In-depth

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.

Competing national narratives 

What are the historical and ideological causes and new developments and events that have led to this war on Tigray, and what are the aims?

Tigray is the origin of almost everything held dear by the Amhara national narrative for Ethiopia: 3,000 years of uninterrupted statehood, the Axumite and pre-Aksumite civilizations, the Ethiopic (Ge’ez) script, the entry point for both Christianity and Islam, the religious music of St. Yared, the land of the First Hijra, the many archeological sites and monasteries, the vast Ge’ez literature, and the battle of Adwa, to name some. 

This history is, counterintuitively, a source of chronic political problems, both in Ethiopia and Eritrea. 

Prior to colonialism, Tigray was a hub of politics and power in Ethiopia and Eritrea, with, towards the end, Mekelle as the main political center. Back then both of them were known as Abyssinia. For a long time, Tigray, also as in the name of the kingdom of Aksum, has been a constant focus of political constituencies in today’s Eritrea and Ethiopia. 

About Tigray’s central and constant presence, historian Richard Reid says “Tigray/Abyssinia is always the reference point, the entity however difficult to define in itself  from which others are either ‘independent’ or to which they pay ‘tribute’. It is the shadowy imperium whose presence is constant, if more in the mind than in reality”. Tigray, by the force of its history and heritage, has been an integral part of the politics of Ethiopian and Eritrean nationalisms, even when it is not asserting itself. 

After the martyrdom of Emperor Yohannes IV at the battle of Metema while fighting the Mahdist invasion, colonial Italy and an Ethiopian internal power struggle split this constantly existing reference point and political center into two: today’s Ethiopian Tigray and the Tigrinya-speaking part of Eritrea. This sundering was a political cardinal sin that continues to haunt Ethiopia and Eritrea. 

The Italians were in search of a foothold in the area, and King Menelik of Shewa made a secret deal with them, inviting them to take more territory in order to divide Tigray and blockade Tigray proper from having access to arms. Tigray was, like now, attacked by allied Italian Eritrea and Menelik’s Amhara Ethiopia. At the expense of Tigray, two power centers emerged: Asmara of Italian Eritrea and Addis Abeba of King Menelik of Shewa. 

The two centers imagined and embarked on two different nation-building projects that are, albeit differently, related to the Tigray/Aksum civilization. 

The project centered in Asmara wanted to create a new national identity completely severed from Tigray/Aksum. The other one centered in Addis Ababa wanted to appropriate the Tigrayan/Aksum history as an Amhara history and to assimilate or eliminate the Tigrayan people. It envisioned an Amharized, centralized Ethiopia where Amharas are its legitimate rulers and to which everyone else should melt into. This was a departure from previous imperial Ethiopia, Niguse-negest—the king of kings—which was a loose empire with an emperor and different kings that pay tribute to the emperor but have almost all other power within their kingdom.  

In an effort to boost these two national projects and to prevent Tigray’s rise, both Italian Eritrea and the new Amhara Ethiopia employed tactics to weaken and impoverish the region. The Tigrayan elite were blockaded and eliminated via arrests and by making them fight each other. Tigray was subjugated, impoverished, excluded and, eventually, neglected. 

Over the years, as a result of the deliberate impoverishment and neglect and subsequent emigration, Tigrayans came to be seen as paupers and were subjected to derogatory names in both countries. In Eritrea, Agame, the name of the Eastern Tigray area, was changed into a derogatory word to refer to all Tigrayans. Tigrayans were also portrayed as treacherous and perfidious to the extent that a zigzag road was named Libi-Tigray (‘the heart of Tigray’) and it is still in use today. In Amharic Ethiopia, such derogatory terms as locusts, lice-infested, beggars, banda, and many more, were used to refer to Tigrayans, and are still employed today. 

Oppression, rebellions, and punishments

At the end of the 19th Century, in Emperor Menelik’s Ethiopia, oppression and destruction befell Tigray. 

Contemporary historian Fisseha Abiye Ezgi wrote that “every man they could find was either slaughtered or his genitals cut off”. He adds “the Shewan soldiers looted and demolished houses or set them on fire. They reduced Enderta into non-existence”. Tigrayans were scattered in all directions. Gebrehiwet Baykedagne, another Tigrayan political economist of the time described the conditions of Tigrayans thus: “There are hardly any Tigrayan youth left in their birth place, Tigray. Like a swarm of bees without their queen, they are aimlessly scattered in four corners of the earth”.  

Ever since the formation of Menelik’s Ethiopia centered in Shewa, Tigray has been seen as a threat, and the solution has been to impoverish and repress it. 

Speaking of this, Dr. Solomon Inquay in his book “Tigrai: The Agony and Ecstasy” writes about the underlying philosophy of Shewa in relation to Tigray “a rich and prosperous Tigray is ungovernable and a threat to Shewan supremacy…whoever wants to rule Tigray should ensure that it remains poor and begging”. This thinking still thrives, making some Ethiopians oppose development projects in Tigray, and is one of the main reasons for the war on Tigray today. 

Driven by the unbearable oppression and poverty in Menelik’s Ethiopia and attracted by the booming colonial economy, many Tigrayans fled to Italian Eritrea where they were also treated as inferior by Italians and their collaborators in order to help create a feeling of “privilege” among the Tigrayans in Italian Eritrea, as opposed to the Tigrayans coming from Tigray proper. 

The reality of superior economic development in Italian Eritrea, the poverty of Tigrayans, and thus their migration for menial jobs to Italian Eritrea, eventually led to a belief of superiority among Eritreans and a flourishing of dehumanizing and degrading stereotypes against Tigrayans. 

In Amharic Ethiopia, Tigrayans were treated even worse, which helped create Amhara supremacy. Just to give an example of the demonization of Tigrayans in Menelik II’s Ethiopia, his chronicler, Afewerk Gebreyesus, in his book “ዳግማዊ ምንይልክ (Menelik II),”  wrote “[when Tigrayans speak] in their language which lacerates the throat, pregnant women undergo miscarriage while the breast of women who just had delivery dries out.” 

In 1943, Tigrayans rose in rebellion, known as The First Weyanne, against Emperor Haile Selassie, Menelik’s eventual successor. The main cause was the abrogation of Tigray’s autonomous status and imposition of direct rule from Shewa (Addis). Tigrayans demanded an end to oppression and a reinstatement of self-rule. 

An Ethiopian tank near Zalambessa during the war with Eritrea, June 2000, Petterik Wiggers.

Haile Selassie, with the help of the British Royal Airforce, bombed Tigray into submission. Among the areas heavily bombed is Mekelle market. This is memorialized by the unique buildings known as Dif’o in Mekelle’s Qedamay Weyane area, which was then the market area. 

As punishment, the Ethiopian army was let loose on the people resulting in vindictive mass massacres, pillaging and looting. This was fed by the paranoid fear that, if not weakened, Tigray would rise to supremacy again and rule the country. As result, Tigrayan lands were taken away and given to the Emperor’s favorite nobles and to the neighboring regions of Wollo and Gondar. The ongoing war, the measures being taken, and the annexation of Tigrayan land recalls this past era.

Infrastructure left by Italians was dismantled and taken to Shewa—just as Isaias Afewerki’s stormtroopers are carrying back looted Tigrayan equipment to Eritrea today.

For instance, in the 1940s, power generators supplying electricity to Adwa, Selekleka and Adigrat were dismantled and taken to Addis. The towns had to wait decades before they could get electricity access. Almost all schools in Tigray were also closed. Tigrinya was forbidden even between two Tigrayans conducting any business. 

The oppression and grievances eventually gave birth, in 1975,  to the second Weyanne, a prolonged struggle led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). 

The TPLF formed a tactical alliance with the then Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) and waged a guerrilla war against the communist junta of Mengistu Hailemariam, the successor to Emperor Haile Selassie’s regime. The EPLF was fighting for independence from Ethiopia. The TPLF eventually formed a strategic alliance with other political groups and founded the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in 1988.  

Famine opportunity

The Ethiopian civil war and natural disasters hit northern Ethiopia hard. 

In the infamous 1984-5 famine, Tigray was the center of the crisis and the communist junta denied the humanitarian aid the kind-hearted citizens of the world sent to the famine-stricken people. In fact, in the Tigrayan people’s difficult time, the communist junta saw an opportunity to exterminate them once and for all. It launched a murderous campaign it phrased “to kill all the fish, it was necessary to drain the sea”—the sea being the Tigrayan people and the fish the TPLF fighters. 

Under this, Tigrayans were uprooted from their villages, rounded up in markets and humanitarian aid centers, and resettled in scattered areas in the south. The rest were indiscriminately massacred and their villages and towns bombarded. Tigrayans tried to escape by fleeing to Sudan where they could receive aid. The communist junta bombed the trekking masses wherever and whenever it saw them. 

A particularly painful collective memory for Tigrayans is that the Isaias Afewerki-led EPLF collaborated in the communist junta’s effort to exterminate Tigrayans. It blocked the route to Sudan that Tigrayans were using to escape the famine and civil war and to receive humanitarian assistance in Sudan. 

Now, federal soldiers and Amhara militia block the way to Sudan once again as desperate Tigrayans flee.

After 17 years of bitter armed struggle, the communist junta was overthrown. In 1991, Eritrea became de facto independent and the EPRDF took power in Addis Ababa and ruled Ethiopia from 1991 until Abiy dissolved it in 2019 to form the Prosperity Party that now rules without having faced the electorate.   

When the EPRDF took power, it dissolved the 100-year-old unitary state and adopted a federal arrangement where dominant nations have their own regions, use their own languages, make their own policy and manage their own security. It was a direct response to Ethiopia’s tyrannical past. The regions also have constitutionally guaranteed rights of self-determination up to secession. In this federal configuration, Tigray became a regional state. 

This became a threat for the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ, what the EPLF morphed itself into) and the Amhara. Not only was the reemergence of a power center once considered dead a reversal of what had been achieved, but also it was seen as a threat to the nation-building visions of Amhara Ethiopia and the Italian-inspired Eritrea. 

For Eritrea, which strives to build on the Italian-initiated project of constructing a brand new Eritrean identity that is severed from its surrounding, the Ethiopian federal arrangement in general and the reemergence of Tigray next door pose a serious threat that could inspire similar sentiments in Eritrea.

An essential element of this identity is that it is created and maintained by contrasting the ‘civilized, superior and rich’ Eritrean against the ‘backward, inferior and destitute’ Tigrayan in particular and Ethiopian in general. A prosperous and powerful Tigray is especially feared as it pulls the rug out from under this identity and might draw the Tigrayans of Eritrea to it by the force of identity and history. This was one of the causes for the Ethio-Eritrea war of 1998-2000. 

For the Amhara, who see Ethiopia as their sole property, the formation of federal states with their own languages was seen as a reversal of a century-old Amharization of Ethiopia. The mere reemergence of Tigray posed a threat to the Amhara national narrative that relies on appropriating Tigrayan history and heritage. 

The mere existence and flourishing of Tigray and Tigrayans contradict the national Amhara narrative and creates insecurity among the Amhara elite. As the TPLF was the oldest and dominant force behind the formation of the EPRDF, both the Amhara and the PFDJ saw the TPLF and Tigray as a mortal enemy. But because of the enmity between them, it took them decades to form an alliance against Tigray. 

Now—doubtless temporarily—that has been achieved.

The coming of Abiy Ahmed 

Abiy came to power on the back of mainly anti-TPLF waves of protests by Oromo and Amhara against what they viewed as minority Tigrayan dominance. While the TPLF may indeed have held a disproportionate vote share in EPRDF organs, this was in part to counteract the tyrannical majoritarian impulses now on display.  The minority-rule narrative was first preached consistently by PFDJ, and later through Eritrea-funded Amhara-focused diaspora media, of which Ethiopian Review website and ESAT were the main ones. 

Although the Oromo struggle had at its roots just and legitimate questions, towards the end, and out of a desire to forge alliance with the Amhara, it largely morphed into an anti-TPLF campaign that involved plenty of violent anti-Tigrayan discrimination. While the allegations that Tigrayan securocrats held sway at the federal level were true enough, those of political and economic hegemony were bogus, and of corruption wildly exaggerated. Meanwhile, while suffocating, the ERPDF approach achieved impressive development outcomes, similar to some East Asian state-led models.

The ultimate alliance of convenience, nicknamed ‘Oromara’, largely organized by the Oromo and Amhara factions of the EPRDF, led Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to resign and brought Abiy to the helm of power after some horse-trading within the coalition. With the EPRDF’s authoritarian development model in need of regenerating, Abiy was mandated by the coalition to oversee a transition to enhanced democracy.

It is important to note that Abiy was not elected by the Ethiopian people, but by the EPRDF, the very coalition party in which, prior to assuming the premiership, he served as a minister and which, after assuming the premiership, he accused of committing terrorism on the Ethiopian people. 

Most of the TPLF, tired of the accusation of minority dominance, grudgingly agreed to the change of leadership, especially confident that the Oromo questions were, after all, not against the constitutional order that the TPLF holds sacrosanct, and believing in the promises made to it. 

According to Jawar Mohammed, a driving force of the Oromo protest movement, the TPLF was promised by “protest leaders and reformists” that it will not be targeted for “revenge, be it in the form of prosecution or a punitive redistribution of wealth (through nationalization, confiscation, judicial seizures, or other processes).” 

That promise was betrayed—and that betrayal was felt so bitterly by the TPLF.

Upon assuming power, Abiy showed no desire to implement the EPRDF reform program nor to articulate any other roadmap for that matter. He had his own plan: consolidation of power to become Ethiopia’s “seventh king”, to use his own term, that he claims his mother envisioned and relayed to him when he was seven years old. 

Riding on a wave of populist anti-Tigrayan sentiment, he therefore saw the experienced TPLF leaders as threats to his power. He immediately started tarnishing the EPRDF’s legacy, by then synonymous with TPLF legacy in many Ethiopian eyes. He invited and befriended anybody whom he thought was his enemy’s enemy: Eritrea, Ginbot 7, and other opposition groups from the diaspora. He also worked hard to win foreign support by taking actions that appealed to international audiences, such as making his cabinet half women.

He continued to concentrate power around himself, to portray the TPLF and thus Tigrayans as corrupt and evil, their rule as “27 years of darkness”. He also started to eliminate opponents, eventually even those who were once his closest allies, such as Lemma Megerssa. 

Tigrayans saw where he was going—autocratic rule—but did not openly oppose Abiy, hoping the trajectory would change. But the premier’s selective targeting of Tigrayans for corruption and abuse charges, and his continuous implicating of Tigrayans in anything negative, was not received well by Tigrayans.      

Some important Abiy actions were especially bitterly felt by Tigrayans:

 1) Targeting of Tigrayans

In the run-up to the selection of Abiy, Tigrayans were tired of accusations, and when Abiy came to power, they thought they would be spared. That is why he was well-received in Tigray. They started to heave a collective sigh of relief, but that was premature. The reverse happened.

Anti-Tigrayan propaganda and rhetoric grew and became normalized in media and official forums. The TPLF, or shadowy forces tied to it, were blamed for almost every violent incident and problem the country faced, helping to allow Amhara and Oromo rivals to keep focused on a common enemy, and casting suspicion on Tigrayans as a whole

2) Sidelining Tigray in the Eritrea ‘peace deal’

Tigray, which shares the longest border with Eritrea, which has the deepest wounds from the 1998-2000 Ethio-Eritrea war, and which is one of the main actors of the 1998-2000 war (in many ways, the Ethio-Eritrea war of 1998-2000 was a Tigray-Eritrea war) was completely sidelined from the Ethio-Eritrea peace of Abiy and Isaias. As if to add salt to the wound, when Abiy was touring the U.S, he was asked by a Tigrayan to involve Tigray and Tigrayans in the peace process, to which he responded by insincerely misrepresenting the question as rejecting his authority and remarking that would be “village politics”.     

Together with his other actions and words in his stateside tour, such as “27 years of darkness”, singling out Tigrayans and angrily reprimanding them for asking questions, accusing them of asking questions that were not their own, and implicating Tigrayans in crimes and several denigrating references to Tigrayan personalities held as martyrs and heroes by Tigrayans, this “village” reference to Tigray was felt strongly among Tigrayans. Adding to this, Isaias’ open denigration and insults for TPLF (such as ‘game over’ and ‘clique’) and its legacy, Tigrayans saw the  rapprochement with Eritrea not as a “peace deal”, but as an alliance against them. 

3) The dissolution of EPRDF and formation of Prosperity Party

The manner and speed with which Abiy rushed to dissolve the EPRDF and form the Prosperity Party was astounding. Its formation was the main step towards concentrating power around himself. With that, he de facto appoints and dismisses the presidents of the regional states and any other top official. No Ethiopian legal procedure was followed in the dissolution of the EPRDF, and the formation of the Prosperity Party did not even fulfil legal requirements. Although the TPLF raised these points, there were no other major forces that backed it.  

The TPLF refused to join the new party. The TPLF saw it as illegal, having no right to rule since it was a new party with a new ideology. But since the election that Abiy promised to make free and fair was approaching, the TPLF decided not to make a big fuss, other than making its position known. 

Upon TPLF’s refusal to join, Abiy reacted by dismissing any remaining TPLF members from his cabinet and other federal posts, making Tigray without senior representation in the federal government. The TPLF, again, showed restraint and called for a modus vivendi, but Abiy did not heed them. The Prosperity Party was also widely opposed in Oromia, even by his hitherto closest ally, Lemma. 

4) Election postponement and term extensions 

Abiy has shown on several occasions that election was neither mandatory nor necessary. On 10 June 2019 responding to questions in Aksum, Abiy said “election is not mandatory. There are countries that have not had elections for 20 or 30 years”. This reminded Tigrayans of  Eritrea and of Isaias’s response “what elections? … we will wait for three, four decades …” in response to Al Jazeera’s  “when are elections going to be held in Eritrea?”. Given the Isaias-Abiy cosiness, Abiy’s mother’s vision of the seventh king, and Isaias’s declaration that he is as much a stakeholder in Ethiopia’s reform as Ethiopians, and that Eritrea won’t watch idly if the reform is sabotaged, Abiy’s lack of commitment to elections was not well-received, not least in Tigray. 

Elections were customarily and also for practical reasons always held in May, months before the expiry of the government’s term. The electoral board handpicked by Abiy, who realized his new Prosperity Party had no chance of winning the election and who had been in search of excuses not to hold elections, postponed the election to August, to the middle of the rainy season. 

Then came COVID-19, and Abiy immediately grabbed the chance and the board postponed the election again. Not only was a government extending its own terms of office problematic, and the mechanism by which it did so constitutionally dubious, but also it crossed a constitutional mandate of the regional states when it also extended the term of office of the state councils. Tigray’s government saw this as a clear attempt to grab power unconstitutionally. 

The act was interpreted by Tigrayans as making regional legislatures and leadership illegitimate and dependent on the federal executive. Tigrayans thought, with such a legitimacy deficit, they had no means to fight Abiy’s march to dismantle the federal constitutional order and the establishment of a one-man rule that Tigrayans were sure he strived for.    

Tigray’s election and the war on Tigray  

After calls by the TPLF and other political parties for inclusive dialogue about the election postponement were ignored, Tigray decided to conduct its own election for its regional parliament. Note, this election does not concern itself with Tigray’s representatives to the federal houses. It requested the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia to oversee and organize the election, to which the answer was ‘no, you are not allowed to do that’. The board members were all appointed by Abiy and any of their major decisions were what Abiy had already hinted would be done. 

For instance, before the board’s decision to postpone, Abiy suggested that the election would be extended due to COVID-19. After the subsequent decision, Abiy tried, clumsily and revealingly, to explain that he did not force the board’s decision. Tigray then established its own Election Commission and registered political parties and had an election, which the TPLF, unsurprisingly, won.

On 7 May when addressing Tigray’s preparations for election, Abiy gave away his belligerent intention when he said  “in order for politicians to assume power children shall not perish, mothers shall not wail,  houses shall not be destroyed and people shall not be displaced”. 

Abiy had through the illegitimate—on account of its expired term of office—House of Federation labeled the Tigray election as “null and void” and laid down “legal” grounds for military intervention in the future. Tigray, upon forming the new government, repeated what it had been warning for a long time: that it does not recognize Abiy’s government as legitimate any longer.

Abiy retaliated by trying to redirect Tigray’s budget, and excluding Tigray from COVID-19 protection and locust prevention tools and funds. Abiy, in preparation for his aggression on Tigray, appointed to the Northern Command stationed in Tigray a general with an experience of toppling militarily the regional government of Somali. 

Tigray, consistent with its position, said Abiy had no legitimate authority for appointing generals and restructuring the military and informed the general and his deputies not to come to the region. That stung Abiy. Simultaneously, he and Isaias had been preparing for their war on Tigray. Isaias issued press releases where he repeatedly denigrated the TPLF and Tigray. 

In his Machiavelli-type Amharic book, “The Throne and the Stirrup”, Abiy wrote “hounding the enemy is temporarily useful. But an enemy that is not completely crushed such that it won’t rise again will come back to attack.  It is therefore important to wait for an opportune time, swoop on the enemy and dash its dreams”. And exactly when the world was focused on the U.S. election, Abiy and Isaias mobilized to perform that act on Tigray. Tigray, in conjunction with Tigrayan military officers stationed in the region, foiled their plan and we are now in a conflict that is a month and half old, and set to continue. 

Although one can think of the cover of the U.S. election as an opportune moment for starting the war on Tigray, there may be a more sinister reason for the timing. 

Tigray was affected by COVID-19, hard hit by desert locust invasion and it was denied COVID-19 prevention tools, locust-chemical spraying drones and planes, and financial help. Amhara areas bordering Tigray were sprayed with anti-locust chemicals, but even a drone sent by diaspora Tigrayans to help the fight against locusts remained withheld at federal customs warehouses in Addis Ababa. 

After this is the Tigrayan harvest time for what is left off from the locust invasion. It is the time when the vast majority of Tigrayans work hard to collect their food for the rest of the year. It is exactly at this time that the war was started. Crops are now not only left to rot, but they are purposely destroyed by the invading forces. The main commercial sesame producing western Tigray is devastated. This is in line with the idea of impoverishing and devastating Tigray. 

The genocidal undercurrents 

The genocidal undercurrents that power the war go back centuries.  

There is a long history of anti-Tigrayan hate and preaching in Amharic and also in Eritrea, especially from the fall of Tigray as a political center. A case in point is the Menelik chronicler’s denigration of Tigrayans we mentioned above. With time, the intensity of anti-Tigrayan hate and preaching grew.  

Haile Selassie and Mengistu used to denigrate Tigrayans as the cause for the deterioration of Ethiopia’s international image. Mengistu once said: “It is because of the hunger and famine that comes from this region [Tigray] that we are called poor and hungry; there is no poverty in the rest of the country”. 

We also find hate against Tigrayans in religious books and the hagiography of Ethiopian saints, in articles by influential people, in political party programs and slogans. For instance, professor Tilahun Yilma likens Tigrayans to a cancer that needs to be removed, and openly calls for their deportation from Ethiopia. 

Professor Getachew Haile likens EPRDF rule—he calls it Tigrayan rule—to colonialism. He says “…as the British cannot accept Irish rule, the Iraqi would not swallow Kurdish rule,  or the Israeli cannot fathom Palestinian rule, neither would the Amharas tolerate a Tigrayan rule”. Amhara hate for Tigrayans is intense due to historical power rivalry, but every other Ethiopian ethnicity and Africans in general are targets of Amhara contempt and denigrations

From political parties, we can mention Ethiopian Patriotic Front which has a repulsive anti-Tigrayan message in its political program published on 8 May 1994. In the program, the party characterizes Tigrayans as traitors, and frames its struggle as being against the “disgraceful” Tigrayan ethnicity. (Often the TPLF’s 1974 manifesto is called “anti-Amhara”, but that referred only to the “Amhara ruling class” oppressing Tigray and other nations in Ethiopia). 

It further details that it was wrong to separate the TPLF and the Tigrayan people, and that the aim of its struggle was to remove the Tigrayan people from Ethiopia. It also said that Ethiopians who believe in the aim of the struggle, that have no Tigrayan blood and who have no marriage ties with Tigrayans can be a member or supporter of the party. 

Similar anti-Tigrayan sentiments were displayed by the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) party during the 2005 election demonstrations and slogans. An infamous slogan of the time was “[A] Tigrayan to Mekelle, his property to the city administration” which calls for confiscation of Tigrayan properties and summary deportation of Tigrayan to Mekelle. There were also calls to ostracize Tigrayans. Ethiopian Patriotic Front eventually merged with Berhanu Nega’s Ginbot 7  which itself morphed into the current EZEMA, a party close to Abiy. Ginbot 7 was formed by remnants of the CUD after the 2005 election.  

In recent decades, Tigrayans were likened to the Jews of Germany and calls for “Ethiopians” to take lessons from “Nazi Germany’s heroic extermination techniques” have been made. Of special relevance here were Eskinder Nega’s now defunct newspaper, Asqual, and ESAT, a 10-year-old Amhara diaspora satellite television channel. 

Eskinder’s Asqual, under a column “ወግድ ይሁዳ (“exterminate the Jew”)  which ran for more than a year, instigated Ethiopians to do what Nazi Germany did to their troublesome minority. ESAT, once a fringe diaspora anti-Tigray hate media funded by Isaias and Egypt, is now prominent in Abiy’s Ethiopia. ESAT has, since its founding, preached anti-Tigray hate. 

On 15 February 2019, members of ESAT were welcomed to Ethiopia, as heroes, with fanfare at Bole Airport and at the Millennium Hall  and by high-profile government officials. Among the high government officials are the deputy prime minister Demeke Mekonen who received them at his office, and the minister of tourism Hirut Kassaw. Abiy, in a parliament session, honored ESAT’s prominent member, Sisay Agena,  as exemplary journalists. ESAT now gets its funding from Abiy’s government, works with both Isaias and Abiy,  and is one of the media through which Abiy and Isaias disclose their intentions and plans. 

The joint Ethiopian and Eritrean military aggression against Tigray was first floated and recommended by ESAT in their 1 July ‘Eltetawi program. The video was shared by the Isaias-affiliated Eritrean Press with the message “this is inevitable; TPLF is an Eritrean agenda”. ESAT has on several  programs called for measures to disrupt and weaken Tigray. On its 2 October ‘Eletawi’ program, it called on the Abiy government to disrupt the infrastructure of banking, electricity, internet, telephone, and salary payments in Tigray. 

On its 7 October “Eletawi” program, ESAT called for closing Tigrayan businesses and Tigrayan bank accounts and specifically said “the most important point is that the federal government must take actions that disrupt the livelihood of the Tigrayan people”,  thus preparing them psychologically for new rulers.  A couple of weeks after these calls and recommendations, the war on Tigray was launched, and every recommendation has been adopted.

Abiy is in a loose network of the people that were and are behind ESAT. For instance, the founder of ESAT, former chairman of Ginbot 7 Berhanu is now Abiy’s friend and advisor and a leader of EZEMA, the successor party to Ginbot 7 that has happily cheered the war on Tigray. According to Andargachew Tsige, Ginbot 7’s secretary-general, he provided the undisclosed roadmap that Abiy supposedly follows. This would also probably mean Isaias’s roadmap, as Ginbot 7 was based in and supported by Eritrea. 

Code words

Abiy himself has added fuel to the burning hate preached by ESAT.

Speaking in code words and in the pretext of attacking TPLF, Abiy has dehumanized Tigrayans on several occasions. A few months after assuming the premiership, Abiy spoke in code words to refer to Tigrayans  saying “የቀን ጅቦች (daylight hyenas)”, and “ፀጉረ ልውጥ (unfamiliar others)”, two dehumanizing and hate-laden expressions in the Ethiopian context. Although he did not explicitly say Tigrayans, everyone understood who he was referring to, and there were attacks on Tigrayans, especially in Amhara. 

In 2017, when Amhara and Oromo protests were intense and Gondar was festering with genocidal anti-Tigrayan sentiments, ESAT broadcast what it claimed was a message it received from Gondar and which called for the 95 percent of Ethiopians to exterminate the 5 percent [Tigrayans]. 

The message said the struggle was not between an oppressive government and an oppressed people, but between an ethnic group that wants to rule and the rest of oppressed Ethiopians. It recommended “one way to remove a stinky fish from the sea was to dry the sea in order to remove the fish”.  The sea is a reference to the people of Tigray and the fish is to the Tigrayan politicians. 

As observed above, this expression was used by Mengistu when he was fighting the TPLF. 

As part of his strategy, the 1984 famine was seen as an opportunity. Denial of humanitarian assistance and indiscriminate massacre and bombing was used to take advantage of the opportunity the famine created. A prominent example is the bombardment of the market town Hawzen in 1988 on market day, killing more than 2,500 innocent civilians. Now, Hawzen is under attack again.

But it is not just ESAT. All state media attack TPLF and Tigrayans to the extent that Tigrayans have stopped being shocked.  

One documentary on human-rights violations in the past 27 years, broadcast on all TV stations, portrayed Tigrinya speakers as criminals and corrupt worthy of ostracism and persecution. Supposed victims were made to explicitly attribute horrible crimes to Tigrayans by deliberately mentioning a rehearsed “Tigrinya speakers” as the perpetrators of the crimes. By this, the crimes were attributed to all Tigrayans, as opposed to individuals who have names. This caused massive anti-Tigrayan sentiment and Tigrayans were made targets of hate by other Ethiopians. 

When Abiy assumed power, he quickly started to attack the EPRDF legacy. Given that the wave of protests that brought him to power were mobilized by anti-TPLF sentiments, his attack on TPLF and Tigrayans was received well by a large section of the Ethiopian public. As a result, he continually played the TPLF card, blaming the TPLF and Tigrayans for any problems the country faced. The narrative, after all, was the only one that could unify the Oromo and the Amhara.  

As time went by, however, the Oromo and the Amhara moved to their real issues. The Oromo want real autonomy, language rights and to administer Addis Ababa. The Amhara want the dismantling of the multinational federal order and the return of Amharized Ethiopia. Eventually, Abiy got co-opted by the Amhara, and unleashed attacks on Oromo nationalist leaders. 

With Abiy’s swing towards the Amhara, the anti-Tigrayan sentiment and rhetoric entered a heightened stage with government media and figures openly denigrating and dehumanizing Tigrayans—all under the pretext of being against the TPLF. 

His grudge with the TPLF and Tigrayan elite fused with the historical Amhara grudge and enmity for Tigrayans, as well as their irredentist ambitions. To make matters worse, Isaias with his deep desire for revenge on the Tigrayans that defeated and humiliated him, joined this dangerous alliance, creating a deadly force moved by vengeance.

The three actors have different motives but the same ambitions with regards to Tigray.

Isaias wants to settle old scores, neuter Tigray, dismantle the federal order, and have unfettered influence in Ethiopian politics. By reversing, through destruction and looting, Tigray’s strides in infrastructural development over the last two decades when he did nothing in Eritrea, Isaias not only aims at creating a destitute Tigray, which is essential for the Eritrean identity, but also he answers, in an unusual manner, Eritreans’ question of development by creating equality by subtraction.

He also believes enmity between Amhara and Tigrayans helps weaken the Habeshas that have cultural and historical connection with Eritrea. There is a belief in the PDFJ elite that the further the dominant ethnicity in power in Addis from Asmara is, the better, and that the Habesha connection is an obstacle to the building of an Eritrean identity, and so it must be severed. 

The Amhara elite and Isaias of Eritrea see Tigray as the originator, the last bastion and the champion of the federal order in Ethiopia. And if it is subdued and subjugated, they believe the rest of the Ethiopian states are a walk in the park. Weakening, impoverishing and possibly eliminating Tigray and Tigrayans is therefore their common agenda. For example, the Amhara claims on the Tigrayan lands of Welkait and Raya are as much Isaias’s as they are Amhara’s.

In portraying Tigray as taking lands from Eritrea and from Amhara, Isaias presents Tigray as unfairly annexing territory. Never mind that half of Afar was under Tigray and that there was no Amhara region to take lands from before 1991. Both Isaias and the Amhara believe that  reducing Tigray by taking away Tigrayan lands is in the interest of their respective nation-building projects. A senior PFDJ cadre once said “we need to reduce Tigray to as much as the southern zone”. That is one of the small subdivisions of Eritrea bordering Tigray.  

The idea of dividing up Tigrayan lands as a permanent means of reducing and impoverishing Tigray has almost certainly been developed together with Isaias. According to this, Amhara takes western and southern Tigray, and Isaias takes the contested lands and more from bordering Tigrayan lands. In this sense and at some level, the Ethio-Eritrea pact between Abiy Ahmed and his Amhara allies on one hand, and Isaias on the other hand is like the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that enabled them to partition Poland. A key strategy in the PFDJ-Amhara agreement is for Amhara to take all of western Tigray so that Amhara and Eritrea share a border encircling Tigray and blocking Tigray from having access to Sudan. 

When the Humera(Tigray)-Omhajer(Eritrea) border was opened before it was closed again, the Eritrean ambassador to Japan, Ambassador Estifanos, tweeted “PM ABEY & Pres. ISAIAS reopened officially Teseney to/ from Gonder western trade corridor on #Eritrea & #Ethiopia”. By this tweet, he is making a statement: Western Tigray is Gondar, Amhara. Now, Tigrayans are systematically and brutally being eliminated from western Tigray either by chasing them out or by massacring them.

Abiy now shares Amhara and Isaias’s plans for reducing Tigray—but more as a way of eliminating the threat from Tigray and appeasing his allies. 

Since he took power, the three of them have been intensifying their propaganda war, demonizing Tigrayans and calling for measures against Tigray. A key means to advance their agenda is blaming all violence on TPLF. For instance, the 2018 grenade at Meskel Square, the killing of singer Hachalu Hundessa in June, and the November massacre in Wollega were all instantly blamed on TPLF. 

Abiy’s relationship with Isaias and the anti-Tigray Amhara elite was formed when he was working as a high government official. According to Andargachew, formerly of Ginbot 7, who claimed to be the conduit for the Isaias-Abiy connection, Abiy used to leak information to Eritrea and to Ginbot 7. Immediately after becoming premier, Abiy and Isaias, unsurprisingly, allied, for which Abiy received a Nobel Peace Prize. But the actual reason behind that drama was Tigray: they also had found a common enemy. 

Tigray and Tigrayans have been subjected to extreme devastation and agony. Tigrayans are not only under an invasion and occupation, psychological warfare, ethnic profiling and targeting, but also their cries, agony and pain is in the darkness of communications blackout in order for the rest of the world not to hear. Abiy is enraged that some have escaped to Sudan and are exposing the atrocities of the war. He is now trying to portray them as criminals.

It is to stop the truth about the war from being told that the enemy forces have now blocked Tigrayan refugees from fleeing to Sudan. If we are shocked by the condition and stories of the Tigrayan refugees in Sudan, imagine the condition and stories of those blocked and trapped in western Tigray, without food and at the mercy of bloodthirsty Amhara militias.      

The war on Tigray has ideological and historical causes. But it is also beyond that. The ethnic profiling and targeting, the harsh and devastating measures on Tigray and Tigrayans, the pillaging and looting, and the destruction of civilians and civilian infrastructures,  the massacres, the blockade and blackout, the collective punishments, the carpet bombings and the refusal to independent investigation and  allow humanitarian aid should be seen as the product of genocidal undercurrents. 

The Abiy government’s plan is to eventually starve Tigray so that it can then use international aid as a weapon against the Tigrayan people, just like the communist junta did during the 1984/5 civil war and famine. That explains its refusal to allow independent humanitarian access and its insistence on controlling international aid agencies.   

The conditions for genocide against Tigrayans are ripe, and there really are intentions and deeds to destroy Tigray, and cleanse and exterminate Tigrayans. International intervention is needed to avoid a 21st century genocide of Rwandan proportions and a silent massacre of millions of Tigrayans by starvation.

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Main photo: Ethiopian refugees fleeing clashes in Tigray, rest and cook meals near UNHCR’s Hamdayet reception centre after crossing into Sudan. UNHCR/Hazim Elhag.

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About the author

Gebrekirstos Gebremeskel

Gebrekirstos is an Amsterdam-based researcher who runs mermru.com, a website dedicated to developing NLP resources for Ethiopian languages. He is interested in science communication, the history of ideas and the politics of the Horn. He manages tghat.com, which is dedicated to chronicling the war on Tigray. Follow him on Twitter @GebrekirstosG

41 Comments

  • Dear Gere, I must say I appreciate your time to put this together. You know it’s uncommon among tegaru elites to put their taught together. Did you know that TPLF hasn’t even written it’s history yet? But it could’ve been a well-read article had you used well referenced sources (other than ESAT and Dr. Tolesa Fikre face book page, or amhara nationalists) – obviously you won’t find one that supports your victim politics. It doesn’t take a researcher to write one sided story. I had the privilege to read your short posts on social media and I felt like I read your 10 posts combined in one article. Severely hit by ideological subversion (ብከላ), I see a new shift from agazian mindset to a deadlock ultra-nationalist elite. Apparently swinging is the new nationalism.

    Couple of candid criticism – Do not mix Tigray and TPLF. I see you using them interchangeably (very common among tigrean elite). You failed to analyze TPLF’s post marginalization role in stirring the pot and its lame excuse to bring genuine reform in the region (read my article posted here on Ethioia insight 11/30/2019 – TPLF’s Last Man Standing) . You also failed to comment on the white elephant in the house – ethnic federalism. Who knows if you believed in it as the antidote to decompose the amhara domination? It actually hurt ordinary tigreans for unfounded guilty of association.

    Fast forward, through your eyes, the menelik era is back, albeit shamefully failing to mention Shimeles’s words about Oromo’s convince/confuse strategy.

    Question for you – where do you want to take tigray politics from here? Bingo – secession, right? too little too late.

    Conclusion – hmm..There’s nothing for me to conclude here. I see a potential for yellow journalism – full of sensationalism and crude exaggeration. I wouldn’t cherry pick evidences and always remember to let your readers make their own conclusion, or it would be self-serving. Tigray needs new progressive nationalist mind and certainly you are one of them but not with the way you are indulged into (narrow nationalism). I hope you’ve learned your lesson from the “sympathy” your received via comments. Lest I forget, you hardly represent the silent majority of tigreans; neither do your references (your primary resource) represent the great people of amhara. Ethiopia is a nation yet to be built.

  • These cycle of injustice and war must end at some point how long should suffering persist?
    How can we create s space for healing, forgiving, and building a nation. As a women all these political upheavals are committed at the expense of women and the next generation of children.

    The world is making great scientific advances and we are still discussing war. Really heartbreaking. Hard to find a single person who is free from tribalism. We have a disease and there seems to be no cure for it

    • Precisely my sentiment. These emotional tribalist men are dragging the country backward and women & children usually pay the price.

      I know this is off topic but Africans are becoming a laughing stock and people are tired of our pain and suffering. We claim BLM but we’d love to annihilate one another by using the West to side with our ethnicity or tribe. This wish is their command.

      By the time AI and Machine Learning takes over the world, we will still be in the process of evolving & work toward our commonalities and not differences. What a bunch of jokes.

  • What was the purpose of this piece? It is just the same long winded self-referencing delusion with persecutory qualities that TPLF and their supporters have been spouting for decades.

    Why did TPLF attack the Northern Command? The same national soldiers sworn under the constitution instituted by TPLF to protect Tigray, yet TPLF turns around and shamefully attacks them. This author tells us the reason:
    TPLF attacked the Northern Command because Fikre Tollosa, the PM’s “confidante” said that Abiy was planning to attack, who, TPLF or Tigray?

    Attack the national defense forces because some dude said something dubious, then trigger a war that caused all this devastation on the people of Tigrai.

    Does this sound sane to you sir?

    Next you imply an apocalyptic attack by the ENDF on Tigrian civilians with “heavy bombardment and shelling has rained down on Tigrayan cities.” Where was TPLF this whole time? Were they fighting with water guns and holy crosses? More importantly, where is your evidence of this insane claim? How is it that TPLF failed to provide us with documentation of this massive attack against Tigrians by the ENDF? They have all their internet access at their disposal. They still transmit Radio and TV. So where is the evidence?

    Then you go back in history, to do what? To tell us that the Tigrians are the chosen people? You have no more to do with the Axumites than the average Amhara out there. Do you think you have any special privileges because you were born in Tigrai? A special connection perhaps? Simply nuts.

    Then you drag us to the Shewa rule times and you claim Tigraians as noble victims. Do you understand history of those times and how wars and politics was conducted? According to your reasoning, we should put the legacy of Yohannes IV, the architect of the modern Ethiopia, right?

    I will stop at this. History will remember you for your position.

    • Just ignore this hate grown scholar who is only trained to preach TPLF propaganda. But TPLF has committed suicide and this guy will continue suffering from inferiority complex and insecurity.

  • You have to admit this is funny:

    “Ethiopia, his chronicler, Afewerk Gebreyesus, in his book “ዳግማዊ ምንይልክ (Menelik II),” wrote “[when Tigrayans speak] in their language which lacerates the throat, pregnant women undergo miscarriage while the breast of women who just had delivery dried”

    Anyway, I think your type of Tigreans have a grandiose outlook of yourself because of the Axum civilization, a civilization that withered away more than 1000 years ago afterAxum’s sea trade routes were cut off by the rise of Islam. Yodit Gudit burned Axum to the ground, not Amharas. Tigray has been poor ever since because without the benefit of trade, Tigray/Eritrea’s ancient economy collapses. To make things worse, Tigray has inadequate rainfall. Thus Tigray has been poor and irrelevant for centuries. Civilization moved south to Ager Midir, Amhara regions and so forth because there is more wealth there, and they established alternative trade routes through Afar and Somali.

    You have to stop blaming Amharas for all your problems. Honestly, Amharas are not supermen that could do all the things you claim they did to you.

    Menelik of Shoa saw Tigray as a competing kingdom, just like Gonder, Gojam and Wollo. Italians are responsible for snatching away Hamassien, Akulay Gizay and Serai from Tigray. You can criticize Menelik for making a strategic mistake if you like, but this obsession you have that he wanted to destroy or hated Tigray is ridiculous. Once Yohannes dies, his sons were weak and silly so Tigray did not threaten him.

    Please read the book “Battle of Adwa” to understand the brotherhood of Negus Menelik, Ras Alula, Ras Mekonnen, Ras Mengesha, Ras Michael, and of course Queen Taitu.

    Again, Tigray makes up only 6% of Ethiopia, and you are entitled to your share of political power accordingly, and regardless of your Axum history.

    Your Axum history does not entitle you to anything special, you are just like any other Ethiopian such as Gurage, Somali, Afar, Amhara, Oromo, Siliti, Gedoe

    Anyway, Amharas never saw you

  • “While the TPLF may indeed have held a disproportionate vote share in EPRDF organs, this was in part to counteract the tyrannical majoritarian impulses now on display.” Really?
    TPLF became selfish when it assumed power. It wanted everything for itself. That is why you are where you are today. You instructed Abdi Iley to ‘attack men of the enemy[ONLF] with your pistols, their women with your manhood’ and more recently you engineered the displacement of over 1 million Oromos from Somali state so that you could drive a deep wedge in historically allied communities, so they wont be a threat to your dominance. The same thing the Esayas-Amhara-Abiy alliance is doing to Tigray, you did it to the wider ‘South’. You never even apologized. Don’t play victim. Even Abiy[OPDO] is your creation to suppress the Oromo. No sympathy to the TPLF. If anything leave TPLF out, it is the people of Tigray that deserve sympathy

  • I always get suspicious when a text has at it’s beginning “martyr”. It happens with this text, the most I read it, the most I could agree that I had reasons from he beginning to be suspicious. This is so much a partisan revisionist view that it was difficult for me to read it until the end… Unfortunately just another piece of revisionist history… where one group suffers all the oppression and where its deeds are uniquely good and benevolent… come on, really?

  • the ever warring Amhara political and military elite do not seem to mind eradicating the people and destroying Tigray and as long they are assured of ruling the rubble that’s left behind. Eight-hundred years of governing patterns attest to that. The ruling Amhara elite is obsessed with power, only ruling power. Never mind citizens’ rights, economy, equality, and all other aspects of good governance if they do not serve the ruling Amhara interest. And the right strategy to reach that goal is by displaying acute chauvinism, aggressive behavior, and multiplying enemies and deception. Tigray has to decide its own destination and that is establishing free Tigray state. Thank you Gebre.

    • Oh when are planning to get over yourself, huh ?
      You had been in power for almost 30 years and had every chance to do whatever is right for your people. So ask yourself “why” again and again.

      Or instead I will tell you the answer …. the very existence of tplf is absurd, to put it lightly.

      It’s core pillars are hatred for Amhara in particular and Ethiopia in general.

      It’s love and worship for eplf (shabia) is the other pillar. Why else it refused to destroy it back in 1998 or in 20 years after that ??
      I don’t think there are many organizations that have level of identity crisis like tplf. It always see itself through or against others.
      Unfortunately it equates itself with the people of Tigray and became a perpetual source of misery to very the people it supposed to liberate

  • I can’t thank you enough for writing this piece! It is a true depiction of the past and the present. Moving forward, the only viable solution for Tigray is statehood.

    Well done!

  • Thank you G/Kirstos . You have explained it well. The atrocities which have been done on Tigray from the past history was not even much in detail, however I found it explanatory in general. You have done your share on explaining the feeling and history of Tigray and you should be proud of your self!

  • Since biblical times, the Erythrean/Red sea strategic proximity to global shipping lines providing unhindered access to international market for global trade attracting various internal & external mercenaries competing for global economic resources to invade, conquer, loot & constantly turn the region into war zone & endless turmoil for competing internal & external mercenary forces to manipulate the region, fabricating, rewriting & recycling self-serving history of the whole region does NOT cover up TPLF’s war crimes against the Ethiopian & Eritrean people.
    Therefore, the internal & external invading mercenary forces aspiring to conquer the shores of the Erythrean/Red sea may have switched places many times over & over throughout history just like internal regional forces aspiring to conquer Ethiopia or Eritrea but the endless turmoil will continue to cost precious lives, crucial times & resources to build strong economic development to sustain the whole region for many more generations to suffer the consequences of inflated ego & miscalculated adventure of the powers of the day, just like 45 years of TPLF’s ethnic war for the empty promises of “Greater Tigray Republic (Albania)” ended up vanishing like a mist into thin air in just two weeks of skirmishes, leaving behind broken nation struggling to resurrect itself from TPLF’s graveyard.
    Therefore, blaming & accusing Eritrea & Ethiopia for TPLF downfall does NOT cover up neither justify TPLF’s inflated ego & miscalculated adventure to suppress Ethiopia & invade Eritrea in disguise of 20 years of border war.
    In the end, TPLF failed to learn some hard lessons from the previous Ethiopian regimes who ended crumbling like dominoes & paid the price for it’s own miscalculated adventure endlessly making wars all over horn of Africa since the inception of TPLF in Dedebit caves in 1976.

    Therefore,,, “Those who fail to remember history are condemned to repeat it.”

    Roosvelt

    • I don’t like delving into the past and historical rights and wrongs of any particular group, but
      I realily feel pity for the bad situation that the TPLF, and the Tigrain people by extention, found themselves. It is partly by accident and physical or geographic curse and in partly their own makings. It’s natural geographic curse because of being a minority groups living in a desolate barren landscape without sea outlet and surrounded by hostile neighbors. Also, it was partly in their own makings and political failure, because they had a lifetime chance to secure a historical legacy, survival and their future had they implemented a genuine and equitable federalism system that protects the rights of everybody, and had they not became so greedy, so cocky, so oppurnistic and reckless to screwed up every other oppressed nations and natioanlities and minorities, who genuinely supported and fought the multi national cause and ideas. That would have been their safety valve for them at this critical moment. but they didn’t. Au contraire, they abused, lied, deceived, pillaged and barreled through within the borders and cross borders like no tomorrow. It was like the proverbial big bait and chewing without with the small mouth and they should have known better. But then as the old quotation goes, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Ask the Somalis, Eritreans, Sudanese and others what they think of Tigrain’s encounters, actions and deeds in the las 27 years and you find the reason they don’t have favorable impression on them.

      • Just one more thought, or rather curious question: I see Amharas and Eritrean are now got into
        momentary and convinientt marriages just to gang up against Tigrains, both figuratively and laterally speaking. The million dollar question now is not when or if but how long it would last? When the rights for wadab
        wadab zeraf songs of Assab ports would start? Given the history of the impoverished Abysinian empire that thrives in perpetual conflicts, victimhood and exploitative schemes, that moment wouldn’t be long, given it survives from current multifaceted crises.

  • As a researcher, we anticipate the author to write a critical analysis of past and current situations. He is too emotional to be a researcher (investigator) and a social scientist. What he presented in his descriptive journalistic write-up is not historically true. There are many problems with the so-called Tigrian intellectuals based in Mekele University and overseas countries. They are stuck in the Aksumite Empire definition of history and Ethiopia and lack critical scientific-based analysis. For example, the author did not mention the mess created by the Stalinists federal system developed and promoted by the TPLF junta and Weyane followers. There is a completely missing link in the description of historical events and is no transition from macro to a microanalysis of Ethiopia’s history and Tigray’s current situation. No statistical-based data and information are presented. His paper is just a personal subjective unscientific reflection as a member of Weyane team. His descriptive statement can’t be tested and scientifically falsified. This is one of the key problems of Tigrian intellectuals who cooked history for their own benefit and survival. Communication about history or about future risks depends upon the structure of present communication. Communication is communication in conflict as well as in consensus. Whatever communication about the past or the future, given resources and means or hopes and goals, it takes place in the present. There is no agreement on how long the present conflict endures in Ethiopia – and that is what war is mainly about. German philosophers had found out a hundred years ago war is the continuation of politics but in another medium – this is exactly happening in Ethiopia. The author’s observations is a wrong and shallow way of observing the history, politics, and wars of Ethiopia. We shall observe Ethiopia’s past and the future with contemporary theories. The role of learned intellectuals is to contribute critical thinking and scientific analysis of past and current situations. As W/Mariam correctly puts it that the TPLF junta and followers were/are the modern-day equivalents of the Pharisees in Ethiopia.

    • The author uses a style and expression based on true history. Probably those who want to build Amhara Ethiopia while taking the history of Tigray will not like this. So that is what I understand about you. Like it or not, Ethiopia and Eritrea are colonial states created to destroy Tigray.
      So, these countries have not yet done their national building work, so they think of it as the main threat and the enemy of that ancient people who own it. That is what we are seeing now.

    • Nobody could even say it better. The Tigrays are the perfect description of the worst case of intellectual hijack imaginable.

    • sashu dudi, I cannot agree more. The sole motivation of education in the TPLF camp, its supporters and members is inferiority complex and insecurity. Once they reach their target education level, they feel that they get respected and assume whatever they write is true or scientific.

  • This is all fact. The atrocities may also worsen. very happy you let the world know This fact. Thank you for revealing the fact.

  • Dear Gerie, thank you for your explanations and directions. Let me comment on some typing errors, please fix the date Nov 03, 2019 by Nov 03, 2020.

  • Hi Gebrekrstos thank you fo having me a chance. At this time Tigray destroying by Abiy hmed and Esayas afework.after this war finish what is the chances of Tigrsy in the future? In my opinion we should have to separate from those scavenger people and we should have our own Tigray country never came back again to our enemy.

  • Thank you GERE!! You wrote a descriptive historical narrative of Tigray. Tigrya, an origin for everything from language
    to religion, from ancient history to modern civilization. Tigray has a formidable sons like you.

  • Thank you Gebrekirstos Gebremeskel for this historical piece. It explains very well the root cause of Tigrayan oppression and successfully brings to light the major players against Tigrayan freedom. Your well organized outline of the events leading up to the conflict paints a great background to the formation of the alliances of its enemies, and the methodical approach to waging war, genocide, and political assassination of Tigrayans and TPLF. Although these historical events are well documented, the underlying motives of each, how they are connected, in addition to the contemporary struggle, were not easily understood in a way to draw up a single conclusion, this article brings them together in a well organized fashion. Let this article be saved for eternity.

  • Gebrekirstos Gebremeskel — TPLF junta has set Tigrai back 50 years!!

    Rather than pointing fingers at Abiy Ahmed please take a close look at the calamity this group brought to Tigrai.
    It is one thing to lie to others but believing the lie you tell others as truth is recipe for disaster.

    Here are some qusetions to ponder:

    TPLF representing 6% of Ethiopian population claimed to be champion for all oppressed ethnic groups.

    So when the TPLF was overthrown from power how come every minority group in Ethiopia celebrated its downfall?

    Let us put aside Amara and Oromo. How is it that Somali, Afar, Sidamo, Gambela, Kembata, etc. all celerbrated the overthrow of the PLL. Why? TPLF supporters need to truthfully look into this.

    The sad part is TPLF junta only needed to compromise/give-in only a small amount — maybe 10%. In exchange the outsize influence Tigrai has built in the military, bureaucracy, economic, and social spheres could have been maintained far into the future. Instead of this TPLF junta once again took maximalist postion and this time lost everything in just two weeks!

    The lands west of Tekeze tht were incorporated into Tigrai aren’t coming back. The Raya lands aren’t coming back either. TPLF handed over land that historically belonged within Tigrai to Afar. Afar is not going to hand this land back. Tigrai is badly screwed and all because of these TPLF old men. What a disaster!

    Here is a tip: TPLF supporters quickly change your tunes and start fighting for equality of all Ethiopians. You better start fighting for the rights of all Ethiopians to travel and establish lives any where in Ethiopia. In other wors this is the time to put less emphasis on your tribal affiliation and more on pan-Ethiopianism that benefits everyone.

    I understand the rapid collapse of TPLF is a bitter pill to swallow. I am also surprized. But better to cut your losses, make the appropriate pivot, and move on ……

    Good luck.

  • Was it possible for military martial court on the rebellion north command faction instead of destroying the whole country? The facts are very much different and we have to face the worst war ever happened to Ethiopia. Many countries are going to involve into this war and the worst weapon will be hunger to death.

  • TPLF is ranting in English. TPLF is an ethno-terror organization that massacred thousands including Tigrians themselves. TPLF using its militias and special forces in coordination with Tigrian youth group called Samri massacred more than Amharas just in a day alone. This article tries to sell the TPLF as an innocent victim of the treacherous political forces in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

    • TPLF is ranting in English. TPLF is an ethno-terror organization that massacred thousands including Tigrians themselves. TPLF using its militias and special forces in coordination with Tigrian youth group called Samri massacred more than Amharas just in a day alone. This article tries to sell the TPLF as an innocent victim of the treacherous political forces in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

  • It is astonishing how bias blinds people. The author made two flagrant arrogant “mistakes” to say the least. First, he made the most racist political party that happened to Ethiopia, the TPLF, one and the same as the Tigrayan people. This has been the narrative the TPLF had been repeating until blood comes out peoples ears. Second, the author grabbed every “historical event” that he could put his hands on and twisted it to fit his delusion of portraying the TPLF the most human political party that the planet earth was lucky to have. These two alone warrant psychiatric examination.

    Be that as it may, assuming the author will have time to read what other reasonable people describe the TPLF and why it was wiped out from the face of the earth in three weeks time, here is a link to go to.

    https://www.ethiopia-insight.com/2020/12/17/conflict-in-tigray-is-about-tplf-not-ethnic-federalism

    • Thank you for your opinion. I think the last election in Tigray, where 99% chose TPLF, says it all. Tigrayans = TPLF= Woyane for life. AMEN 🙏

    • Hi, I am an Eritrean American citizen! I’ve masters in Political science Public p/a. & I’ve been following these events happenings and develpements closely.
      Obviously it appears to me you’re biased against Tigrayans and the democratically elected leaders of Tigray TPLF!
      The author is on point.

      • I wouldn’t say winning 90+% of votes is a sign of a well functioning democracy. That’s a rigged election. But the author make some good points about the dangers of being allied with the murderous regime of Isayas. Isayas is only interested in power and war, nothing else.

      • Mr. “Eritrean” political scientist, where & when did you get your license to lecture 100 million Ethiopians what makes the TPLF democratic after TIGRAY APARTHEID massacring Ethiopians for 27 years?

  • This is it. A great analysis to the heart of the real cause of the War on Tigray. History of subjugating , starving, pillaging Tigray repeats itself as witness it today again!

  • Ethnocentric movements like TPLF are actually the most genocide pron organizations out there. TPLF has a long history (27 years) of mass killing, mass imprisonment, war, torture, 100% elections, extreme violence and corruption. No one will buy your pitch that TPLF is a persecuted party. It was an organization full hubris. Always overreaching. It is a good thing they are vanquished. The whole region is better off without these mischievous people.

    • Ray you must be Amhara talking like that, everything he portrayed about Amhara hate against tigaru is being shown by your words!

    • We often say “Tegaru have no problem of making history, but documenting them”. You are breaking this barrier. Thanks for writing such thorough, evidence based, chronological and informative article. Thanks Gebrekristos!!

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