The paradox of children of Eritrean refugees promoting oppressive government their parents left now explained by research of postmemory formation and chosen trauma recall manipulated by propaganda. The explanation lies in understanding how a subsequent generation of survivors respond to their parent’s trauma. The concepts of postmemory and chosen trauma have been recognized in this group and manipulated intentionally by the Eritrean government. Researcher, Nicole Hirt, of the German Institute for Global and Area Studies discusses this phenomenom .
In the aftermath of the Jewish holocaust imposed by the Nazi regime Harvard researcher, Marianne Hirsch, developed the concept of postmemory which affects the second generation of a population who has suffered a significant trauma which she published in The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust. This memory is not a memory of primary experience but it is a perception of the first generation after trauma which is “mediated not by recall but by imaginative investment, projection, and creation”.
In Hirt’s research published in May 2021 she outlines how the intense lobbying of the Eritrean government of the first generation after the bloody Eritrean revolution have effected the development of “postmemory” which selectively chooses favorable trauma to recount and painful trauma to be forgotten which has come to be known as “chosen trauma”. The combination of frustration that things will likely never change, that one’s parents generation did not sacrifice for nothing, and the concentrated effort of savy propaganda by the Eritrean government on this generation has created this paradox.
As a medical student at Harvard I became fascinated with how the brain functions then as a neurosurgeon learning about how the brain functions to facilitate language became extremely important as we did want patients to lose speech and communication from brain operations. We know that language, communication, relationship building, and memory are all tied together. Memory is not a perfect system and is affected by the need to create reliable relationship systems. As a neurosurgeon who practiced in Ethiopia for 10 years of which seven was in Tigray I have seen hundreds of Eritrean refugees referred by the International Organization for Migration, United Nations, and the refugee camps. I can attest to their exposure of torture and deprivation.
Over the past few years as a neuroscientist an extension of my research has been understanding that language and communication evolved in humans as a part of our need to secure relationships which improve our survival. Conversely we have an innate tendency to also avoid relationships which we perceive as threatening. Working with international NGOs at Mekelle University we began a program to help business students from Tigray who had problems adapting to international culture to learn basic concepts in communication and language principles based upon these neuroscience realities applied to creating functional and useful techniques.
A well thought out plot for a military takeover over Tigray by a joint Ethiopian Eritrean operation was put in place months before the November 2020 North Command incident. False government propaganda says an innocent Ethiopian government who only wanted peace was “surprised” by a sneak attack on Ethiopia Northern Command on November 3, 2020.
With growing unrest and displacement of many ethnic groups in Ethiopia Abiy used the excuse of COVID19 to delay elections from their appointed time in 2020. The Tigray went ahead with their election and the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front won over a 90% margin with a majority of the voting population participating. They argued that the delay of the elections in the rest of the country had rendered the government in Addis Ababa illegitimate. Ethiopia for the past year before November 2020 had been cutting the budgets to hospital, universities, agriculture and other vital functions but now decides to give a full cut off unless Tigray agrees the election is illegal.
Before Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018 the situation for the Eritrean government was very rocky. They were under heavy sanctions from the United Nations for a war with Djibouti and supporting Al Shabab rebels in Somalia. Eritrea’s economy was being sustained by mining financed by Qatar interests and developed by Canadian interests bringing in about $1 billion revenue per year. However Esaias government was falling behind in interest payments to Qatar. Qatar recently filed lawsuits in the United States in excess of $300 million to claim against Eritrean assets. Additionally legal cases were building in Canada about the slave labor conditions of workers in the Eritrean mines. Esaias badly needed cash. Even though Canadian interests were mostly sold to Chinese interests 10% was kept.
In July 2018 the beginning of what would be a partnership in genocide begins. Esaias and Abiy discuss many things including the troublesome TPLF who is trouble for both of them. Also Esaias discusses the rich mineral deposits that are in Eritrea and what likely lies in the ground in Tigray. Even though the Irob people, Ethiopians, who live on the disputed border of Tigray and Eritrea do not want to be a part of Eritrea due to a long history of human rights abuses Esaias insists he wants that border area because it has potential for gold and precious stone mining. Esaias makes an offer to solve the problem that if Abiy will support his claim he will wipe out the Tigray but only for a generous payment. What exactly is in the treaty signed by the two leaders has never been fully revealed but we know that Abiy agreed to pay Eritrea a prepayment of $500 million to invade Tigray before November 2020. Abiy also agreed to reduce the protective status of Eritrean refugees who were previously given full protections. The peace deal between Eritrea and Ethiopia so impressed the naïve international community that all sanctions were lifted and Abiy and Esaias were given the Nobel Peace Price. Little did they know that it was not a peace deal but a plan for genocide.
We know that the Abiy government had been impatient with mining interests in Tigray for being slow to develop leading to many cancellations of mining contracts in May 2021. However following meetings with Esaias Afwerki and with the Tigray leaders out of way decided to make deals with Chinese and Canadian interests for mining in Tigray for which no benefit would come to the Tigray region. Abiy Ahmed was upset that artisanal miners from Tigray were making profits like the founder of the Sapphire Hotel in Addis Ababa whom he placed in prison.
The Ethiopian military budget which had been about $400 million suddenly rapidly increases in 2019 and 2020 before the Tigray conflict. Clearly Abiy Ahmed was anticipating and planning for war. Between November 2020 and July 2021 Abiy Ahmed reveals that he spent $2 billion which is equal to the whole of the Ethiopian government budget. Many observers noted that for the months preceding the November 2020 North Command incident there was a military build up of Eritrean forces on the Tigray border and of Amhara militia and Ethiopian National Defense Forces in Amhara selecting officers that were not Tigrayan. Amhara politicians were sounding the need to return disputed land in Western Tigray but took no action that would be legally called for to settle this dispute under the Ethiopian Constitution likely because they had been told by Abiy Ahmed that a war was coming to claim it back.