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The Frontline Voices: Tigrayans Speak On The Realities Of Life Under An Insurgency Regime 

 Tigrayans
Ethnic Tigreans living in Addis Ababa protesting against TPLF in December 2021. (Photo : file/Screen shot from EBC video)

American Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee
PRESS RELEASE 

Eye-opening and incisive new research paper details grassroots opinions of displaced Tigrayans, in the first empirical study of its kind  

28 April, 2022: A ground-breaking research paper from Professor Ann Fitz-Gerald was published today by world-renowned public policy think tank Macdonald-Laurier Institute and is the first to carry out in-person interviews with civilians and fighters from Tigray, Ethiopia.  

The Professor travelled to the northern regions of Ethiopia, which have been devastated by recent conflict, to speak to Tigrayans in internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps. What she found were accounts in stark contrast to the narratives being promoted by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front – the authoritarian ruling force in Tigray. 

Tigrayans of various ages at a camp in Jarra, in the Amhara regional state, and a camp near Chifra in the Afar region agreed to be interviewed in-person by the Professor between 30 March and 8 April 2022. 

Some of the main findings in this paper include:  

·         The TPLF have enacted a strict ‘one family, one fighter’ policy, meaning that all families must contribute at least one fighter.  

·         All of the fighters interviewed claimed to have been recruited by force, including those under the age of 18. 

·         All aid entering Tigray is strictly controlled by the TPLF, not aid organisations, and little aid reaches families who are unable to contribute fighters with priority always given to the TPLF leaders, certain TPLF-linked businessmen (given some staples, like oil, to sell in their shops) and fighters.  

·         83% of civilians said they wanted to leave Tigray because of TPLF rule, and 71% identified the TPLF-caused hunger as the primary reason to leave. 

·         All respondents said there “must be peace” and that they wanted “one Ethiopia.” With respondents agreeing, “there will never be any democracy for Tigray if we are not part of Ethiopia.” 

Speaking about the trip and her findings, Professor Ann Fitz-Gerald said: “I have long argued that there is a ground-based truth about the conflict in northern Ethiopia that is not being portrayed accurately in most western media or by some non-governmental organisations working in the region – and, in turn, is not reaching international decisionmakers.”  

“The fact that Tigrayans are fleeing their home region, with horror stories to tell about their so-called TPLF liberators was truly eye-opening for me and the stories I uncovered in these camps were completely beyond my expectations when I set out.”  

“What I found so remarkable during this interview process was how the Tigrayans I spoke to feel about their own country. What I heard were sentiments that completely contradict the narrative pushed by their self-appointed leaders, the TPLF.” 

“The TPLF executive committee members and other senior officials based in both Washington and Geneva have been speaking for Tigrayans, but with this research I am trying to give them a voice that has, until now, been drowned out.”  

“I implore aid organisations, investigators and journalists to travel to these camps and speak with Tigrayans about their experiences – which many of those I spoke with are open to – there are always multiple sides to a story.”

On November 4, 2020, TPLF forces attacked government military bases in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray. Over the past year, the TPLF has continued its violent military campaign into the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions, upending the lives of millions of Ethiopians. 

The eighteen-month conflict started to ease in late December following a counter-offensive by government forces which aborted the TPLF’s march on Addis Ababa and their occupation of Afar and Amhara.  
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5 COMMENTS

  1. Subject: “The Frontline Voices: Tigrayans Speak On The Realities Of Life Under An Insurgency
    Regime, American Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee PRESS RELEASE 
    Eye-opening and incisive new research paper details grassroots opinions of displaced. 28 April 2022

    Humble Commentary, 28 April 2022.
    It is always sane to see democracy, with varied opinion, but without disintegrating the common country.
    This is the tendency that we are reading in the Article.. It means Tigray is on the road to sanity for the benefit and happiness of the Tigrayan people wherever they may be. In addition, Tigray may very well be a catalyst for other African countries under self-appointed indigenous dictators. It is the beginning of sanity and democracy by Good, Obedient People of African Tigrayan.

    Who would even have the honour of being an example heading to sanity and democracy in our Dear Continent Black Africa. Is that too much to expect from African People? NOT AT ALL NOT AT ALL. Africans are, in fact, GOOD, HUMBLE, FRATERNAL, KIND PEOPLE on Earth. WE know who took advantage of that natural characteristic of the Black African People in their Natural Rich Continent AFRICA . It was destroyed by colonialism from the so-called “civilized” [ha, ha, ha countries in Europe. What Europe did to Black Africa can never, will never, be forgotten. NEVER.

    By the way, without appearing to be unkind, the accommodation of African people that the world is witnessing in European countries can be related to a gesture of accommodation as a result of consciousness of what EUROPE [The ‘Civilized’ Nation] did upon BLACK AFRICAN PEOPLE.

    It is eternal history that can never be forgotten, hence ‘NO END’ of Remembrance’ .

  2. We must always separate people from politicians, except when those people support the politicians. That means Tigrayans who benefited from TPLF, Asmarinos who benefited from PFDJ, and Amharic speakers who benefited from EPRDF. I’m not saying Teferi Mekonnen was a good guy, and we know Mengistu Hailemariam definitely wasn’t either, but at least those two encouraged unity. It is very sad when I think about the difference between then and now.

    Oromiffa speakers have been designated as the criminals for a long time, which we know is not true. In fact, we can learn a lot from them, especially from the Gadaa system. Let’s be honest with ourselves, who has caused the most destruction for our region? Without a doubt it is Tigrinya speakers. Not only in “Eritrea” and “Ethiopia”, but also abroad too when you see what our people have become in the US, UK, and Canada. We need to fix our societies by starting fresh… brand new.

    Wherever you live, I ask that you reach out to the Oromiffa speakers and to the Gurage people. This is where our new leaders should come from. “Eritrea” is near extinction so try to help them too. 2020 was the year the whole world changed. If our people don’t unify by the end of this year, then we will not have a successful future. Europe and America will eat us alive, starting with our children.

    This is my warning!

  3. I would like to say a few things that I consider important to the younger generation of the old country. I am gonna tell you them based on what took place there since the mid 1960’s and mid 1970’s in particular. When I do that I have decided to stay within the current boundaries of the country because I believe I am not entitled to look over the fence and talk about someone else. I ain’t gonna do that.

    Those years were the times when the entire world was in political turmoil. The old country could not manage to escape the turmoil. What made it peculiar was it was the time when more and more of young people were going to schools. There were more high schools than before and the only college was expanded branching out to some provinces. More and more students were sent overseas and ran smack into noisy protests that sometimes went violent. The late emperor brought in foreign instructors as college professors. What he and his officials missed was some of those professors were not only teaching what was in the curriculum. They laced their presentations with teachings from Marx, Lenin and that master of knock-off’s Mao. Those who came here and Western Europe were not spared from the mualims of Marxism/Leninism either. One countryman once told me the majority of those who went on to found leftist organizations were radicalized at several colleges here in the West. We all remember what used to be posted/printed on their periodicals. Reform was relegated to be the most reviled word in their working protocol. Those of us who preferred reforms were told ‘revolution is the right path and remedy, dummy!’ Slowly and gradually that student movement was repossessed by ultra leftist smart alecks. Some of those smart alecks chose the ethnic paths and went on to found the ‘liberation’ fronts we see today that currently wreaking havoc in several regions in that gem of the colored.

    The ones that founded the TPLF turned out to be the most prolific organizers and crafty leaders. They grew into something the noble people of Tigray never suspected. They became the best in creating the most efficient and well controlled state apparatus. They are very generous to those who served them well and ruthless to those who have a 2nd thought about the whole spiel. But by the time it was all realized it was just too late for the noble people of Tigray to do anything about it. They followed the despots carrying them on their backs all the way to Addis Ababa/Finfine. For the common people of Tigray it has become just the sun rises and the sun sets. When the despots told them to mow down more than 300 peaceful demonstrators in Addis/Finfine and they reluctantly did it to the letter. Now that created undeserved hostility and they become the most hated group of people in Oromia, Amhara, Gambela, Sidama, Somalia, Afar regions and the rest of the country. Those smart alecks took advantage of such misplaced hostility then and that is they are striving on now. The term ‘Woyane’ became the most reviled and hated word and it even became the catchword for battle cries. We all remember the cringe-worthy thunderous noise ‘Down, down Woyane!’ during demonstrations which led to innocent citizens being dragged out of their shops and homes and savagely lynched to agonizing death. It was one of the saddest moments in my entire life. Now no one will come to the aid of those noble people of Tigray. The solution is in their own hands. I really believe that the rest of the country is ready to welcome them back no questions asked with open arms but without these despots riding on their backs. I really believe that in my heart and soul because the people of the old country are known to be magnanimous and they still have it.

    Now back to the lesson for the younger generation. Many of you seem to be huddling around so-called ‘liberation front’ of this or that. I have no doubt in my mind that these ‘fronts’ are dens for smart alecks with dictatorial tendencies inherent in them. They know how to feed on your raw emotion. But once they are able to carve out a territory with your blood and sweats they are guaranteed to be another Debre sitting and pissing on your backs. No Amhara will come to your rescue! No Oromo, Afar, Somali, Gambela, Sidama, Beni Shangul or folks from southern regions will come to your rescue. To maintain their despotic rules they will pitch you against one or all of these harmonious groups of people. You have to keep this truth in your mind and you can take it home. My Oromos will never be free without the participation and freedom of Amharas. Amharas will never be free people without the participation and freedom of my Oromos. The same goes to Afars, Somalis, Sidamas, Gambelas, Beni Shanguls and the good folks in the southern regions. You are forewarned!!!!

  4. The commentary from Ittu Aba Farda above about the radicalization of some Ethiopian students who were caught in the fervor of the crazy decades in the 1960s and 1970s is very true. Among such students were Senyae Likke (pro derg- originally came to the US to study chemistry and actually earned a Phd), Haile Fida ( studied in France, was against EPRP, Meison member and chair, executed by Derg),Negede Gobeze, etc. This part of Ethiopian history should have been taught in the open. Interesting to see in the past what now will be classified as prominent Oromo leaders, namely Senay Likke and Haile Fida, were pro derg and anti derg, respectively.

    • You are right, dear countryman/woman. To me that period culminated into being one of the saddest moments in my life. That was the time when the old country produced some of the brightest of the brightest among the cream of the crop whose intelligence ended up misplaced. They all fell victims of the demonic sermons of those satanic verses of Marx. Lenin and the master of knock-offs Mao. They despised the arts of reforms and advocated the paths of violent revolution. They pushed and screamed from the top of their lungs preaching violence. ‘Political power comes only from the barrels of the gun’ they urged and sadly so that was how many of them met their ends, in some of the most barbaric and agonizing ways. I mourn their deaths even though I never agreed with their ways. They were very sharp but desperately gullible. They even did not recognize how contradictory they were in their speeches and presentations. In one sentence they condemned the late emperor as an aristocrat dictator and right in the following sentence they told us how they will overthrow the sitting dictator and replace him with a new dictatorship. They called that the ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’. That was what closed the deal for me. I said to myself ‘replace a dictatorship with another dictatorship?’ It did not add up for me. To start with I wholeheartedly believed reform was the only way to go rather than violent revolution. In the case of the old country there exist numerous pieces to the puzzle where violent revolution could send those pieces in all directions. It was reckless with ramifications still wreaking havoc in that country. May All Rest In Eternal Peace!!!

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