The confirmed reports of burning Tigrayan captives for possible later consumption and statements encouraging such behavior by Amharic and SNNP leaders is no surprise when the history of cannibalism in Ethiopia is reviewed. The joint action of members of Amhara and SNNP forces draws attention to documented previous cultural practices of these groups.
One of the earliest reports of what is called famine cannibalism are found in a report by YeHarer Tarik in Harar in the 17th century. In wars between Christians and Muslims there were severe famines leading those in Harar to kill weak individuals, butcher, and sell their remains as “goat meat”. Other reports exist of Amhara doing similar acts in fights against the Oromo in the late 19th century.
Mortuary cannibalism has been seen in the southwest area of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples of Southern Ethiopia. There groups of people called quamtut are known to secretly rob graves to harvest fresh bodies. For this reason recent burials are often guarded for over a month. A third group of cannibal behavior which occurs during daylight and involves the intimidation of its victims who are usually enemies is named gorogoro.
Cannibalism against enemy is also a form of ancient psychological warfare practiced in central and southern regions of Ethiopia. Pagan peoples and Christians both believe that destruction of the body before it is allowed natural corruption in the ground can have negative effects on future generations. From my experience in treating Ethiopian Orthodox Christians it is well established that believers fear life saving amputation for injury or diabetes complications because they fear it will affect their reincarnation. Consumption of the flesh of an enemy weakens the opposing clan’s powers.
Similarly the practice of the Ethiopian Orthodox believers is to bury bodies within 24 hours as their Syriac Christianity derived beliefs order by Old Testament Law. Mutilating the body or allowing its consumption by scavager wildlife and not being interred properly can affect ones reincarnation. This is well known by the Amhara and used against the Tigray as a form of psychological genocide.
It is indeed ironic that in December 2020 Amharic expansionists were spreading false rumors that the native Gumuz people were attacking and eating “light skinned people” a shady reference to Amhara to incite hatred against them and justify their extrajudicial killing.