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Why the UN Security Council Must Stop the Genocidal War on Tigray

By Makonnen Tesfaye
Tigrai Online March. 8, 2021

1. Background of the War on Tigray

1.1 Four months have passed since the armies of the Ethiopian Federal Government, the Eritrean Regime and the Amahra Regional Government Special Forces and Militia invasion and occupation of the Regional National State of Tigray, an autonomous and self-governing Region in the Federal Republic of Ethiopia. In addition, the War on Tigray has been supported by drones and war technologies provided by the United Arab Emirates and with the approval and active support of the former Trump Administration as well as the knowledge and tacit approval, or indifference of Western governments. The War on Tigray is not merely a conventional war between armies but is a total war of annihilation of the Tigrayan people and nationality. This is happening with the indifference of many governments and most of the international agencies as shown by lack of decisive actions by Western governments, Russia, China and the UN Secretary-General and Secretariat. Russia and China are engaging in their usual great power rivalry and geo-political machination vis-à-vis the Western powers, impeding decisive actions from the UN Security Council to stop the genocidal war on Tigray. Russia and China must be pressurised by global public opinion, in particular African, to support, or at a minimum not to be an obstacle to a unified UNSC resolution on the War on Tigray in order to avert the making of another Rwanda or Darfur in Africa.

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By remaining actively silent for three months, that is beyond the usual empty platitude and diplomatic clichés of “concern”, “alarm”, “worry”; and worse by not taking concrete actions, Western governments, Russia, China, 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)

“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 American Academic and Former US Ambassador to the UN)

2. War Crimes and Crime against Humanity in Tigray

2.1 The War on Tigray is utterly barbaric and ‘total war’ in character, design and operation. The war has been characterised by mass atrocities and killings, massacres (e.g. The Axum Massacre of 800+ civilians and the Mariam Dengolat Monastery Massacre of 164 citizens) and the wanton destruction and pillage of property. During three months of the war, over 52,000 Tigrayan civilians have been killed according to three Opposition Parties’ preliminary research in Tigray. The number is fast rising. 1 million people are missing or unaccounted, which is ominous, according to the puppet, so called ‘Transitional Government’ set up in Tigray by the Abiy dictatorship. The blanket bombing of civilian infrastructure, factories and industries, hospitals and schools is aimed at tearing down the social and economic fabric of the people and the Region. Similarly, the relentless ethnic targeting, demonising propaganda and psychological war to break Tigrayans’ moral and national will. The war on Tigray is also aimed at destroying Tigray’s cultural and religious heritages as shown by the bombing of churches, monasteries and mosques that are Tigray’s depositories of its cultural and religious artefacts.  These include the magnificent world heritages in Tigray like the 13th Century rock-hewn Churches in Geraltta, the 7th Century AlNejashi Mosque and the Debredamo Christian Monastery built in the 1st Millennium.  The War on Tigray by the regimes of Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia and Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea committed war crimes as investigated and reported by Human Rights Watch:

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“The US-based group said the attacks violated the ‘laws of war’ and urged the government to investigate. Human Rights Watch has accused the Ethiopian military of indiscriminately shelling urban centres during the conflict in the northern region of Tigray last November. Homes, schools, hospitals and marketplaces were not spared when artillery was fired indiscriminately towards Tigray's towns and cities, according to the report. In one incident Eighty-three civilians, including children, were killed and more than 300 others were wounded, Human Rights Watch alleges” (BBC News, 11 February 2021; Human Rights Watch, 11 February 2021)

2.2. In highlighting the commission of ‘Crime against Humanity’  in Tigray by the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies, Mervyn Thomas, the founder of a non-for-profit Christian human rights group, CSW, urged the world community and governments that:

“Ethiopia must be pressurised to ensure protection for refugees in accordance with international laws; fulfil its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, as well as under the Rome Statute, which describes the targeting of civilians, including through deliberate starvation.Bottom of Form We urge Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to take immediate steps to de-escalate the conflict, ensuring full respect for the right to life and the fundamental freedoms of all Ethiopian citizens, regardless of ethnicity. Pressure must be exerted to ensure an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of Eritrean troops, the opening of humanitarian corridors to assist refugees and civilians, and the immediate, independent verification and investigation of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity.”  (Mervyn Thomas, Founder of CSW, a non-for profit Christian Humanitarian Group; 24 November 2020)

3. Hunger and Starvation as Strategic Instrument in the War on Tigray

“To ignore evil is to become accomplice to it.”  Dr Martin Luther King JR

3.1 In the War on Tigray, hunger and starvation is weaponized in order to completely subjugate the population, which in itself constitutes a war crime. This is strategically planned and executed by depriving the people access to water, food, medicine, electricity, phones, transport and banking services. It has been deliberately and insidiously implemented during the debilitating Covid-19 Pandemic, the onset of a devastating Locust Invasion and just prior to the harvesting of crops that are vital to existential livelihood of millions of farmers. The stark data provided below by international agencies including the UN, aptly summarised the horrors of the unfolding catastrophes in Tigray:

§ Over 52,000 civilians  killed in 90 days and the number is rising;

§ 1 million people ‘missing’ or ‘unaccounted’ according to the Government, which is ominous;

§ Thousands of girls and women sexually abused and raped/gang raped;

§ 4.5 million Tigrayans  need urgent emergency food;

§ 2.2 million Tigrayans internally displaced;

§ 100,000 Tigrayan refugees in Sudan;

§ Almost 100 % of Crops in the fields in Tigray burnt; food items and house utensils looted from households;

§ More than 75 % Domestic animals in Tigray killed (so that Tigray's traditional farmers would not have oxen to plough with for years to come); and

§ More than 75 % of Health facilities, schools in Tigray looted destroyed burnt.

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3.2 The Abiy Ahmed-Isaias Afewerki strategy of weaponising hunger and starvation to subdue the millions of Tigrayans and its horrifying effects to date is vividly described by Mari Carmen Vinoles, Head of the Emergency Unit of Doctors without Borders as:

“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)

3.3 The strategy of the weaponisation of hunger and starvation by the Abiy Ahmed-Isaias Afewerki regimes is accompanied by the deliberate and persistent refusal to allow humanitarian corridors for emergency relief to reach the victims of the War on Tigray. This is despite the repeated calls by international relief agencies since the start of the war on 4th November 2020. The horrendous aftermaths of the genocidal war in Tigray and the unfolding catastrophes is vividly expressed by Jan Egeland of the Norwegian Refugee Council”: Of late the Abiy-Isaias dictators are appearing to be co-operating with the emergency relief efforts of international agencies only in order to thwart the relief process or use it as a tool for the further control and suppression of the population. This is the tactics of giving in a little in order to keep the status quo. If anything, as we write they have escalated the conflict by deploying over 100,000 troops to Southern Tigray in order to intensify the War on Tigray with all its horrendous aftermaths.

“In all my years as an aid worker, I have rarely seen a humanitarian response so impeded and unable to deliver in response for so long, to so many with such pressing needs. As an international community, we are clearly failing to deliver against the humanitarian imperative we are facing. Millions of women, children and men, including refugees, are in a truly desperate situation, suffering alone without aid or protection. The entire aid sector, NRC included, must also recognise our failure to define the scale of the crisis, to respond early, to coordinate and to speak out – all of which has crippled the collective response. We must all act now and play our part to ensure aid reaches the millions of people suffering in Tigray.”(Secretary-General Jan Egeland: Norwegian Refugee Council: Aid still not reaching Tigray, 1 February 2021)

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4. Sexual Violence and Rape as Instrument in the War on Tigray

“The campaign theme for International Women's Day 2021 is 'Choose To Challenge'. A challenged world is an alert world. And from challenge comes change. So let's all #ChooseToChallenge.” (IWD: About International Women's Day, 8 March 2021)

4.1 On March 8th, the 110th anniversary of International Women’s Day, we celebrate the struggle of women for equality, recognizing the great achievements to date and the many fundamental challenges remaining. The celebration belongs to all humanity and the unified struggle of all who care about human rights. In celebrating IWD we must not forget the horrendous and heinous crimes that are being inflicted on millions of Tigrayan girls, women, mothers and grandmothers by the barbaric armies of the Ethiopian, Amhara and Eritrean forces that have forcefully invaded and occupied an autonomous and self-governing Tigray, which is a constituent part of the Ethiopian Federal Republic.

4.2 In the War on Tigray sexual violence and rape is used as an instrument of war, where to date thousands of Tigrayan girls and women have been gang raped by the Ethiopian, Amhara and Eritrean soldiers.

 “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)

 “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)

4.3 The body of evidence on the widespread prevalence of sexual violence and rape in the genocidal War on Tigray by the Amhara, Eritrean and Ethiopian Federal forces is such that, even the Abiy Ahmed regime is forced to admit it, as reported by the BBC News on 12 February 2021:

Ethiopia confirms rape allegations in Tigray conflict -The authorities in Ethiopia have confirmed incidents of rape took place in the conflict-hit Tigray region in the wake of a military offensive against the local ruling party. It comes after the UN said it had received reports of a high number sexual violence and abuse in the region, including of individuals forced to rape members of their own family. ‘We have received the report back from our Taskforce team on the ground in the Tigray region, they have unfortunately established rape has taken place conclusively and without a doubt,’ Minister of Women, Ethiopia, Filsan Abdullahi tweeted on 11 February 2021.” (BBC News, Africa, 12 February, 2021)

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Historically sexual violence and rape in conflicts show that for each reported case, there are be two or many more unreported cases. This is due to fear of victims, stigmatization and under-reporting, amongst others. Rape as a strategy of war has a horrendous consequences on the victims, the families and the communities.  

“It’s not just the rape – it’s the way this is done. I know of a father who was tied up to a chair with a rope between his lips, forced to watch as five Eritrean soldiers took turns to rape his 12 year old daughter. They are even forcing fathers, brothers and uncles to rape their own children and relatives, and killing them for refusing – what Tigrayan will rape his own family member?! They rape pregnant women. We are also hearing macabre accounts of Eritrean forces killing women and raping their corpses after. It’s difficult to find one-time rape victims; even those who have been raped have been raped again. I know these are unconscionable and horrifying to the human mind; I am telling you as a priest – but this is what they are doing. To them, this is law.” (The Horrors of the Tigray War: Eyewitness Accounts; Eritrean Hub; 30 January, 2021)

Rape in conflicts is both a war crime and a crime against humanity. When it is targeted at a certain ethnic group with the intention of ethnic cleansing, it is genocidal. Genocidal rape is a war crime too.

5. The UN Secretary General and Security Council Must Stop the War in Tigray

“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)

5.1 In Rwanda it took only 100 days to perpetrate one of the worst genocides the World has ever seen. The abject failure of the UN and Western governments, including the US Clinton Administration, to stop the Rwandan genocide is a black spot in the annals of world history. Over the last 120 days, the War on Tigray has registered war crimes and crimes against humanity unprecedented in the country’s history.  During this time the UN Secretary-General and his Secretariat and the UN Security Council have failed to act to avert the genocidal war and its catastrophic aftermaths. Specifically, the Secretary General’s abject failure to highlight and call for action to stop the unfolding catastrophes epitomises the failure of the UN system. During the last four months, the Secretary General spoke about the war in Tigray only once (9 December 2020) and only as an apologist of the war-mongering dictator Abiy Ahmed. On 9 December 2020 the UNSG denied the presence of Eritrean Troops in Tigray and bought into the Abiy Ahmed’s ‘law and order operation’ justification for the war on Tigray.  The UNSG said: “We have no proof of the presence of Eritrean troops inside Ethiopia. I ‘confronted’ the Ethiopian PM with that question, and he ‘guaranteed’ to me that they have not entered the Tigray territory, that the only area where they are is the area that corresponded to the disputed territory between the two countries that in the peace agreement was decided to give back to Eritrea”. That the dictator Abiy Ahmed is a compulsive liar is well known to many astute observers of Ethiopian politics, but it is would be a stretch to believe that the UNSG is that gullible. The presence of Eritrean troops, some 37 Eritrean Divisions, in Tigray is not a needle in haystack but the elephant in the room.  After four months and on the 4th March 2021 and only through his spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, the UNSG has admitted the presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray. Some would say ‘better late than never’, but his failure to alert the world in time and mobilise the UN system to act concretely might have cost tens of thousands, or more of Tigrayan lives. His reluctance to date to publically condemn the atrocities and their aftermaths in Tigray is a glaring and gross failure of the responsibilities of his office.

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5.2 The UNSG’s ‘pick and choose’ approach to highlighting conflicts and the selective condemnation of repression is biased and unprincipled. The UNSG’s recent pronouncement on Myanmar is a case in point: “I call on the Myanmar military to stop the repression immediately. Release the prisoners. End the violence. Respect human rights, and the will of the people expressed in recent elections” (UNSG’s Twitter, 23.02.2021). The UNSG’s remarks are bold and right, but the question is couldn’t he have said the same or similar thing about the repressions and atrocities in Tigray, Ethiopia? Why is it safe and right in the case of Myanmar, but not Ethiopia? Was the UNSG constrained by the former US Trump Administration? Is it beyond cynicism to speculate that the UNSG recent and more frequent bold pronouncements in condemning repression have something to do with the election in December 2021 for the office of the UNSG? The upshot is that the UNSG is duty bound to consistently denounce gross violation of human rights wherever and whenever they happen.

“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)

5.3 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. For example, it is abundantly clear that Tigrayans have been profiled, ethnically targeted and cleansed in the Capital, Addis Ababa, for nearly one year without the diplomatic communities, including the UN system, raising an eyebrow. Even Tigrayans who worked for the UNDP in Ethiopia have been profiled and ethnically targeted, which is well known to the UN and the UNECA, which is based in Addis Ababa. Similarly, baring the daughter of the former PM of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, from travelling abroad, or the Abiy Ahmed’s orchestrated campaign of ethnic targeting of the Director-General of the WHO, who is a Tigrayan, passed without the UN system making an objection.  These tell-tale signs have been the precursor to what is now an out-and-out ethnic targeting and cleansing of Tigrayans as well as the genocidal War on Tigray. Beyond the usual platitudes and  diplomatic clichés of being ‘concerned’, ‘alarmed’ and ‘worried,’ the UN system has failed to identify actual victims or perpetrators, usually blaming all, or nobody.  These often for the records and the consumption of the press as well as to cover the back of diplomats and functionaries rather than to  highlight and to get to the bottom of the  truths or to focus minds on concrete actions to redress unfolding catastrophes as in Tigray.  Moreover, the UNSC Secretariat is expected to play the crucial role of advocating the mobilisation of the 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 date to take concrete actions to redress materially the human tragedies unfolding in Tigray.

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“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);

“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).

The hope and expectation is that the UNSC and its Secretariat should step up and act proactively and decisively to stop the making of a genocidal War on Tigray and avert its horrendous aftermaths. The world must not allow the tragedies of Rwanda or Darfur to be repeated in Tigray in the 21st Century.

6. Abiy’s War and Eritrean Armies and Amhara Expansionists’ Invasion and Occupation of Tigray

6.1 The ‘Troika’ of the nemesis of the Tigrayan people are the armies of Abiy Ahmed, Isaias Afewerki and Amhara Expansionists. The inhumanity and barbarity of the Eritrean army’s acts in Tigray is beyond verbal description but can be compared to Graziani’s massacre in Addis Ababa in the 1930s, or Mengistu’s in Hawzen, Tigray, in the 1980s. Suffice to say it resembles Nazi atrocities in occupied Eastern Europe for its savagery, hatefulness and vengeful blood-letting. The massacres in Axum and Mariam Dengolat (as reported by Amnesty International, CNN and France 24) are examples to mention but a few.

“What is now abundantly clear to all is that Eritrean troops are operating throughout Ethiopia’s Northern Region and well-corroborated reports suggest they are responsible for atrocities” (Mark Lowcock, Head of UNOCHA; 4 March 2021)

6.2 The Amahra Regional Government Special Forces, Militia and the Fano Paramilitary are responsible for the massacres of Tigrayans; sexual violence and rape against Tigrayan girls and women; the wanton destruction of civilian infrastructure, property and Tigrayan national heritage sites as well as for the forceful annexation of the constitutionally designated Tigrayan territories in Western and Southern Tigray. To date they been actively engaged in ethnically cleansing Tigrayans, close to one million people, from their lands in Western and Southern Tigray as evidenced by the US State Department and as reported by The New York Times on 26 February 2021:

“Ethiopian officials and allied militia fighters are leading a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in Tigray, the war-torn region in northern Ethiopia, according to an internal United States government report obtained by The New York Times. The report, written earlier this month, documents in stark terms a land of looted houses and deserted villages where tens of thousands of people are unaccounted for. Fighters and officials from the neighboring Amhara region of Ethiopia, who entered Tigray in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, are “deliberately and efficiently rendering Western Tigray ethnically homogeneous through the organized use of force and intimidation,” the report says. ‘Whole villages were severely damaged or completely erased’, the report said.” (The New York Times; 26 February 2021)

6.3 The unelected Cliques of Abiy Ahmed’s Party, PP, have transgressed the Ethiopian Federal Constitution by declaring war on Tigray, inflicting war crimes and crime against humanity. This because Tigray held a Regional Election in the exercise of its self-determination and autonomous self-rule as prescribed by the Ethiopian Federal Constitution.

“Multiple credible and widely corroborated reports from Tigray speak of widespread atrocities, including mass killings and abduction of civilians” (Mark Lowcock; Head of UN OCHA, 4 March 2021)

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6.4 The Biden US Administration official position on the War on Tigray, as expressed by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s and the US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s statements, are to be welcome. Their call for the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces from Tigray and the demand for Abiy Ahmed to stop his genocidal war on Tigray are critical preconditions for addressing the humanitarian crisis in Tigray and for starting  a peaceful political dialogue to resolve  Ethiopia’ political challenges. Similarly, their decision to send a ‘DART’s Team to Tigray with a view to supporting emergency relief operations in Tigray. The challenge now is to make it happen.

6.5 The Biden US Administration, the European Union and the UK have the diplomatic, financial and military leverage to end the War on Tigray by acting unilaterally or multilaterally, notwithstanding the preferred route, which is to act through the UN Security Council. What is clear to the great powers is that the War on Tigray has unleashed forces that have destabilised the Horn of Africa as never before with increased insecurity and humanitarian crisis that have negative geo-political repercussions beyond the Region. Moreover, the economic consequences of the political crisis would further exacerbate other challenges including mass immigration and violent extremism.

7. What Needs to be Done - The Way Forward

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” – Dr Martin Luther King JR

7.1 It is imperative that peace and justice loving people should urge their governments and international agencies, in particular the UN Security Council, to urgently act in order 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 way forward are to demand:

§ the War on Tigray to end, and the conduct of independent investigations of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegations in order to bring the perpetrators to face justice;

§ the invading and occupying Eritrean and Amhara armies to leave Tigray immediately and completely;

§ the weaponisation of sexual violence and the use of hunger and starvation to be condemned and stopped;

§ governments and the UN must insist that unfettered humanitarian corridors are opened so that humanitarian and emergency relief is provided to the millions of victims who are on the verge of starvation and famine; and

§ that Ethiopia’s political challenges are resolved through peaceful and democratic dialogue of all stakeholders in the country.

For over four months now the Tigrayan people have been denied access to water, food, medicine, electricity, phones, transport and banking services. Schools, hospitals and infrastructure built over 30 years have been deliberately destroyed. Mengistu’s Military Regime man-made Ethiopian famine of 1984/85 is deliberately being repeated in Tigray. This is genocide in the making. The Western governments, Russia, China and the UN must act not hide behind diplomatic platitudes and clichéd press releases.  Great power rivalry and geo-political calculations should not and must not be an excuse for the making of genocide of an African people and nationality in the 21st Century.

“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)

As Tigrayans’ national liberation struggle continues resolutely, it is contingent upon the world that Tigray should not and must not be another Rwanda or Darfur.

Testimonies of War Crimes and Crime Against Humanity in Tigray

(i) “A pogrom is happening in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is killing its own citizens wantonly. That is chilling, but true: by attempting to extirpate Ethiopia of Tigrayan ethnicity and heritage, Ethiopia’s military and government stands accused of purposeful ethnic cleansing, a precursor to all-out genocide, as outlawed by the UN Convention against Genocide” (Professor Robert Rotberg, Former President of the World Peace Foundation; 28 January 2021)

(ii) “The Mariam Dengolat Massacre of 164 civilians: AFP reached Dengolat last week, interviewing survivors and viewing mass graves that now dot the village, a collection of stone houses surrounded by Tigray's signature steep rock escarpments. ‘This kind of crime is to exterminate us, to humiliate us’, Tamrat said from his hospital bed in the regional capital Mekele, where he is unable to sit up without the aid of a rope. Human rights groups fear that instead of an extreme example of the violence in Tigray, what happened in Dengolat could turn out to be disturbingly typical. ‘There are so many spots of violence and massacres in Tigray. The full scale is yet to be known,’ said Fisseha Tekle, Ethiopia researcher for Amnesty International.” (Robbie Corey-Boulet, IOL; 3 March 2021)

(iii) “The Maryam Ts'iyon massacre was a massacre of about 720–750 civilians that took place in Axum, Tigray in late November 2020. The indiscriminate shooting by the Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) throughout Axum and a focused mass killing at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion by the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and Amhara Regional Forces and Militia. The church is the place where bodies were collected for burial. Due to a tight communication block, news of the massacre (or two separate massacres; reports are still emerging) was only revealed internationally in early January 2021 after survivors escaped to safe locations were interviewed, and the  Report by Amnesty International”. (Ethiopia: The Massacre in Axum, Amnesty International Report; 26 February 2021)

(iv) The unfolding catastrophes in the War on Tigray: - 52,000 civilians killed over 90 days and the number  still rising; 1 million people ‘missing’ or ‘unaccounted’; 4.5 million Tigrayans in need of urgent emergency aid to avert famine of the 1984/85 proportions; 2.2 million Tigrayans internally displaced; close to 100,000 refugees in Sudan; almost 100 % of crops in the fields in Tigray burnt; more than 75 % domestic animals in Tigray killed; and more than 75 % of health facilities, schools in Tigray looted, destroyed, or burnt”. (https://savetigray.substack.com/p/a-special-place-in-hell-video-update)

(v) “In all my years as an aid worker, I have rarely seen a humanitarian response so impeded and unable to deliver in response for so long, to so many with such pressing needs. Millions of women, children and men, including refugees, are in a truly desperate situation, suffering alone without aid or protection. We must all act now and play our part to ensure aid reaches the millions of people suffering in Tigray.” Statement by Secretary General Jan Egeland: Norwegian Refugee Council: Aid still not reaching Tigray; 1st February 2021)

(vi) “Emaciated refugees to crops burned on the brink of harvest, starvation threatens..... Hundreds of thousands might starve to death and some already had ....I don’t know what more words in English to use - the population is dying every day as we speak,” (Mari Carmen Vinoles, Head of the Emergency Unit for Doctors-without-Borders)

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(vii) “The head of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society said Wednesday that 80 percent of the country's conflict-hit Tigray region was cut off from humanitarian assistance and warned that tens of thousands could starve to death”. (AFP; 8 January 2021)

(viii) “The attacks violated the ‘laws of war’.  Human Rights Watch has accused the Ethiopian military of indiscriminately shelling urban centres during the conflict in the northern region of Tigray. Homes, schools, hospitals and marketplaces were not spared when artillery was fired indiscriminately towards Tigray's towns and cities. In one attack Eighty-three civilians, including children, were killed and more than 300 others were wounded”. (BBC News, 11 February 2021; Human Rights Watch, 11 February 2021)

(ix) “Ethiopia must fulfil its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, as well as under the Rome Statute, which describes the targeting of civilians, including through deliberate starvation. Pressure must be exerted to ensure an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of Eritrean troops, the opening of humanitarian corridors to assist refugees and civilians, and the immediate, independent verification and investigation of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity.” (Mervyn Thomas, Founder of CSW, a non-for-profit Christian Humanitarian Group; 24 November 2020)

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