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The war on Tigray: A multi-pronged assault driven by genocidal undercurrents


Tigray’s enemies all have different motivations, but they share a common objective.
On 3 November, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced, on Facebook, that his government has started a military intervention in Tigray, a member state of the Ethiopian federation. For a month and a half, a combination of Amhara forces and the Ethiopian and Eritrean militaries have been attacking Tigray on multiple fronts.

Abiy alleged the cause for the war was Tigray’s strike on military bases in the region. Yet his recent “victory speech” to the expired parliament detailed preparations for war that began more than two years ago.

In response to his own question of “some people ask, why was the [military] measure not taken earlier, why this late?”, he said “one who understands the enemy’s capacity and regional alignment of forces does not ask this question,” explaining the federal government was not in a position to act earlier.

Additionally, Fikre Tolossa, a confidante of the premier, confirmed in a 7 November post that Abiy had long planned to attack Tigray. Fikre says he met Abiy a year ago and asked him why he was not taking measures against the TPLF. Abiy’s response was partly that Ethiopia did not have equal military capacity at that moment. In parliament, Abiy revealed how the federal military was recently strengthened, including adding drone capacity, and done covertly so that Tigray’s leaders were not aware.

Since the war began, heavy bombardment and shelling has rained down on Tigrayan cities. The region is being attacked on many fronts by the Ethiopian National Defense Force, the Eritrean military, Amhara security forces and militia, and special forces from Afar and other regions. There has been massive destruction of lives and property. Eritrean and Amhara elements have engaged in widespread pillaging and looting, including, according to multiple reports, prized cultural and religious artifacts.
Tigray is almost completely sealed off. Just before the war, internet, telephone and electricity lines to Tigray were cut by the federal government. It is also blockaded by road and air. All banks have been closed.

Tigrayans outside Tigray are being profiled and dismissed from their jobs. Tigrayans have been fired from the military, police, and other institutions, and remain interned in camps. All bank accounts opened in Tigray have been frozen.

Tigrayans have also been effectively barred from flying inside and outside the country. Even Tigrayans working in international organizations are not spared. Tigrayan peacekeepers in Somalia and South Sudan have been victims. Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the WHO, has also been targeted.

Journalists are not allowed to report from Tigray. There is no humanitarian corridor, only an agreement for aid agencies to provide assistance in areas the federal government controls. Before hostilities, Tigray had an aid-dependent population of around one million. Since the war, reports indicate another one million have been displaced.

More than 50,000 Tigrayans have fled to Sudan after the Amhara factions occupied western Tigray. If it were not for the blocking of fleeing Tigrayans by invading forces, the number would be higher. Eyewitnesses and Tigray’s government have reported massacres and evictions of Tigrayans, probably far outnumbering the well-publicized killings in Mai Kadra.

In western Tigray, Amhara administrators have been installed. The area is effectively being incorporated into the neighboring region. Huge billboards on towns proclaim the towns as such. The same has also been done in southern Tigray. The Eritrean army has hoisted Eritrean flags deep in Tigrayans areas, especially in areas surrounding Sheraro.
In a 4 December statement, Tigray’s government defined the war as an attempt to exterminate the Tigrayan people. That is no exaggeration—the war is on Tigray and Tigrayans. This reality may come as a surprise to those fixated on alleged Tigrayan minority rule during the federal era, but it does not to Tigrayans, and nor should it be to those who know Ethiopian history.

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