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Did Western Countries Enable Ethiopia’s Civil War?

Damian Pachter

Israel Hayom, Dec. 30, 2021


“Never would I have imagined it humanly possible for any person to kill their fellow soldiers while asleep and record themselves singing and dancing on the bodies of their victims.”

Ethiopia has been ravaged by a bloody conflict for over a year, an ongoing civil war that has been named the “Tigray War,” after the region where the clashes began. 

Reports from the East African country show violence, cruelty, and massacres, which, unfortunately, characterize most of Ethiopian history. 

The war began in November 2020, when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front – a politically powerful entity that had dominated Ethiopian politics for almost 30 years as a repressive regime through a one-party dominant system and opposed Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s efforts to re-centralize all state powers in Addis Ababa – carried out a surprise attack on the Ethiopian National Defense Force’s Northern Command headquarter in Mekelle, capital of the region.  

Other outposts across the province were also targeted by the rebels, which they described as a “preemptive strike,” while the Ethiopian government claimed the militia carried out massacres and mass executions after they took control of the area. 

“After they surprised and overpowered several regiments of the ENDF forces, the TPLF identified and separated hundreds of unarmed Ethiopian soldiers of non-Tigrayan origin, tied their hands and feet together, massacred them in cold blood, and left their bodies lying in the open air,” Ahmed described the events. 

“Never would I have imagined it humanly possible for any person to kill their fellow soldiers while asleep and record themselves singing and dancing on the bodies of their victims.”

The TPLF initially denied the accusations, but later admitted to targeting the military headquarters.

A year after the clashes began – and seemingly far from over – Israel Hayom sat down with the Ethiopian Ambassador to Israel Reta Alemu Nega, a lawyer by trade, who has held several diplomatic positions across the world.Ethiopia: Army says it is in control of Tigray capital | News | DW |  28.11.2020

“The Northern Command of the National Defense Force is one of the strongest in Ethiopia, and it was stationed there for over 20 years. The blatant attack by the regional government was a shocking crime against one’s own people. Nobody expected this kind of attack against the National Defense Force and committing such atrocities.”

The federal government immediately declared a state of emergency and sent forces to Tigray. 

“This attack was not only shocking but also very destabilizing,” the ambassador added. “All the equipment located at the base was in the rebels’ hands now. The TPLF also fired missiles at civilian areas. However after a successful operation of the reinforcement of forces [by the central government], within a period of three weeks, the source of the rebels’ power diminished.”

Q: Who arms the rebels and why?

“The TPLF was in communication with various groups and foreign powers. Some say they have had assistance from Egyptians, the Sudanese, but they’ve also been telling bluntly that they have support from some Western governments. What kind of support did they receive? It is up to them to reveal these details, but they obtained support from different forces.”

Q: Why would the Western governments support them and not the federal government? 

“It is up to some of these Western governments to explain the rationality, but it goes against principles of international relations that say that the territorial integrity, solemnity, and national independence of a country have to be protected. All other nations need to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ethiopia. We have been asking all those nations who support the rebels that they should not interfere with our domestic affairs because we can handle our issues ourselves.”

Q: Is Israel involved in the conflict? 

“Israel does not assist the rebels. We have excellent relations with Israel and the Israeli government has stated clearly that it supports the democratically-elected government and they give us their full support in all arenas. We cooperate at all levels. 

“To the best of my knowledge, there are agreements on cooperation between military industries, but there is no direct military assistance from Israel.”

Two weeks ago, the TPLF announced it began withdrawing from several areas it had occupied.

“We decided to withdraw from these areas to Tigray,” TPLF Spokesman Getachew Reda said. “We want to open the door to humanitarian aid.”

It was later reported that Debretsion Gebremichael, chairperson of TPLF, sent a letter to the United Nations with a proposal for a ceasefire.

“We trust that our bold act of withdrawal will be a decisive opening for peace,” Gebremichael wrote, calling for an immediate end to hostilities and for negotiations to begin.

The central government dismissed the ceasefire call and cast doubts on the rebels’ motives.

“The resolution of this phase is something that we’re committed to in terms of ensuring that it’s done in a peaceful way and through political means. Nevertheless, any political solution will always be centered on justice, will be centered on accountability, and also in dialogue,” Billene Seyoum, the prime minister’s spokesperson, said.

Last week, following a request by the European Union, the UN Human Rights Council launched a commission of inquiry into the war due to allegations of war crimes.

The Flag of Europe is the flag and emblem of the European Union (EU) and Council of Europe (CoE). It consists of a circle of 12 golden (yellow) stars on a blue background. It was created in 1955 by the CoE and adopted by the EU, then the European Communities, in the 1980s. (Wikipedia)

The commission will comprise three human rights experts who will investigate both parties in the conflict based on their actions from November 2020 to June 2021.

The move was supported by 21 member countries with 15 against and 11 abstaining. African nations mostly abstained or voted against the move.

“The government is busy bringing about a stable peace and the problems we have in the Tigray Region,” Nega said. “The terrorist attacks were most shocking. The murder of innocent people, gang rape, destruction of public property, including schools – these are the most disturbing. The government must put an end to this and bring peace to the country.”

In 2019, a year after the war broke out, Ahmed won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in ending the 20-year post-war territorial stalemate between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

“Abiy Ahmed has initiated important reforms that give many citizens hope for a better life and a brighter future,” the Nobel committee said. 

After receiving the award, the prime minister vowed to “bury this enemy with our blood and bones and make the glory of Ethiopia high again.”

In an earlier interview with Israel Hayom, Reda, who, as mentioned above, is the spokesperson for the TPLF, denied allegations that the group was receiving external financial support. 

“We do not receive any assistance from Eastern or Western governments. Only from the people of Tigray.”

Besides being engaged in a war, Ethiopia, like all nations of the world, has also had to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The second most populous African country, Ethiopia has a population of 115 million people, most of whom live in rural areas and far from the reach of the central government. As such, tracking patients is a difficult task, and coronavirus statistics are not always accurate.Demographics of Ethiopia - Wikipedia

Official data says that 7,000 Ethiopians have died of the virus since the outbreak of the pandemic, and in the past week an average of 1,000 cases were reported daily.

As a result, the World Health Organization mobilized to aid the African continent, with efforts headed by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, former health and foreign minister of Ethiopia.

However, according to Nega, “The WHO is not doing enough. We are a country of 115 million people and not even 5% of the population are vaccinated. They have not been efficient. Implementing the COVAX program [a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access] is far from meeting expectations and as we see, the situation in Africa still needs to be addressed.”

Matshidiso Moeti, regional director of the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa, recently expressed cautious optimism about Omicron – a coronavirus strain recently identified in South Africa – and said, “Deaths and severe illness remained low in the current wave.” Nevertheless, she warned that due to a low vaccination rate, “the number of infected could be much higher.”

Ghebreyesus said in a recent briefing, “All of us are tired of this pandemic. We all want to spend time with friends and family. We all want to get back to our normal lives. The quickest way for all of us, leaders and individuals, to do that is to make hard decisions to protect ourselves and others. In some cases, this means canceling or postponing events. It is better to cancel now and celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later. A canceled event is better than a canceled life.”

Despite the war and the pandemic, Ethiopia and Israel maintained close ties. Nega spoke of the relationship between the two countries that date back to the Biblical period. 

The Kebra Nagast, a national Ethiopian epic, is considered to hold the genealogy of the dynasty of King Solomon. 

It contains an account of how the Queen of Sheba (Queen Makeda of Ethiopia) met King Solomon and about how the Ark of the Covenant came to Ethiopia with their son Menelik I . It also discusses the conversion of the Ethiopians from the worship of the Sun, Moon, and stars to that of the “Lord God of Israel”.

Nega recommended British author Graham Hancock’s 1992 book The Sign and the Seal, in which he describes his quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant, which according to the ambassador is a “highly-valued treasure for both Jews and Ethiopian Christians.”

 To view the original article, click here

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