Ethiopian economist says Ethiopian war crashing economy like a car without brakes

Luxury cars like a recent late model Mercedes Benz on sale on the Ezega internet site are selling at record prices of millions of birr.

The Addis Ababa newspaper, The Reporter, this week discussed an unusual paradox being seen in the collapsing Ethiopian economy due to the rapid birr devaluation and instability due to the ongoing war.  Simply put the wealthy are grabbing up high value assets while the poor and middle class are struggling just to meet daily needs. Amin Abdella (PhD) long time researcher as well as sectorial director at the Ethiopian Economics Association described how those with access to wealth in the form of foreign currency are buying up cars, buildings, real estate to liquidate their birr. He called it a “property craze”. This may explain why many wealthy Amhara in the country still support Abiy Ahmed as they are partaking of this temporary bonanza and do not yet comprehend it cannot last. The failure of the Ethiopian government under Abiy Ahmed to seek peace is continuing to devastate poor and middle income families..

Whilst the cost of living has reached record increases approaching 50% for many needs of daily living over the past two years causing the poor and middle class to struggle in paying rents, buying foods, fuel for their vehicles, and other essentials. Meanwhile the wealthy who have foreign currency assets are buying up real estate, cars, and other assets to the extent that it is driving inflation even higher. This abandonment of the birr is making the economy even worse. Even if the war stops today it will take years to recover the economy.

To make things worse, experts say investors’ disinterest in keeping their money in birr is already wreaking havoc on the whole economy.

“The price bubble does not stop at property. It has a domino effect on other services and goods,” … “The economy is in its worst shape and is now like a car that has lost its brakes.”

A tribute to the Tigray- Who they really are!

Tigray Defense Force returns to the capital, Mekelle, when many thought they were defeated.

I have watched many Ethiopians and Eritreans belittle and diminish the Tegaru people of Tigray as they have suffered through a gauntlet of pain, deprivation, violation, and isolation. Having been a physician, teacher, and researcher who lived with them for years I must denounce these fallacies. When tested beyond a tolerance which would break the reed instead they have bended and rebounded like a spring that has been compressed. Faith in God, tradition in valuing community over self, and a living memory of generations of struggle has tempered them as individuals as well as a society into a resilient and adaptive culture which has lasted thousands of years.

Though fierce and clever in battle when the threat has been extinguished an out pouring of mercy and kindness consistently emerges. They do not  dream of conquest but instead put the preservation of their neighbors and family as the priority. Following Abiy Ahmed’s coming to power they accepted the new era with the initial promise that it offered to them no threat. Little did the world know that a secret sinister plot contrived by Amharic expansionists allied with the Isaias Afeworki’s lust for power would surface like weeds in the garden of what was a developing modern nation of Ethiopia.

During the occupation of Mekelle I witnessed countless acts of charity including Tigray mothers giving food and blankets to enemy soldiers in hospital. Towns folk offering me enjera, cash, and water even when they had little for themselves or their families. Unarmed men walking Tigray women to protect them from invading predatory soldiers. The forming of a wall of unarmed citizens, Muslim, Orthodox,  and Catholic to protect their hospital, Ayder, against ravaging Eritreans which cost the lives of young men shot in the street without warning.

The Ethiopian constitution clearly states that regional states have the right to their own security forces and the right to autonomous rule. A Tigray election despised by Abiy Ahmed because he knew what would be the result rightfully reached. 

Do not call them rebels. They have paid the price many times to fight just to survive. The rebels were the Amharic expansionists and Eritreans.

 

Ethiopia claim Tigray youth fighters drugged while ENDF using Khat

 
Ethiopian Defense Minister claims Tigray youth fighters are drugged.

Examination of the claims by Ethiopian Defense Minister Abreham Belay that Tigray youth fighters captured were given drugs is a bizarre and hypocritical statement. He no doubt is aware that there is a potent stimulant, Khat, commonly used in the Amhara, Oromo, and southern areas of Ethiopia which is not common in Tigray. It seems he wants to claim the Tigray forces are just youths coming in undisciplined waves often defeating superior numbered Ethiopian forces which have “superior weaponry and training”. So he came up with the idea that the Tigray have magic drugs that turn this innocent youth into supermen. There is a great irony in that there is high if not certain likelihood that his own fighters which often include youth are likely using Khat to greater extent then the Tigray. Not only do the Tigray culturally not favor its use but the availability of Khat would be almost impossible. It does not grow in Tigray and is perishable within a short time. The Tigray siege would make it difficult to import in great quantities.

Khat leaves containing a strong amphetamine like stimulant are the second greatest export of Ethiopia. They are not cultivated in Tigray. Here is shown a typical Amhara plantation.

The second largest export of Ethiopia are leaves of the plant, Khat (Catha Edulis)which contains the amphetamine-like substances cathine, cathinone, and methcathinone. Traditionally it is chewed slowly for hours to increase alertness, improve the mood, and increase mental focus. Its use is very common throughout much of Africa and the Arab regions. Public health studies have shown its greatest use in the the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region, Oromia, and Amhara regions of Ethiopia. 

When I lived in the Amhara region one could find a Khat vendor on almost every block of a town whereas in Tigray the cultural use of Khat has been much less accepting.  Often times taxi drivers, security guards, young men college students, policemen, and soldiers in the regions mentioned in the areas above partake of Khat as documented in public health research. There is little research on its effects on physical activity although in Olympic competition it is banned as happened to a Kenyan boxer in 2004.

Although in these regions the popularity of Khat use is high little is known about any deleterious effects. Some clinicians involved in stroke care like myself have wondered whether it creates a greater risk of hemorrhagic stroke but to date no definitive evidence has been demonstrated.

Finally, Ethiopia has very poor resources for drug testing. I cannot believe that the Ethiopian Defense Forces is drawing blood, urine, and hair samples from its prisoners and sending them to foreign countries for testing which is what would be required.

 

Exodus without liberation:The deadly gantlet of Tigray mothers and their children

Displaced Tigray mothers and their children must pass through a gantlet of challenges in their search just to survive
Displaced Tigray mothers and their children must pass through a gantlet of challenges in their search just to survive. Photo Source World Vision

For Tigray mothers and their children running away from barbarous invasion by Eritrean, Amhara, and Ethiopian forces is just the beginning of an odious journey seeking just to survive. It is an exodus of Biblical proportions without liberation.

Life for a young mother in rural Tigray in which more than 80% of the population lives even before the eruption of war in November 2020 was a challenge. Women often traveled miles daily on foot to gather the daily water supply of 5 liters per person in the family. Added to this is helping care for farm animals, crops, the household and the children as well as an elderly parent. Studies have shown that a large percentage of women were somewhat underweight and undernourished with 25% requiring food aid. 

Young mothers have often lost their spouse and other adult male family members to imprisonment or murder. They become displaced losing whatever previous food source they had for themselves or their children. Along the way they may suffer forced trafficking for labor or sex, personal violation, theft of their few possessions or cash, and isolation from their previous community. Lack of fuel and transportation means travel by foot without shelter from the elements.

Many women in Tigray are breast feeding two children as it is not unusual to see breast feeding extend to toddlers. The sudden decrease in caloric and protein intake can result in loss of breast milk production in just a few days to weeks. We know that in famine 50% of the casualties are children under 5 who cannot tolerate long periods of starvation. Especially vulnerable are infants who may sometimes live only days if mother has no breast milk.

The dominant Ethiopian Orthodox religion requires burial within a day of death. The lack of communication, transportation, and health care results in most of these not being recorded in a permanent record. The dietary laws they follow of the Old Testament prevent the eating of wild meats or other foods. During approximately 40% of the year they fast from taking meat, sugar, or milk products. Some forms of wild fruits and peas appear edible but in fact can cause chronic metabolic or neurological dysfunction and often there does not exist a community knowledge of this danger.

Even if young children or lactating mothers receive some food they may survive longer but still suffer permanent disability from poor brain and musculoskeletal development. Most often the cause of death is infection because of the loss normal immunity with starvation. Bacterial or parasitic contamination of water sources leading to diseases like cholera which under normal circumstances are treatable with antibiotics and intravenous hydration instead become killers of many affected. 

 

A young Tigray mind is a terrible thing to waste

Giving medical students a lecture at Mekelle University in 2018

When we think of what has been lost in the Tigray war or the Ukrainian war we count the dead, the injured, and the abused.  I had a remembrance of a commercial that was frequently broadcast in the late 1970s while I was a medical student at Harvard titled A mind is terrible thing to waste by the United Negro College Fund. I suddenly had the revelation that what we do not think enough about in war is that we lose our future. A recent reading for Lenten reflection, Embracing Justice, I have done about social justice and what Christ visualized as an ideal society by Isabelle Hamley opines that Jesus calls for society to allow all members to use their talents for the greater whole in accordance with God’s rules of love, forgiveness, and putting others before one’s self.  In my sixth decade of life the propensity for the world to be involved in cruel wars has not abated. Jesus in the Gospel remarks that war will be always be with us. A whole generation of talented people who could save lives and contribute to societal development have seen their chance to contribute delayed if not ultimately cancelled. Societies that hold back educational development opportunities for less favored groups, blockade necessities of life, destroy hospitals and schools are actually cheating themselves not just those they discriminate against.

From 2015 to the end of 2020 I was Professor and Chief of Neurosurgery at Mekelle University Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital in the Tigray state of Ethiopia. After medical school our residents would go through a five year program to become neurosurgeons. I also taught medical students, surgery residents, and PhD candidates in Neurobiology. The vast majority of students I mentored at Mekelle University in Tigray demonstrated amazing maturity, original thinking, superb problem solving, and keen interest in playing a positive role for their community. Fellows and Senior residents would effectively come up with novel surgical ideas. A young faculty member who later became a PhD candidate published research on neural tube defects that attracted world wide attention. It served as a catalyst to develop prevention strategies for all of Ethiopia.

Not just Tigray is being  affected. Ethiopia is bankrupt from spending more than $6 billion in weapons while drastically cutting budgets for education and healthcare. Food shortages, fuel shortages, and sky rocketing consumer prices for essential items are crippling Ethiopia. I cannot see how anyone in Ethiopia imagines their life now is better than it was before November 2020.

 Adherence to God’s teaching maximally optimizes the transformation of the community. This transformation occurs because the interaction between God and man opens up new possibilities that man alone could not ponder. Societal downfall occurred in the Bible when leaders became fixated on their own advancement in ancient Israel. This corruption spread then throughout society and was inherited in subsequent generations. War, corruption, greed, and diminished belief in faith reduces the ultimate potential of societies members. 

Traditional Christian and Muslim tenets seeking peace are reflected in US Senate action S.3199

One of three columns of buses on different highways filled with soldiers and armored vehicles approaching Tigray from Ethiopia instead of promised humanitarian aid Source My Views on News

The easy passage of Senate bill S.3199 came as no surprise today given the catastrophic suffering of Tigray which extended to Afar and Amhara from war.  Whilst Ethiopia talks of peace it is clearly mobilizing for war. Now this war fixation with seeking revenge is secondarily affecting all of Ethiopia due to economic collapse and poor national concern or planning for issues which were ignored due to the primary focus of the Ethiopian government on war. Ethiopia is accelerating into ruinous chaos in a growing rage of hate. They have abandoned their religious heritage and drifted into an idolatry glorifying tribal triumph rather than universal peaceful co-existence. While talking humanitarian truce just a few days ago now Ethiopia is sending three columns of thousands of soldiers and armored vehicles to the Tigray border.

How can the leadership of Ethiopia and Eritrea be so blind to the basic moral fiber expected of what was once considered one of the most religious countries in the world. While thousands are dying daily from starvation and lack of health care, Ethiopian representatives in the government and military were talking about extermination, cannibalism, and openly recording barbaric torture on social media. Their declared primary objective was not restoring peace but instead calling for complete humiliation, denigration, and finally annihilation for the Tigray. The only issue that mattered to them was the right to uninterrupted and complete sovereignty of the current Ethiopian government which has refused any participation of representation by Tigrayan elected representatives to do whatever they wished without regard to United Nations standards and principles to which Ethiopia is a signatory. Unfortunately the lack of leadership of the African Union and the United Nations not only served to advance the suffering in Tigray but encouraged the ghastly massacre now occurring in  Ukraine.

This time of year both Christians and Muslims remember the kindness and faithfulness of the John the Baptist otherwise known as Yaḥyā ibn Zakarīyā to Muslims, cousin of Jesus, and Jesus, son of God to Christians, an important messenger to Muslims. His mother holds a special place in both religions.  At a meeting of John’s mother, Elizabeth,  and Jesus mother, Mary, the Bible recants a song sung, Luke 1:46-55, by Mary called the Magnifcat, that reflects that God is the deliverer of justice to the oppressed and will provide for the hungry who are deprived. The high adoration of Mary in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church would surely not condone this lack of merciful intent by Ethiopia. Many theologians see Mary as a bridge between Christians and Muslims.

My prayer is that all the waring parties in Ethiopia and Eritrea will let themselves be influenced by divine intercession to look for a way to peaceful co-existence. To reflect on their faith and ask to be guided to righteousness. To search to fix the brokenness of hate and restore the wholeness of peace now missing in the Horn of Africa. It is not too late.

The United States cannot be an accessory to the cascading humanitarian crisis in Tigray and Ethiopia. Giving unrestricted aid which will support its continuance and foster a greater Tigray genocide. The pronouncements and actions of Ethiopia are a betrayal of her responsibilities recognized by being a member of the United Nations. The sanctions are morally justifiable and are intended to strongly encourage peaceful resolution with all due haste.

Ethiopian Tigray deception reminds us of the Biblical story of Ahab and Naboth

Abiy Ahmed gave false promises of enacting a law enforcement operation against just the leadership of Tigray which soon became clear to be an attempt at Tigray genocide Source The Times

The veracity of promises to Tigray made by the Ethiopian government including Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been totally lacking towards Tigray since even before the onset of armed conflict in November 2020.

The Biblical story of Ahab and Naboth recounts a similar situation to Ethiopia and Tigray illustrating that even powerful leaders have ethical and more limits in their actions. In 1 Kings 21 the powerful Northern Kingdom King Ahab covets the vineyard of Naboth, a humble subject, who owned the property by right of inheritance. When Naboth will not accept a land trade Ahab and his wife conspire to kill Naboth. Although Ahab is a powerful king he cannot escape his duty to protect the rights of those over whom he rules. His lack of concern for the rights and even the dignity for Naboth condemn him in the eyes of God.

Like Ahab Ethiopia’s leader Abiy Ahmed has denied the Tigray the right to live in Western Tigray where they have lived for centuries. It was in Western Tigray where the revolt against the Derg Regime began almost 50 years ago. Ethiopia choose to use war as a just weapon and ignore the humanity of the Tigray people. This goes against their right of autonomy in the Ethiopian constitution. Like Ahab wanting to kill Naboth to acquire his vineyard so the Ethiopian government sought to annihilate the Tigray through war, famine, and lack of health care. God speaks through the Prophet Elijah rebuking Ahab for his sins. This message remains as true today as it did then.

Now we hear that Ethiopia is putting in place an immediate truce to facilitate humanitarian access to Tigray. At the same time the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is calling for the expulsion of U.N. officials complaining that there is no humanitarian access to Tigray provided by the Federal Ethiopian government. The world was witness to the recent videos ransacking and looting of trucks in Afar intended to deliver aid to Tigray. The fear of the imminent implementation of punitive sanctions by the United States is clearly the causation of the most recent pronouncement. 

The history of communication from Ethiopia on Tigray has been an unbroken stream of nefarious declarations intended to fool the international community. Although he won the Nobel Peace Prize over what is now known to be false pretenses by September 202o Abiy Ahmed had already lost credibility with many Western democracies. It is to be remembered that Abiy Ahmed in a speech before the Ethiopian Parliament said he would never go to war with Tigray. Once the war was started he called it a “law enforcement operation” done with the intention of “protecting Tigray civilians” which of course we now know suffered and continue to suffer atrocity, deprivation, and violation on a massive scale. Then in June 2021 he claimed a unilateral ceasefire to allow planting of crops in Tigray however his own appointees to the Tigray Interim Administration occupying Tigray told international media including France’s News24 that they were blocking planting.

It is well past due for Ethiopia to recognize the human dignity and rights of the Tigrayan people. To reaffirm their ancestral right to live in Tigray. To repent from the sins of nefarious greed and finally to seek peace. 

The unparalleled treachery of Lia Tadesse to Tigray

Minister of Health Lia Tadesse visit in Mekelle in March 2021 was a photo propaganda opportunity full of lies and empty promises

There is no greater betrayal of professional duty then the case of Lia Tadesse’s treachery to Tigray. Throughout 2021 Lia Tadessa, Minister of Health for Ethiopia, falsely promised in press announcements that medical supplies and medical facilities would be provided to Tigray while off-camera giving the message to Tigray medical leaders that she would do nothing.  In March of 2021 she visited Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray region, when it was already known that the vast majority of health care facilities where out of supplies, nonfunctional, or even destroyed. I have had personal discussions with most of the local Tigray health attendees at the meeting who described how armed security forces were there to carefully monitor topics and threatened immediate arrest of any words critical of Ethiopian policy or the situation at hand. Even many of the Abiy Ahmed Tigray Interim Administrators complained of her inaction.

Even though she had trained at Mekelle University’s Ayder Comprehensive Specialized Hospital she avoided visiting this tertiary facility. Instead she focused on the small city hospital in Mekelle. In a bizarre statement, she claimed that Tigray had been behind in health care and she would make sure rapid rehabilitation and improvement would be done. In a bold outrageous lie she stated that “seventy percent of health care facilities were fully functioning” in that March 2021 visit. In continuance of a cruel joke the statement “The Ministry of Health would like to take this opportunity to thanks Partners, various sections of the community locally and abroad for supporting the government’s efforts to ensure all people have access to essential health services, and calls for strengthened support and coordination between all sectors.”. 

Meanwhile we know that Ethiopian Defense Force commanders had ordered to kill Doctors Without Borders doctors as well as in coordination with Eritrean forces gave carte blanche to ransack, loot, and destroy medical facilities in Tigray. 

In February 2022 she hypocritically celebrated the Government of Ethiopia being committed to the African Union Year of Nutrition and Food Security 2022 while condoning the starvation killing innocent women and children at a staggering 1000 lives per day.

She coordinated international fund drives to collect medical supplies for Ethiopia which specifically excluded Tigray and parts of Oromo. Her time of service has seen a reduction of spending per capita for health care from a high of $23 per capita to estimates as low as $10 for Ethiopia reversing a decade of progress. She has traded being a physician to being an expert propagandist. As a Christian I must pray she will one day repent for being an active participant in Tigray genocide.

Hypocrisy of HR 6600 opposition by those condoning deadly Ethiopian sanctions on Tigray

Amhara diaspora complain that sanctions in HR6600 are worst than war even though explicit provisions allow humanitarian aid. Meanwhile they condone the deadly sanctions of Ethiopia on Tigray.

Five hundred days and five hundred thousand dead in Tigray which means 1000 dead a day have and will continue to die. Although the Ethiopian government using weapons of war supplied by other countries continues to kill civilians including innocent women and children daily now the greatest threat to the population are the sanctions of Ethiopia on Tigray. The most powerful sanctions currently going on anywhere in the world is the complete blockade of food, water, electricity, communication, fuel, and medicines from Ethiopia or Eritrea to Tigray.

In a bizarre example of hypocrisy, supporters of Abiy Ahmed’s Ethiopian government have made the statementSanctions are a form of warfare that kill more people than bombs & guns” referencing H.R. 6600 which seeks to stop Tigray holocaust. The bill contains specific exemptions to humanitarian aid to any part of Ethiopia. It should be remembered that the United States still gave over $ 1 billion in aid to Ethiopia the past year.

Except for a few carefully pre-screened medical aid flights which are like giving a man dying from hunger a single grain of rice this situation is now extending into its second year. International experts say that 83% of Tigrayans are at risk of death eventually from hunger or otherwise treatable medical conditions.

Unarmed youth patrols saved many women during Mekelle occupation

 

March 2021 photo of Mekelle bus station. Patrols of Ethiopian and Eritrean forces during the Mekelle occupation often took the opportunity to loot property and violate women on the street. Many were saved by the brave actions of unarmed Tigrayan youth group members who sometimes gave up their lives to protect the women. Source Irish Times

During the occupation of the capital of Tigray, Mekelle, by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces between November 2020 and July 2021 unsung heroes were the daily and nightly volunteer unarmed foot patrols coordinated by youth groups. Although armed fighters were outside the city in surrounding mountains these youth groups played a key role in intelligence gathering, spreading and informing news to the kebeles (neighborhoods), and finally at great personal risk acting as safety escorts for women traveling in the streets.

A few days after the initial military occupation by regular military forces we saw a change in the composition of the enemy soldiers. A greater number of Eritreans and Amhara appeared on the streets. Everyday they would be “patrolling the street” in squad size groups carrying out looting of local businesses and even worse whisking away  women off the street to terrible fates including sexual violence.

Local neighborhood groups of Mekelle residents organized unarmed foot patrols usually of just one person to function during daylight hours and also covertly at night when there was a curfew. Many times these guardians saved ladies walking from work, church, visiting relatives, or obtaining household needs by warning them of approaching enemy patrols or distracting the patrols while the women got away or found a hiding place.

From November 2020 through the beginning of January 2021 I know of at least seven young men who were shot by occupying forces. Those that were lucky enough to be brought to hospital by relatives or neighbors were often taken out of the hospital by enemy forces in the morning and never seen again.  An evil fate for the remains of those killed at scene copied a practice used by the Derg regime. I first learned about this from a friend, Rev. Douglas, whose mission was near the Desta Hotel near the Business School Campus. I went there and saw the decaying body lying on side of the busy street. Bodies would be ordered to lay where they died on the street for days. You could see the locations from a long distance because within a few hours scavenging birds would circle over them.