Statement on Tigray by the Special Advisor of the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide is Superficial, Too Little and Too Late
By Makonnen Tesfaye
Tigrai Online Feb. 8, 2021
Testimonies on the Making of Genocide in Tigray
(i) “By remaining actively silent for three months, that is beyond the usual empty platitude of “concern”, “alarm”, “worry”; and worse by not taking concrete actions, the UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council have become complicit in the War on Tigray, Crime Against Humanity and the Making of Genocide of an African people and nationality”
(M.T. - MKTUK; On UN failure to date to stand up against a genocidal war in Tigray, Ethiopia)
(ii) “Emaciated refugees to crops burned on the brink of harvest, starvation threatens the survivors of more than two months of fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The first humanitarian workers to arrive after pleading with the Ethiopian government for access describe weakened children dying from diarrhea after drinking from rivers. Shops were looted or depleted weeks ago. More than 4.5 million people, nearly the region's entire population, need emergency food. Hundreds of thousands might starve to death and some already had, according to minutes obtained by The Associated Press. There is an extreme urgent need — I don’t know what more words in English to use — to rapidly scale up the humanitarian response because the population is dying every day as we speak,”
(Mari Carmen Vinoles, Head of the Emergency Unit for Doctors Without Borders)
(iii) “No more whitewashing: Aid is still NOT reaching civilians in desperate need in Ethiopia’s Tigray. Hunger and malnutrition reach them faster. In 40 years as humanitarian, I’ve rarely seen an aid response so impeded. We are failing as an int’l community”
(Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council)
(iv) “We are horrified by the reports and allegations we have received of sexual violence during the conflict in Tigray. The survivors of these alleged attacks must not be seen as statistics but as individual women and girls whose lives have been profoundly altered by the violations committed against them”
(Gemma Connell; U.N. Humanitarian Chief for East and Southern Africa)
(v) “I am greatly concerned by serious allegations of sexual violence in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, including a high number of alleged rapes in the capital, Mekelle. There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence. Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities, while medical centres have indicated an increase in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which is often an indicator of sexual violence in conflict. In addition, there are increasing reports of sexual violence against women and girls in a number of refugee camps.”
(Pramila Patten; The U.N. Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict)
(vi) “Diplomats are so conditioned to be diplomats that they consistently offer conventional responses in the face of unconventional horrors. The United Nations consists of diplomats who attempt to resolve every issue by talking it over, even when that simply will not work. In addition to this fault, the United Nations is set up as a faultily structured system”.
(Samantha Power, an Expert on Genocide and Former US Ambassador to the UN)
(vii) “What happened in Rwanda showed that despite the creation of an organization set up to prevent a repetition of genocide – for the UN is central to this task – it failed to do so, even when the evidence was indisputable.”
(L.R. Melvern, an Investigative Journalist who Researched the Rwandan Genocide)
1. It is now apparent to many that the UN Secretary-General and UN Security Council inactions are tantamount to complicity in the War on Tigray and the Making of Genocide. To add insult to injury, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Genocide Press Release on the 5th February 2021 is full of generalities and clichés about genocide, lacking specificity, focus, or concreteness; and it fails to address known and verified facts on the ground in Tigray. These include the ethnic profiling, targeting and cleansing of the Tigrayan nationality in Ethiopia, which is the precursor and forerunner of the on-going war crimes and the making of the genocidal war in Tigray. For three months since her appointment on 10 November 2020, the Special Advisor did not utter a word on the ethnic profiling, targeting and cleansing of Tigrayans by the Abiy Ahmed Regime. This is well documented and verified nationally and internationally, and is being done in broad daylight in the Country’s Capital, under the nose of the diplomatic communities who reside in Addis Ababa, the seat of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
“Guterres has been virtually silent on even the most egregious rights violations. Whether it was the Saudi government murdering the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Trump administration separating migrant children from their parents, or Russian-Syrian forces bombing Syrian hospitals Guterres has steered clear of pointed criticism of those responsible. He speaks almost invariably in broad generalities. It’s time to ditch this approach. It has only emboldened the world’s autocrats. Guterres should remind abusive states that the UN is not just a tool to promote economic development or a forum to talk about security, but a guardian of human rights. The UN has to work with member states but it needs to set clear red lines – publicly and privately – when governments bomb civilians or jail, torture and murder their critics. Guterres should make clear he is ready and willing to call out individual governments and their leaders”
(Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, July 2019)
2. It is dumfounding and hurting to millions of victims of the War on Tigray to hear that the UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, is only “alarmed” not horrified or appalled by the escalation of violence in Ethiopia, or what she called the “allegations” of violations of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in the Tigray. It is superficial, too little and too late. Moreover, the reference to the War on Tigray as “Situation in Ethiopia” is tantamount to covering-up of war crimes; and complicity in the deliberate failure to call a spade a spade. Words matter. It is a war involving the invasion of an autonomous Regional National State of Tigray by the combined National Armies of the Ethiopian Government, the regime in Eritrea and the forces of the Amhara Regional National Government. The War on Tigray is supported by weapons of mass destruction and war technologies provided by the United Arab Emirates as well as troops from the Somalian Federal Government. To date, over three months, over 52,000 Tigrayan civilians have been killed by the invading armies. Over 4.5 million of Tigrayans are on the verge of starvation and famine. Sexual violence and hunger are weaponised as instruments of war as well as the wanton destruction and pillage of property in order to destroy the social and economic fabric of the population. These much are known, reported and verified by international agencies and many governments around the world. Yet, this is shamefully and criminally referred to as “Situation in Tigray or Ethiopia”. This is a deliberate cover up.
3. The UN Press Release by the Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, on the “situation in Ethiopia” is a classic example of the UN Secretary-General Secretariat’s Office, and his Advisors’ superficial narrative or analysis of the unfolding tragedies and catastrophes happening in Tigray. The press release is superficial for its lack of focus and specificity. It is full of clichés, generalisation of known facts or attributes of genocide. It reads as academic, the usual cataloguing of what constitutes a genocide, lacking concreteness, or actual facts on the ground in Tigray. The Press Release failed to differentiate victims from perpetrators. Sadly the Press Releases are designed for the “record” and to cover the back of UN diplomats and functionaries for their lack of urgency and concrete actions. However, these superficial press releases will not stop them from being held accountable for their abject failure to act and redress the spectre of war crimes and the making of genocide yet again in Africa and in the 21st Century. These include the weaponisation of hunger and sexual violence as instruments of war by the Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afewerki’s governments.
4. Tigrayans are ethnically cleansed in toto from the civil service, public agencies and enterprises including the Ethiopian Airlines, Ethio-Telecom and banking institutions. Similarly, Tigrayans have been removed from the Federal Police, Army and security agencies. Tigrayans have been kicked out from public housing on the basis of their ethnicity. Hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans have been vilified, demonised, harassed and looted. Tigrayans right to travel outside the country is severely restricted. The barring of the daughter of the former PM of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, from travelling abroad is a case in point. Tens of thousands have been either imprisoned or interned in camps scattered in the country. The Abiy regime has the audacity to even ethnically cleanse Tigrayans who work for foreign NGOs and international agencies based in the country, such as the African Union and the UNDP. This is happening without the diplomatic community raising an eyebrow. The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is being held incommunicado and under house arrest for being a Tigrayan. Even Tigrayans who reside outside the country and who work for international agencies are being targeted and vilified solely for being Tigrayans. The Abiy Ahmed regime’s orchestrated campaign of vilification directed at the Director-General of the WHO, a Tigrayan, is an example of the extent the regime is prepared to ethnically target Tigrayans wherever they are. The upshot is that ethnic targeting and cleansing is the precursor, or forerunner of the genocidal war that is being waged on Tigray. Through the physical elimination of the Tigrayan population and by weaponising hunger and famine the Abiy Ahmed-Isaias Afewerki regimes are engaged in the making of genocide of a people and nationality. To date and after three months of a barbaric war, short of platitudes and clichés of “concerns”, “alarms” and “worries” by international agencies and governments, there have been no concrete actions or sanctions to stop the horrors of the war on Tigray and its horrendous and heinous aftermaths. Hence, it is imperative that the stance and deeds, by omission or commission, of responsible governments and international agencies, in particular the United Nation, are called out and held to account.
“I’m sure the secretary-general has convinced himself that he is acting prudently by holding his tongue. I think future historians won’t interpret it as prudence but will interpret it as weakness.”
(Zeid Raad al-Hussein, a former U.N. political officer in Bosnia and Jordanian ambassador who served as U.N. high commissioner for human rights; Foreign Policy 2020)
5. The role the UN Secretary-General Office and his Team of Advisors on Genocide and Sexual Violence and Rape in Conflicts should involve collecting relevant information on the ground in Tigray and Ethiopia at large. This should help in identifying early warning signs of the risk of atrocious crimes. These they have failed to do so in Tigray or Ethiopia. Moreover, they are expected to play the crucial role of advocating mobilisation of UN system and member states to effective action in response to situations where populations are at risk of atrocious crimes. Again they have miserably failed to take concrete actions to redress the human tragedies unfolding in Tigray.
“The impression one has on the UN Leadership is that standing up for UN Charter values and speaking out for principles over expediency, and on major violations of human rights and international law, is somehow considered by the UN leadership as a bit quaint, even a sign of zealotry and political imbecility.”
(Andrew Gilmour, Former UN Assistant Secretary-General for Refugees, Foreign Policy 2020)
6. Peace and justice loving people should urge the UN Secretary-General Office and his Team of Advisors, in particular on Genocide and Sexual Violence in Conflicts to act to stop the unfolding catastrophes of the War on Tigray, Crime Against Humanity and the Making of Genocide of an African people and nationality. They must insist the war to end and the Eritrean invading and occupying army to leave Tigray immediately and completely. The weaponisation of sexual violence and the use of hunger and starvation must be condemned and stopped. Moreover, the UN must insist that humanitarian corridors are opened so that emergency relief is provided to the millions of victims of the on-going war. For over three months now the Tigrayan people have been denied access to water, food, medicine, electricity, phones, transport and banking services. This is genocide in the making. The UN must act not hide behind phony press releases. Tigray should not and must not be another Rwanda or Darfur.