millions.
Instead of taking corrective action to improve the humanitarian situation which would possibly yield the benefit of making the civilian population of Tigray more peaceful instead new arguments surfaced from mouthpieces of the Prime Minister’s advisors that due to previous claims of unfair treatment by the TPLF that justified the violations of human rights currently underway. Videos emerged stating that every Tigray should be killed at birth. Eritrean and ENDF soldiers have stated to neutral third parties that they were instructed to rape women to destroy the chance for Tigray to have children.
Religious institutions, artifacts, and worshipers were targeted for destruction which had nothing to do with a “law enforcement” action. One of the most important Mosques in the world in Negash where the followers of Mohammed took refuge from prosecution from pagan Saudi rulers at the invitation of a Christian king was intentionally bombed and ransacked. What does that have to do with “law enforcement”? Monasteries in Western Tigray with religious texts hundreds of years old were attacked with their treasures destroyed and clergy assassinated. The ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Church which traces its roots to the early Jewish religion of Menelik I and then the Christian kingdom of Ezana in Axum was desecrated with the murder of at least 80 unarmed worshipping civilians. What does that have to do with “law enforcement”?.
It is well documented that Eritreans, ENDF, and Somali mercenaries destroyed factories and businesses including those of foreign investors who generated income for the Ethiopian government and provided employment for civilians. Many pieces of equipment of not only these but also the national Ethio-telecom company were taken by Eritreans as war bounty to Eritrea. How does this destruction of Ethiopian federal property qualify as “law enforcement”?
The invading forces were instructed to destroy seeds and prevent farmers from planting crops. Many livestock were killed to be consumed by no one or taken to Eritrea in trucks. Both aid and commercial food supplies where blocked from entry to Tigray. Gradually both the Federal Government and the government of Amhara began to change their tune to explain this by saying that the population of Tigray was too supportive of the TDF and that NGOs were smuggling weapons with the aid. They accused organizations with much greater long standing reputations of wrong doing with no evidence instead trying to cover their own genocidal intent.
The government of Ethiopia as late as 2019 was a signatory to the Genocide Convention of the United Nations which states verbatim any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
Killing members of the group;
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The treaty recognizes the following two elements of the crime
A mental element: the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”; and
A physical element, which includes the following five acts, enumerated exhaustively:
Killing members of the group
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group