Acknowledging Eritrean soldiers war-crime against civilians in Tigray as a step towards healing and building peace
By Petros Tesfagiorgis
My New Year resolution is that the Eritrean Civil Societies and political partiesin exile put a lot of effort for peace to stop the senseless war and save the life of thousands of Eritreans and Ethiopians. .
Since the start of the Ethiopian Civil War on November 3, 2000, Eritrean troops in collusion with Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF), Amhara Militias and their youth movement Fano have committed war crime in Tigray, killing civilians’ looting, destroying the livelihood of the people, massacres in Axum, Humera and other places, sexual violence against women, using famine as a weapon of war and other forms of human rights violations. What is tragic is that the Eritrean young troops are victims themselves. They are forced to be in the army as part of the indefinite national military service known as slave-labour. Furthermore the youth are rounding up in the streets and forcefully sent to fight. In Eritrea where private media is abolished the indoctrination of the young generation to hate the TPLF and the people of Tigray is deeply rooted and no doubt Eritrean soldiers feel no remorse to commit war crimes in Tigray.
Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed tried to convince the world that the war he unleashed against Tigray is a law enforcement operation. Far from it, all the atrocities are testimony of a campaign to destroy Tigray. New York Times wrote “New evidence shows that Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has been planning a military campaign in the northern Tigray region for months before war erupted. Secret meetings with the dictator (Isaias) clandestine troop movements and months of quiet preparation for a war that was supposed to be swift and bloodless.
By now the agendas of the three coalition partners are stark clear. PM Abiy Ahmed wanted to be unchallenged ruler of Ethiopia. He won the support of the Amhara for his effort to annex Eritrea to Ethiopia; the Amhara Elite never recognized the independence of Eritrea. In addition they wanted to get back Western Tigray they claim as theirs. Isaias’s motive is to take revenge against TPLF on the 1998 war but most importantly he believes with PM Abiy and the Amhara elite on his side it is impossible for Eritreans to fight back to save Eritrean sovereignty.
The coalition partners thought the TPLF and the people of Tigray are an obstacle to achieve their objectives and decided to destroy them, never to allow them rise to power again. The battle line is thus drawn between the coalition to obliterate Tigray and TPLF to fight for survival and defend the federal system. The situation of Eritreans is complicated. For years the many political opposition organisations based in Ethiopia were so divided they were not able to challenge the power of Isaias. By the time peace is signed between Abiy and Isaias the Eritrean political opposition parties must flee Ethiopia.
In this moment in time a windom of opportunity was opened for the Diaspora political and civil society organisations to actively engage in political activities. The just seekers particularly the Yeakl mass movement joined hands with the Tigrean activists in all the demonstrations that condemned the atrocities carried out against the people of Tigray and calling for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Ethiopia. They have also engaged in fund raising to help Tigrean families whose properties had been looted and destroyed. The Yeakl civil society rose up in many countries like wave of Tsunami saying “enough is enough (Yeakl) Isaias has to go”. They realized that the peace agreement of Isaias and Abiy was an agreement to go to war, destroy Tigray and annex Eritrea. Today Yeakl mass movements have formed a Global leadership. It represents the strongest Eritrean civil society yet in Diaspora. The Yeakl mass movement demonstrations in solidarity with the people of Tigray is the foundation of peace between the people of Eritrea and the people of Tigray to be extended to other nationalities like Oromo, Agow and Benshangul who took up arms against PM Abiy Ahmed to defend their right to govern themselves locally under a federal system.
The victory of the people and the Government of Tigray is also the victory of the the people of Eritrean. The coalition let alone annex Eritrea they will not be in power themselve. Their dreams will be shattered. The fact that just seekers stood on the side of the people of Tigray during their darkest days is paving the way for good relations in the future. The reconciliation with Tigray will not be difficult. Eritrea Focus and All-Party Parliamentarian group for Eritrea (APPG) have played a pivotal role in raising questions in the British Government to condemn the violations. Eritrea Focus is compiling a study about the underlining causes of the war to share it with the international community.
Apart from standing in solidarity with the people of Tigray on human rights considerations,which any one with moral high ground should do, there is another reason why the people of Tigray and Eritrea should cooperate and work together. Both peoples have common enemies. In this war they perish together or survive together. In this dire situation the Diaspora just seekers cooperating with Tigray is the right thing to do. Several Eritrean political parties have united in their objective to remove Isaias- who is taken as a liability of the region. They are forging good relations with Tigray. These cordial relations will have other benefits. Ethiopian various nationalities who took up arms against the coalition, like the Oromo, Agew, Benshangul and many more will know the authentic voice of the people of Eritrea strongly opposes Isaias medling in the affairs of Ethiopia. Unless we win their friendships there will be tension with them.
Unfortunately there are some Diaspora justice seekers-Eritreans who object cooperation with Tigray and are engaged in hate campaign. They do not seem to understand that at this moment in time the only concern is to save Eritrea from its demise. To win friends and cooperate with those who face the same enemy is a survival Strategy. It does’t matter whether they like Tigray or not, it doesn’t matter wether they have grudges against them or they against us. To campaign against Tigray is an indirect support to Isaias. At least they should have stopped hate campaign that contradicts the wishes of the Eritrean people for peace. It is lack of peace which is the main source of the pains and sufferings of the people of Eritrea.
PM Abiy released 9 political prisoners including the ex-head of TPLF Sebhat Nega and the popular Oromo activist Johar Mohamed. Isaias and the Amhara elite are furious. The Amhara took to the streets and demonstrated in Debre Marcos against the release of the prisoners. The Amhara elite genocidal hate campaiagn is still strong. That will make reconciliable between Abiy on one side, Isaias and Amhara elite on the other. Abiy is under pressure to make peace but Isaias and the Amhara elite driven by hate wanted to continue the war. The coalition is thus fractured.
The campaign for peace spearheaded by Yeakl mass movement could shine in the international platform. It is an effective weapon in the diplomatic world where the international community and governments are putting pressure on PM Abiy Ahmed to make peace. They can also challenge the forces of hate. They can change the image of Eritrea from being a war-monger to peace maker. That will make a difference to the future of Eritrea and the Horn.
At the samae time it is crucial to campaign to help Eritrean refugees suffering in Ethiopia, Libya, and Egypt and in many other countries.
In this crucial moment in time acknowledging Eritrean soldiers’ war-crime against civilians in Tigray is a step towards healing and towards building peace.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said “Those who love peace must learn to organise as effective as those who love war”
To be continued. Why did the Amhara elite don’t want short of anhilating Tigray in this war and no peace at all? Why special bond with Isaias?