Viewpoint

A moral appeal to end hostilities

There will be no winners in a war fueled by a failure of political leadership.

It is a moral outrage and a sad irony that Ethiopia is at war with itself whilst actively engaged in peace-making elsewhere in the near-abroad.

To add to the irony, the public watched the intense build-up with indifference only to feel perturbed as the nation dipped into a fratricidal bloodshed of a frightening scale, unfamiliar to the present generation of enlisted men and women.

From here on, not even the wisest pundits can predict what the raging conflict has in store for this nation of nationalities, once at war against poverty, the only enemy with which no compromise is possible.

What is certain, however, is that, in the absence of compromise, this country is in for a seismic humanitarian crisis far beyond its meager shock-absorbing capacity.

In this hour of peril, the moral imperative, as it were, is to mobilize public opinion and leverage mediation, rather than bickering over which side planned and instigated the bloody conflict.

As “truth is the first casualty of war”, it is for an impartial inquiry panel to sort out the claims and counterclaims and identify the guilty party that was most responsible for the debacle.

In the meantime, it must be said with righteous indignation that both sides bear responsibility for a as much baiting on a premature foreclosure of peaceful dialogue  and escalating the conflict thereafter.

If nothing else, the haste with which each side upped the ante goes to show the moral failings of the former allies in the now defunct EPRDF coalition. But if decency still matters, the only prudent course of action is to stand down and begin peace talks without preconditions.

That said, it remains to call upon religious leaders, peace advocates, and other influential public figures to bring their combined moral weight and broker cessation of hostilities as a prelude to comprehensive peace talks.

There is no shame in extending an olive branch if the alternative is worse than the momentary flack one must take for daring the opposite side to reciprocate in kind.

Surely if both sides lack the moral courage to budge, the human toll of the tragic conflict is bound to bulge and severely diminish the prospect of a post-conflict reconciliation.

In this hour of peril, saner voices with reputed pedigree also bear responsibility to encourage dialogue and remind the war-mongers that, by its very nature, the kind of conflict Ethiopia is in rarely lends itself to a military solution.

If proof is needed, suffice to recall the case of Yugoslavia, where zealous pursuit of a unilateral settlement quickly degenerated into mindless ethnic cleansing and broke apart the republics into EU-dependent mini-states overnight.

This is not to suggest that Ethiopia is doomed to go the way of Yugoslavia, but instead to draw attention to the possibility of a no less calamity should, by some consequential mishap, the conflict spill over to other regions with a recent history of violent flare-ups.

To end on a positive note, one cannot but hope that, sooner rather than later, everyone, not least those in charge, will realize that there can be no victory to celebrate after the fratricidal slaughter—but only a vigil to hold for the dead and injured from a war waged in vain.

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This is the author’s viewpoint. However, Ethiopia Insight will correct clear factual errors.

Main photo: Ethiopian refugees cross the border into Hamdayet, Sudan, leaving the Tekezze River in the background; UNHCR/Hazim Elhag.

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About the author

Genenew Assefa

Genenew is a retired former senior civil servant.

11 Comments

  • “From here on, not even the wisest pundits can predict what the raging conflict has in store for this nation of nationalities, once at war against poverty, the only enemy with which no compromise is possible.”

    That does seem true for the unsuspecting. Ethiopia has been at war with itself for the past 47 years. After the demise of the military regime in 1991 TPLF had a chance for a fresh and inclusive start. However, what we went through is escalation of conflict rhetorical or actual, false narratives of historical events that eventually gear the focus to only conflict and war, the divide and conquer politics sold as multi-national federalism.

    The “war on poverty” was a coined meme by Meles Zenawi while his ethic party was enriching its members and leaders at the expense of the mass. Some would like for us to think that alienations of certain sections of the society from the political, social and economic sphere was an acceptable norm. Designation of an entire section of the society as enemy of state and exposing its members for mass scale ethnic persecution seemed very legit for certain elites.

    The conflict with TPLF isn’t something that blew up to full scale war overnight. All the indications are that TPLF had been moving to a position where it could stay as a hegemony for eternity or declare its independence when the going gets tough. Alas! They miscalculated the interest of other members of the society and overly imagined their strength to the demise of their pipe dream.

    Now we have a clean slate to start charting our future as a country post the dramatic end of TPLF. If we are circling back to the way politics has been so far for the longest, we may see more of the conflicts to come through at some very near future. We all have to be equally Ethiopians or else we will still continue to consume our meager resources trying to give a shot at something that has been proven to fail under our own witness. Starting from honestly assessing the conundrums we are in would help build the future in a strong foundation. Otherwise, misconstruing facts that led up to the conflict and creating narratives of our own contrary to the facts on the ground are anathema to finding just solutions.

  • Ethiopia Insight has been mostly impartial on the latest political news. We appreciate that and hope the administrators get through their issues with the government. Keep being the platform for different ideas.

  • “Surely if both sides lack the moral courage to budge, the human toll of the tragic conflict is bound to bulge and severely diminish the prospect of a post-conflict reconciliation.”

    This is true, but.

    Dear Mr. Gennew Assefa,
    We more or less understand this already. We need people to write with more rigor about the quandary we are in. Truth may be the first causality of war, but, at the minimum we need the effort to start accounting for and recording the facts that are known.

    At the minimum, what TPLF said they did in regards to Northern Command (their own words) should be put up on the board and used as a reference point for discussions.

    The election board’s decision to postpone elections, and Tigrai’s region holding elections need to be discussed to establish the FACTS first. This means things both sides agree on.

    These are possible starting to begin talking about the complexity and possible options of the current issue.

    Denial, avoidance and oversimplification will only add to the noise.
    Maybe give it more time if you can and help us in this respect.
    Thank you for your efforts,

  • So self-defeatist and unecessary war. Even though both sides bear of some responsibilities of the debcale it’s even more so on the regime side. First, the big onus is on the regime’s side because it is the national government that supposed to search for solulition and creative concessions, and not involving in warmongering and trigger-happy contest. Second, when there is still more than 3 million people around the country needs to be relocated, rehabilitated and helped why subject still millions more to the same fate? Thirds, if the regime interested to enforce the ‘ law and order’ , it should have started with those regions that still struggling to enforce it that many of the displacement and local conflicts occuring, but not in the Tigrai region that has the least , if none. Third, Aby’ has no legal or moral authority to overthraw a regional admin wthin the federal or wage illegal war against any regional entity untill, and untill.only, he is formally and legally elected to the premiership office and both of the Pamlement Houses are elected through constitutional, fair and free election. This has never happened and yet no one mentioning about it and it’s drowned in amid avellanche of war praganda and self-serving political party narratives or willful ingorance.

  • So self-defeatist and unecessary war. Even though both sides bear on some responsibilities of the debcale it’s even so on the regime side. First, the big onus is on the regime’s side because it is the national government that supposed to search for solulition and creative concessions, and not involving in warmongering and trigger-happy contest. Second, when there is still more than 3 million people around the country that needs to be relocated, rehabilitated and helped why subject still more millions to the same fate? Thirds, if the regime interested to enforce the ‘ law and order’ it should have started with those regions that still struggling to enforce it that many of the displacement and local conflicts occuring, but not in the Tigrai region that has the least , if none. Third, Aby’ has no legal or moral authority to overthraw a regional admin wthin the federal or wage illegal against any regional entity untill, and untill.only, he is formally and legally elected him to the premiership office and bothof the Pamlement Houses are elected through constitutional, fair and free election. This has never happened and yet no one mentioning about it’s drowned in amid avellanche of war praganda and self-serving political party narratives or willful ingorance.

  • The Federal government has done everything within its capacity to avoid a hot war such as the one that is raging now. It is disingenuous to put the blame on both parties while the TPLF was the one who encircled federal forces in the dead of night and massacred them while they were sleeping. The federal government was forced to respond or a popular protest who have ousted it. For that reason, the party to blame is the TPLF and they are at the verge of their total annihilation.

    Every ethnic conflict that happened in the last 3 years was instigated and sponsored by the TPLF. Clear evidence of this the intensity and frequency of the conflicts came down in the last 3 weeks when the TPLF started gasping for its last breath and could not do what it has been doing since it was removed from the federal government.

    So, Ethiopia would be better off after TPLF is completely crushed and burned. Just let’s wait and see.

  • The Federal government has done everything within its capacity to avoid a hot war such as the one that is raging now. It is disingenuous to put the blame on both parties while the TPLF was the one who encircled federal forces in the dead of night and massacred annihilation while they were sleeping. The federal government was forced to respond or a popular protest who have ousted it. For that reason, the party to blame is the TPLF and they are at the verge of their total annihilation.

    Every ethnic conflict that happened in the last 3 years was instigated and sponsored by the TPLF. Clear evidence of this the intensity and frequency of the conflicts came down in the last 3 weeks when the TPLF started gasping for its last breath and could not do what it has been doing since it was removed from the federal government.

    So, Ethiopia would be better of after TPLF is completely crushed and burned. Just let’s wait and see.

  • I have an “adopted” son in Axum and so anxious that I can have no contact to see if he and his family are OK. I visited Ethiopia 8 years ago and met him then, when he was 13. He is not particularly political, but in these kinds of wars, everyone gets involved whether they want to or not. I am so anxious to be able to have email or phone contact again. It all just seems like power grabs to me, an outsider but with a serious interest in Ethiopia. I also am involved in a group that has photographed ancient Christian manuscripts in Ethiopian monasteries, so we are anxious about civil war as well.
    Even though we have digitized copies, we want the originals to remain safe–as well of course, as the people. I agree, pleas just put the power grabs aside and talk.

    • Your observation and commentary lacks depth and clear understanding of the issues that led to this conflict. While it is always easy to say that both sides
      are to blame to look impartial, one has to be insightful and analytical to be objectively unbiased. To that end, I believe the federal government has an obligation to keep the security of the country as its most important objective. The TPLF has been instigating and funding all kinds of sabotage to render the nascent change the country is undergoing. If the federal government becomes too lax and indifferent to the suffering of the innocent victims that are being killed, maimed and marginalized by the TPLF, it would have failed its reason for existence.

      War is never a solution. But, the federal government has to defend its people when a group of terrorists who are hell bent on destroying the country. No government in the world will sit idly when a terrorist group is waging war on its own people.

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