Ethiopian Statement

            We, former U.S. ambassadors and charges d’affaires to Ethiopia, were heartened by the humanitarian truce announced by the Ethiopian Federal Government and subsequently accepted by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).  We also recognize the incredible human pain and suffering this conflict has caused, including documented gross human rights violations committed by all armed parties against innocent civilians.  While recognizing the intense emotional distress and hostilities—including ethnic hatred—created by the war and accompanying atrocities, we nevertheless urge all sides to implement the humanitarian cease fire and enter an ongoing process of dialogue to address the outstanding issues which contributed to the conflict.  If this opportunity is lost, and if the conflict is resumed, we see no advantage to be gained by any of the combatants and the only result would be more death, destruction, and suffering. 

            We believe it is equally imperative for armed groups—including Eritrean armed forces—to expeditiously return to their home territories.  While the situation in Tigray may require the most urgent attention, there are serious humanitarian and human rights issues in Afar, Amhara, Oromia, and Benishangul regions that also need consideration and assistance from the Ethiopian Government and the international community.  Our hopes and prayers are with all the peoples of Ethiopia that the country will resume its path towards peace, unity, prosperity, and strengthened democracy.

April 4, 2022

Ambassador (Rtd) Donald Booth

Ambassador (Rtd) Aurelia Brazeal

Ambassador (Rtd) Patricia Haslach

Ambassador (Rtd) Vicki Huddleston

Ambassador (Rtd) Tibor Nagy

Ambassador (Rtd) David Shinn

 

The extent and nature of human rights violations by security forces in Ethiopia is appalling. The Ethiopian government must assertively defend the democratic order from regression, counter the authoritarian behavior of the police and security agencies, and take drastic measures to ensure accountability for human rights violations.

Source: Ethiopia Insight

5 April, 2022

by Alemayehu B. Hordofa

Independent oversight and legal reforms are needed to address extrajudicial killings.

The EPRDF government that ruled Ethiopia from 1991 to 2019 was infamous for using the country’s legal system and institutions for its political interests.

For instance, in response to the Oromo protest movement that began in 2014, Ethiopia’s police and security agencies employed unconstitutional investigation techniques and brutalized protesters to suppress dissent, including by using lethal force.

In 2020, the Ethiopian government publicly acknowledged the veracity of such accusations, including those made in the UN’s 2010 Committee against Torture report. Prior to this, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s parliamentary briefing in 2018 noted that government security forces had committed atrocities on prisoners, while police and prison authorities were complicit in torture committed in secret detention facilities.

After coming to power in 2018, Abiy undertook sweeping political and economic liberalization measures. The government initiated a series of legal and administrative reforms based on a promise to change the authoritarian tendencies of government institutions.

To this end, the government amended the draconian civil society statute, made significant amendments to the repressive anti-terrorism proclamation, amended the federal prison proclamation to bring its standards in compliance with international protocols, continued to release political prisoners, publicly apologized for gross human rights violations, and conducted ‘selected prosecution’ for human rights abuse and corruption crimes.

The government also took the audacious step to reform its security and military apparatus, even though doing so provoked opposition from some senior personnel of the affected institutions. In time, law-enforcement authorities were among those that exhibited promise by implementing reforms.

EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS

Despite the promises and achievements, the democratic reform process is currently encountering challenges with regard to the rule of law due to recurring illegal actions of security forces across the country.

The most recent example of such abuses came after a footage went viral on social media showing a gruesome instance of security forces burning an individual alive. The video was reportedly shot in the Metekel Zone of the Benishangul-Gumuz region. In the video, we also see the burned bodies of other victims.

On 13 March, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released its findings on this incident. In its media briefing, the national human rights body called for the Ethiopian government to ensure accountability for this heinous crime and promise redress for the victims’ families.

Extrajudicial killings by Ethiopia’s security forces: rule or exception?

by Ermias Tasfaye

The horrific immolation in Benishangul-Gumuz was not the first time that the Ethiopian public witnessed brutal killings at the hands of federal and regional security forces.

Recently, the Oromia regional security forces ruthlessly killed the religious and customary leaders of Kereyu Geda Michile, one of the Oromo clans widely known as “Guardians of Oromo cultural heritage” for their unique role in preserving Oromo’s traditional and cultural values such as the Gadaa system.

According to witness testimonies received by the EHRC, the security forces perpetrated this ruthless act based on the belief that these community leaders provided moral support for insurgents operating in the area.

Amid blackout, western Oromia plunges deeper into chaos and confusion

by Ermias Tasfaye

In May 2021, Oromia security forces summarily executed Amanuel Wendimu in the town of Dembi Dollo after parading him in public and forcing him to make self-incriminating statements.

The Dembi Dollo Communication Office justified this cruel act of summary execution by citing the victim’s alleged participation in Abba Torbe, a clandestine assassin group in Oromia.

Similarly, credible media reports condemned Ethiopian security forces for taking prisoners out of their cells, particularly in Oromia, and executing them. There have also been times when security forces passively condoned gross human rights violations perpetrated through mob ‘justice’, thereby participating in the crime through omission.

INDEPENDENT OVERSIGHT

These and other horrendous violations demonstrate the entrenched nature of the security forces’ human rights abuses and indicate that their repressive attitude has not withered away.

The investigations into these and other similar allegations of violence by security forces remain largely obscure. For example, the federal and regional police commissions have failed to publicize data concerning the number of complaints they have received from individuals alleging police acts of human rights abuse, the number of perpetrators that were held accountable, and cases that were rejected without further consideration.

Ethiopia has an international obligation to conduct an effective investigation into human rights abuses committed by its security forces. International jurisprudence requires that an investigation into complaints of police violence must be conducted impartially by ensuring the personal, structural, and institutional independence of the investigating entity.

Accountability for atrocities—why Ethiopia should join the ICC

by Kassahun Molla Yilma

To be effective, this type of investigation should be promptly and thoroughly conducted by experts who are not implicated in the commission of the offense, and with full guarantees of participation by victims and their families in the investigation process.

To properly investigate such crimes, there is a need to establish an independent domestic body with nationwide jurisdiction. Such an institution is needed because there is a high probability of bias when police are tasked with investigating the crimes of fellow officers. The possibility for officers’ to shield or protect their fellows from accountability through refusal to investigate or suboptimal investigation is high.

Moreover, victims alleging police violence overwhelmingly refrain from filing a complaint to the same institution and police stations where they had previously been subjected to human rights abuses, due to fear of retribution and being victimized a second time.

Our ‘protectors’ in blue: Police brutality and misconduct in Ethiopia

by Ayele Woubshet

Furthermore, the thematic questions to be addressed by the investigating body would need to go beyond the individual responsibility of the offending police officers. Because the abuses committed by security officers are allegedly so pervasive, there would also need to be an investigation concerning broader institutional responsibility.

Thus, at least as a matter of public perception, assigning an investigatory mandate to the same institution implicated in committing the offense—and that as a result has a stake in the outcome of the case—would compromise the independence of the investigation.

LEGAL GAP

The legal gap is another factor contributing to the security forces’ horrendous brutalities.

Ethiopia lacks consolidated and comprehensive laws that regulate police use of force. The limited provisions on the matter scattered in the 2004 Criminal Code and other criminal statutes remain inadequate and below international standards.

Independent voices have criticized security personnel for using unnecessary and excessive force. Such criticism has increased due to the security personnel’s use of unchecked violence in some regions, arguably to control crime in areas where insurgents are fighting with government forces.

Judicial reform in Ethiopia: Inching towards justice

by Leul Estifanos

In these areas, the Ethiopian public has witnessed patterns of summary executions, extrajudicial killings, and police defiance of court orders.

The Ethiopian government promised that it would finalize the drafting process of the consolidated law on the use of force in 2019. However, the country has thus far failed to deliver on its promises.

Furthermore, the current Criminal Procedure Code lacks special rules that guarantee the effectiveness of investigations into alleged human rights crimes committed by security forces.

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The substantive criminal law has dedicated some sections to crimes that police and members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) might commit. However, the investigation of crimes committed by people in uniform is governed by the same Criminal Procedure Code that regulates the investigation of other crimes, and this code does not contain rules that ensure the practical independence of investigators.

There is no separate institution authorized to conduct an investigation when police brutality and ill-treatment are alleged. Due to this institutional gap, the same police institutions and officers or their associates are entrusted to investigate crimes committed by the police or security officials.

PRACTICAL CHALLENGES

According to Article 6 (3) of the Attorney General Establishment Proclamation, the Federal Attorney General’s Office (now the Ministry of Justice) is tasked to lead the criminal investigation process.

Article 2 (c) of the recently adopted Definition of Powers and Duties of the Executive Organs Proclamation 1263/2021 empowers the Ministry of Justice to “oversee, follow up and coordinate the criminal investigation function of the Federal Police investigation division and require that a report be submitted to it.”

The Ethiopian Human Rights Roadmap: a feeble bulwark against atrocity crimes

by Yohannes Eneyew Ayalew

However, the role of public prosecutors to ensure the independence of the investigation process has been marred and effectively negated by practical challenges.

The police force has been given an extensive role in investigating human rights crimes committed by its members. There have been various credible reports concerning police rejecting instructions from the prosecution office without accountability and police rebuffing court orders.

The investigation wing of the police institution is accountable to their respective federal, regional, or city administrations’ police commissions. Neither the Ministry of Justice nor Regional State Justice Bureaus have a mandate to hire, fire, or take administrative action against police investigators.

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Even when taking criminal action against offending investigators, prosecutors have to rely on the police to investigate.

The Attorney General Establishment Proclamation authorizes public prosecutors to lead criminal investigations, but the prosecution office lacks a clear legal mandate to conduct a solo investigation. The role of public prosecutors in criminal investigation is merely supervision in practice and hence insufficient to guarantee the independence of investigations into human rights abuses.

INQUIRY COMMISSIONS

Ethiopia has experience with establishing independent commissions of inquiry to investigate crimes committed by police, security personnel, and military forces—even though the de facto independence of such commissions was questionable.

Ethiopia established an ‘independent’ inquiry commission after the conflict in Gambella, and another inquiry commission to investigate political disorder in Addis Abeba following the contested May 2005 elections that descended into street violence.

An Independent Inquiry Commission can ease Ethiopian impunity

by Brook Kebede

Recently, Ethiopia established an Inter-Ministerial Taskforce to investigate crimes and human rights violations committed during the conflict in Tigray that later expanded to the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions.

The two inquiry commissions were established by proclamations and their role was only to conduct a fact-finding exercise; they didn’t have the authority to prosecute alleged offenders.

STRUCTURAL DEFICITS

The extent and nature of human rights violations by security forces in Ethiopia is appalling.

The Ethiopian government must assertively defend the democratic order from regression, counter the authoritarian behavior of the police and security agencies, and take drastic measures to ensure accountability for human rights violations.

Reducing impunity in Ethiopia via the United Nations

by Yigedebal Abay

One such measure would be adopting a comprehensive law to address the absence of a legal framework regulating police use of force and adopting procedural rules that warrant full independence for the investigation of police crimes.

Addressing the structural defects and institutional gaps in relation to criminal investigations into alleged police or security forces’ human rights crimes is another measure that the government should take to eliminate the conditions that are serving as the breeding ground for impunity.

If the Ethiopian government is sincere in its public declaration to end impunity, it is high time for it to defend the democratic transition from regression. It should do so by establishing a genuinely independent body, with perpetual existence, with a mandate to conduct thorough investigations into human rights crimes committed by its agents.

Disclaimer: Although the author is a prosecutor at the Ministry of Justice, he wrote this article in his personal capacity by using publicly available information. Opinions expressed here are his and not of the Ministry.

Ethiopia: Crimes Against Humanity in Western Tigray Zone

(Nairobi) – Amhara regional security forces and civilian authorities in Ethiopia’s Western Tigray Zone have committed widespread abuses against Tigrayans since November 2020 that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. Ethiopian authorities have severely restricted access and independent scrutiny of the region, keeping the campaign of ethnic cleansing largely hidden.

The report, “We Will Erase You From This Land’: Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing in Ethiopia’s Western Tigray Zone,” documents how newly-appointed officials in Western Tigray and security forces from the neighbouring Amhara region, with the acquiescence and possible participation of Ethiopian federal forces, systematically expelled several hundred thousand Tigrayan civilians from their homes using threats, unlawful killings, sexual violence, mass arbitrary detention, pillage, forcible transfer, and the denial of humanitarian assistance. These widespread and systematic attacks against the Tigrayan civilian population amount to crimes against humanity as well as war crimes.

“Since November 2020, Amhara officials and security forces have engaged in a relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing to force Tigrayans in Western Tigray from their homes,” said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. “Ethiopian authorities have steadfastly denied the shocking breadth of the crimes that have unfolded and have egregiously failed to address them.”

The Ethiopian government should ensure immediate and sustained access to the region for humanitarian agencies, release all those arbitrarily detained, and investigate and appropriately prosecute those responsible for abuses. Any consensual agreement reached by the parties to the armed conflict should include the deployment of an AU-led international peacekeeping force to the Western Tigray Zone to ensure the protection of all communities from abuses.

“The response of Ethiopia’s international and regional partners has failed to reflect the gravity of the crimes that continue to unfold in Western Tigray,” said Agnès Callamard, Secretary General at Amnesty International. “Concerned governments need to help bring an end to the ethnic cleansing campaign, ensure that Tigrayans are able to safely and voluntarily return home, and make a concerted effort to obtain justice for these heinous crimes.”

Western Tigray Zone is a fertile administrative area in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Claims over Western Tigray have been the source of heightened boundary and identity disputes since 1992. Western Tigray came under the control of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and allied forces and militias from the Amhara region within two weeks of the outbreak of conflict in Tigray in November 2020.

During the initial offensives, Ethiopian federal and allied forces carried out war crimes against Tigrayan communities, including indiscriminate shelling of towns and extrajudicial executions, forcing tens of thousands to flee to neighbouring Sudan and to other parts of Tigray. Tigrayan militias and local residents also carried out war crimes against Amhara residents and visiting labourers during a massacre in Mai Kadra town on November 9, the first publicly reported large-scale massacre of this conflict.

In the ensuing months, newly-appointed administrators in Western Tigray and Amhara Special Forces – a regional paramilitary force – undertook a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Tigrayan residents of the area.

Over 15 months, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed more than 400 people, including in-person interviews of Tigrayan refugees in Sudan, and remote interviews of Tigrayan and Amhara residents of Western Tigray and the Amhara region who suffered or witnessed abuses. Researchers also consulted medical and forensic reports, court documents, satellite imagery, and photographic and video evidence that corroborated accounts of grave abuses.

Campaign of ethnic cleansing

Amhara regional security forces, militias, and newly appointed authorities carried out a coordinated campaign of ethnically targeted persecution beginning in late 2020.

In several towns in Western Tigray, signs were displayed demanding that Tigrayans leave, and pamphlets distributed issuing Tigrayans a 24-hour or 72-hour ultimatum to leave or be killed. © 2022 John Holmes for Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International

In several towns across Western Tigray, signs were displayed ordering Tigrayans to leave, and local administrators discussed their plans to remove Tigrayans in open meetings. A Tigrayan woman from Baeker town described threats she faced by Fanos, an irregular Amhara militia: “They kept saying every night, ‘We will kill you … Go out of the area.’” Pamphlets appeared giving Tigrayans 24-hour or 72-hour ultimatums to leave or be killed.

The authorities rounded up thousands of Tigrayans for long-term detention and abuse in overcrowded facilities. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch believe thousands of Tigrayans are still held in life-threatening conditions.

Security forces also used gang rape, accompanied by verbal and physical abuse, abduction, and sexual slavery. A 27-year-old Tigrayan woman said that a militia member told her as the men raped her: “You Tigrayans should disappear from the land west of [the Tekeze River]. You are evil and we are purifying your blood.”

Authorities in Western Tigray also imposed restrictions on movement, humanitarian assistance, speaking the Tigrinya language, and access to farmland to coerce Tigrayans to leave. Amhara security forces, and in some places Eritrean forces present in Western Tigray, looted crops, livestock, and equipment, depriving Tigrayans of their means of survival. A 63-year-old farmer from Division village watched as a group of men destroyed his home. One of the men told him: “This is not your land. You have nothing to claim here.”

Many Tigrayan communities, facing starvation and intimidation, felt they had no choice but to leave. In other instances, local authorities provided trucks or buses to expel tens of thousands of Tigrayans, sending them east, toward central Tigray.

This coordinated campaign continued for months. Tens of thousands of Tigrayans had fled or been expelled by March 2021. Abuses and expulsions escalated again in November 2021, when tens of thousands of older and sick Tigrayans, young mothers, and children were expelled, while Amhara forces arrested and detained thousands of adult men, shooting at those who tried to flee.

Tekeze River bridge massacre

On January 17, 2021, Amhara militias, known as Fanos, and local residents rounded up and detained dozens of male Tigrayan residents of the town of Adi Goshu.

Members of the Amhara Special Forces rounded up and summarily executed about 60 Tigrayan men by the Tekeze River. Witnesses and the few men who survived believed the killings were a revenge attack after the Amhara forces suffered heavy losses during fighting with Tigrayan forces the previous night.

Mesfin, one of the men rounded up, said: “They took us… somewhere around the bridge, a kind of field, but we were on the ground. … We were facing a hill.” © 2022 John Holmes for Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International

“When they shot at us, I fell first and then I saw also when the others in front of me were shot and fell,” said a 74-year-old survivor. “And the people behind me fell on me and covered me … After that, they said, ‘The Tigrayans don’t die easily, shoot again.’”

The massacre prompted a mass exodus of Tigrayans from Adi Goshu.

Deaths in detention sites

Former detainees held in sites across Tigray said many people died in detention sites run by the Amhara forces and Fano militias. Some died as a result of torture, denial of medical care, and lack of food and water; guards killed others. A 72-year-old farmer said: “They [Amhara militia guards] kept telling us that Tigrayans deserve to be starved … to death.”

Both Ethiopian federal forces and Amhara authorities have denied allegations of ethnic cleansing in Western Tigray. On February 25, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch wrote to Ethiopian federal and Amhara and Tigrayan regional authorities concerning the organizations’ findings. At time of writing, only the Amhara regional government had responded.

In armed conflict, all parties are obligated to respect international humanitarian law, the laws of war. Amhara regional forces and forces aligned with the Ethiopian government in the Western Tigray Zone committed the war crimes of murder, torture, rape, deportation and forcible transfer, and enforced disappearance. Such violations committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population in furtherance of a state or organizational policy constitute crimes against humanity.

The Ethiopian federal government and its international and regional partners should take concrete steps to protect all communities in Western Tigray, including by immediately releasing Tigrayans arbitrarily detained there, and allowing protection monitoring. On March 24, the government announced a humanitarian truce. Regardless of any truce or ceasefire, Ethiopia’s federal and regional authorities should allow unhindered, independent, and sustained humanitarian assistance.

The government should also demobilize and disarm all abusive militia forces in Western Tigray, and vet Amhara Special Forces and Ethiopian federal forces, and remove those implicated in serious abuses, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said. Civilian officials, including interim authorities in Western Tigray, and security force personnel implicated in serious abuses should be suspended pending investigations.

Any consensual agreement by all parties should include the urgent deployment of an AU-led international peacekeeping force with a robust civilian protection mandate to Western Tigray. This is crucial to promote human rights, to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid, and to help protect at-risk communities in Tigray. Ethiopia’s international and regional partners should support these calls.

A unique feat in the history of cycling: never had a black African won a race at this level
Nairobi, Monday, March 28, 2022

Epochal African victory in cycling: Eritrean Girmay wins classic Ghent-Wevelgem in Belgium

African cycling finally breaks into the world of two wheels that counts. For the first time, Sunday 27 March 2022, he triumphs in a classic from the North. And he crosses an epochal milestone.

Eritrean Biniam Girmay Hailu wins the Ghent-Wevelgem cycling race, Belgium

The Eritrean Biniam Girmay Hailu wins the Ghent-Wevelgem race in Belgium, one of the most important races of the entire international calendar and one of the hardest for the kilometers of cobblestones.

The race, now in its 84th year, was a kind of monopoly for Belgian cyclists. Since 1934 it has been dominated 50 times by home riders, 7 times by Italians and just twice by non-European riders.

Let’s imagine if we thought about the victory of an African athlete . Well, Sunday 27 March becomes a historic day: Biniam Girmay Hailu, 21 years old (he will turn 22 on April 2), originally from Asmara, beat his fellow fugitives in a sprint, with strength and cunning: the French Christophe Laporte, the Belgians Van Gestel Dries and Jasper Stuyven, far more experienced than him.

A unique feat in the history of cycling: never had a black African won a race at this level. And the young Eritrean, while absolutely incredulous of his performance, was well aware of the influence that victory will have on national pride and on the future of this sport in Africa and Eritrea. As we have had the opportunity to write in Africa Express, the discipline is in full development in the Black Continent, as evidenced by the world road cycling organization assigned, in 2025, to Rwanda, for the first time.

Biniam, however, is not exactly a surprise . The success in Belgium is the seventh of his professional career which began just 2 years ago: he won 4 stages in the two most important races on the continent (3 at the Tropicale Amissa Bongo, one at the Tour du Rwanda); the Classic Grand Besançon and, in 2022, the Alcùdia Trophy. In 2021 he was considered almost a national hero after having obtained the silver medal at the Under23 World Cup behind the Italian Filippo Baroncini.

In the last month he had already given clear signals of his conditions and his desire to emerge: he was placed in the top 10 in the Paris-Nice and Milan-Turin and twelfth in the Milan Sanremo, the first classic monument of the cycling season.

Biniam Girmay, of very humble origins, is married and has a daughter. After the amazing sprint he can’t wait to reach his two people most loved by him: “I have not been home for three months – he said – I certainly did not think of obtaining such a victory. I didn’t even know I had to run the Ghent-Wevelgem until last Friday. I hope it is a turning point for African cycling. Now I’m going home and getting ready for the Giro d’Italia (in May, the first three-week race of his career, ed) “.

Girmay rides in the Franco-Belgian team Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, which had followed him for some time and who offered him a four-year contract. The executives had been right. “Ever since Biniam was trained in the World Cycling Center in Switzerland – declared the general manager Jean-François Burlart last August – already in the junior category he had shown his talent by beating Remco Evenepoel (one of the strongest in circulation ed. ) – Our club has decided to focus on young Eritrean cyclists ”.

Coach Aike Visbeek reiterated: “We have invested for the future in Biniam, we have planned a long-term path with him. He has a calm and good character, but above all he has a strong winning personality “.

His cousin Meron Teshome Hagos, former African time trial champion in 2017, had infected him with his passion for cycling in 2015.

“My whole family – says Girmay – has converted to cycling, which in Eritrea has become a national sport. Just think that in my country there are one hundred races a year ”. And the fruits are now visible.

Since the conflict in Tigray started in 2020, Eritrea has become further entangled in Ethiopian politics. Young Eritrean conscripts assigned to the region have been killed, and Eritrean refugees have been displaced. Yohannes Woldemariam argues that the state’s actions under President Isaias Afwerki show a pursuit of regional integration over Eritrean independence, with little regard for its citizens.

Eritrea achieved self-determination after a devastating 30-year war and a referendum that demonstrated overwhelming support for independence. Yet the country’s President, Isaias Afwerki, a homegrown dictator, has hijacked Eritrean aspirations and perpetuated his personal rule through a vicious series of assaults upon real and imagined opponents.

The entire Eritrean youth has been on war footing ever since the 1998-2000 “border war” with Ethiopia, who are put into an indefinite military service and used as unpaid mercenaries for Isaias’ military adventures – in the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen. Since November 2020, Eritrean conscripts as young as 16 have been killed in the Tigray region of Ethiopia for a war that has little to do with them. Meanwhile, Eritrean refugees have been victimised by all sides of the conflict.

Abiy Ahmed has done a personal favour for Isaias, with the conflict helping him to assert himself and prolong his despotic rule. But the same cannot be said for the Eritrean people. Before the war, the country was a pariah, both regionally and internationally. Qatar was once Eritrea’s only significant lifeline, but Isaias has now fostered closer ties with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Russia and China, while under sanctions from the United States. At the United Nations General Assembly in March 2022, Eritrea supported Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, advocating against human rights investigations directed at Russia, distinguishing itself as the only African country to provide the country unequivocal support.

This is set against a backdrop of Abiy in Ethiopia feeling squeezed economically, fearing the potential impacts of the HR 6600 Bill in the US Congress, which would require sanctions on persons deemed to threaten peace and security and violate human rights in the conflict. In contrast, Isaias appears less concerned with HR 6600 because he believes staying the course in the Tigray is worth more than the Bill’s consequences. For one, a resurgence of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) political party in the neighbouring region is seen as an existential threat.

China is worried that Eritrea’s involvement in the conflict will affect its large investments in Ethiopia and has moved to strengthen ties with Isaias. Further, its renewed interest in the Red Sea, for political and economic reasons, can be used by Eritrea as a potential shield. At the same time, Eritrea’s closer ties with China through an embrace of the Belt and Road Initiative also risk a debt trap. Simultaneously, by allowing regional powers like the UAE to use the Eritrean port of Assab for its war effort in Yemen, it situates itself in complex geopolitics.

By antagonising Western countries and the United Nations, Eritrea is relying on a few actors, such as Russia and China, to bring it lucrative rents, particularly from arms and other hidden investments. The result is that in addition to the cost of lives, Isaias’s participation in the Ethiopian civil war is gambling with Eritrean self-determination. Making himself a useful pawn for regional and international actors, which he in turn exploits by switching sides – as in a survival game – is risky business.

It can seem paradoxical, however, that someone like Isaias who fought for Eritrean independence can possibly betray this vision.

Isaias, in fact, has a history of ambivalence about Eritrean sovereignty – second to his grandiose ambitions of using the country’s strategic location to pursue regional hegemony over the Horn of Africa. Meles Zenawi, former Ethiopia Prime Minister, once gave an interview to the CIA agent Paul Henze in which he stated that Isaias had not been as committed to Eritrean independence as the Eritrean people – a view corroborated by Mesfin Hagos, a former Eritrean defence minister and a founding members of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front. In a central committee meeting in 1991, Mesfin says he was stunned to hear Isaias floating the idea of joining the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front political coalition that was governing the country. Isaias quickly retreated from the idea, perhaps biding his time for a more opportune moment.

Mixed signals from Isaias about Ethiopia’s use of Eritrea’s ports have rekindled the landlocked country’s expansionist ambitions to become a naval power, which alarms Eritreans concerned with territorial expansion. In Ethiopia, a desire to use the ports is shared across the political spectrum, from Tigrean activists to Ethiopian elites. Immediately before the Tigray war, the Tigrean General Tsadkan Gebetensae stated on record his ambitions of incorporating the Eritrean port of Assab. Likewise, Professor Gelawdios Araia of Lehman College argued for Tigray’s control of parts of the Red Sea, either by collaborating with “progressive Eritreans” or by force. Abiy in Ethiopia has openly stated his desire for a single army for Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti. Ambassador Dina Mufti, spokesman for the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry, further said: “If you ask each and every Eritrean today, they don’t like or celebrate the day they separated from Ethiopia and Ethiopians feel the same way.”

The lack of insistence from Isaias on demarcation, and instead the suggestion of promoting regional integration, would only steam ahead if his personal power and influence was seen to grow. To this end, Tigrean resistance is a problem. For over 20 years, Eritreans were told that the impasse between the two countries arose from the TPLF’s refusal to demarcate the border, but when Isaias realised that Abiy Ahmed had turned against the political party, he declared that “borders do not really matter”.

Faced with such a helpless situation, the Eritrean diaspora opposition is in a state of paralysis. Some feel that creating an alliance with the TPLF against Isaias is of strategic necessity. Others do not trust the TPLF to respect Eritrean sovereignty.

With Abiy’s questionable control over the Amhara militia, which is adamant to continue the war against Tigray, even if Abiy pursues a negotiated end, Isaias has developed separate parallel relationships with subnational groups, including the Amhara and the Afar. Isaias is now deeply involved in Ethiopian politics in complex ways and committed to the elimination of the TPLF leaders seen as blocking his ambitions.

Amid these political maneuverings, Eritreans are among the major losers of the Tigray conflict, more so because the war is not about them. An Eritrean leader who cared about Eritrean lives and sovereignty would have produced a very different situation.

 About the author

Yohannes Woldemariam

Yohannes Woldemariam is an Ethiopia expert who has been commenting and researching on the Horn of Africa for many years. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

AFRICAERITREAETHIOPIAHORN OF AFRICA

Tigray was surrounded in all directions. Since the government of Tigray had timely intelligence regarding Abiy’s moves, it undertook a preemptive operation to disarm and neutralize the Northern Command—a move we considered a legitimate act of self-defense. Failure to act would have resulted in the total annihilation of Tigray’s leadership; the Northern Command operation gave Tigray a fighting chance against a comparative military colossus.

The World Must Condemn Human Rights Abuses in Tigray as It Does in Ukraine

International solidarity with Kyiv in the face of Russian aggression is admirable. Tigrayans brutalized by Ethiopia and Eritrea deserve the same.

By Getachew Reda, a member of the executive committee of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and was Ethiopia’s minister of communication from 2014 to 2016.

Children, who fled the violence in Ethiopia's, Tigray region, wait in line for breakfast organized by volunteers in Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, on June 23, 2021.

MARCH 23, 2022, 3:18 PM

Source: Foreign Policy

The unprecedented unity of the liberal democratic world against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is admirable. In addition to rallying its allies and the broader international community behind Ukraine, the United States made a powerful case against Russia in the United Nations Security Council and the U.N. Human Rights Council.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken excoriated Russia for its conduct in Ukraine, underscoring its flagrant violations of international law. He accused Russian forces of deliberately targeting schools, hospitals, and critical infrastructure. He also accused Russia of using euphemistic language to refer to its invasion of Ukraine.

Blinken further exhorted members of the council to refrain from saying that both sides bore equal responsibility for the unprovoked attacks of one side, demanding moral clarity and unity. In praising global protests against Russia’s aggression and in support of the rights of Ukraine, Blinken emphatically stated that “if we allow the rules of the international order to be flagrantly trampled anywhere, we weaken them everywhere.”

Many of the principles that Blinken enunciated regarding Russian aggression in Ukraine also apply perfectly to the conflict in the Ethiopian region of Tigray.

But this strong moral stand isn’t universal. Indeed, many of the principles that Blinken enunciated regarding Russian aggression also apply perfectly to the conflict in the Ethiopian region of Tigray. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Eritrean dictator Isaias Afwerki, and their ethnic Amhara expansionist partners have decimated Tigray, with the vast majority of health facilities deliberately destroyed and looted, reversing decades of progress on health care provision.

The invading forces have also systematically raped women and girls, leaving them with enduring physical and psychological scars; plundered Tigray’s wealth; destroyed socioeconomic institutions; murdered innocent civiliansused hunger as a weapon of war to bring Tigrayans to their knees; and vandalized service-providing infrastructure.

Abiy’s oft-repeated narrative regarding the Tigray war is that it came about following the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) attack on units of Ethiopia’s Northern Command in November 2020. However, the Northern Command incident was the beginning, not the cause, of the war.

Tension between Tigray and the federal government began simmering almost as soon as Abiy assumed office in 2018, as he sought to scapegoat the TPLF for the country’s various ills. Abiy saw the TPLF as a formidable counterweight to his centralizing vision, which, based as it is on a rejection of Ethiopia’s fundamentally multinational nature, has since collided with Ethiopia’s messy reality.

When Abiy used the COVID-19 pandemic to postpone the 2020 elections in violation of the constitution, Tigray went ahead with its own regional elections. Soon thereafter, Abiy began to bring the full power of the federal government to bear on Tigray, including by suspending Tigray’s federal subsidies.

Abiy planned to use force to oust the TPLF and install a puppet government over which he would have considerable sway. To decapitate Tigray’s leadership, the Abiy government was in the final stages of positioning personnel and heavy weapons drawn from the country’s three commands in late 2020. In addition, Abiy had also given secret directives to members of the Northern Command carefully selected based on their loyalty to the regime to prepare for an operation from within Tigray.

Tigray was surrounded in all directions. Since the government of Tigray had timely intelligence regarding Abiy’s moves, it undertook a preemptive operation to disarm and neutralize the Northern Command—a move we considered a legitimate act of self-defense. Failure to act would have resulted in the total annihilation of Tigray’s leadership; the Northern Command operation gave Tigray a fighting chance against a comparative military colossus. The fact that Abiy began his massive offensive against Tigray the day after the attack on the Northern Command supports the argument that his government had already made extensive preparations for a military campaign.

Despite having copious amounts of evidence showing Abiy’s and Isaias’s premediated aggression and subsequent destruction of Tigray, the international community’s routine rhetoric has devolved into attempts to apportion blame for the war on Tigray not on the basis of discernible facts about the genesis and conduct of the conflict but on the need to appear evenhanded. The upshot is the establishment of parity between the aggressors and their victims.


Abiy initially peddled his war as a simple “law enforcement operation” to be concluded by detaining or killing a handful of Tigrayan leaders, foreshadowing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s euphemistic “special military operation” in Ukraine. Putin has gone so far as to criminalize calling his invasion of Ukraine a “war.”

Not unlike Putin, Abiy deployed tanks, artillery, jets, helicopters, and tens of thousands of soldiers—a first for routine law enforcement work. Abiy also invited a foreign power—the Eritrean army—to invade Tigray from multiple directions, where they would go on to commit some of the most heinous atrocities against the people of Tigray. Government-owned media outlets and their private affiliates saturated the airwaves with talks of a law enforcement operation in Tigray as a devastating war raged, hiding its true nature from the Ethiopian people.

Outside powers, such as Iran and Turkey, have also intensified and prolonged the conflict by providing the Abiy regime with modern weapons, including drones, and the operational expertise needed to run them. In the case of Ukraine, the West is feverishly attempting to arm its military for self-defense. In the case of Tigray, outside powers with an ax to grind against Tigray (such as Eritrea) and those seeking to secure strategic foothold in the region have jumped on the bandwagon with the aggressors.

During the eight months when the government of Tigray was forced out of its seat of power, it mobilized, organized, armed, and led its people to mount an effective resistance, which led to the retreat in disarray of the invading forces from most parts of Tigray.

However, a series of backbreaking battlefield losses did not cause the Abiy regime to abandon its fantasy of scoring a knockout military victory against Tigray. In addition to its feverish attempts to rearm and regroup for a second round of brutal invasion, the regime also imposed an all-encompassing blockade on Tigray. In September 2021, Martin Griffiths, the U.N. relief chief, lamented the regime’s imposition of a “de facto blockade” that was hampering humanitarian operations.

This vicious siege has put over 5.2 million people at risk of death by starvation. In addition to the suspension of such vital services as electricity, telecommunications, banking, and air and ground transport to and from Tigray, the Abiy regime has also persistently denied the entry of food, fuel, and medical supplies into the region, compounding the already dire humanitarian situation.

What is notable is that the multifaceted humanitarian crises that normally accompany violent conflict are even starker in the case of Tigray due to the intentional destruction of its economic base and the looting of private and public wealth. The actions of the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies as well as an assortment of ethnic Amhara paramilitary forces combined with the persistent obstruction of humanitarian operations have exposed virtually every Tigrayan to extreme hardship.

While economic liberalization is important for the United States, an Ethiopia plagued by violent instability, communal violence, and institutional decay is of no use to anyone.

The upshot is that Tigray is in the midst of a calamitous humanitarian crisis. The U.N. estimates that, to reach the millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance, 100 truckloads of supplies—food, non-food items, and fuel—must enter Tigray daily.

Based on this estimate, since July 12, over 25,000 truckloads of supplies should have arrived in Tigray. In reality, according to figures provided by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, only 1,339 trucks have arrived in Tigray, representing about 5 percent of the supplies required to meet increasing needs. The Abiy and Isaias regimes have left a long trail of evidence confirming their use of hunger as a tool of war.

The predictable outcome of this cruelty is that thousands of Tigrayans have already perished from hunger and easily preventable diseases owing to the lack of food and life-saving medical supplies. Thousands are dying out of sight, as the consequences of the blockade of Tigray—a telecommunications blackout and fuel-related transportation problems—make it virtually impossible to send and receive timely updates on developments in hard-to-reach areas.

Aside from being a violation of international law, siege starvation of civilians is also a moral abomination deserving of condemnation in the strongest terms. The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution condemning the weaponization of hunger in 2018. The council’s silence now in the face of brazen use of hunger as a tool of war risks irreparably undermining its credibility as a guardian of international peace and security.


In contrast to Ukraine, which has justifiably commanded global attention and where concrete action has been taken by allies, the international response to the multifaceted humanitarian catastrophe in Tigray has been inadequate.

Some influential personalities and opinion-makers in the United States remain enamored of Abiy, presumably for his supposedly reformist agenda and commitment to liberalizing the Ethiopian economy. For instance, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Tibor Nagy has expressed his admiration of Abiy over his economic aims.

Given Washington’s long-standing stake in the expansion of liberal market economies—the core feature of the postwar liberal international order at the apex of which the United States sits—it is no surprise that Abiy continues to command a measure of loyalty from the U.S. political establishment despite his disastrous stewardship of the country. And while there is no doubt that economic liberalization is important for the United States and much of the Western world, an Ethiopia characterized by violent instability, rampant communal violence, and institutional disintegration can be of no use to anyone.

Jeffrey Feltman, a former U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, has damagingly emphasized the democratic legitimacy of the Abiy regime, despite Abiy’s jailing of nearly every viable opposition politician a year before recent elections were held. One unfortunate result has been policy incoherence. For instance, Feltman strongly condemned the devastating humanitarian blockade of Tigray, while strenuously objecting to Tigray’s attempt to lift it by force. But unless the international community takes robust action to forcibly end the blockade, the people of Tigray have no alternative.

The “Refugees Platform in Egypt – RPE ” monitored and documented that the Egyptian authorities committed the crime of forced deportations against 31 Eritrean asylum-seekers from Egypt to Asmara – the capital of Eritrea – during the past week. Among the women forcibly returned was a disabled woman who could neither speak nor hear – she was deported with her husband and two children.

Photo: Eritreans protest demanding to save and protect the lives of Eritreans refugees in Egypt, archive. Assenna ©

 

The “Refugees Platform in Egypt – RPE ” monitored and documented that the Egyptian authorities committed the crime of forced deportations against 31 Eritrean asylum-seekers from Egypt to Asmara – the capital of Eritrea – during the past week.

RPE also monitored the transfer of dozens of Eritreans from a detention centre in Aswan Governorate, South of Egypt, to the May,15th Police Station in Helwan, south of Cairo, in preparation for their forcible deportation to Asmara, according to what the detention centre authorities declared to the detainees and their families.

In fact, the first mass deportation took place on March 16, 2022, when the Egyptian authorities deported 24 asylum-seekers, including women and children, some of them from the same family. According to what we have documented from reliable and well-informed sources, the twenty-four detainees were transferred from the airport by the Eritrean security services to an unknown location, and their families cannot know their fate until the moment of writing this piece.

In addition, the deportees were held for varying periods after their arrest on the grounds of entering the country irregularly, some of whom had been arrested about two months ago. They were transferred last February 2022 from their detention centre in Aswan Governorate to the May, 15th Police Station in Helwan, and they were presented to The Eritrean embassy in Cairo to obtain travel documents. At that time, the embassy staff asked their families to pay (30 US dollars for each one of them) in order to extract the documents.

Among the deportees were 5 women, 6 newborn children, and two girls under the age of seventeen – according to what RPE was able to document in light of the blackout and withholding of information from the Egyptian authorities.

Among the women forcibly returned was a disabled woman who could neither speak nor hear – she was deported with her husband and two children. The woman was pregnant at the time of her detention in the police station (Draw) in Aswan Governorate until the time of her birth, and she was transferred to a hospital in Aswan in poor health condition. After the birth, the guards told her that her newborn had health problems and would remain in the nursery and that she should be returned to the detention facility again without being able to see her child. Two days later, she was informed that her baby had died and the officers asked her to identify the newborn, but she explained to them that she could not because she was not allowed to see her baby after birth. Then, the baby was buried.

The second deportation took place on the evening of March 17, 2022, when the authorities deported seven other Eritrean asylum-seekers, including five girls and two boys.

In the same context, the “Refugees Platform in Egypt” monitored the authorities’ transfer of at least fifty Eritrean detainees from detention centres in Aswan Governorate – in the south of the country – to Helwan – south of Cairo – in procedure authorities always follow in order to implement the process of deportation and to present the detainees to The Eritrean embassy to obtain travel documents, which is one of the first steps in deportation process – as RPE documented the methodology used in previous deportations -.

The detainees are being arrested due to undocumented entry into Egypt and remain for varying periods in administrative detention – without legal basis – and are deprived of the right to defence and legal representation. They are detained in inhumane and extremely bad detention conditions in which they are denied the right to medical care, and their families are also deprived of visiting them or knowing any information about their situation, and without any access to the asylum procedures.

Over the past year, RPE documented forced returns carried out by the Egyptian authorities, between October and the end of December 2021, when the authorities forcibly deported 40 Eritrean asylum seekers to Eritrea in three separate deportations, despite local and international condemnations.

UN human rights experts, including the special rapporteurs on Eritrea and on torture, had previously protested against the forced return of 15 Eritreans in October and November 2021, including at least seven asylum seekers, saying that others previously returned were subjected to torture, held in severe punitive conditions, and disappeared.

In the last forced deportation documented by RPE at the end of last year, which was launched from Cairo Airport on December 24, 2021, the Egyptian authorities forcibly deported 24 Eritrean asylum seekers, including children, and the families of the deportees did not receive any news of them since the moment of their deportation.

Last January, the Refugees Platform in Egypt, in cooperation with Human Rights Watch, issued a joint report showing that Egyptian authorities forcibly deport Eritrean asylum seekers – including children – without assessing their asylum claims or other protection needs. These procedures expose the deportees to the risk of arbitrary arrest and torture in their country of origin.

In the joint report, Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Egypt should stop forcing Eritreans to return to a country where they face serious risks of arbitrary detention and torture and allow them full access to asylum procedures. The Egyptian authorities should also immediately halt the immigration detention of children.”

The “Refugee Platform in Egypt” condemns the Forced deportations that the Egyptian authorities continue to carry out, and considers them a violation of Egypt’s international and regional obligations against asylum seekers. We warn that the Egyptian authorities are carrying out the forced deportations of Eritrean asylum seekers regularly in the recent period and recklessly without a real assessment of the danger to the lives of the individuals who are being deported and forcibly returned to the countries from which they fled, fearing for their lives.

By Hailemariam Tesfai-March 19, 2022 Los Angeles

It is with utmost pride that we are assembled here today in Los Angeles, California to celebrate the life and legacy of our great religious leader, his Holiness Abune Antonios the Third Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church. Abune Antonios who inspired us with a legacy of genuine religious leadership and patriotic duty by standing against the evil regime oppressing the Eritrean people and disturbing the peace and stability of our region. Abune Antonios who dedicated himself to God, and to the Orthodox Tewahdo Church since the young age of 5, kept his promise to defending the righteous teachings and dedicated himself to serve the disadvantaged, and not the powerful carrying the sword. Since his departure, much had been said about this legacy and his contributions to the Church, and the people. Therefore, today I will be focusing on the unfinished business he left us to complete. The messages of good governance, justice, equality, unity, fraternity, civility, independence and modernity.

1. Good Governance: The absence of duly elected leaders, who are free of corruption, and the abusive security apparatus is ailing the continent of Africa. The constitutional practice of good governance is key to the socioeconomic prosperity, peace, security and political stability of the whole continent. Good government respects human rights as well as the separation of religion and state. Good governance encompasses a responsible, transparent, inclusive, equitable and participatory government accountable to the people.

2. Unity and Fraternity: The regime in Eritrea, used the differences in society to divide people along religious and regional lines. For every political move, the government uses one religion against the other by introducing policies that seem to favor one over the other. A war or a military operation with covert underground messages expressing that it is benefiting one’s religion or awraja/state and shifting periodically to use the prior action to destroy the other side. This has to stop because people are taking turns to support the government one after the other. The major religions, and various congregations have to forge a permanent cooperative platform of conversation to addresses their differences. The sacrifices made by both His Holiness Abune Antonios, and the late Abona Haj Musa Mohamed Nur demonstrated the unity and fraternity of both religions and will serve as a symbolof solidarity to institutionalize the separation of religion and state in the future free and democratic Eritrea.

3. Civility-Good Manners Abune Antonios has taught us by his actions. He lived a life of love, humility, selflessness, kindness, and respect for people’s religious rights. The sacrifices made by both Abune Atonios and the late Haj Musa Mohamed Nur has created a symbol of resistance to the dictatorship and signifies the peoples position in the separation of religion and state in the future free and democratic Eritrea. Through peaceful means of struggle and well-crafted statements they shook the foundation of tyranny in Eritrea. Their legacy teach us the need for humility, civility and decency in our day to day communications. The social media on both sides of the conflict in Eritrea, is full of conversations with vulgar expressions including the use of vulgar words and statements. Freedom of expression doesn’t mean you are free to say anything you want without accountability for its harmful consequences.

4. Independent Religious Institution: In the Middle Ages, and until recently in our region, after the rank of king, the hierarchy was the nobles, and the knights who used the clergy to empower themselves by integrating the church structure and function with the ruling regimes. This history of interdependence encouraged the government of Eritrea to intervene in the religious affairs first by funding the Orthodox Church to ensure its loyalty. Abune Mekarios, rightfully and strongly, opposed the government involvement with his historic statement to the “president” “Atatyena ember Aythangrena” (help us walk, but don’t carry us on your shoulders”. The government insisted on funding a construction of Church Administrative building, and then started to forcefully collect or share alms donated to the church by its followers. When the church started to disagree with the state policies related to religions, the government demanded the funds given to them be returned to the Treasury Department. The church agreed, and sent invitation letters to its parishioners for a meeting without telling them that the meeting was for fundraising purposes. The government security traced every letter and asked the church what the purpose of the meeting was. The church told them it is fundraising campaign to pay the debt owed to the government. The security office warned them not to do any fundraising on that day. The church administration cancelled the fundraising, and started paying the money on a monthly basis. In the future democratic Eritrea, the land and property of the religious institutions must be protected. And, there should be a clear separation of religion and state, and the rights of all religious denominations must be equal and constitutionally guaranteed.

5. Modernity & Universality: Education plays a key role in the socio-economic and political change of a nation. According tounverified data, Eritrea has 76.5% literacy rate in 2018. Elementary school students, dream of leaving the country to avoid Sawa indefinite military services, high school and higher education is history. Traditionally women are tasked with child-rearing and caring are more disadvantaged receiving none or lesser education. These statistics are reflected in our religious institutions. Churches and mosques were the only sources of literacy for hundreds of years. The church now have literate and educated followers dependent upon the clergy for guidance. Abune Merkarios who is currently serving as the acting Patriarch, clearly understood the challenges and had a plan to modernize the church. But, he was intentionally exiled to put the church under full control of the government. As demonstrated by the Archbishop of the Eritrean Catholic Church during the “Hawkha Abelo? “ሓውኻ ኣቤሎ” “Where is your brother?” Movement courageously declared from inside Eritrea to inspire the Eritrean people to demand answers to the whereabouts of their disappeared children, the regime in Eritrea did not react by jailing the Bishops fearing global sanctions. Modern churches structured with advanced hierarchy of administration connected to their international headquarters are more powerful than ancient churches with lesser or no resource for advancement. The role of Abune Mekarios in the advocacy for the Patriarch with the priest orthodox churches was instrumental in exposing the authoritarian government to the world. I hope his dreams come true in post PFDJ Eritrea to see an independent and modernized orthodox church.

In Conclusion:

I hope Abune Antonios’ dreams come true in a post-pfdj Eritrea so that members of the church can enjoy an independent and modernized orthodox church, and for all Eritreans to freely practice their respective religions, and administer and defend their religious institutions using the rights guaranteed by a constitution.

Victory to the legacy of Abune Antonios.

Victory to the Eritrean People.

God Bless our nation!

Tigrayan man burnt alive

This is surely one of the most horrific acts of this horrific conflict.

Below is some of the information we have learnt so far: from Tigrayan and Ethiopian sources.

Martin

Ethiopian Security Forces Burn Tigrayans alive, talk about Cannibalism

Source: TGHAT

A shocking video emerged on social media on 11th March 2022 showing Amharic-speaking Ethiopian security forces in uniforms burning Tigrayans alive, mocking them, and talking about how delicious their roasted flesh would be with injera or bread.

https://www.tghat.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/10000000_1112200552894096_5850767328899841335_n.mp4

This gruesome recording shows security forces dragging a severely beaten man to a smoldering pyre. The victim seems to be stripped naked and one man is seen carrying a piece of his cloth on a stick, which he later throws into the fire. The partially burned bodies of other people are discernible in the fire. The soldier refers to them as “his” (the man who is being dragged to the fire) brothers. They then count until three and throw their victim onto the fire. They go on to add more dry grass and firewood to it and revel in the act of burning. They mock the victim and ask him to speak while he is burning.

They keep asking him “እውነቱን ተናገር” (tell the truth). He answers “What can I tell you?”. The victim makes a final appeal from the fire begging “Please, Please”. To which the attackers respond with taunts, humiliation, and encouragement to each other “burn him” (አቃጥለው), “roast him” (ቁለው) and other descriptions associated with cooking (አቁላላው). One of them makes a bizarre cannibalistic suggestion, saying that they ought to eat the burning flesh with injera, and another of the attackers replies saying it is probably best with bread.

 

The victim makes a few desperate attempts to move out of the fire. His killers push him back to the fire with sticks, and they add firewood and grass.

According to an analysis of this video with some translations, the uniforms reveal the presence of special forces from the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s and Amhara regions as well as the Fano vigilante groups. Our sources in Gilgel Beles also informed told us that there are SNNP and Amhara ‘leyu” force operating in tandem in the area. But Ethiopian National Defence Force uniforms are also seen in the video. The use of “junta” in reference to the victim reveals that the victims are Tigrayans. (See below why they are Tigrayans).

The perpetrators used extremely abusive language “mother f*cker”; “This is your destiny – you are not yet annihilated”; “This is the price you have to pay”

Important Context

https://youtu.be/XwagOHh4TAM?t=10

An Amharic Youtube channel, Ethio 360 Media, in its Saturday, March 05, 2022, aired programming which may offer some context about this (starts from minute mark 10). Citing a truck driver (part of his interview is also partially aired in the program), Habtamu Ayalew of 360 Media says that on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, OLA and Benishangul Gumuz forces attacked a convoy of Ethiopian troops that was traveling from Gilgel Beles town to the GERD site. This attack was also confirmed in a BBC Amharic news piece citing an anonymous high-level official from the Benishangul Gumuz region.https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d2342999.358567573!2d35.234354894372295!3d11.420013768950087!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x165a6dbc48e085a1%3A0x5c35473338180f61!2sGilgelBeles%20Town!5e0!3m2!1sen!2snl!4v1647045541293!5m2!1sen!2snl

According to the Ethio 360 reporting which is more detailed than the one from BBC, following the attack, 12 Tigrayans were arrested in Dangur Woreda of Benishangul Gumuz.https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d780340.2862115607!2d35.60902028201137!3d11.32417315980386!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x165a21f508aab0fb%3A0x371842dd30aad959!2z4Yuz4YyJ4YitLCBFdGhpb3BpYQ!5e0!3m2!1sen!2snl!4v1647046303990!5m2!1sen!2snl

Then they were made to travel on a bus towards the site of the GERD. He doesn’t specify the date, but he makes it clear that it is after March 2, the day of the alleged attack. Habtamu says that the Tigrayans said [to their captors] that they were put by ENDF troops on board the bus bound to the GERD site. Habtamu says the Tigrayans were then shot dead in public in the town (not clear which town he meant). Habtamu remarks about a conspiracy in taking the civilian Tigrayans from prison and putting them on the bus and that no one knows who exactly did that.

Concluding Remarks

Habtamu is an ardent Amhara nationalist and he never reveals information that can in anyway show Amhara forces and Fano in bad light. That explains a bit why Habtamu simply said they were executed in public without any details and why the part of the interview where the truck driver talks about the way the Tigrayans are killed was not aired.

Habtamu says the Tigrayans were arrested following the attack on the convey traveling to the Gerd site, but many other social media activists have said they were arrested earlier following the sweeping arrests following the declaration of state of emergency. Habtamu says the Tigrayans are 12, but the person who first released the video says his source told him they are 13.

The men in the video claim that this was a retaliation for the killing of their captain and tell their victim: “This is how you burned us yesterday”. This would suggest that the events in the video occurred on March 3, assuming the date of the attack is March 2. If this account from Ethio 360 Media and BBC is the context of the murders in the video, it seems that innocent Tigrayans were set up for retaliation.

Based on our sources in Gilgel Beles town, the BBC report, and the EThio 360 report, we have established the site of the attack to be in the blue line below and its date on 3 March 2022.https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m24!1m12!1m3!1d334547.564156186!2d35.51439175134555!3d11.242519694573163!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!4m9!3e2!4m3!3m2!1d11.269989899999999!2d35.7294033!4m3!3m2!1d11.184405799999999!2d35.840448599999995!5e1!3m2!1sen!2snl!4v1647081315539!5m2!1sen!2snl

And the site of the massacre to be in Aysid, the area below. The government also confirms [archived] that the burning took place in Aysidhttps://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d147761.6196803421!2d35.58200612540214!3d11.284366903391492!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x1659e99a42d6368f%3A0xab8424584531e6b3!2sAysid%2C%20Ethiopia!5e1!3m2!1sen!2snl!4v1647086432703!5m2!1sen!2snl

Also see
1) A graphic footage of the Debre Abay massacre: What do we know about it?

2) A footage of Aksum residents identifying one of the 700 massacred

3) Killing for Pleasure: What the Phone of an Ethiopian Soldier in Tigray Reveals (Warning: Extremely Graphic Images)

4) Killing for Pleasure II: Set of Photos Obtained from the Phone of an Ethiopian Soldier in Tigray (Warning: Extremely Graphic Images)

 

The Ethiopian Government, March 12 condemned the event and located it in Isid Kebele. https://www.facebook.com/FDRECommunicationService/posts/134660202407795

FDRE Government Communication Service-በኢፌዴሪ የመንግስት ኮሙኒኬሽን አገልግሎት

M1amrcfh 91267 m5at0i 6:2or2 AM879l  · 

Extremism cannot bring peace or justice to the truth!!!.

Recently in Benishangul Gumuz region Metekel zone Guba woreda Isid Kebele a very cruel and inhuman act has been carried out. A very cruel act that has been circulating on social media has been seen causing innocent citizens to die by fire.

This act is a horrible crime that has disturbed us from Ethiopian culture, values and any kind of humanity. Unless this evil act speed up destruction, it can not bring peace or justice. Therefore, it should be condemned and condemned. Whatever their origin or identity, the government will take legal action on those who committed such acts which are far from humanity and cruelty.

In Benishangul Gumuz region, we are working together with the region and all the security agencies to control the illegalities seen in different areas and to prevent the damage on innocent citizens.

The government will no longer tolerate those who put innocent citizens at risk. Therefore, the government is strongly concerned that these people who are involved in crime and endanger the lives of citizens should be saved from their actions.

Government communication service

 

According to AFP the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission condemned the atrocity

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission issued a statement - but not in English.

Nairobi – The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said on Sunday that government forces were responsible for burning a Tigrayan man to death, a barbaric act circulated in a... Read more

 

Nairobi – The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said on Sunday that government forces were responsible for burning a Tigrayan man to death, a barbaric act circulated in a widely-shared video that sparked outrage on social media.

Ethiopia’s government on Saturday vowed to investigate and take action against anyone involved in “the extremely savage act” depicted in the video, which shows an unarmed man being set on fire as a group of people, including some wearing army uniforms, taunt him.

On Sunday, the EHRC said the victim was a Tigrayan man who was “burnt alive… with the participation of government security forces and other people”.

The atrocity occurred on March 3 in the northwestern region of Benishangul Gumuz, which borders Sudan and South Sudan. It followed an attack a day earlier that left at least 20 people dead, the state-affiliated independent rights body said.

Security officials later captured and shot dead eight Tigrayans suspected of involvement in that assault, it added.

“The bodies of the deceased were taken by security forces to a nearby forest and burned,” the EHRC said in a statement, citing eyewitness testimony.

“In between this, an ethnic Tigrayan who was suspected of having contact with the deceased, was arrested… and thrown (on the pyre) with the deceased, with him dying of fire burns,” the EHRC quoted eyewitnesses as saying.

“Those who were in the area were Ethiopian army soldiers, Amhara region special police forces and Southern region police forces,” the rights body said, calling for a criminal investigation.

The video could not be independently verified by AFP and it was not immediately clear if the atrocity was connected to the ongoing 16-month war in northern Ethiopia.

‘Stone Age savagery’ 

The conflict between government forces and Tigrayan rebels in Africa’s second most populous country has killed thousands of people. There are widespread reports of atrocities, including mass killings and sexual violence.

The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which has allied with the Tigrayan rebels, accused Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his Prosperity Party of encouraging the “Stone Age savagery” on display in the video.

 

ALSO READ | Ethiopia vows probe into gruesome video of man on fire

 

“The atrocious act we are subjected to stems directly from the wicked rhetoric” deployed by Abiy’s party and its allies, the OLA said in a statement released Saturday.

According to the UN, the fighting has displaced more than two million people, driven hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation and left more than nine million in need of assistance.

Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council announced that Fatou Bensouda, a former chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), would head a UN investigation into a wide range of alleged violations committed by all sides in the war.

Martin Plaut | March 14, 2022 at 9:58 am | Tags: Burnt alive, Tigray war | Categories: Africa, Ethiopia, Horn of Africa | URL: https://wp.me/p1OD48-5vQ

Eritrea is one of the poorest, most closed and least-developed countries in the world, with little internet access and no universities. Against this background, it would seem an impossible task to enter the Danish labour market. But their general discipline, reliability and calm manner have made Eritreans popular among Danish employers.

Source: European Commission

Employment figures for refugees who have been in Denmark for five years are both surprising and positive.

During the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ five years ago, the vast majority of those who came to Europe were from Syria. The same was true of the 10 000 people granted asylum in Denmark at the time: more than half were Syrian. There was a big focus in Danish media on this Syrian group, and almost no mention of the second largest group: Eritreans.

So, how did those refugees fare?

The Danish National Center for Integration has found that many of the people who were granted asylum in 2015 are now working in unsubsidised jobs. Syrians have performed better than previous cohorts of refugees in this respect, with a total work rate of 50% after five years.

The clear top scorers in employment, however, are Eritrean men. Only five years after arrival they are employed to almost the same extent as Danish women, at 71%. Danish women themselves make up one of the most active labour market participant groups in the world (72%). This is very impressive when one considers the starting point of refugees from Eritrea and could be highlighted as a fantastic success story, but the Danish Minister of Integration has remained silent.

An analysis on REFUGEES.dk looks more deeply into the issue and the context of these numbers, including with a special profile on Eritrean refugees. Eritrea is one of the poorest, most closed and least-developed countries in the world, with little internet access and no universities. Against this background, it would seem an impossible task to enter the Danish labour market. But their general discipline, reliability and calm manner have made Eritreans popular among Danish employers. Additionally their Christian faith has made it easier for them than for the predominantly Muslim Syrians to join social life in Denmark.

Educational background is another important factor when it comes to the labour market, and both Syrians and Eritreans tend to have very low education levels from their home countries. They have therefore mainly found unskilled jobs in Denmark, following the strategy of the Danish government. Neighbouring countries Sweden and Norway, though, focus much more on language skills and education for refugees, which has proven a better strategy in the longer term.