Aklog Birara (Dr)
On September 21, 2023, the world celebrated World Peace Day, as it does once a year. I envy countries where such celebration is the norm and not an exception. As an Ethiopian-American, I have the privilege to observe this and other internationally recognized annual events like New Year, X-Mas, Thanksgiving, Easter without fear. I can observe the event at any location within the country or overseas.
Tragically, these events are marred by the ongoing civil war in my ancestral home country, Ethiopia. I think of children, girls, pregnant women, the elderly, farmers, day laborers and other members of Ethiopian society who are terrorized by ethno-nationalists and extremists as well as by their own state and government because of their ethnic and or religious affiliation or both.
In countries where ordinary citizens enjoy peace, the norm is for government institutions such as the military and the police to provide safety and security to their citizens to the maximum possible. Governments do not use military power that is supported and maintained by taxpayers to defend national borders and national security to, instead, serve the party in power and go after the civilian population, targeting specific ethnic and or religious groups of both.
I find it galling that Ethiopia went through a catastrophic war for two years. More than one million children, girls, women and men, the elderly perished. The county lost $28 billion. The scars of war and its psychological impacts will continue to affect generations to come. Sadly, no one has been held accountable for the atrocities.
Fast forward to April 2023. Having failed to learn from the 2020-2022 disastrous war that destabilized Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s regime declared another devastating war, this time on the Amhara regional state and its Amhara population.
In both cases, the core arguments are a) to restore peace and stability and b) to protect the Ethiopian state and government. In the first case, the West, especially the United States and the European Union, sided with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, albeit indirectly, accusing the governments of Eritrea and Ethiopia of “war crimes, crimes of rape, crimes of ethnic cleansing, crimes of genocide and weaponization of essentials including food.”
In the second case, the characterization of atrocities inflicted on Amhara is still relatively lukewarm. For example, the West has so far failed to condemn the use of drones, military aircraft, tanks, mortars, and other heavy weapons by the Abiy regime against Amhara civilians in major towns and cities. It has also refrained from demanding that weapons suppliers in the Middle East stop their support to Abiy’s war machine.
The terrorization of the Amhara population by the Abiy regime has far reaching consequences for human safety and security as well as for peace and stability in the entire Horn of Africa. Unchecked and undeterred, social, economic, and physical infrastructural recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction in the North, in the middle and the rest of Ethiopia will take tens of billions of dollars and decades of effort. For example, the immense destruction emanating from bombing of the City of Debre Markos; the complete pillaging, de-population, and evisceration of the town of Awra Godana, Amhara region that has now been annexed forcibly and incorporated into the Oromia regional state come to mind.
I will never forget an Amhara dead body left unattended; a girl crying and moaning because she lost everything; literally all indigenous people leaving the town of Awra Godana because of fear of the menacing Oromo Special Forces. What happens to them? To whom do they appeal? It is that bad.
In effect, Oromo Special Forces that invaded and annexed Awra Godana from the Amara region are replicating what the TPLF did decades ago when it annexed lands that belong to the indigenous Amara population—Wolkait, Tegede, Telemt and Raya forcibly and changed the demographics there. TPLF had the audacity to call annexed lands “Western Tigray.” The Oromo Prosperity Party under the watch of Abiy Ahmed is doing the exact same thing and much, much more.
Would normalization of territorial expansionism by Oromo Special Forces through tacit approval of the federal government create durable peace and stability in Ethiopia? I do not believe so.
Does terrorization, death, destruction, and expulsion of Amhara civilians from the town of Awra Godana, their ancestral home, constitute ethnic cleansing and genocide? I believe it does.
Does Ethiopia deserve a federal government system that is based solely on citizenship rights and delegation of sovereign authority to the electorate; instead of the current ethnicity and language-based system that pits one ethnic group against another; serves the welfare of ethnic elites; and is a mortal threat to Ethiopia’s existence? I believe so.
Are not Ethiopians in the Diaspora and in the country sick and tired of international media coverage of Ethiopia as a “graveyard” of war victims, victims of state and non-state terrorism instead of a land of peace, stability, humanity, spirituality, commonality, brotherhood/sisterhood, Pan-Africanism?
I believe they (We) must demonstrate our common humanity and restore Ethiopia’s sinking status.
I look forward to a day when Ethiopia’s children, girls, mothers, pregnant women, the elderly, farmers, and the rest can celebrate peace regardless of ethnicity, faith, gender or income and wealth.
I do hope and pray that the ominous Red Flag by the LEMKIN INSTITUTE FOR THE PREVENTION OF GENOCIDE targeting Amhara that I shared with you yesterday will not occur.
I also hope and pray that the UN Human Rights Council will soon dispatch the Commission of Human Rights Experts (CHRE) to Ethiopia without delay. The US must also play a more proactive role in mitigating risk and saving lives in Ethiopia. The “principle to protect” must no longer apply to Ukraine alone. To be credible, its application must be even handed if not universal.
Impunity has dire consequences. This time, the international community, especially the UN Human Rights Council and the Biden Administration ought to do all in their power to prevent genocide of Amhara from happening.
Editor’s note : Views in the article do not necessarily reflect the views of borkena.com
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