Open Letter to Howard University October 13, 2022
Subject: Use of Howard University Venue to promote Ethiopian government healthcare achievement while Tigray under medical blockade
Many of us who are concerned with the dire situation in Tigray and are concerned about the use of a Howard University venue for the promotion of a government deeply involved in the deprivation and violations of a minority. Howard University is a historic and important institution in American history which was created to offer those who were denied opportunities a chance to reach their potential which also enriched America as a whole. Today I am writing you about something that denigrates the legacy of your fine institution.
At this moment the 6 million plus population of Tigray is faced with an essentially complete blockade of medical supplies, fuel, and electricity. The 8 major hospitals including the tertiary Federal Mekelle Hospital which is a part of the Federal Mekelle University are not functioning. I was present in Tigray since 2015 including the first three months of the Tigray occupation by the Ethiopian government which began in November 2020.
Even during this time before the Tigray Regional State retook control in July 2021 the Ethiopian Ministries of Health under Dr. Lia Tadesse and Education essentially stopped all support of the hospital and university When Dr. Tadesse came to visit Mekelle she refused to have a meaningful discussion with Tigray health and university officials and just used the visit as a photo opportunity.
Over a half a million people in Tigray have died from lack of health care, starvation, and civilian casualties from military targeting by Eritrean and Ethiopian forces. Thousands of women were raped and mutilated but their suffering is aggravated by the lack of medical services.
Dr. Tadesse has published glowing reports of medical progress in all the “substates” of Ethiopia while neglecting to declare that her office which she oversees provides NOTHING to Tigray. The only medical supplies come from foreign donors and only a trickle of what is donated is allowed to pass through a government inspection. This restricts the vast majority of aid reaching Tigray. While Filsan Abdullahi Ahmed, the Minister of Women and Children, resigned her position when she confirmed the violence against women, Dr. Tadesse has been silent.
This week the United States State Department in cooperation with 6 other countries called upon the government of Ethiopia which is represented by Dr. Tadesse and others who are being given a venue in your university to stop blocking humanitarian access to Tigray and to address the human rights violations that have occurred.
Finally and not the least important, last night I was on the phone with a Tigrayan student at Howard University who informed me that on campus and in Washington DC in general, there is an underground network of Ethiopia government supporters who frequently and in fact openly intimidate Tigrayans and Eritreans. She is fearful to discuss the issues on campus. Imagine the sentiments felt by students who have seen their families killed, violated, displaced, and deprived when their institution is supporting the agent of their despair without reasonable allowance for fair discussions of opposite views.