Aklog Birara (Dr)
“The dreamers are the saviors of the world. As the visible world is sustained by the invisible, so men, through all their trials and sins and sordid vocations, are nourished by the beautiful visions of their solitary dreamers. Humanity cannot forget its dreamers; it cannot let their ideals fade and die; it lives in them; it knows them as the realities which it shall one day see and know.”
James Allen, As A Man Thinketh
“We are all Ethiopians when we are alive and buried in Ethiopia when we pass.”
Abiy Ahmed Ali
Part I of IV
I am writing this Op-Ed series to the attention of the international community, especially, the government and people of the United States that I admire, the Ethiopian Diaspora, Ethiopian websites, and journalists to demand immediate halt regarding the horrific slaughters, ethnic cleansing and genocide of Amhara.
Deliberate, planned and systematically executed defamation, degradation, disempowerment, killing, ethnic cleansing, genocide and impoverishment of Amhara spans more than 40 years. Today, this is executed by the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), Oromo Liberation Front–Shane (OLF), Oromo regional administration and the Addis Ababa city administration under the watch of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali.
I also call on Ethiopian young people who care deeply about their future to rise-up and defend human rights, human dignity, the rule of law and demand accountability.
The silence of the international community, including the UN, the African Union, the European Union, the US Congress, human rights organizations, and the like is deafening.
I find it tragic that Ethiopian political, social, spiritual elites have literally stopped listening to one another and caring for one another. It is that bad. It is also clear to me that Ethiopian sovereignty is at risk. It is foreign powers that dictate policy.
It saddens me that Ethiopians are incapable of reaching common ground by acknowledging and resolving their own (our own) problems. This reality degrades Ethiopia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It emboldens tribal supremacy and tyranny under the guise of prosperity.
Ethiopians pay greater attention to the outside world, especially to American and European officials. On March 20, 2023, US Secretary of State who had paid an official visit to Ethiopia and met with Prime Minister Abiy just days ago issued the following statement under the title “War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, and Ethnic Cleansing in Ethiopia.”
I agree with the broad press statement. “Ethiopia is now emerging from two years of a brutal conflict in the north, during which all parties committed atrocities. With the November 2, 2022, cessation of hostilities agreement (COHA) in place, the fighting has stopped, human rights abuses in northern Ethiopia are significantly down, Eritrean forces are leaving, and the Ethiopian government is taking the first step towards transitional justice. However, the suffering that was wrought upon civilians in northern Ethiopia must be acknowledged.”
I have argued several times in my earlier commentaries that there must be accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of genocide and ethnic cleansing. You cannot heal without holding all perpetrators of crimes of war, crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and the like accountable. You cannot achieve transitional justice unless you are inclusive, even handed, fair, and just.
Secretary Blinken announced to the entire world America’s conclusions and positions targeting three groups: a) war crimes by all combatants including TPLF b) crimes against humanity by Ethiopian and Eritrean Defense Forces as well as by Amhara forces and c) crimes against humanity by Amhara forces.
“After careful review of the law and the facts, I have determined that members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF), Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces, and Amhara forces committed war crimes during the conflict in northern Ethiopia.”
The US Department of State made a significant, material, and deliberate differentiation among combatants for the purpose of accountability. ENDF, EDF and Amhara are identified in both war crimes and crimes against humanity and Amhara forces in all three.
“Members of the Ethiopians Defense Forces (ENDF), Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF), and Amhara forces (Fano, special forces and militia) also committed crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and persecution.” This is not all.
“Members of the Amhara forces also committed the crime against humanity of deportation or forcible transfer and committed ethnic cleansing in western Tigray.”
The singling out of Amhara
Amhara are corned from within by the TPLF, Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) Oromo Liberation Front (OLF-Shane), Oromo regional administration, Addis Ababa city Administration and behind them the Ethiopian state and government. Amhara—victims of recurrent targeted killings—are, at the same time accused of crimes of war and crimes against humanity from without. This is a multipronged assault of Amhara.
Absolving TPLF from crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, rapes, and ethnic cleansing of Amhara; and instead placing criminality on Amhara emboldens TPLF even further. It also sends a chilling signal to OLA and the Oromo Prosperity Party that killing, ethnic cleansing, displacing and impoverishing Amhara are acceptable norms and practices under international human rights laws and conventions. This is tragic.
I should like to ask, “On what basis did Secretary Blinken arrive at his sweeping conclusion that targets Amhara, the victims, and exposes Amhara for more danger, including loss of its ancestral lands?” This is simply outrageous and unfair.
The US Department of State knows fully that it is the TPLF and not Amhara forces, ENDF, or EDF that initiated the war, invaded the Afar and Amhara regions, launched rocket attacks against Eritrea and major cities in the Amhara region, slaughtered innocent civilians including more than 1,500 Amhara civilians in Mai Kadra, occupied Amhara land, raped thousands of Afar and Amhara girls, killed animals, destroyed most of the economic and social infrastructure in the Afar and Amhara regions, displaced and impoverished hundreds millions of Afar and Amhara.
It is the TPLF that hijacked an estimated 400 UN food supply vehicles, diverted foods from the needy and let Tigreans starve. When Tigreans fled in search of safety and foods, it is Amhara families who shared the little they had. All these and more are left out deliberately to appease and please a former trusted US ally, TPLF, that has friends in prominent positions within the US administration.
The bottom line is that the press statement frees or absolves TPLF from crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide. Further, the implication is that it is Amhara and not TPLF that committed horrific atrocities long before TPLF took power, after it ruled Ethiopia with an iron fist for 30 years and after it initiated the catastrophic war that must be held accountable for crimes against humanity and for ethnic cleansing. This reversal of justice by the US Department of State undermines human rights laws and degrades the meaning of justice. It certainly diminishes American government status as an impartial and honest broker.
The TPLF had annexed Wolkait, Tegede, Telemt and Raya using force. In the process, it killed thousands of Amhara, forced thousands more to flee, degraded Amhara identity in occupied territories. TPL used its political power and designated occupied lands as Western Tigray. Secretary Blinken bought into this false TPLF narrative and reached at the wrong conclusion. The slaughter of Amhara is well documented by Gondar University that dug several mass graves and using forensics.
While I agree with the conclusion of war crimes and the call for accountability of all involved, the assertion that Amhara forces, and not TPLF are accountability for crimes against humanity is outrageous, patently biased, unfair, and unjust. It is therefore unacceptable.
Fair minded Ethiopians and the international community must reject this pro-TPLF and anti-Amhara policy position. For this reason, I urge the government of the United States to retract its unwarranted verdict. Only then would the following statements “Formally recognizing the atrocities committed by all parties is an essential step to achieving a sustainable peace: and “Those most responsible for atrocities, including those in positions of command, must be held accountable” would have ownership, authenticity, and credibility.
Accountability must be impartial, fair, and inclusive.
I also find it disheartening why the United States is not forthcoming regarding accountability of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), Oromo Liberation Front-Shane led for crimes against humanity in Oromia and Northern Shoa that is still on going.
Ethiopia deserves transitional justice that addresses all victims. Dismissing the plight of Amhara is not in the long-term national security interest of the USA, the Horn, or the rest of Africa.
America’s Press statement “War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, and Ethnic Cleansing in Ethiopia” is a clarion call that one cannot dismiss lightly. Because human rights violations are widespread, deep and continue unabetted. Continued slaughter of Amhara endangers Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s disturbing situation
Ethiopia is in deep, deep, deep trouble. It is not a lucky country. It moves from one crisis to another, from one set of ethnicity-based state capture to another, from one form of tyrannical rule to another, from one civil conflict to another, from one form of state induced corruption to another etc. if you think the country’s Prosperity Party is transforming Ethiopian society for the better; think again. Ethiopia’s ethnic-federal system and governance have failed to serve the hopes and aspirations of the Ethiopian people.
For this reason, Ethiopian society needs to arrive at common ground. It desperately needs an overarching unity of purpose. It desperately needs a new generation of dreamers, idealists and visionaries who can extricate Ethiopian society, especially succeeding generations from toxic tribalism, hate, lies, deaths, greed, selfishness, exclusionary tendencies, fear of the other person, abject poverty, and corruption.
I admit, my generation has failed Ethiopia. Is the current generation any better? Will the next generation be much better? I do not know the answer. However, I know Ethiopia’s ethnicity-based educational and development models deepen the country’s problems.
I believe focusing on the future by positive upbringing, education, training, mentoring/coaching, similar interventions at an early age as well as by modeling behaviors in guiding, managing, and administering society that young Ethiopians witness as manifested in their leaders at all levels of government will go a long way in restoring and sustaining our common humanity. Perpetuating the same failed propaganda does not do it. The right thing to do is to stop the carnage now.
Managing Ethiopia’s complex, polarized, morally and spiritually broken and corrupted society is a team sport. I am always guided by the wise African social capital formation model of “It takes a village to raise a child.” If you pull the society apart based on ethnic differentiation, the village cannot pull its social capital assets together. The Oromo Prosperity Party is tearing the fabric of Ethiopia apart.
By the same token and at a societal level, it takes cooperation, commitment for one another’s welfare and wellbeing, a sense of shared purpose and destiny, commitment to accountability for results, outcomes, failures, and achievements, and most of all, dedication to the principle of strengthening mutual trust –the foundation of teamwork-in transforming an entire society for the better is critical at this trying time. I believe dreamers are guided by these lofty goals.
You cannot pursue these goals by slaughtering Amhara, by injecting a culture of fear, hate, recuring lies and empty promises, opaque agendas, punishing the weak, displacing and ethnically cleansing those you do not like, jailing those who challenge the broken system or proselytizing to young people that the mystical Nirvana will occur soon under another form of tribal supremacy.
Flawed education and flawed outcomes
It is hard for me to imagine that, in the first quarter of the 21st century, ethno-nationalists, ethnic- supremacists, extremists and tribalists (Amhara, Oromo and Tigrean especially), many with doctorate degrees from Western institutions continue to pursue ideals and ideologies that degrade our common humanity, history. They do these by deconstructing or degrading the flagships of Ethiopian identity (Adwa, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC), by making Addis Ababa “irrelevant” and by degrading Ethiopianism. If “we are all Ethiopians when we are alive” as declared by Abiy Ahmed, why are Amhara singled out for extermination? Why does he and the Prosperity Party he founded allow Oromo ethno-nationalists to “de-construct” an ancient country with a glorious and distinct past?
Teaching the current and coming generations of Ethiopians there is nothing wrong with the current situation in troubled Ethiopia and permitting destructive forces to undo a promising country is obscene and dumb.
The irony I find unconscionable is that the government thar manages the affairs of the Ethiopian state sponsors a summit of the African Union (AU), holds forums on Pan-Africanism while at the same time eviscerating (gutting) Ethiopianism—Adwa, EOTC, Ethiopian’s national flag and the rest. Adwa is an outcome of a sophisticated case study in teamwork that occurred long before teamwork became fashionable at Harvard and Oxford.
If you ask any foreign researcher or scholar the cardinal question “Does ethnic federalism advance teamwork, enhance a common purpose and shared destiny, ensure lasting peace, stability, human security, territorial integrity and sovereignty in Ethiopia?” the answer is not at all. It does the exact opposite. This is the reason why ethnic federalism must be overhauled and a new constitution adopted.
I commend Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali for publishing his third book in five years. I know something about writing. Writing a book is not an easy task, especially when, at the same time, you are running the second most populous country in Africa, one with multiple problems. Is writing a book priority currently? Maybe yes, maybe no. I look at it from the multitude of socioeconomic and political problems Ethiopian society is facing today.
I plan to diagnose and assess Ethiopia’s multitude of problems under the watch of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and the Oromo dominated Prosperity Party in the coming weeks.
To conclude Part I, I suggest the following immediate action steps:
- The priority for Ethiopians who believe in Ethiopianism and the continuity of Ethiopia as a country is to demand immediate cessation of the bulldozing of homes, the de-construction of Addis Ababa and the banning of Amhara entry into the city inflicted by Oromo tribalists, the regional government of Oromia, the city administration of Addis Ababa, all dominated by the Oromo Prosperity Party and supported by the federal government. The international community, especially the government of the United States, members of the European and African Unions have a moral obligation to voice and to reject the systematic degradation of Ethiopian society and the ethnic cleansing of Amhara.
- Citizens of Addis Ababa can and must be bold, save themselves and their city from total decay and “irrelevance” by rejecting “deconstruction” of their city, by holding sustained and peaceful protests and sit-ins, by refusing to pay taxes and by refraining from purchasing of goods and services from profiteers who are committed to deepening tribalism and ethnic government tyranny. Ethiopia’s huge Diaspora must call for and support peaceful resistance. The Diaspora must and can leverage its enormous resources and demand immediate cessation of human degradation, abuses and atrocities.
- Ethiopian civil society organizations within the country and across the globe must write a petition urging the government of the United States and the US Congress to retract the US Department of State’s unfair, unjust, pro-TPLF and anti-Amhara verdict. The Diaspora must also hold vigils and protests.
- Targeted ethnic cleansing, killing, bulldozing of homes, arrests, and jailing, demeaning and dehumanization, massive displacement estimated at 2 million and growing, discrimination and marginalization and the like of Amhara over several decades by the TPLF, OLA/OLF and the Oromo Prosperity Party constitute most components of genocide.
It is time for Ethiopians who care most about the matter to consolidate evidence and lodge formal legal complaints to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Criminal Court (ICC). Article 6 on genocide and Article 7 on crimes against humanity of the Rome Statute of the ICC provide underpin this recommendation.
Part II of IV will follow next week.