One has to ask why would Esaias Afwerki give back Western Tigray to Amhara if the TDF is defeated? Now that his armed forces have taken over Western Tigray while Amhara militia and ENDF forces are moving closer to Gondar in case of possible attack what is stop Isaias from annexing Western Tigray? Could the Dictator of Eritrea now decide to claim Western Tigray for his own? Described as having a split personality with bout of charisma, no doubt to which Abiy Ahmed succumbed, but also mixed with a brutal and cruel tendency to have no limits in attaining power. Some analysts have labeled him as being “addicted” to creating havoc.
Amhara and Ethiopian National Defense Forces have been increasingly replaced by Eritrean troops in Humera and Western Tigray. The cloud cover which obscured much of the views of the ground in Ethiopia, Tigray, and Eritrea are starting to clear some allowing the viewer of satellite images to get a better view of happenings on the ground as the rainy season comes to an end. We can see that some planting is being done in Western Tigray that is new. Yet we know that Tigrayan farmers have been blocked from planting and many are killed. Stories are beginning to come out that some “settlers” from Eritrea have been seen in the area of Humera. Hundreds of trucks are coming into Humera and the surrounding area daily caring more then just military personal.
A well written analysis of the Esaias Afwerki -Abiy Ahmed relationship written in March 2020 when the Tigray Ethiopia war looked all wrapped up had some interesting insights into these allies of convenience. Esaias has always wanted to be the predominate ruler of the Horn of Africa. The young and inexperienced Abiy Ahmed in his naivete offered him the chance of a lifetime to get rid of his archenemy the TPLF and too to dominate a new Ethiopian empire that he has dreamed about since his days as a rebel fighter against the Derg. In statement made on his own Eritrea news channel Esaias has previously state he would never sit by and watch Ethiopian affairs develop without his input again. Greater Ethiopia should be his to rule and now destiny may have finally arrived.
The three months I was in Mekelle treating patients at Ayder Comprehensive Hospital during the Tigray conflict from November 2020 to January 2021 I saw unarmed young boys shot down in the street, mutilation of babies and partial castration of boys, women dumped at the hospital after rape to be “cleaned” then kidnapped again to an unknown fate, and many other evil acts by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces. Today we see evidence from two reputable news sources, CNN and the Telegraph, that systemic mutilation and murder to imprisoned innocent civilians has been going on under Ethiopian supervision in Western Tigray. “Victims had their eyes gouged out and legs amputated before being shot.” This is occurring while we already know that tens of thousands of women from Tigray were raped while others were killed after in horrific acts of barbarism. Whole villages were wiped out in Hawzen as just one example.
All the while the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs gives briefings everyday that they are “trying” to give more food aid to Tigray we see locals along the highway who are cued into the shipments stopping the vehicles and stealing their contents whilst saying it was Tigray Defense Forces.
Since the beginning of the Ethiopian and Eritrean invasion the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his government have said that their incursion was about catching leaders of the TPLF and protecting the people of Tigray. Yet the evidence clearly shows that that the intent of the leaders of the invasion forces both Ethiopian and Tigray were intent on nothing less then a complete genocide that rivals what the world saw previously in Yugoslavia, Germany, and Armenia. The Turkish connection to get weapons of genocide from a country that to this day refuses to killing millions of Armenian Christians.
How much longer will the world, the United Nations, and the African Union stand by to let a deranged dictator and his henchmen kill innocents. Will it wait to millions more are dead?
The hope for a new harmonious national Ethiopian identity has now transformed to Abiy Ahmed and his blasphemers proclaiming killing, raping, and starvation are ordered by God to restore order. It is curious that Abiy Ahmed who claims to belong to a Christian denomination devoted to the Holy Spirit would so viciously act against it.
The Mulu Wongel (Full Gospel) Pentecostal church to which Abiy Ahmed claims membership began in the 1960s as a result of European missionaries. A key feature of this Christian denomination is that following initial baptism the believer seeks repeated episodes of intense connection with the Holy Spirit often evidenced by speaking in tongues similar to what the Bible describes in 1 Corinthians 14. The Mulu Wongel Church says it wants to be transformative to communities including families, women, and children while being transparent, impartial, and demonstrating humility.
This faith now claims 4.5 million Ethiopian believers. In interviews with the press the Prime Minister has stated that his “faith dictates his political vision and actions”. Detractors say what he is really doing is creating a grand deception.
After coming to power as Prime Minister in 2018 he sought expansion of his religious advisors seeking out Pentecostal and evangelistic diaspora in the United States and Europe as well as congregations of diaspora Ethiopian Orthodox Church from unrecognized Synods by the domestic Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Out of this expansion of support there arouse a new concept of how Abiy Ahmed began to see himself. Reinforced by his new friends, he began to espouse this idea of medemer which outwardly looked like a fusion of different Ethiopia ethnicities into a central national unity and purpose. He has confided to reporters that he does not understand why “others do not understand him”. As more opposition developed he became more and more heavy handed. Instead what was underneath the surface was really an old recurring idea going back centuries of building an Ethiopian Empire with Amharic elite leadership at the helm. Whereas before he had seemed to identify with his Oromo identity this was tossed away when he saw a chance to gain power with the Amhara elite.
Although Abiy Ahmed came to power as the last minute leader of Oromia soon he ditched his Oromia allegiances and friends. Jawar Mohamed, the charismatic Oromo leader who lead the Qeero movement which could be said was the major cause of Abiy Ahmed coming to power was placed in prison where he languishes today.
Soon all things he claimed to stand for with the Mulu Wongel church were sinisterly transformed. Numerous diaspora protestant and unrecognized Ethiopian Orthodox churches began to speak of prophecy. That Ethiopia had survived and prospered by the marriage of church which proclaimed a manifest destiny under committed leaders in the vein of the Amharic monarchy which had been deposed by Derg Regime. They drew an analogy to the struggles of the early Jewish nation in the Book of Judges. In the midst of current unrest throughout Ethiopia seen following the withdrawal of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front(TPLF) in 2018 from national power they called for a return to this old concept insisting it was the will of God and Abiy was the intended “King”.
Although Abiy Ahmed had previously made speeches praising the TPLF and told a reporter in a televised interview he had no intent to ever go to war with Tigray that promise did not last. Following his meetings with the tyrant Isaias of Eritrea although not clearly evident then Abiy decided that Tigray would be the strawman in his quest for power with Isaias as his henchman. He cared little that Isaias has tortured, imprisoned, and killed members of the Mulu Wongel Church in Eritrea.
The diaspora clergy who had modest congregations found a cash cow with Abiy Ahmed. Many of them created GoFundMe accounts sometimes taking hundreds of thousands of dollars or euros with firery speeches about the threats to the survival of Ethiopian nationhood if the rats or cancer of the Tigray and others was not removed. God was making special allowances for Abiy Ahmed and fellow believers to do whatever was necessary to preserve their vision of Ethiopian state. Following God’s will would in fact create a new divine superpower to lead Africa and dominate the world. Whatever was necessary would be allowable under God such that no sin could be committed because it was for a higher purpose.
They seemed to have forgotten Jesus teachings in the Bible about sin. Although Jesus does say governments may ask citizens to perform functions as a part of their duty to the state there is a certain sin which is clearly unforgiveable. Blasphemy is especially egregious when a leaders of a group encourages others to do evil acts in the name of Jesus.
“whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28–29)
In three Gospels Jesus makes abundantly clear that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgiveable especially if the offender shows no sign of remorse. It is curious that Abiy Ahmed who claims to belong to a Christian denomination devoted to the Holy Spirit would so viciously act against it.
Unexpected consequences of the Tigray Ethiopian conflict may be making Isaias Afwerki rethink his decision to commit military forces in support of the Ethiopian National Defense Force. The war has brought about changes in the relationship with not only Ethiopia but also the Arab states and Sudan. Rather than securing his position of power, Afwerki may have weakened his position.
Why did Isaias Afwerki, dictator of Eritrea, enter the Tigray Ethiopian conflict? Some say it was to permanently crush his long term adversary the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front. Others say it was to create a new partnership with Ethiopia that would bolster the Eritrean economy. However these explanations overlook the evil genius that has allowed Afwerki to survive since his rise to power in 1991.
It is now known that Eritrea has a debt burden of $3.87 billion with one of the poorest poor capita incomes of $587 annually. Over 45% of its food needs need to be imported for the population of only a little over 3 million. Almost every professional has left the country. There is a minimal health care and university system which combined with one of the most repressive governments, often compared with North Korea, which limits potential for development.
For the past few years Eritrea has sought to gain income from mining interests. It gave 60% interest to Chinese mining companies to develop and export gold, copper, zinc, and more recently has been looking at potash. Loans in excess of $300 million are in default to Arab states with the largest to Qatar . Bloombergreports that in fact Qatar interests have filed suits in American courts to reclaim losses from Eritrean assets in foreign banks. The large Bina Mine had been built and run by the Canadian company, Nevsun. But a lawsuit on behalf of Eritrean workers was allowed in the Canadian courts leading to a settlement which revealed that workers at the mine were basically slaves. The Canadian interest except for a bout 10% was sold to the Chinese company, Zijin, in 2020.
The friendliness of Arab interests to finance the high cost of the Chinese partnership is waning fast. Eritrea had hoped to gain Arab favor and forgiveness by allowing Arab military ports and airbases to support their efforts in the Yemen conflict in which they fighting a proxy war against Iran. However the Arabs definitely see a conflict of interest as they have sided with Egypt and Sudan against Ethiopia in the rapid filling of the Grand Renaissance Dam. No doubt they expected Afwerki to be speaking loudly in support of the Arab united view rather than being mute.
The United States and United Nations have clearly not wanted to alienate the delicate relationship they have with the Arab alliance. Clearly pressure from the United States played a role in the withdrawal of United Arab Emirates forces out of Eritrea and the use of their assets by Afwerki. The United States and Western democracies have been recognizant of Egyptian interests towards the use of the Nile River no doubt seeing Middle East interests of importance.
For Afwerki economic realities which must be taking priority more than any concern about “friendship” with Abiy Ahmed. Afwerki has a keen sense of survival. No doubt he was surprised by the resurgence of the Tigray Defense Force, the growing world condemnation of the Ethiopian “law enforcement action” with its associated atrocities, and finally by its unforeseen consequence of economic chaos in Ethiopia which will not help Eritrea.
Recent transport of gold reserves by high ranking Prosperity Party officials of Ethiopia to Dubai as well the maintenance of secrecy about what is exactly contained in the document of the peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea are raising new questions. Is it likely that Abiy Ahmed is in fact been making payments to Afwerki for his mercenaries to function in Ethiopia? Now that the Ethiopian state is at risk and its resources depleted is Afwerki rethinking his strategy. If the payments or promises of payments have stopped then reasonably one would expect Eritrea to disengage.
Afwerki based upon the promises of Abiy Ahmed never expected that the Tigray Defense Force would resurge to threaten his own survival. Now that there is beginning to be realignment of Sudanese interests with Tigray interests and the fact that the Khartoum is the now with the Sudanese government’s blessing the headquarters of opposition to the Eritrean government. Before the Tigray conflict Afwerki had been wooing Sudanese interests after a long history of distrust. Perhaps this is another reason Afwerki may be deciding he may need to withdrawal to protect his own interests.
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.
Total deaths of the civilian Tigrayan population from genocide, starvation, and absence of health care could easily approach 750,000 in the next few months. Now almost 10 months since the conflict began Tigray remains blocked from trade, food aid, medical supplies, power, communication, fuel, in other words just about every thing. International aid agencies including the United Nations have done preliminary investigations with findings that at least 100 trucks of food aid is necessary everyday to avert fatal starvation. They found there is no real working medical facility or supply in Ethiopia. Ongoing killing is still present in Western Tigray by the Eritrean, Amhara militia, and Ethiopian Defense Forces.
Lack of Health Care Will Increase the Crude Death Rate in Tigray
The crude death rate for Ethiopia defined as the percentage of deaths in a population was first estimated in 1950 at about 32 deaths per 1000 population. By 1971 with the beginning of building of medical schools and development of a health system it was reduced to 21.11. Years later in 2020 with major teaching hospitals in every region, rural health care, and a stronger national health system the crude death rate had been dramatically reduced to 6.29 per 1000 population. Unfortunately it is perfectly logical to assume that if you take away all health care and medical supplies in Tigray the crude death rate just from the absence of health care will soar to 32 deaths per 1000 per year. For the 7, 070,260 population of Tigray measured in the last census that means this lack of health care will bring about 226,248.32 deaths annually in Tigray.
Ethnic genocidal killings by military and militia groups in Tigray
International human rights groups have done some preliminary investigation and estimate that so far 1,900 people have been killed. There is continuing violence in Western Tigray which remains occupied by Eritrea, Amhara militia, and Ethiopian national defense forces where floating bodies have been discovered at about a 40 in the Tekeze river flowing from the occupied city of Humera. The Ethiopian military plans to execute 17,500 Tigrayan soldiers who were detained at the onset of the conflict. From battle field reports it appears Ethiopian federal forces did not take prisoners of combatants only of civilians “collaborators” such that is possible that perhaps 10,000 Tigray Defense Forces have been killed.
Death From Starvation in Tigray
The United Nations relief agencies and other groups have determined that 100,000 children and over 250,000 adults are at critical stages of risk of death from starvation. The routes of delivering the necessary 100 trucks a day to help relief this emergency pass through active battlefield. Many in the Amhara political structure are espousing the view that no aid should be given to Tigray unless they unilaterally give up the fight now.
Failure to timely resolve the Tigray Ethiopian conflict will kill the hope of Ethiopia emerging into a middle income country. The resurgence of the Tigray Defense Force and the refusal of the Ethiopian government to negotiate with Tigray’s leaders predicts a prolonged conflict triggering decline into a state of increasing poverty and dependency .
Most of the members of the United Nations clearly see that there is humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region of Ethiopia reminiscent of the previous famines. The clear obstruction of international aid and even communication to the region is perceived as mostly the fault of the Ethiopian government. The presence of the headquarters of the African Union as well the continental headquarters of the United Nations in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa along with its frequent role as an intermediary in solving African conflicts stands in stark contrast to the “no negotiation” stand of the Ethiopian government.
The Tigray Peoples Liberation Front leaders have stated they wish to negotiate a peace on the following conditions: that restoration of its pre-war condition of semi-autonomy as called for in the Ethiopian constitution. All invading forces of Eritrea, Amhara, and the Ethiopian National Defense Force must leave Tigray. Blockage of power, fuel, food, travel, banking, and communication would be ceased. The 1991 borders of Tigray would remain unchanged. A decision on whether to stay a part of Ethiopia or become independent would be decided by referendum. Those who committed war crimes must be brought to trial.
The increasing isolation of the Ethiopian government from the international community has implications for the welfare of its people and economic growth. The highly touted visit of Samantha Power, recognized genocide expert and now head of the USAID, was basically shunned by the Ethiopian Prime Minister and his ministers. She accused Ethiopia of “brutal treatment of Tigray.. that personal issue were favored over national issues”.
During her brief one day stay she found 58,000 metric tons of international aid stored in a warehouse in Addis Ababa which apparently the Ethiopian government had no plans to distribute.
The United States, Britain, and the European Union have called for withdrawal of Tigray forces from outside its traditional borders present prior to the this conflict as well as withdrawal of Eritrean and Ethiopian forces out of Tigray. Much of what the Western democracies are calling for is similar to the Tigray conditions. All parties must cooperate with the flow of aid to Tigray and the restoration of power and communication.
The reality is that the crisis of Ethiopia is not just in Tigray. At this point the Ethiopian birr is trading at 75 birr per US dollar which is a historic high. Inflation is over 40% for this year alone. Huge multibillion dollar deficits exist between Western countries and China with Ethiopia. The economic output from the country does not meet its import needs of food, fuel, and basic materials for industrial and agricultural development. According to the World Bank Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world with a real per capital income of only $850 pear year. Although its annual rate of growth has been positive this is a false indicator because the denominator is so low. Before the Tigray conflict 1 in 4 Ethiopians was requiring international food aid to survive. The continuous waves of COVID-19 in a country with minimal hospital resources and vaccination have further impeded its attempt improve the lot of its people.
Rebellion against the Ethiopian government is not just in Tigray. The attempt to consolidate power into a single political party, the Prosperity Party, coinciding with a movement towards a national Ethiopian identity has incited opposition in almost every region. As I previously wrote about this identity is more accepted by the Amhara ethnic group and others who are educated in Addis Ababa. Much of the opposition not just in Tigray is a really a revolt to oppression of the national identity felt by the regional states.
When you combine the effect of ongoing poverty, war, pandemic, and political struggle for identity it is hard to see a bright economic future. In the current global environment of cautious economic growth where the only major gains have come upon a greater reliance of internet transactions it seems likely that Ethiopia will have a difficult time participating. Ethiopia has very poor communications. Only 40% of Ethiopians have a cell phone or any phone and 20% have any connection to the internet. The internet present in Ethiopia is very slow and very expensive.
Millions of people from Tigray, Amhara, Afar, and the Southern regions of Ethiopia are now displaced by ethnic conflict. The locust swarms of the past year caused by an usual wet season added to a severe reduction in harvests that feed the population and sustain farming families who make up 90% of the economic output of Ethiopia. Even before the Tigray Ethiopia conflict the need for food aid was rising.
Prime Minister’s bold claims that Ethiopia will emerge as a superpower rivaling China and the United States by 2060 and the dominant force of Africa in this decade are obvious fantasies. Instead it seems likely that failure to resolve the war will add to the general decline of Ethiopia into a state of stagnation, increasing dependency, and misery. The author hopes the Tigray leaders and the Ethiopian Prime Minister will cooperate with finding a solution for the benefit of all parties.