By Achamyeleh Tamiru
Dear Al Jazeera
I have decided to write this open letter to you as you have been reporting about the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia. I sincerely appreciate the efforts of your journalists who had to work under very difficult conditions to cover unfolding situations in Ethiopia. However, I now write to you with concern at your Sunday’s wrong reporting of the events in Ethiopia, particularly concerning the Amhara Resistance in Gondar.
Two days ago, on August 21, 2016, your correspondent Charles Stratford has reported the following story from Addis Ababa:
“Ethnic Tigrayan are fleeing the Ethiopian city of Gondar to escape anti-government demonstrators.”
He added “Tigrayan homes and business are attacked” quoting a Tigrayan whose identity did not want to be disclosed who said “he and others like him are forced to leave Gondar because of treats by some members of the Amhara community.”
This “report” of Charles Stratford has been broadcasted by the regime’s propaganda machine, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC), on July 14, 2016, the day the resistance has started in Gondar. Charles Stratford said “gangs” in Gondar targeted ethnic Tigrayans. But, this expression of “gangs” was used by the Ethiopian regime’s Communication Minister, Getachew Reda, to address and demonize the Amhara right protestors in Gondar. So, basically what Charles Stratford did was repeat the same political fused statement Getachew Reda issued on July 13, 2016 which was to belittle and criminalize Amhara right groups.
Nonetheless, on August 02, 2016, Amhara National Regional state Communication Affairs head Mr. Nigussu Tilahun spoke to VOA Amharic service nullifying the allegation broadcasted on EBC saying, “out of the total of 139 victims of the events in Gondar, 85 are Amhara ethnic group where as the 30 victims are Tigrayans.” He further said “those 30 Tigrayans who were attacked have been attacked NOT because they were Tigrayans but because they were residents of Gondar where the resistance took place.”
While these are the facts on the ground, Charles Stratford’s one-sided reporting claiming that ethnic Tigrayans were attacked because of their ethnicity is a fabricated report that seeks to demonize Amharas while portraying Tigrays as victims. Charles Stratford’s news report lacked the who, what, where and when. For sure this one-sided report is organized and orchestrated by the regime and everything reported on the phone and the key informants who told their story on the phone and in person are people who work for the regime.
The report had all the signs of the government propaganda and rhetoric, and Charles Stratford’s report echoed that same scapegoating propaganda, and sadly the report has not only diverted and masked the issue but it has also attempted to delegitimize true concern and cause of the Amhara people in Gondar. And it did that fabricating and linking the Gonder protest to that of an attack on Tigrayans and their properties.
What Charles Stratford failed to understand and report is population size of Tigrays residing in Gonder. According to Ethiopian National Census of 2007, out of 207,044 residents of Gondar town, more than 10% are ethnic Tigrayans. If what transpired in Gondar had a goal of attacking Tigrayans based on their ethnicity, the number Tigrayns that were attacked would have surpassed more than 39 out of the 20,000 Tigrayans living in Gondar. At the same time 89 Amharas were directly affected by the same event.
For the matter of fact, we have not heard Charles Stratford reporting from Addis Ababa talking with the victims of the Amhara communities in Gondar whose loved ones are mercilessly murdered by the Ethiopian regime Tigrayan mercenaries because they come to the streets of Gondar demanding their rights respected.
Charles Stratford hasn’t tired to verify and confirm his report (the regime’s propaganda) by contacting Amharas from Gondar or concerned bodies from the Amhara Regional State Communication Affair’s office. This type of report by Aljazeera not only shows incompetency and lack of professionalism, but also lacks many of the facts and downplays the huge risks the country is with in. Charles Stratford’s news report is just a mask to divert attention from the real issue, what the Amharas in Gondar have been raising, by backing the brutal Ethiopian regime that has been busy in finding out a scapegoat for the crisis in Gondar.
Background of the unfolding events in Gondar
A little over a month ago Amharas in Gondar came out protesting peacefully with the regards to Wolkait-Tegede land and identity issues. Wolkait-Tegede is an Amhara land that has been annexed and being included to Tigray region 25 years ago when the current regime the Tigrian People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) came to power. TPLF annexed the Amahra people of Wolkait-Tegede-Humera to Tigray, by force, in order to maintain control of the vast fertile land. (One can read more about the history of Wolkait-Tegede and the immediate cause(s) of the unfolding event(s) in Gondar from an article entitled “Forceful Annexation, Violation of Human Rights and Silent genocide: A Quest for Identity and Geographic Restoration of Wolkait-Tegede, Gondar, Amhara, Ethiopia”, which can be accessed online for free.)
Amharas in Gondar, who have lived on their land for millenniums, demanded that they need their lands be returned back to Amhara region as they identify themselves Amharas and not Tigrayans. In 2015 the Amharas in Wolkait-Tegede have formed a Wolkait Amhara Identity Committee to facilitate the identity and geographic restoration of Wolkait-Tegede. The committee organized people, held out discussion, and petitioned both to Amhara and Tigray local governments and finally submitted their complaint to the Ethiopia House of the Federation, Ethiopia’s Upper House
At all levels of government, the committee was deliberately and violently silenced. They were often harassed, intimidated, and imprisoned, and finally on the night of July 12, 2016 Tigrayan militias from the Tigray region came in hiding into the Amhara region dressed in Amhara region police uniform and take a hostage of several of the Wolkait-Tegede committee members with the exception of Col. Demeke Zewde.
Things went for the worst when Tigrayan militias who came to Amhara region in clandestine tried to arrest Col. Demeke Zewde. Col. Demeke Zewde refused to open his house during the night because the culprits were out of their jurisdiction and they did not have warrant to arrest him at night. Upon his refusal to comply, they shot at him and his family in which he defended himself along with the local police and militia. In the fight that ensued several people were killed from both sides. Later that day Demeke Zewde gave his hand to the Amhara region police and the police of his jurisdiction that has the mandate to arrest him.
Following this unlawful and mafia conduct by the notorious Tigrayan militia, the Amahras in Gondar felt that the Tigraya regime was trying to muffle their legitimate question by forcefully imprisoning and trying to kill their representing committee, and staged a peaceful protest. The protest was very peaceful and perhaps unseen in anytime in Ethiopia’s history. Following Demeke Zewde court hearing, Amharas in Gondar held another peaceful protest near the courthouse demanding his immediate release. On that particular day, Tigray militias dressed in Amhara region police attire came in and start shooting at peaceful people outside of the of the court house. They have killed several people and injured many, and from there on things went for the worst as the government started using live bullets against unarmed people.
During this event created by the Tigray militias, several businesses and properties were damaged. The state run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation along with the regime’s own so called bloggers and operatives quickly labeled the resistance of Amharas against killing as being anti-Tigray. The propaganda by the State run Televsion, EBC, and the regime’s online medias have continued for weeks labeling the whole of Amhara as “terrorists” and “anarchists”. Within all this propaganda, the regime continued the narrative of possible attack going on against Tigrayans.
This is deliberate distortion of the facts on the ground, by the regime and its operatives, is to justify its use of ammunitions to kills the Amahras and block the Wolkait Amhara Identity Committee that has petitioned seeking protection from involuntary forced provincial annexation by the Tigrayan regime asserting their identity and for their land to be restored back to the Amhara region.
To further dramatize the matter, the Tigrayan regime started evacuating some Tigrayans from Gondar with the pretext that they were being targeted. While all these have been happening, as I said above, The Amhara regional State has carried out an investigation to clarify the claim that Tigrayans were targeted. But the regional state findings seem to suggest the otherwise: 65 percent of those affected by the protests were Amharas themselves while only 20 percent of the victims are Tigrayans. In other words, much of the attacks and property damage was carried on Amharas, and yet the government deliberately painted the issue as an attack on the Tigrayans.
But who are the 7 Tigray civilians Aljazeera reported being killed? First and foremost, they were not civilians! They were undercover government armed agents operating in Gonder city to massacre the Amharas. Secondly, they were heavily armed police deployed to shoot at unarmed civilians, and in fact killed more than 40 Amharas. No Tigriyan civilian has been killed and buried in Gondar. The civilians who have been gunned down by the regime’s mercenaries were Amharas. This is what Aljazeera failed to cover.
Aljazeera has a history of turning a blind eye when it comes to Amhara issues. Up to this time Aljazeera has interviewed so many Oromo activists that is fine. But I have never seen Aljazeera intervening a single Amhara activist in its life time while more than 3 million Amharas have been mercilessly slaughtered over the past 25 years. I have a feeling that Aljazeera door is closed to Amhara activists. Two weeks ago Aljazeera’s stream program has organized a platform to discuss about the ongoing Oromo protest and the Amhara resistance in Ethiopian. The participants of the Amahra and Oromo issue were two Oromo activists and the cuprite Ethiopian regime. Why Aljazeera failed to invite at least one Amhara activist to take part in the discussion while it organized a program to discuss Amhara issues? Why Aljazeera is not willing to be the Amahra voice? Has Aljazeera scientifically proved that Amharas don’t need a voice?
Coming back to the issue, if the Amhara resistance in Gondar was based on targeting Tigrayans, it is rather profoundly odd that only 7 “civilians” people died out of more than 20,000 Tigrayans in Gondar. Let us not forget the resistance persisted for over weeks, and therefore, if Tigrayans were really targeted, 7 out of 20,000 doesn’t give add up to make the claim that Tigrayans were targeted. The fact of the matter is Tigrayans were not targeted. In fact, many Tigrayans facilitated the protest by giving people rides and in some instances protesting with the Amhara people of Gondar. The evacuation and relentless propaganda against the Amhara people is part of the grand scheme of the Ethiopia regime to justify its brutal use of force, and even more shamefully to justify the killings it carried out against the Amharas in Gondar, Bahir Dar and Debre Markos .
All in all, Aljazeera did not seek to understand the background issue or the context nor did it seek to do some groundwork and find out tangible facts, and it did not even do fact checking. It runs with a narrative bias that it has always entertained against the Amhara people. If Aljazeera were interested in understanding or covering the story from unbiased point of view,it would have reported the killing of several unarmed Amahras in Gondar, Bahir Dar and Debre Markos by the Ethiopia regime security forces in broad-daylight.
This past Saturday, Tigrayan soldiers have killed four peaceful people in Gondar for wearing white cloth to celebrate the death of dictator Meles Zenawi. There were no protests when they were shot on the head. All the four people were simply killed as they walked down the street wearing white clothes. The victims’ families have already spoken to VOA Amharic about the loss of their loved ones. We haven’t heard Aljazeera reporting about this heinous crime committed against humanity by the Tigrayan apartheid regime in Ethiopia while it was busy circulating the criminal regime’s propaganda.
Even more intriguing, where was Aljazeera when genocide was committed on close to three million Amharas over the past 25 years? There has never been a blip of report on Amharas issues, not one. If there is a report in Ethiopia, it is usually either about Ethiopian Muslim protest or Oromo protests, and if somehow there is a mention of Amharas somewhere in those reports, it is either demonizing them or portraying them as oppressors.
For the last 25 years, the Amharas have been the massacred, cleansed, marginalized, abused and the most neglected people of Ethiopia. The Amharas have to endue horrendous crimes every year. For the last twenty-five years, every year, thousands of Amharas have been murdered and massacred. The Amhara ethnic group has been demonized and criminalized by TPLF for the last 25 years.
It is well documented that in 1991 mass slaughters of pregnant women and children in Arbagugu and Bedno (Easter Ethiopia) were the worst crimes ever committed on the Amharas people since Fascist Mussolini’s aggression in 1935. These barbaric mass murders of Amhara left an indelible imprint on my mind. The Amharas have been displaced by the TPLF regime from their land in southern parts of the country by calling them “Amhara settlers.”
The ruling party in Ethiopia is a minority regime called Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front or TPLF. The TPLF regime has sagaciously and systematically designed the ethnic lines of federalism in order to control the country by perpetuating the punitive policies that emphasize the anti-Amhara ethnic group, which is totally inimical to the Amhara people. It was crystal clear that, before 1991, when TPLF was in the bushes, their primary target was the Amharas of Ethiopia. Conceivably, their first core principle was to ‘hit the Amhara’s horn’, and after that, declare the independence of Tigray, and to annex the fertile land from the Amhara district of Gondar and Wollo to Tigray to be a viable new nation. This is a true history.
One of the ex-TPLF fighters has written a testimony of this in his recent book. This ex-TPLF fighter told us how TPLF duped the Tigray people that Amhara is the historic foe of Tigray people. The Amhara is the oppressor of Tigre, and Tigray is impoverished because of the chauvinist Amhara, and so we as the sons of the great people of Tigray that we could quickly liberate ourselves from the Amhara, so that Tigray will develop and become a prosperous nation within a short period of time. He said this propaganda was written in pamphlets and handed out on a weekly basis.
The consequence of all this and other ethnically cleanse and Amhara genocide policies of the TPLF regime has resulted in the missing of close to 3 million Amharas in the 2007 National census. This is an official reported that the TPLF government has presented to its parliament.
So, it will be a crime, if not a sin, to report the Amharas attack the Tigrayans while it is crystal clear that the Amharas are victims of eviction than any ethnic group in Ethiopia and are by far marginalized, abused, murdered than any other ethnic group in Ethiopia. In fact Al Jazeera International has produced a documentary about the Amhara people in 2014 and it described the Amhara people are the poorest of the poor people in the world.
I think Charles Stratford should also know about the organization of Ethiopia’s political system if he as to report about political events in Ethiopia. These four pillars of a given government are the military, the security apparatus, the foreign relations and the Economy. These pillars function both individually and collectively. TPLF has a PURE monopoly control over Ethiopia’s military, Security, Foreign Affairs and the Economy.
Even when there are cases where oppressed Ethiopians resist in self-defense against TPLF’s attack, who can really be affected? It is only the Tigrayans because TPLF is a Tigrayan party that solely controls the Ethiopian intelligence service, the police, the security and the military. It is the TPLF police, security and the military that kills innocent Amharas and Oromos all over Ethiopia. So, resistance in self-defense against TPLF’s attack only damages a Tigrayan NOT because s/he is a Tigrayan but because s7he is a TPLF agent who takes the order of her/his co-ethnic regime to mercilessly massacre us. Therefore, it is ridicules and redundant to conclude that resist in self-defense against TPLF’s attack is an attack on Tigrayans because certainly other ethnic groups such as the Oromo, and Gurage are not affected while they can’t be TPLF killing machine because they are not Tigrayans.
TPLF is a racial organization that created in 1976 to build a separate republic of Great Tigray on the grave of Amharas by eliminating All Amharas from their land. However, unbelievable it may seem it is a matter of fact, and for this, the TPLF’s organization’s 1976 manifesto clearly states that it views the Amhara people as their number one enemy. TPLF was created to viciously and avariciously advance the cause of the Tirgay, and this organization has adopted voracity, robbery, and murder as a policy. As long as the TPLF has this policy and it is an organization that professes to represent and stand for the Tigray ethnic group, it is no wonder that in self-defense agents of TPLF are targeted.
With that being said, Tigrayans who that do not support or associate themselves with the TPLF in any capacity, should not be attacked or become targets. Should such Tigrayan be attacked, it is the obligation of every Ethiopian to stand firm and defend these people at all costs. An attack on them would denote an attack on all Ethiopians because they too are Ethiopians, and the Ethiopian people have valiantly defended Tigrayans for decades. In fact, in 2000 when Eritrean People’s Liberation Front invaded Badme, Northern Tigray, it is the Amharas and other Ethiopians who defended the Tigrayans from the Eritrean attack by scarifying their lives.
With all this, we demand Al Jazeera’s immediate redressal into the inaccurate news report as well as excuse for the discomfort caused by Al Jazeera news report that irrationally and unsubstantially victimize the Amhara victims. We expect Aljazeera to clear the fabrication that TPLF operatives damaged in self-defense were mere civilians targeted out of some sort of malice.
I look forward to receiving a response from you regarding the concerns I have raised.
Thank you for reading my letter.