Ethopia: Black lives matter-Peace talks or genocide?

Ethopia: Black lives matter-Peace talks or genocide?

After the airstrikes of the Ethopian government against the Tigray Peolple´s Liberation Front in Tigray, the TPLF with their allied forces managed it to seize two strategic cities near Addis Adeba and even threatens to occupy the capital.The time of Abiy seem to be over, if he doesn´t escalate the conflict and turns the tide. In this context some experts fear that Ethopia could face a genocide comparable to wuanda. In his article “When is it genocide? Persecution of the Tigrayans continues in Ethiopia. The parallels to the preparation for the genocide of Rwanda’s Tutsi in 1994 are obvious”. Taz reproter Dominic Johnson draws paralells to the genocide in Rwanda  in the 90s. His arguments:

When does genocide begin? With organized slaughter? Or already with the preparatory work? The first answer applies legally. The second is relevant for political intervention. To prevent the worst from happening, one cannot wait for it to happen. In Ethiopia the accusation “Tigray Genocide” is currently circulatiing: A genocide against the ethnic group of the Tigrayans is going on. The Tigray rebels and their sympathizers point to massacres, air strikes, the blockade of food deliveries, hate speech and ethnic persecution. The Ethiopian government and its friends speak of a targeted campaign with which a terrorist organization seeks to divert attention from its own crimes and undermine a recognized government. The trenches are deep, as diplomats have only recently discovered when trying to mediate. It is hardly possible to write on this subject without being accused of partiality by one side or the other. It is still necessary. Too much is at stake in one of the largest countries in Africa, home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations. And the parallels with the predecessors of the genocide of Rwanda’s Tutsi in 1994 are too similar, although Ethiopia is not Rwanda and the Ethiopian civil war in 2020–21 is different from the one in Rwanda in 1990–94.

In Rwanda in 1990 the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front), established under the Tutsi in exile in Uganda, marched in to force the Tutsi who had been driven out by Hutu to return home. In Ethiopia, on the other hand, the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) has been in power since 1991 – it ruled the state and above all the military until it broke with reform leader Abiy Ahmed, who first ousted her in 2020 and then also took control of her home region of Tigray. But the dynamic of violence in the two wars is comparable. In both cases there is a second, internal front alongside the military confrontation: the attacked central state declares a group defined as an ethnic group to be the enemy, its members are collectively stigmatized, demonized, persecuted, imprisoned, massacred – Tutsi in Rwanda then, Tigrayans in Ethiopia today . „Buried with blood and bones“ Ethiopian officials publicly refer to Tigrayans as vermin, weeds, snakes, hyenas, devils and cancer. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed wants to „bury the enemy with our blood and bones“. For his advisor Daniel Kibret, the Tigrayans must be „wiped out of human memory and consciousness and from the history books“ and be „the last of their species“ – he claims that he only means the TPLF, but the Ethiopian state also equates Tigrayans with the TPLFas the same. Since the TPLF gained the upper hand militarily, it is no longer just rhetoric. Thousands of Tigrayans have been arrested and abducted for their ethnicity, lost their jobs, bank accounts and business licenses. Travelers report how armed men at roadside checks in rural areas pick up Tigrayans from shared taxis and take them away.

This is exactly how Rwanda’s Hutu regime acted against Tutsi in the years before the organized mass murder began in 1994. There is a second parallel in this: the thought pattern according to which only a majority of the population is defending itself against a minority of feudal slave owners striving for sole rule, that is, it is about democracy. In the tightly organized Rwanda, the state called on all young Hutu to defend the fatherland, to hunt down spies and traitors in the neighborhood. In Ethiopia, which is no less tightly organized, all citizens were recently called upon to register their weapons and defend their neighborhoods; In the state of Amhara, which borders Tigray, young people in militias are equipped with sticks and machetes. If the Ethiopian government really wanted to prepare a genocide against the Tigrayans, it would have to proceed exactly as it is doing now. The warnings about this are therefore justified.

 In Ethiopia, the international community that failed so shamefully in Rwanda in 1994 now has a historic responsibility. The fact that Ethiopia, with its 120 million inhabitants and its federal structure, is a multiethnic state in which Tigrayans are only one of dozen minorities does not change that – rather, there is the additional risk that the poison of ethnic hatred will spread further. Rwanda’s Hutu ideologues were convinced that Rwanda’s Tutsi were foreign invaders from Ethiopia. During the genocide, the Hutu killers threw Tutsi corpses into the Kagera river, an influx of the Nile, in order to symbolically send them „back to Ethiopia“ – historically and geographically nonsense, but deeply anchored in the worldview of the genocide perpetrators. At that time, parallels were also circulating between Rwanda’s Tutsi and Ethiopia’s Tigrayans as dominant minorities against Rwanda’s Hutu farmers and Ethiopia’s Oromo farmers as historically disenfranchised majorities. The Tigray conflict is opening old wounds far beyond Ethiopia. How high is the risk that genocide is really imminent in Ethiopia? Here Rwanda offers the third and most frightening parallel: It was not the escalation of the fighting that provoked genocide in Rwanda in 1994, but a peace process that international mediators are trying to bring about in Ethiopia these days. In 1993, Rwanda’s government and the Tutsi rebels made peace with each other after three years of war, and the conflict appeared to have been resolved. But radical Hutu forces sabotaged the peace process, murdered their own president Juvénal Habyarimana, seized power and started the genocide. Anyone who wants to pacify Ethiopia today should keep this gloomy example in mind.

After the withrawal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, it is unlikely that the USA or the West will intervene militarilly under the Right to Protect (R2P) clause.And the question was, if China, Russia or other regional players would even allow a UN peacekeeper mission or an AU mission. Maybe they also wait who will prevail and have the upper hand or even support one of the parties. And at the moment most officials are also not speaking of “genocide”, even if some NGOs and experts are thinking about bringing Abiy or Tigrayan rebell leaders for crimes against humanity and war crimes to the International Criminal Court. At the moment the USA sanctioned some Eritrean officials which are involved in the conflict as warning that other sanctions could also follow against the Ethopian or the Tigray geverment. The USA is increasing the pressure on the conflicting parties in Ethiopia in order to avert an escalation of the war between the central government and the Tigray rebels of the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front). The US government imposed sanctions on Eritrea on Friday. A year ago, the Eritrean government sent troops to Ethiopia to help the Ethiopian government conquer Tigray. The Eritrean soldiers – who have since withdrawn, whereupon the TPLF took control of most of Tigray again – are accused of serious crimes.

 „Eritrean forces operated across Ethiopia during the conflict and were responsible for massacres, looting and sexualized attacks,“ said the US Treasury Department. The sanctions are aimed at the Eritrean army, the ruling state party PFDJ (Popular Front for Democracy and Justice), Eritrea’s secret service chief Abraha Kassa Nemariam, the PFDJ holding Hidri Trust, the Red Sea Trading Corporation, which is responsible for the administration of the party’s property, and its managing director Hagos Ghebrehiwet W Kidan.  From Washington’s point of view, the punishment of Eritrea is a red flag that could be followed by similar measures against the Ethiopian government and the TPLF if they do not give in. Sanctions against Ethiopians are „not yet“ imposed, „to give time and space and see whether the talks progress,“ said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Blinken is expected on Tuesday at the beginning of his first trip to Africa as Foreign Minister in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, the most important place for the international exploratory talks to find a solution to the Tigray conflict.Last week, the US Secretary of State spoke with the special envoy of the African Union (AU), Nigeria’s ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, after he had spoken with the leaders of the conflicting parties in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa and Tigray’s capital Mekelle, and then with international diplomats in Nairobi Had reported. Obasanjo enjoys the „strong support“ of the US, said Blinken. What is needed is “the stop of all military operations, negotiations on a ceasefire without preconditions and unhindered humanitarian access”. So far, the Ethiopian government and the TPLF have made direct talks dependent on the other side giving in beforehand. Tigray’s rebels are demanding an end to the government blockade of their province and a withdrawal of government forces from all over Tigray. Ethiopia’s government is calling for the TPLF to withdraw from areas outside of Tigray and for their own recognition by the rebels. Both sides reject the demands of the respective opponent.

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