ADDIS ABABA (HAN) November 27.2020. Public Diplomacy and Regional Stability Initiatives News. OPINION BY: Aklog Birara . Monitoring Regional Issues. A new vigorous global debate is going on using social media. The focus is the “war” started by the TPLF following its targeted murder of non-Tigrean Ethiopians in Mekele. TPLF supporters and sympathizers argue brazenly that Ethiopian Defense Forces (the victims of the attack) are conducting ethnic-cleansing and the murder of Tigrean-Ethiopian civilians. This lop-sided argument masks the truth. It prolongs the agony of the Ethiopian people, most notably, the poor in Tigray.
First, let us agree on the definition of terrorism. The FBI defines it as follows. Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “The unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85).”
There is a plethora of evidence supporting my thesis that the TPLF must be designated as a terrorist group. The TPLF defied the Ethiopian Federal Constitution it crafted masterfully and imposed on Ethiopians. It stole Federal armaments. It preidentified and murdered non-Tigrean members of the Northern Command. It declared that it no longer recognized the central Government. It used coercive tools and begun a reign of terror throughout Ethiopia. Its Special Forces committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Mai Kadra, the Amhara region of Ethiopia annexed forcibly by the TPLF. It called on Ethiopia’s mortal enemies to rise-up and create havoc and destruction.
These examples suffice to support the designation of terrorism of the TPLF and its strategic allies.
I wonder why these same advocates of the TPLF failed the moral obligation test of at least critiquing the TPLF for the murders in Mekele and for the wholesale massacre in Mai Kadra? Why they failed to condemn the TPLF for destroying a major international airport in Tigray that boosts tourism; and that generates incomes for the people of Tigray? Why they do not see the merit of abandoning warmongering based on ethnicity and faith? Why they fail to see the need for a red line?
The argument that Ethiopian Defense Forces are targeting Tigrean-Ethiopians is false. Because it is false, the narrative does not bode well for the people of Tigray and for the rest of Ethiopia. Ethiopians can only heal if we adhere to the truth; and if we change our paradigm of thinking and identify commonalities rather than push differences. A herd mentality of affiliating with tribal thinking harms future generations. In the age of globalization that offers us the chance to move and work anywhere in the world, it is contradictory and lethal to push division. It also undermines our common humanity.
The genesis of the crisis
The current upheaval that is upending commonalities is tribalism and terrorism. The former is a phenomenon that civilized people all over the world have overcome. The latter is a global phenomenon that all nations that face it are fighting hard constantly. TPLF terrorism is the same as terrorism by Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab and Boko Haram. The fact that its architects are Tigrean does not make it any less brutal and lethal. Just think of this. The TPLF murdered more than 600 innocent people in Mai Kadra because they were Amhara and Wolkaite. The TPLF sponsored other murders in Ethiopia.
Tribalism is outdated. Do you know of any African nation that has not banned political party formation based on ethnic identity or religion? Why did the TPLF, the chief architect of ethnic-federalism and the current constitution select such a divisive architecture? The answer is simple. It is to enable It to divide and rule. It is to plunder Ethiopian resources for the benefit of TPLF families, friends, and stooges. The TPLF has done this with aplomb. The benefits to ordinary Tigreans are miniscule.
It is only when popular resistance toppled the TPLF from power that it decided to pack, go, and garrison itself in Mekele. I have no problem with its decision to hibernate. This is not what it did though. Instead, it plotted, planned, and decided to bring down the Ethiopian multinational state and break Ethiopia by inciting a civil a civil war. It went on a killing spree. It destroyed economic infrastructure. By any internationally accepted definition, including the FBI, the TPLF is a terrorist organization. The Government of Ethiopia must designate the TPLF as well as the Oromo Liberation Army (Shine) as a terrorist group. It must also seek this same designation by the UN, the African Union, and the rest.
Stop Applying A Double Standard in Opining
I no longer believe that it is solely our responsibility as global citizenry to persuade Tigrean-Ethiopians to speak the truth; and or to challenge the TPLF. The primary responsibility of doing that resides with the very people that support and embolden the TPLF. If Ethiopians wish to live peacefully with one another, they must speak the truth. They must challenge destructive forces boldly and courageously.
Most bothersome is the failure of global and independent institutions including media that continue to fail in challenging untruths paraded by the TPLF and its allies. The collateral damage to Tigrean-Ethiopians is massive. For example, tens of thousands of Tigrean-Ethiopians have been forced to flee. Billions of dollars of infrastructural and economic investment have been destroyed deliberately by the TPLF. Mekele is the now the epicenter of the fight triggered by the TPLF. Killings of innocent civilians is inevitable. Destruction of investment property will occur. It will take decades to rebuild.
The TPLF cordoned itself off in Mekele for a reason. Its diehard leadership knows that they are accountable for treason, war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and massive corruption. TPLF officials have sent their immediate families out; and support them with stolen monies. Over the years, heartless diehards have dug hiding places, caves, tunnels, and other hideouts including in places of worship. This is deliberate and planned. Therefore, I say they are heartless.
The TPLF understands that it cannot win. But it is determined to inflict more pain and suffering across Ethiopia. There is no doubt in my mind that the TPLF has instructed its Special Forces and militia to conduct “Armageddon in Mekele.” An estimated 200,000 well-armed members in or near Mekele alone will not refrain from massacring non-Tigrean Ethiopians and Tigrean-Ethiopians without mercy. They will use Tigrean-Ethiopians as human shields. Remember this. The TPLF is callous and soulless.
I also guarantee the world community that the TPLF and its network of supporters across the globe will blame the atrocities the TPLF commits on the Ethiopian Defense Forces and on the Ethiopian Prime Minister. They have deployed lobbyists or persons for hire to propagate untruths across the globe.
What do these terrorists want to leave as their legacy?
If we choose to learn, the past is a good guide. The TPLF claims that more than 60,000 Tigreans died fighting the Socialist Military Dictatorship (the Dergue). The dead are their martyrs. By the same token, it is inevitable that the TPLF wishes for Tigrean-Ethiopians to remember them as martyrs. This is the same motive as the one followed by Al-Qaida, Al-Shabab, Boko Haram and other extremist, terrorist, and jihadist groups. They train their supporters to kill with the promise that when they die; they will go to heaven. Explain to me if an ordinary Tigrean who is poor does not prefer a water well and not a bullet?
Think of the economic loss to the Ethiopian people.
The TPLF is a vicious terrorist group. Its misused missiles and rockets paid for by Ethiopian taxpayers to inflict pain and suffering on cities, towns, and innocent civilians in Asmara, Bahir Dar and Gondar will be remembered by school children for decades to come. It destroyed a major international airport in Tigray. This economic crime compounds the war crime, ethnic cleansing and genocide executed by the TPLF and its terrorist allies over the past four decades. I urge you to imagine the loss of employment and incomes from these destructions and to reshape your position. TPLF falsehoods are deadly.
Encouraging global developments
The true face and the political aim of the TPLF and its strategic allies have begun to emerge. For example, I am encouraged by statements from some government agencies. The U.S. Government’s Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy provided the following statement on November 19, 2020. The Biden administration ought to consider the voracity of the TPLF in its stance.
“As of today, the fighting in Tigray continues, and events last weekend suggest that the TPLF seeks to internationalize the conflict. The TPLF leadership has admitted responsibility for the November 3 missile launches at airports in Bahir Dar and Gondar, in the Amhara region, and the November 14 attack in Eritrea. These unacceptable attacks make the situation more dangerous, and the Secretary condemned them in his most recent statement. We have been in contact with Eritrean Government officials and are urging their continued restraint”.
“We remain deeply concerned over reports that civilians have been purposely targeted and attacked. We condemn the November 12 massacre in Mai-Kadra, apparently perpetrated by TPLF soldiers and militia as they retreated from the town. We urge independent investigations of all reports of atrocities and attacks against civilians. Those found responsible must be held accountable in accordance with the law. Additionally, we are working with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Ethiopian Government to ascertain why several journalists were recently arrested, their status and well-being, and what charges they are facing”.
On November 19, 2020, 17 United States Senators sent a formal letter to the U.S. Secretary of State urging active involvement by the United States: and calling for a cease fire and the cessation of hostilities. While the call is understandable and shows deep concern, the letter would have been more helpful if the Senators had condemned the atrocities committed by the TPLF, including the massacre in Mai Kadra. The message would have served the common good had the Senators demanded that the TPLF that started the conflict cease its terrorist acts, surrender, and avoid casualties.
The Government of the Russian Federation is among Ethiopian friends that support the fight against terrorism, restoration of peace and stability and the enforcement of the rule of law in Ethiopia.
Ethiopians must change the narrative on a sustained basis.
Nevertheless, the bulk of the messages on social media embolden the TPLF. Therefore, I am obliged to provide a backdrop. The international community and supporters of the TPLF must recognize the following fact. Over more than four decades, the TPLF has committed numerous crimes, including crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and genocide. Sadly, supporters of the TPLF, the global media, the UN, the EU, the African Union and governments across the globe have failed to challenge targeted attacks and wholesale massacres of innocent civilians in the Afar, Amhara, Beni-Shangul Gumuz, Gambella, Oromia, Somali and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples regions.
The deliberate wholesale massacre of non-Tigrean Ethiopians in both Mekele and in Mai Kadra revealed in graphic terms for the entire world to see the barbarous and inhumane nature of the TPLF. I repeat, the TPLF is more dangerous than Covid-19. Its pathologies are so embedded within its DNA that it is not curable. The world must thus understand that, for the TPLF, mediation is a sign of weakness and submission. Why else would the TPLF dig in still in Mekele?
I know of no Government that has mediated with terrorists. Ethiopia cannot afford to mediate before terrorists are subdued and held accountable.
What We Must Urge the International Community to Know
I would like to flag to the international community, especially to think-tanks and the media the following overarching themes and talking points:
- It is in the genetic make-up of the TPLF junta to lie and to mislead. The world community should be wary that this treasonous group will aim and massacre Tigrean-Ethiopians and blame the crime entirely on Ethiopia’s Defense Forces. Why else would it launch rockets aimed at civilian airports? Why else would it use Tigrean child soldiers? Why else would it dig in and hide in Mekele and use places of worship as hideouts? Does it really care for the people of Tigray? Where is the evidence to support its commitment to ordinary Tigreans? Why did the TPLF ship out close families and relatives?
- The TPLF has recruited, trained, and armed 11 brigades, each brigade consisting 2,500 persons. It has stolen and or captured weapons from Ethiopian Defense Forces and purchased all types of weapons from foreign sources. It has forced children less than 18 years old and deployed them as child soldiers in the battlefield. This deployment contravenes Ethiopian domestic and international laws. The TPLF leadership must be held accountable for this crime. It has compromised Ethiopia’s national interest by plotting with Ethiopia’s traditional enemies, most notably with Egypt.
- The TPLF is destroying physical and economic infrastructure deliberately and intentionally. This is a reckless and criminal act that punishes the Tigrean-Ethiopia poor the most. Restoring bridges, factories and other investments destroyed intentionally by the TPLF will cost billions of dollars. It will require billions of dollars and will take several years of effort. Ethiopia will be poorer because of the TPLF. Monies that should be used for development are instead diverted for peacekeeping.
- The TPLF’s reckless assault on Ethiopia’s Defense Forces and its dangerous incitement of ethnicity and faith-based terrorism in Ethiopia’s heartland undermines the global common good. Ethiopia is an anchor country providing unparalleled peacekeeping services to the UN and the African Union. Its commitment to collective security that begun during the Korean war continues uninterrupted to this day. It is this capability and capacity that the TPLF also wanted to degrade. It is therefore in the world’s interest to subdue the TPLF. The world must know that, if the TPLF and other terrorists are not captured and held accountable, Ethiopia will never have peace or stability.
- The TPLF is conducting a psychological war in social media. For example, it claims falsely and deliberately that Eritrea and South Sudan “are helping Ethiopia.” South Sudan is a failed state. Eritrea has explicitly stated that it is not involved in the conflict. The world should know that 10,000 Ethiopians troops are still serving the UN and the African Union in peacekeeping operations in Darfur, Somalia, and South Sudan. Ethiopia has not yet opted to recall these troops. It has ample capacity to restore peace and stability; and to enforce the rule of law in Tigray and in other parts of the country.
- In a desperate attempt to cause civilian casualties and to further inflame international public opinion, the TPLF has begun to position sharpshooters and other members of its Special Forces and militia in front of places of worship, colleges, and universities. Luckily and to their credit, Ethiopian Defense Forces have been deliberate in avoiding this intentional trap. Tigrean-Ethiopians who have given up fighting and surrendered to Ethiopian Defense Forces report uniformly that they have been misled by the TPLF. They express publicly that they have been treated with a high level of respect and humanity. They too want peace and freedom. They represent the future. Others must join them.
- Sensing the brutality, barbarism, and the Mafia nature of the TPLF core leadership, ordinary Tigrean-Ethiopians acknowledge that the conflict is not between Tigrean-Ethiopians on the one hand, and other Ethiopians on the other. They also confirm that the conflict is not between Prime Minister Dr. Abiy’s party and the TPLF. Ethiopians Federal Forces are fighting TPLF terrorism extremism and thieves of state. They are fighting to restore peace and stability in their own homeland. The best testimony is the deliberate and targeted nature of the peacekeeping operations that have avoided civilian casualties; and refrained from destroying investment property as well as cultural and historical icons in Tigray, Ethiopia. This is a tribute to Ethiopia and to the Ethiopian Defense Forces.
- The TPLF ordered its Special Forces contingent in the Humera area led by a Tigrean called “Colonel Yemane Gebre-Michael” to target and massacre non-Tigreans. Tigrean-Ethiopian youth trained and armed by his war machine executed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the village of Mai Kadra, the Amhara region. I remind the world community of a pattern of savagery and inhumanity perpetrated by the TPLF and its allies over more than four decades. Similar crimes were committed numerous times at several locations. These crimes were never investigated seriously by the UN system or by the Federal Government of Ethiopia. It is about time for the International Criminal Court and for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to dispatch a team of experts to Ethiopia and investigate war crimes and genocide in Mai Kadra and in other locations.
- The Secretary General of the UN must demand that the governing body of the World Health Organization investigate Dr. Tedros Adhanom, current head, for abrogating his duties, responsibilities and loyalty as an employee of a UN specialized agency; for lobbying in support of the TPLF and for subverting Ethiopia. It is common knowledge that Adhanom was for years a loyal member of the TPLF central committee. If Adhanom’s involvement is true, he should be fired from his post immediately.
- The Ethiopian Diaspora has an ample opportunity to leverage its intellectual, financial and expert capital; champion citizenship diplomacy on a continuous basis; dispel the false and misleading narrative of the TPLF and its supporters by speaking from the same national script; and by targeting global institutions, foundations, think-tanks, opinion leaders, members of parliamentary bodies, specific government entities, and local as well as global news mediums. These efforts must embed the genesis of the TPLF initiated conflict.
What messages do I recommend for the world to know?
Ethiopia is more committed to peace, stability, and the enforcement of the rule of law as the primary stakeholder of its own fate. This is the first thing the international community must be persuaded to understand. The talking points to consider include:
- The fact that the TPLF committed high treason, war crimes and genocide when it attacked members of Ethiopia’s Northern Command and executed other atrocities.
- The Government of Ethiopia is conducting a targeted military operation to restore peace and stability in Tigray, Ethiopia, and other parts of the country.
- Restoration of peace and security is a prerequisite; and that this cannot occur without the capture of the architects of terrorism in Ethiopia.
- The TPLF and the OLA/Shine must be designated as terrorist organizations.
- The Ethiopian people deserve justice; and the world community has a moral obligation to understand and support Ethiopia’s determination to avert more catastrophe and prevent the potential of Ethiopia’s Balkanization at all cost.
- The Ethiopian Diaspora must defend Ethiopia’s decision to close the Internet in Tigray. The TPLF and its agents used social media, particularly Facebook over the last decade to incite violence, terrorism, and the targeted killing of non-Tigreans. Closure of the internet in Tigray has markedly reduced false and harmful propaganda.
- Urge restraint on the part of governments and opinion makers across the globe; and give peacekeeping operations within Ethiopia a chance.
Ethiopians must muster the courage and encourage Tigrean-Ethiopians to abandon the TPLF; and help their sisters and brothers in the rest of Ethiopia to achieve peace; and support Ethiopia’s Defense Forces in their just quest to restore stability. Further,
- Ethiopians must demand that the TPLF cease deploying child soldiers in its reckless war.
- Ethiopians must focus on our commonalities and our common humanity rather than on our divisions that the TPLF propagates.
- Ethiopians must inform the world community that, for the first time, Ethiopian girls and women are engaged and participate in policy and decision-making as well as the development process; a condition unthinkable under the TPLF. The vast majority support the peacekeeping effort
- Ethiopians must draw global attention to the need for accountability for war crimes, genocide, and terrorism.
- Ethiopians must urge UN specialized agencies to conduct investigation of war crimes and genocide. They must start a coordinated campaign and ask the International Criminal Court formalize complaint against the TPLF and the OLF Shenne terrorist groups. The ICC has lead responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide that that have occurred in Ethiopia.
- Ethiopians must emphasize the importance of Ethiopia, the second most populous nation in Africa with a history spanning more than 3,500 years for the entire continent.
Finally, I plead with Ethiopians wherever they live to remember that Ethiopia was never colonized. Its patriotic zeal emanates from these distinct features. It is this remarkable country that the TPLF brought to the brink of civil war. It is this legacy that Ethiopia’s Defense Forces are trying to preserve at a cost in lives and monetary resources.