American Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee
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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