jump to navigation

WPF: Many autocrats kill people. It takes a particular kind of leader to kill a country. This is what the Ethiopian Prime Minister is doing. July 20, 2021

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.

The Tigray-Amhara Boundary Should be Resolved by Constitutional Means


July 2021 Employee of the Month: Abiy Ahmed

by ALEX DEWAAL on JULY 19, 2021

The ‘Employee of the Month award’ is bestowed on the person who has done the most to harm the cause of world peace in the last month. Image: “A Conversation with Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia” by World Economic Forum is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed inherited a state. He sacrificed it to the dream of an empire. On his current trajectory, Abiy’s political obituary will be that he left Ethiopians with neither state nor empire.

Many autocrats kill people. It takes a particular kind of leader to kill a country. This is what the Ethiopian Prime Minister is doing.

There was a moment when Abiy was seen indispensable to solving Ethiopia’s problems. Today he is the problem.

At the United Nations Security Council meeting on July 2, western nations put their emphasis on human rights and humanitarian calamity, while Kenya (representing the African nations) and China focused their concern on preserving the Ethiopian state. None of them subscribed to the Ethiopian government’s official narrative.

As if to confirm their fears, three days later Abiy made a speech in parliament and announced that he was closing thirty of Ethiopia’s sixty embassies. He said he didn’t think that his country’s diplomats were value for money, and suggested that the diaspora were doing a better job. Africa’s oldest and most esteemed diplomatic corps, which was built up by Emperor Haile Selassie after World War II and nurtured by successive regimes, is being willfully destroyed.

In the same speech, Abiy denied that his army had suffered a defeat in Tigray, and said that he could raise and train 100,000 special forces in a month, and a million soldiers if need be. The rout of the Ethiopian National Defense Force in Tigray was due in part to Abiy’s dismantling of the army as an institution, which he began almost as soon as he took office. Huge numbers of foot soldiers along with new tanks and drones cannot compensate for lack of generalship, doctrine and strategy. Abiy is simply arming Ethiopians to kill and die.

Abiy’s economic policy of liberalization and attracting foreign investment has been sacrificed to the war, which has consumed the government’s budget, destroyed a significant part of its industry and service sector, and shattered its reputation among international financial institutions and private sector investors.

Abiy Ahmed became prime minister in April 2018 at a time of crisis in Ethiopia. ‘Crisis’ is a relative term. The economy was growing fast, the country had functioning state institutions envied by its neighbors, the ruling party was finally moving towards being an arena for genuine political debate, and the country was at peace with all its neighbors save one—and was well positioned to impose peace terms that would compel Eritrea to demilitarize and democratize. The government faced no military threats at home or abroad; it was Africa’s largest contributor to United Nations and African Union peacekeeping operations; Ethiopia enjoyed strong relations with the U.S., Europe, and China. Middle Eastern that countries it had long regarded as strategic challengers—Egypt and the Gulf States—were at bay.

Abiy came to power because a largely non-violent democratic protest movement caused the head of government to step down and the core element in the ruling party and security sector—the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)—to step aside.

After 27 years in power, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) had dismally failed on democracy and human rights, but had won Ethiopia an enviable reputation for stability and growth. Ethiopia’s state capacity was not an automatic inheritance of its long history as an independent polity. Ethiopia’s state had been built by decades of statesmanship at the top, investment in institutions, and lifelong dedication by civil servants.

Many African leaders in ‘crisis’ countries envied Abiy the political capital he possessed and the opportunity to build on strengths and remedy weaknesses. Viewed by many as a reformer, he also enjoyed considerable popular support. His early steps seemed to manifest that promise—releasing political prisoners, inviting opposition parties back, lifting censorship, reaching out to Eritrea.

Abiy made grand promises to everyone, and everyone loved it. He basked in the glory. He took the accolades far more seriously than he should have done. Drawing on his Pentecostal faith and his personal sense of destiny, Abiy refashioned the myth of Ethiopia as a nation chosen by God. He dispensed with any humility and readiness to reflect upon and learn from error. In short, Abiy had a messianic vision but lacked the basics of statecraft.

Abiy did not bring Ethiopia to this precipice alone. His predecessor, Prime Minister Haile Mariam Dessalegn, failed to lead and allowed the country to drift into turmoil. Hailemariam compounded rather than remedied the problems he inherited from Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Getachew Asefa, former head of security, was responsible for many of the most egregious abuses of the EPRDF government—and when Abiy issued an arrest warrant for him, he fled to Tigray where the TPLF elevated him to their central committee. Before and during the current war, the TPLF spokesman, Getachew Reda, prefers posturing and point-scoring to problem solving. Berhanu Nega, leader of the Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (EZEMA) party, has cultivated a nostalgic imperial-nationalism that has been instrumental in driving the war fever in Addis Ababa and parts of Amhara region, and Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen has connived with this effort. Legions of twitter warriors roar incendiary nonsense on social media. Foreign actors who indulged Abiy’s egomania share responsibility. Above all, Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki seized his moment to become godfather to Ethiopia’s self-destruction, pursuing his long-held ambitions of seeking to crush Tigray and bring Ethiopia to its knees.

Helped by these men—whether adversaries or allies—Abiy has brought Ethiopia to the brink of political, economic, and reputational collapse. He has made Ethiopia the land of famine once again (though he denies that there is hunger in Tigray), and the land of gang rape for the first time (something he jokes about). He banned opposition parties, imprisoned dissenters, closed newspapers and detained journalists. He has destroyed the army while making needless enemies at home and abroad. His friends—notably Pres. Isaias—are more dangerous to Ethiopia than his enemies. Abiy rushed into a preventable war and bragged about it.

These are all sufficient reason for Abiy to warrant Abiy’s award as ‘employee of the month’—the individual who has done most to stand in the way of peace. But what singles out Abiy is the culmination of his folly, which is contemplating the breakup of Ethiopia—the secession of Tigray—as preferable to his accepting the reality that he has failed. The measure of a statesman is handling adversity. In the face of the calamities of the last months, Abiy has preferred to live in a bubble of illusion rather than take the necessary and painful steps to salvage his country. He is sustaining that bubble with incendiary mobilization of ethno-national passions that he cannot control. His most recent statement, speaking of Tigrayans as an incurable disease and an invasive weed is aptly described as ‘a textbook example of dehumanizing speech and incitement to genocide.’ The havoc Abiy is unleashing and the hatred he is fomenting will surely outlast his tenure in office.

Many autocrats cause appalling suffering to their people, but historians assess them as having built states. PM Abiy is responsible for immeasurable human distress—mass killings, rape, torture and starvation. But he is also leaving a legacy of deliberately turning Ethiopia into a fragile and quite possibly a failed state.

The New York Times: After Sudden Defeat, Captured Ethiopian Soldiers Are Marched to Prison July 3, 2021

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

After Sudden Defeat, Captured Ethiopian Soldiers Are Marched to Prison

The scale of the loss suffered by one of Africa’s most powerful armies was on vivid display on Friday as thousands of government troops were paraded through Mekelle, the regional capital of Tigray.

MEKELLE, Ethiopia — Thousands of Ethiopian prisoners of war were paraded through the regional capital of Tigray on Friday as jubilant crowds lined the streets to jeer the captives and cheer the Tigrayan forces who only days earlier had routed one of Africa’s most powerful armies.

Many of the soldiers bowed their heads and cast their eyes downward. Some had to be carried on stretchers, and others wore bandages freshly stained with blood.

The swift defeat of the Ethiopian forces was a stunning reversal in a civil war that has led to the displacement of nearly two million people in the Tigray region, widespread hunger and reports that civilians were subjected to atrocities and sexual violence.

The parade of prisoners served as a pointed rebuke to Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who had proclaimed in a speech on Tuesday in the national capital, Addis Ababa, that reports of his troops’ defeat were “a lie.” He had declared a unilateral cease-fire, he insisted, for humanitarian reasons.

Mr. Abiy had actually declared victory last year, only about a month after he initiated the military operation in Tigray in November — but the fighting had continued for seven more months.

Flanked by Tigrayan fighters, the columns of defeated Ethiopian soldiers had been marching for four days from the quickly established battlefield camps where they had been held since the fighting ended this week. They flooded the streets of the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle, and were taken to a large prison on the northern edge of the city.

  • Dig deeper into the moment.

Special offer: Subscribe for $1 a week.

A 14-year-old dashed out into the street to run alongside the column, shouting her admiration for the leader of the Tigrayan forces, calling him a “lion.”

“All these soldiers tried to kill us,” the girl, Mearge Gebroemedhin, said a few moments later, referring to the Ethiopian government forces. “But the Tigrayan soldiers showed their mercy. I am proud of our soldiers.”

While some in the crowd jeered the soldiers, the onlookers focused much of their anger on the Ethiopian prime minister, Mr. Abiy.

Captured Ethiopian government soldiers on Friday.
Captured Ethiopian government soldiers on Friday.Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Nearly eight months before, Mr. Abiy had sent his forces to Mekelle to wrest power from the region’s leaders, declaring the move was necessary because the Tigrayans had held local elections without permission from the federal government, and had tried to capture an Ethiopian military base.

Now the victorious Tigrayan leaders are back in Mekelle, reoccupying their former offices.

In a lengthy, exclusive interview soon after he arrived from his holdout in the mountains, Debretsion Gebremichael, the leader of the ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, said that his fighters had captured more than 6,000 Ethiopian soldiers.

He said that Tigrayan officials have been in touch with the International Committee of the Red Cross, and would soon release the low-ranking soldiers, but would keep officers in custody.

Under the Geneva Conventions, prisoners of war must be given food and clothing, and protected from violence, intimidation and “public curiosity.” There was no immediate indication that the Ethiopian soldiers had been mistreated, or whether marching them through the streets of Mekelle amounted to a violation of the Conventions.

Crowds gathered to watch the Ethiopian government soldiers.
Crowds gathered to watch the Ethiopian government soldiers.Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Ever since Ethiopia announced a unilateral cease-fire on Monday and pulled its troops out of Mekelle, Tigray has experienced electricity, telecommunications and internet blackouts. The consequences will exacerbate an already dire humanitarian situation, according to the United Nations.

International aid agencies warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe and said it was unclear if the rebel victory would allow international assistance to start reaching those most in need in the Tigray region, which is bordered by Eritrea to the north and Sudan to the west.

The U.N. said that at least 350,000 people in the conflict-ravaged region had entered a state of famine. The U.S. Agency for International Development put its estimate for those facing famine conditions at 900,000.

On Thursday, a bridge was destroyed that provided vital access over the Tekeze River to the town of Shire in central Tigray, where the U.N. estimates there are between 400,000 and 600,000 internally displaced people living in dire conditions.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that the bridge had been destroyed by troops belonging to the Amhara Special Forces and the army of Eritrea, the country to the north of Tigray, which had fought as allies with the Ethiopian troops.

“The bridge’s destruction will have an impact,” said Claire Nevill, a spokeswoman for the World Food Program.

Redwan Hussein, an Ethiopian government spokesman, said on Friday that two bridges connecting the Tigray region had been destroyed, but denied that the government or allied forces were responsible. He blamed the Tigrayans.

One aid agency employee who was traveling through Tigray on Thursday said that there was “little to nothing” entering the region at the moment and that food trucks had been prevented from getting there by troops along the border with the Amhara region.

In the interview, Mr. Debretsion said that Tigrayan leaders were working to bring in international aid as swiftly as possible.

Debretsion Gebremichael, the leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
Debretsion Gebremichael, the leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said at a Security Council briefing on Friday that she is hearing reports that getting aid into Tigray is “more difficult” now than it was a week ago — which is “not an indication of a humanitarian cease-fire, but of a siege.”

She added, “The Ethiopian government can and should prove this analysis wrong by providing unhindered movement of humanitarian supplies, commodities, and personnel into and throughout Tigray. If they do not, we believe hundreds of thousands of people could starve to death.”

Analysts say that Mr. Abiy, who has served as Ethiopia’s prime minister since 2018 and who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for making peace with Eritrea and instituting domestic democratic reforms, now faces tremendous political challenges.

The alliance Ethiopia forged with Eritrea and fighters in the Amhara region could fracture as Ethiopian troops continue to pull back from direct engagement, and Tigray fighters go on the offensive.

“The Amhara support for him will eventually dwindle,” said Mehari Taddele Maru, a professor of governance and geopolitics at the European University Institute. “The one thing that was holding things together in the Amhara region was the anti-Tigray sentiment. Once the Tigray matter is out of the game, the glue that held his support together is no longer there.”

Under the Geneva Conventions, prisoners of war must be given food and clothing, and protected from violence, intimidation and “public curiosity.”
Under the Geneva Conventions, prisoners of war must be given food and clothing, and protected from violence, intimidation and “public curiosity.”Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Getachew Reda, a senior Tigrayan leader, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that Tigray’s forces would not hesitate to enter Eritrea, and even might try to advance toward its capital, if that is what it would take to keep Eritrean troops from attacking again. And he claimed that in recent days, Tigrayan forces had killed many Ethiopian troops and militia fighters.

Since June 30, fighting has continued between Tigrayan and Eritrean forces in northwestern Tigray, close to the contested towns of Badme and Shiraro, U.N. security documents show.

“We want to degrade as many enemy capabilities as possible,” Mr. Getachew said. “We are still in hot pursuit so that enemy forces will not pose a threat to our Tigray in any way.”

As Friday wore on, many of the marching Ethiopian soldiers who arrived at the jail appeared hungry and exhausted. They were put in cells, men separated from women.

They had passed through a gauntlet of Tigrayans celebrating their capture. Adanay Hagos, 23, who had walked alongside the soldiers yelling at them, later explained that he was so angry because some of his friends had been killed by Eritrean troops allied with the Ethiopian army.

“This is just one step,” he said. “They invaded our land from the west and the south. Until they leave, the war is not over.”