The announced resignation of Tewolde GebreMariam as CEO of Ethiopian Airlines for health reasons is not an end to his story or the questions of actions of the airline under his leadership condoning unfair practices and violations of international conventions. Mr. GebreMariam’s response to the well publicized exposure of weapons and combatant transport by Ethiopian Airlines was a statement to “his management members that the airline will continue fulfilling demands of the government and the maximum care should be taken at all level of operation not repeat similar leakage off information”. This declaration that lack of secrecy and not violation of international agreement was his concern cast serious doubts about GebreMariam’s morality. There is no doubt that he is a gifted business leader largely responsible for putting Ethiopian Airlines at the forefront of African airlines and also a major international competitor during his 37 years with the airline including 11 years as CEO. He was seen prior to the war as a successful ethnic Tigrayan contributing to building a better Ethiopia.
However there is also no doubt that Ethiopian Airlines undertook inappropriate actions during the ongoing Ethiopian Tigray conflict. There are many reports of Tigrayan employees suddenly stranded in foreign countries because their employment was suddenly terminated resulting in not being able to return to their families. The internationally recognized Chicago Convention on Civil Aviation to which Ethiopia is a signatory specifically forbids civilian airlines to carry military weapons or combatants under the guise of a civilian flight. Yet Ethiopian Airlines repeatedly violated this agreement in weapons delivery within Ethiopia and also in flights between Eritrea and Ethiopia. There may have been even more flights that have not yet been identified.
Many in the Tigray sphere have contemplated without clear cut evidence that GebreMariam was under duress. It is absolutely incumbent upon him especially if he going to stay within the safety of the United States to fully expose what Ethiopian Airlines was doing and what was his situation. Short of doing this will result in a permanent doubt about his integrity and humanity.