On the morning of the day after the 2020 US presidential election, while the ballot papers were counted in a number of unresolved states; Many Ethiopians in the United States woke up to sad political news coming from their country, after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abi Ahmed announced a military attack on Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia. In the next six months, the tensions already in place before Abiy Ahmed took office, on which many had pinned their hopes of tackling them. Now, the political situation in Ethiopia is going down a path with disastrous consequences for civilians in the Horn of Africa, and disastrous effects for the Ethiopians in the diaspora.
Another, more disturbing picture emerged months after Abiy Ahmed made his first promise to “protect the country and the region” by alienating the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Witness accounts, reports from human rights organizations and the US government, and satellite imagery from combat zones all point to a campaign Much broader violence against civilians in Tigray and its hospitals, schools, and places of worship. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken condemned what he called “acts of ethnic cleansing”, calling for unrestricted access to humanitarian aid in Tigray, and an independent investigation into alleged human rights violations. The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry denied these accusations, describing them as “false and baseless”, while Abiy Ahmed later admitted that “atrocities were committed in the Tigray region”, and that the forces of Eritrea, the neighboring country of Ethiopia, had committeddevastation to the people of the region. https://www.youtube.com/embed/zvgXGKWcsE4?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=ar&autohide=2&wmode=transparent
A Tigranian man from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, told me in a call via the “Signal” application, on condition of anonymity for fear of the security threat, saying that the violence of the two countries’ militants is not limited to strategic locations only, and added that the violence spread in most parts of the region, citing factories and homes. And the holy places of worship that he saw destroyed in his village, “Aksum”, saying: “We are forced to walk on many dead bodies if we go down to the street, even animals are not killed in this way.”
In addition to people’s accounts of human abuse and their grief for their loved ones, dozens of people I have spoken to in recent weeks have expressed another pain that is crushing them in silence: the betrayal they feel at losing the bright visions they dreamed of for their country’s future. When Abiy Ahmed became prime minister in 2018, Addis Ababa seemed to be obsessed with Abiy Ahmed, nicknamed “Abimanya”. In that year, almost all taxis were covered with stickers bearing the name or picture of Abi Ahmed, and T-shirts for him were also spread in various shapes and colors. Within a few months of this energetic young reformer taking charge, he released imprisoned politicians and journalists, ended the state of emergency imposed by the previous regime, and formulated his vision, which he called “devastating,” or “synergy,” in his description of the Ethiopia he hopes to lead the people to reach it.
In August of that year, Abiy Ahmed’s visit to the United States was covered , including in Washington, D.C., home to the world’s largest Ethiopian community, and that day the man spoke to the thousands gathered at the Walter Washington Convention Center: “Today, if you decide We are all on the path of healing, we will write a new story together because we are Ethiopians.. If you want to be the pride of your generation, you have to choose that the Oromo, Amhara, Welayta, Gharagi and Celts are all equal Ethiopians.. What Ethiopians need is union.” The Ethiopian people were ready for a leader like Abiy Ahmed after decades of political conflict, especially between the country’s different regions. https://www.youtube.com/embed/_NSs5Rz92F0?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=ar&autohide=2&wmode=transparent
The Ethiopian community has responded to Ahmed’s plans for Ethiopia with overwhelming optimism. Eden Kasa, a Tigrayan woman who has lived in Washington DC since her teenage years, recalls this vividly optimistic response. “I remember when Abi Ahmed was elected and gave us his wonderful speech, everyone took the bait,” she told me at the end of January after returning from Tigray. .
Tigrayans make up 6% of the population in Ethiopia, with a population of more than 112 million, but they have had a remarkable impact on major government and private sectors, including the federal government, for nearly thirty years, as the “Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front” came to power in 1991 as a Provisional Government After the overthrow of the brutal military dictatorship known as the Derg (the military government of then-Socialist Ethiopia), in the years following the Derg’s fall, the Tigranians took over the leadership of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. Former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who held the highest national office until his death in 2012, expanded the powers of the central government, sometimes with violent crackdowns on protesters and journalists. His successor, Hailemariam Desalegn, officially announced the “Complete Comprehensive Plan for the Development of Addis Ababa”., which sought to expand the capital by seizing land belonging to the Oromo ethnicity, and then displacing its original inhabitants. And soAnti-government demonstrations in response to the planned plan contributed to Desalegn’s resignation in 2018.
Abiy Ahmed replaced Desalegn with his passionate and fervent appeals to the Ethiopians and their desire for peace, justice and prosperity. Ahmed is an ethnic Oromo, and was appointed to the position by the Oromo Democratic Party, another political party within the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition, which, along with his allies, won full parliamentary seatsIn the 2015 elections, Abiy Ahmed’s rise to the top of the pyramid of national politics marked a new page in the history of the ethnic group that had long been marginalized historically, despite being the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. So, at the time of Abiy Ahmed’s appointment to the position, Tigrayans were not the only ones enthusiastic about Ahmed’s calls for the Ethiopian people to celebrate their diversity and shared values. Kassa’s likeness of Abiy Ahmed to “Obama of Ethiopia” was in order. For many Ethiopians at home, and among communities abroad, Ahmed became a symbol of that imagined peaceful, multi-ethnic society that did not seem so elusive in the era before Abiy Ahmed and his emphasis on the diversity of cultural groups in the country.
In addition to the enthusiasm that Ahmed has spread among Ethiopians, his political approach based on consensus and reconciliation has attracted interest from outside the country and among Ethiopian communities. With hostility, the two countries fought a fierce war for thirty years after Emperor Haile Selassie annexed Eritrea to Ethiopia in 1962. The Eritrean border – bordering Tigray – remained a theater of tension, even after Eritrea gained its independence. Besides the recent uprisings of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front against the Ethiopian federal government, it has repeatedly attacked Eritrea during the past decades, and among the reasons for its attacks is Afwerki’s continued insistence on compulsory military service.For all Eritrean citizens. Given the depth of this hostility, a peace agreement seemed elusive before Abi Ahmed and the affection he showed to Afewerki, who has been president for three consecutive decades since its independence.
Even before it was announced by the Prime Minister at the end of March, all I spoke to in Ethiopia confirmed reports that Eritrean soldiers had participated with the Ethiopian National Defense Forces in controlling Tigray. The presence of Eritrean soldiers in Aksum, Mekli, Adwa and other Tigray cities reveals another worrying aspect of Ahmed’s winning of the Nobel Prize, as many members of the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities are currently wondering with concern about the nature of the détente between Ahmed and Afewerki in 2018, and whether it was in fact orchestrated, at least in part, With the aim of coordinating the attack at the end of 2020 on their common enemy, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and by extension the rest of the Tigray region, including the Eritrean refugees fleeing the oppressive Afwerki regime before the current conflict erupted.
The euphoria of Ahmed’s first months in office, when the newly appointed leader denounced the rampant ethnic violence in the country, now seems a distant memory, while famous Ethiopian figures, especially the Tigrayans , publicly denounce the violence of his administration, or donate large sums to address the disaster. the humanity that caused it. Burhan Kidani Mariam, deputy chief of the Ethiopian mission to the United States, announced his resignation a few weeks ago, writing:: “It is ironic that the Prime Minister who came to office vowing unity is the same one who deliberately exacerbated the hatred between the different groups, as the government, by using the Amhara militants to attack Tigray, tried to entrench the hostility between the Amhara and the Tigrayans. The Prime Minister deliberately tried to increase the hostility among the common people. of the Tigrayans and Eritreans, by bringing Eritrea into this war, allowing its army to commit atrocities and brutally destroying the Tigrayans.”
The on-going assault on Tigray is but a new one – though it is by far the most famous – in a series of ethnically motivated attacks across the country that have been dispelling the illusion of a united republic. According to reports, when protests erupted after the killing of Oromo singer and activist Hashalu Hundesa last year, thousands of Oromos were arrested and hundreds more were killed. Reports emerged in November, days before Abi Ahmed’s attack on Tigray began, of a massacre in Oromia state targeting dozens of people belonging to the Amhara, the country’s second largest ethnic group. Last April, Ethiopia declared a state of emergency in Amhara following the outbreak of ethnic violence in the southern parts From the region, where many Oromo people live. There were also reports that rebel groups had killed Amharic civilians in other parts of the country.
As Ayantu Ayana, an Oromo doctoral student, wrote last August : “Now, with the emergence of another face of Abi Ahmed, the glimmer of hope that gave him what was supposed to be a transitional shift toward participatory democracy has disappeared for a while.” Like Ayana, Abtow does not trust the Ethiopian government to protect its citizens. Nevertheless, he says, Ethiopians inside and outside the country can get around a bleak goal of confirming each other’s accounts of the tragedy of the violence the government denies. If you are Ethiopian, that means that you are superior to any political group. If I do not feel the bitterness and pain of what is happening in Tigray just because I am an Oromo, then that means that I am a false person, and that I am not Ethiopian. It is politically illogical, not even moral.”
The breadth and intensity of the attacks on Tigray by the Ethiopian National Defense Forces and the Eritrean army indicate that they are beyond any logic that might explain them as a mere political move designed to intimidate an opposition party. It also defies the limits of national and regional ties. Social networking sites have witnessed a conflict over the official Ethiopian narrative , reflecting the chasm among Ethiopians in the diaspora. The prime minister has won enthusiastic support from some Ethiopians who either deny the atrocities in Tigray or argue that the region’s civilians deserve violence because of the brutality with which the Tigray People’s Liberation Front has conducted Ethiopian politics in the past. And these supporters document the demonstrationsIn which Ethiopians and some Eritreans gather to denounce the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and declare their loyalty to the national government. On the other hand, reports of violence targeting the Amhara are refuted and refuted by others. On Clubhouse, the permissive approach to user safety protocol allowed discussions to open up about the use of the word “extermination”, and rooms sprang up discussing, for example, “Why should the Amhara be exterminated?”
Many Tigranians, when able to communicate with those outside the region, express the feeling of being abandoned by their friends across the country, and Gebrikristos Gebrselassie, who runs a war history website from his home in Amsterdam, says many of those he has known for years have been completely silent when they see him. With other Tigrayans publicly expressing their grief online, and others sending him messages of joy at the overthrow of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, Gebrselassie says: “They are putting salt on our wounds, which is very painful.” In some parts of the United States, Tigranese demonstrators belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church have told me they are considering separation from their community, citing the unease they feel when they see the clergy openly supporting government aggression.
Iskandar Negash, the US Eritrean president of the American Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, also expressed concern that the conflict in Tigray will have lingering consequences for ordinary citizens, regardless of what happens with the government or after national elections in June. (It should be noted that no national elections have been held since Abi Ahmed’s rise to power, last year’s elections were canceled due to the Corona pandemic, but last September the Tigray Regional Council defied the federal warnings and held its own elections, in which the Tigray People’s Liberation Front won all contested seats . “I think the acceptance of this bloodbath is in full swing,” Negash, who grew up in Ethiopia, told me, expressing his fear that there was no end in sight to the crisis.
It is difficult for many to imagine a way to heal the deep fissures that have long characterized the Ethiopian nation, and which now seem even more difficult to ignore. At the heart of many internal social conflicts lies the compelling desire to acknowledge them to begin with: throughout Ethiopia’s history, many ethnic groups have experienced tragedies and disasters, and were then accused of not realizing their sufferings, or of inflicting them on themselves. To name a few, one of the things that visitors to Ethiopia catch sight of when they approach the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa is the towering statue of Haile Selassie. In the face of the violence that has shaped modern Ethiopia , and with the recent atrocities, these new national shocks may not see reconciliation and honest review either. As Lee Negash put it: “I think it will require a deep research journey into the issue of identity What it means to be Ethiopian.