Pure Betrayal – Addis Ababians Supporting the Genocidal War on Tigray
Ethiopia is on the verge of being a failed state. The government has failed, as have the religious institutions central to our society. A country where men, women, and children are slaughtered to consolidate power is one where the social contract and humanity failed.
Much of the violence seen throughout Ethiopian history and the atrocities being committed today in Tigray are facilitated by the ruling elite. Religious institutions, Addis Ababian communities, and celebrities in Addis Ababa are being utilized to support the Ethiopian Empire at the expense of the people. Tigrayans are being persecuted in the capital, and their families and loved ones are being starved, raped, and gunned down in Tigray.
As a Tigrayan born and raised in Addis Ababa, I can’t help but feel betrayed by Ethiopia and Ethiopians during this dark period. Ethiopia’s history has its roots in the region of Tigray, and Tigrayans have fought to protect Ethiopia from foreign invaders for centuries. If I had not experienced it myself, I would have never thought that Ethiopians would be capable of supporting this type of genocidal war on their own people.
Ethiopian Institutions and Communities Supporting the Genocidal War on Tigray
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, an institution of “acceptance for all humans,’’ has been preaching against those who identify with their ethnicity, some clergy openly dehumanizing Tigrayans. Well-known deacons are actively working to prevent their communities from being active against the war on Tigray. The Church even publicly supports the military operation against Tigray – not one word when Axum, the center of Christianity in the Horn of Africa, was attacked or when monks and priests are arrested in large numbers in Addis Ababa for being from Tigray.
A few weeks ago, in a video recorded by a friend of the church, the Patriarch Abune Matthias spoke out saying he was blocked from speaking against the atrocities happening in Tigray. He explicitly mentioned that “they are threatening to exterminate Tigrayans.” He is also being persecuted just for being Tigrayan: he is now under house arrest.
Even political opposition parties are aligned with the government in regards to the genocidal war on Tigray. Regardless of the numerous reports from international organizations, they choose silence–even as Eritrean troops have breached the sovereign land of ‘Ethiopia.’ The politicians choose to pursue their personal vendettas against the EPRDF instead of being vocal against the human rights abuses and war crimes committed against Tigrayans. Lidetu Ayalew and Eng Yilikal Getnet, who were imprisoned during the period of the EPRDF, were the only ones who have been vocal against the war on Tigray. It’s appalling to hear opposition party officials like Birhanu Nega and allies like Andargachew Tsige and Neamin Zelleke speak of Ethiopia prevailing when Ethiopia is on the verge of disintegration.
Civil institutions are no different. The Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRC) has previously taken a day or two to report on the atrocities committed against Amhara communities across Ethiopia. Yet, the Council took more than three months to report on atrocities, rape, and extrajudicial killings happening to the people of Tigray. It is still busy downplaying the scale of the atrocities. I have yet to find evidence that suggests this institution is non-partisan.
The Ethiopian feminist groups are no better. Sehin Teferra, the founder of Setaweet Movement, which is a contemporary feminist movement, was vocal about the war. She adamantly believed it was right to wage war on the elected government of Tigray. She even requested eye witness accounts for the reported rape cases. This feminist organization is now running a campaign for elections in Tigray, collaborating with the federal government. It is ironic for them to campaign for elections when the women in Tigray already elected their own regional government and are suffering widespread sexual violence at the hands of the organization’s partner. What the women in Tigray need is protection from the Ethiopian government’s mercenaries who are using them as sex slaves. I have not heard of any active engagement demanding justice for these victims. I guess, for Setaweet, rape survivors are not a priority, particularly if they are Tigrayan.
Whispers of “Junta” (coined by Abiy to refer to Tigrayan leaders and now used as a slur for all Tigrayans) are common at the office, cafes, and restaurants. Hairdressers are the worst. Women casually discussing destroying cities, cheering for the government to destroy more, to kill more.
I cannot enumerate the number of urban elites across sectors who supported this war and mobilized to cover up the war crimes. Even respectable public figures like Haile Gebresellasie, was among the many who cheered for military intervention in Tigray. He was later recorded commending the Ethiopian military and the unelected Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. As someone who was appointed to bring the government of Tigray and the federal government to the table to discuss peace, he should have been the last person to cheer for the war on Tigray.
An Ethiopian musician, Aregahegn Worash, went on record saying he would never support “killer people” when asked if he had donated money for the Tigrayan refugees in Sudan. Activists, like Tamagn Beyene, who are well known for fundraising also supported what the government originally called a “law enforcement operation.”
Photographers, galleries, tour and travel organizations in Addis Ababa have hosted exhibitions or posted Tigray’s amazing sites online, without a word spoken about what is currently happening. The cultural appropriation is disgusting – women wearing distinctly Tigrayan jewelry and traditional hairstyles, completely ignoring the pain Tigrayans are going through. Ethiopians are so easily flaunting Tigrayan culture, and heritage to boost their business.
Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are also flooded with supporters of the genocidal war on Tigray. Our friends and colleagues go to social media to support the genocidal war in Tigray. They post their solidarity to the Prosperity Party, denying the atrocities that are reported by our families, regardless of it being confirmed by international organizations. Influential Youtubers justify the genocide, saying it is critical for the ‘Junta’ to be exterminated.
The Perfect Opportunity for Vengeance
They are all synchronized in ignoring the plight of the people of Tigray. While many other Ethiopians are being killed and targeted by different groups, Tigray and Tigrayans are being deliberately targeted by the Ethiopian government itself, and its Eritrean and internal regional allies, including the Amhara militia currently occupying western Tigray. Most are using it to quench their thirst for vengeance and some to annex land as a result of hate brewed for more than a century. This war was the perfect opportunity for vengeance.
Our own non-Tigrayan friends continue to support the war on Tigray with similar narratives.
“There are only 5 million of your people, we can destroy you.”
“You are a minority that led the country for years so it is only right for you to be persecuted, all 5 million of you should pay for the injustices we suffered’.
“So, what is the problem if 5 million starve for the sake of the 95 million?”
They are not only justifying a genocide, they are also minimization Tigray’s population of over 7 million, which would be far greater had it not been for conflict and multiple state-sponsored famines in the last 100 years.
For many of them, the “Junta” has to be eradicated by any means necessary. Our families are collateral damage. Even if it means supporting a genocide.
For many Tigrayans in Addis Ababa, our pain translated to silence, and our friends and partners found comfort in our silence. Some took it as a refusal to admit our ‘defeat.’ When they see us mourning the loss of innocent civilian lives, they label us as exaggerators.
Some actually see this genocide as a way to settle scores, having kept bruised egos hidden for years. They waited to say, “We beat the mighty Tigrayan fighters.” What they fail to realize is that they are still in the comfort of their homes, while some poor “Ethiopian” or Eritrean soldiers fight their egoistic battles.
They also fail to recognize that Tigray’s struggle for self-determination has never been to gain recognition as mighty. It has always been to preserve our right for survival, preserve our identity, and to build our homes and communities.
Tigrayans in Addis Ababa are being forced to assimilate in the worst ways possible. The Ethiopian government and the Addis Ababian community continue to force Tigrayans to support the government-sanctioned genocidal war on Tigray. Those who disagree are seen as being brainwashed by Tigray’s elected party, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). They continue to claim that the horrors Tigrayans are hearing from their families are simply TPLF propaganda.
No one is speaking out against the demonization of Tigrayans in Addis Ababa. Not our friends. Not our neighbors. No one wants to protect Tigrayans, instead the local youth threaten to take our belongings. Now that the Ethiopian government has labeled the TPLF as a terrorist organization, there are legitimate concerns about what this could mean for Tigrayans living in Addis Ababa.
It is almost impossible to put an end to all of this without international intervention. Millions of lives are at risk–all to feed egoistic leaders and communities who are working to destroy the land of Tigray and Tigrayan identity.
Lasty, I leave you with this Micheal Walzer quotation from his book A Foreign Policy For The Left:
“the people directly at risk may have no capacity to respond, their fellow citizens no will to respond. The victims are weak and vulnerable; their enemies are cruel; their neighbors indifferent or frightened. The rest of us watch and are shocked. This is the occasion for intervention.”
This too shall pass.
Betty – Omna Tigray External Contributor, May 2021