The Tigray are following war ethics of the African Saint Augustine

North African Saint Augustine of Hippo (painted by Berto di Giovanni) defined when a war is justified by Christian morals

A North African Bishop some 1,600 years ago would write about how and when Christians have the right under their faith to battle in war. He later lived in Rome while it was under constant threat of attack by pagan tribes in the 5th century AD.  Saint Augustine of Hippo has been widely recognized by Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians as one of the main influences in Christian thinking . He wrote about the ideal society in The City of God where he created the term jus ad bellum meaning just war.

The Sixth Commandment given by Moses had said “do not kill”. Apart from complete pacifism there seemed to many Christians no other alternative response to violence or the threat of violence to a population.   Augustine stated that the wrongdoing of the aggravating party was the initiator of war not the responder to the threat. The reason to respond to this violence or threat of violence was to achieve peace.

In fighting a just war the use of force should only be that necessary to reach the peace and also that it is directed to the combatants.  Augustine’s criteria were latter clarified by Saint Thomas Aquinas to include the war needed to waged by a legitimate authority, have a just cause, have the right intentions, have a reasonable chance of success, and be proportional to the force applied by the enemy.

The Tigray have agreed to peace talks to end the conflict but the Ethiopian government has refused saying that they are doing a law enforcement action. Law enforcement actions under international law cannot be directed to endanger innocent civilians. The parties must agree to seek peace when one offers it realistically. The Ethiopian offer of a temporary truce to allow planting while the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces stopped farmers from planting was a false pretense as noted by the Abiy Ahmed appointed interim administration during Tigray occupation.

Let us examine this criteria with respect to the Ethiopian Tigray Conflict

Application of Use of Force to Combatants not Noncombatants
A. In the “fog of war” injury to civilians must be avoided as much as possible. Intentional starvation, withdrawal of health care, livelihood (banking, communication, education)  of civilians and children at the approval and command of Ethiopian and Eritrean authorities grossly violates this mandate.

  1. Tigray Legitimate Authority
    Although the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed claimed falsely the election of the TPLF to rule the Tigray State was illegal it is clear as documented by many international researchers that the vast majority of Tigray voters by a margin of over 90% voted for TPLF. The opposition party, Tigray Independence Party, joined with the TPLF in supporting the war action. The Arena Party who was placed as interim administration would once there within a few months admit that the Abiy Ahmed government’s intentions was to starve the population and prevent agricultural food production by stopping farmers planting. Abiy Ahmed never allowed Tigray to vote in any Ethiopian election.
  2. Tigray Just Cause
    Proponents of the actions of the Ethiopian Federal Government claim there was an unprovoked attack on the Ethiopian Army North Command in November 2020. However many analysts have noted that Ethiopia began preparing for war months before November 2020 including building up forces on the Amhara and Afar borders. Pre-paying Esaias Afwerki, ruler of Eritrea, over $500 million USD beforehand and promising another $500 million upon starting the war. Arranging medical facilities in the Amhara region for a planned war. Reducing the necessary operating budgets to sustain Tigray government functions for months. Declaring the TPLF terrorists who could not hold office while just a few months before claiming in a speech to Parliament that they were exemplary leaders. The Tigray State government has claimed that Article 39 which allows for self determination of a regional state and that territorial disputes should be handled by civil litigation where violated. This has been recognized also by many members of the African Union and United Nations.
  3. Right Intentions
    The intentions of the Tigray State have been to remove the threat of loss of life, abuse, starvation, communication, property, and making a living imposed by the Ethiopian state on anyone who is a Tigray by ethnicity.
  4. Proportional Use of Force
    While the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces have widely attacked noncombatants by the deprivation of food, communication, transportation, fuel, electricity, personal security, livelihood, in a severe and constant manner clearly under order from commanders and government leaders this has not been the case for the Tigray forces. They have openly invited any and all investigations by unbiased bodies of any accusation. They have set up civilian administrations by local authorities in compliance with international rules of war.
  5. Reasonable Chance of Success
    In spite of the complete siege by Ethiopia denying food, medicine, fuel, health care, communication causing civilian death increasing daily the Tigray forces have reclaimed most of Tigray but not Western Tigray and temporarily occupied parts of Amhara to provide a buffer from invasion. They have asked for peace talks in lieu of demanding a complete military victory to which the Ethiopian government refuses.

Theological and moral justification of the Tigray rebellion against Ethiopia updated 9/4/2021

 

Tigray women who fled a conflict in the Ethiopia’s Tigray region, wait to receive aid at Village 8, the transit centre near the Lugdi border crossing, eastern Sudan, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Ethiopia’s military is warning civilians in the besieged Tigray regional capital that there will be “no mercy” if they don’t “save themselves” before a final offensive to flush out defiant regional leaders, a threat that Human Rights Watch on Sunday said could violate international law. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Updated 9/4/2021 Killing thousands of innocent villagers, raping thousands of women and girls, as well using starvation as a weapon in the name of Jesus Christ does not justify war as claimed by Amhara President Agegnehu Teshager.  Instead more than a thousand years of history and theological tradition for both Christianity and Islam about what constitutes a just war supports that the Tigray regional state is the righteous party.

When is conflict a just war (Jus ad bellum)?

Both the Bible and the Qu’ran both say that war is a condition that will always afflict mankind. Jesus Christ said that man will always suffer calamities both natural and war between states. The Apostle James said that wars are caused by the “lust” of what the other party has obtained and selfishly wishes to take through violence.

The ancient Jews, the Babylonians, and the Romans believed that a violent response to war was appropriate if it was of an appropriate measure to the offense suffered. A principle known as lex talionis.

There has always been a Christian disagreement on whether Jesus called for complete pacifism in responding to violent offense which would theoretically best diffuse malintent and prevent a sinful response. Ultimately the righteous would be rewarded for their suffering in this world or the next. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the 20th century German theologian, advocated complete pacifism which led to his execution.

For centuries beginning just a few hundred years following Christ an alternative theory has been that war was justified under specific circumstances. Jesus’s call to “love thy neighbor” and that “giving up one’s own life to save another” are acts of faith as well as his “righteous” anger at the money changers in the Temple have been interpreted to mean violence can under certain conditions be responded to by violence.

Discussions of just war began with classical Greek and Roman philosophers like Plato and Cicero and were added to by Christian theologians like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Continuing to contemporary times Catholic Pope Benedict XVI said that “defending oneself and others was a moral duty and obligation”.

The following are principles which have been generally agreed upon by Christians for a just war


1. The war must have a just cause – such as against invasion, or for self defence – and not to acquire wealth or power.
2. The war must be declared and controlled by a proper authority, such as the state or ruler.
3. The war must be fought to promote good or avoid evil, with the aim of restoring peace and justice after the war is over.
4. The war must be a last resort when all peaceful solutions have been tried and failed,  such as negotiation.
5. The war should be fought with “proportionality”, with just enough force to achieve victory and only against legitimate targets, i.e. civilians should be protected.
6. The good which is achieved by the war must be greater than the evil which led to the war.

Islamic law allows the use of force in self defence and in defence of those who are oppressed and unable to defend themselves.

1. Only under certain conditions allow anticipatory self defence.
2. Only the head of a Muslim state (a ruler or caliph) is allowed to declare jihad.
3. Islamic law imposes certain restrictions on the use of force in self defense, i.e., military necessity, distinction, and proportionality.
4. Accepting an offer of peace and humanity are also relevant conditions. If an enemy stops fighting then the war must stop and peace immediately sought.

The onset and course of the conflict

After the selection of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in 2018 he began to diminish the power of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Being just 6% of the population they had little representation in the Parliament. Although there was a brief honeymoon, the PM began to decrease their power by cutting the regions budget, labeling them as terrorists, and removing them from positions of authority in government. There existed a bitter feeling of resentment especially in the Amhara region against the TPLF for claims that the TPLF had illegally taken land from the Amhara region and carried out violations of human rights on Amhara in past decades. Ultimately the Parliament under the PM’s direction labeled them a “terrorist group” unable to hold any position in government. No formal actions called specified in the Ethiopian constitution were carried out which were created to settle disputes between member regional states. Action by fiat was carried out without attention to legal remedy for accused wrongs.

Several attempts were made to land Federal police forces in Mekelle to arrest prominent TPLF members which were repelled. Then on the early morning hours of November 4th the Ethiopian National Defense Forces in Tigray and the regional Tigray police and militia forces went into conflict. The exact circumstances are unclear although it seems to may have been a pre-emptive attack by the TPLF.

The Tigray region was overrun by Amhara militia, ENDF, and invading Eritrean forces causing a retreat by the TDF(Tigray Defense Force). There have been reports of atrocities by both sides although clearly the enormity of starvation, extra-judicial killing, prisoner execution, raping of women, killing of children, theft of property, destruction of medical facilities and utilities, ransacking of schools, etc. is overwhelmingly evident to be by the Ethiopian forces and their allies.

The TDF has rebounded and is now almost at the gates of Addis Ababa having basically decimated the Ethiopian forces whilst the Tigray civilian population has no water, no food, no electricity, no hospitals in good shape, no medical supplies, ransacked schools, no phone, no internet, and an ongoing siege against supplies except for a small trickle.

The government of Ethiopia has maintained that it is performing a law enforcement action against Tigray while maintaining that there is no hunger problem and that they are acting on the best interests of the Tigray people despite the fact the TPLF won more than 9o% in an election shortly before the war started and by the words of the Prime Minister that the people of Tigray were too supportive of the TPLF.

By any reasonable measure the evidence is clear as to the aggrieved status of the Tigray

While at the same time saying that the Tigray people(Tegaru) are somewhat innocent of wrong doing the government of Ethiopia has not recognized that they have any standing or rights in persecution driven by ethnic identity. The elected government of Tigray acted in self-defense against egregious acts of failing to provide basic human services which threatened the security, livelihood, and lives of over 7 million Tigrayans. There are constitutional and federal proclamations available which could have been used to address the grievances against the government of Tigray. It is glaringly obvious that the savage military campaign carried out and continuing by the Ethiopian government is really a lust for revenge and power. There was no threat to Ethiopian government evident until the situation escalated by the unconstitutional actions of the Ethiopian government.