By Getu Mak
“Never Again” or Again and Again
“Genocide has occurred so often and so uncontested in the last fifty years that an epithet more apt in describing recent events than the oft-chanted ‘Never Again’ seems to in fact be ‘Again and Again‘.” It was Samantha Power, currently the Administrator of USAID, in her piece titled “Never Again: The World’s Most Unfulfilled Promise,” who wrote this a decade ago. This dismal assessment is once again being proven true in the face of the ongoing genocidal war being waged against the people of Tigray in front of the world. This campaign has already claimed tens of thousands of civilian lives and is threatening millions more lives as the international community remains absorbed in a superficial charade of expressing concerns and bothsideism. The most influential actors in the world – including the United States – and international organizations like the United Nations (UN) have chosen not to intervene and take necessary and timely measures to stop these atrocities.
As I hid from ethnic profiling and the mass arrest of Tigrayans in Addis Ababa, locked inside my room, staring at the ceiling while sitting on a chair, lowering my voice so that the policemen outside wouldn’t hear me, I repeat Power’s statement. “‘Never Again’ is in fact ‘Again and Again’.”
Is it our fate to pursue such extraordinary ultimatums again and again?
Disinclined to Advocate for Humanity
In my life, I have never once been ashamed of who I am or of being called Ethiopian. But now I am shamefaced at being called Ethiopian and what the so-called ‘real’ and fake-unity preachers and other pseudo-Ethiopians have intentionally done to us. Until I transcend all odds, I am now stateless.
I had one ‘real’ Ethiopian friend with whom we shared plans to work together and collaborate in the areas of technology. As a friend, I was so sure that even if he didn’t like what I said and supported, he would at least advocate for humanity. Now he is siding with the Ethiopian brutal regime, supporting the Tigray genocide, preaching fake Ethiopian unity, and campaigning for the ‘Ethiopian Great Home Coming.’ Alas, he is now completely someone that I didn’t know.
Back in July, I remember him sitting in a café around Bole, laughing loudly along with his friends. I was watching him from afar while passing through the street wearing a hat and a mask so that the police wouldn’t recognize me easily. In less than an hour after that, policemen came out of nowhere and arrested me with my friend while we were preparing to book a ticket to flee the country. At that instant, I was unable to control my emotions and I said: “This country called Ethiopia is heaven and home to people like him, while it is hell to people like us who could cease to exist. It’s just a matter of time. While he is luckily flying back home again and again since that day and is enjoying his Christmas with his family now, I (his neighbor) hid in a small room in facing fear and hardship daily; disconnected from my family for so long and could only dream of such cherished moments to come.
Escaping the Mass Arrest and Death Row of a Brutal Regime
The suffering and pain that we are enduring at this time, due to the ongoing genocidal war waged against Tigrayans by the Ethiopian regime together with allied war criminals, is unimaginable. We are forced to writhe horrendously. The months after TDF recaptured Mek’ele on June 28, 2021, and begun marching to Amhara and Afar regions shortly afterward, have been particularly unbearably nightmarish for Tigrayans residing in Addis Ababa and elsewhere in the country. Each day, each hour, each minute, and each second, we are living in constant fear. Life in Addis Ababa is really tough. For three consecutive months (to be exact from October to December) I am continuously fearful of the mass arrest and the collective existential threat facing Tigrayans in Ethiopia. In Addis Ababa and other cities policemen, security personnel, and vigilantes torment Tigrayans on the basis of mere allegations. These mere allegations are completely based on our identity as Tigrayans and our ability to speak the Tigrigna language. Except for a few kind people, the outrageous hatred directed to Tigrayans that I see with my eyes is beyond devastating.
Every day, we are documenting the hideous criminalities and every vivid detail. Addis Ababa, watch out! Remember the long history of living together, the role and contribution of Tigrayans in building the contemporary city of Addis Ababa, particularly over the last 30 years, to be the center of gravity for the economy and politics of the whole country and the Horn of Africa. End the madness before it is too late.
While my emotional wounds from Aksum’s massacre are not yet healed properly, fate again chose me to be an eyewitness to the experience of Tigrayans residing in Addis Ababa who are still under the threat of the brutal Ethiopian regime. In Addis Ababa, we are all prisoners, it is of no importance if we are in detention camps or in home confinement. Maybe those of us who are in house confinement have better advantages compared to those in the camps. It is an intuitive agreement that Tigrayans are forbidden to speak Tigrigna in the public. If businesses are seen or heard playing Tigrigna music, they are automatically doomed to experience our fate. All businesses owned and run by Tigrayans are closed down.
The numerous reports regarding the ruthless harassment, en-masse arrest, and detention of Tigrayans under the shadow of the State of Emergency by the security personnel and policemen in the capital city are inhumane. It was a regular encounter to see tens of thousands of civilian Tigrayans illegally detained in the camps, presented as POWs through the local news outlets by the regime. It was painful to hear a neighbor – who is a Tigrayan and a retired colonel of the ENDF – who was terribly sick (couldn’t speak or walk properly) taken by the policemen from her house by force. She was then incarcerated in one of the camps. Such an atrocity. Experiencing such distressing news, my main goal was to find means by which I could escape and survive this complete madness. I read Dr. Frankl’s guide on how to survive a genocide multiple times, where he mentions the importance of “self-preservation,” among others.
The picture above was taken in the “secret annex” in which my friend and I were staying. It is very dark and sometimes cold. Yet, this way of hiding was very reassuring as it saved us during those long, bitter, and cold three months. We stayed there as quietly as possible during house-to-house searches, by policemen seeking to detain Tigrayans. Luckily, this secret hiding place was undiscoverable by the policemen. It was our oasis of “calmness and safety” amidst such madness and chaos. Once we heard that the policemen have left our area we go out of the secret place and go back to lazily reading in our rooms. Sadly, this was our ‘new normal’ life in the past couple of months, much as we dislike experiencing it so.
There were days that we gave up hope, lost our senses completely, couldn’t dare to do anything, felt bored, and asked ourselves genuinely “for how long are we going to do this time after time as it seems we are not getting any closer to our long-awaited victory?” It is been a very long time in this cold season since we went outside and got fresh air. It is so tiring to be at home for the whole day and night for several months and not to be able to see or feel the sun outside. We stayed home for so long that we thought the sun stopped to rise and set.
Regardless, I am glad I am still surviving; I am glad my other fellow Tigrayans are also surviving this way. Together there is a difficult story of suffering we intend to share with the world. Hopefully, history will remember this secret hiding place just like the history of the “secret annex” in Amsterdam that rescued Anna’s family and is visited each year by millions of people from all over the world.
Apart from this, the main opportunity that house confinement gave me is that I was able to read as many books as I can. I was lucky I got plenty of uninterrupted time to borrow and read multiple books from history to politics of genocidal wars (mainly on Rwanda and Jewish people) to novels to philosophy from the shelves of my friend’s library. But there were days too after I finished reading a book when I try to audit my comprehension of what I had read and discovered that even though I finished reading the books, I wasn’t paying attention to them. I was just using pages of books to distract me and hide me from my fear, bad emotions, and agony. Nevertheless, I used reading as my escape, to help pass the time, and keep my mind active.
Never to Ransom Dignity and Freedom
One evening, I saw a video of a proud female TDF fighter on Facebook. She was being interviewed on Tigray TV. I stared her in the face for several minutes and thought about how she felt. When people of her caliber are fulfilling their duty and safeguarding their people’s dignity and rights, they feel good, they feel their life has a purpose. The smile, pride, and bravery I saw in her were telling me that there is joy during the bitter struggle and troubling circumstances. I just wished I could have told her that her laughter is lifting us up all, making us feel safe and better. She is bravely and fiercely fighting for her people never to ransom her people’s dignity and liberty by envisioning a just, democratic, and independent Tigray in her mind. Tigray has been left with no option but to fight. And surely, she will prevail as victory is in her blood. “Victory to the masses,” as said by the TPLF fighters.
“Nothing has gone well quite as planned”
Technology has brought us both challenges and opportunities. Even as the latest technology and arms of the 21st century are facilitating the campaign by our enemies to wipe us out from this world it is also helping us as a great tool to disseminate the heinous crimes committed on our people to the international community. Furthermore, it lets us know the movement and progress of the TDF easily. After TDF conquered Dessie and Kombelcha, we weren’t really expecting to hear news from the local outlets based in Tigray. It was our TDF friends now fighting on the battlefields who were telling us that they are expecting orders from the higher officials to enter Addis. Google Earth and other satellite imageries have also become means for more references. Irrespective of whatever method is used, the world’s eyes were watching the formidable TDF fighters heading decisively to Addis Ababa. Following this, Addis Ababa, the whole of Ethiopia, and its regime were in complete shock. The western allies were panicking; their embassies were issuing warnings and press releases urging their citizens in Ethiopia to leave the city as early as possible. Every foreigner was packing and leaving the country. I was both happy and sad with what I was witnessing. I thought peace was coming to my people sooner than we expected. I was so sure the evil, jealousy, deadly, and selfish acts of pseudo-Ethiopians were going to fade away for eternity. However, if TDF entered Addis Ababa the city could descend into turmoil and unexpected destruction and bloodshed could happen due to the conflicting interest of different forces such as TDF, OLA, the regime forces, and hidden mafia groups purposely trained for more chaos and mass killings in the concentration camps in the city. Nonetheless, I felt that TDF could defeat Ethiopia’s regime finally and decisively; I wholeheartedly decided to dedicate the below note to our gallant fighters:
Shouting to the steely TDF with cries of joy. Now, I say proudly Namaste TDF! (Meaning, now I trust and bow to the divinity within TDF.) Thank you our beau-idéal generals for your selfless service and leadership and for letting your people stand tall. And huge appreciation to my generation too for being part of this incredible history; as for me being a soldier or a fighter is an endeavor that I opted out for my entire life, no matter what. A piece of short final advice (if granted an opportunity to say so): Please don’t hand over the gun at your hand until you make sure that Tigray is in the safest hands. Do NOT repeat the grave mistake my dad and his comrades made during the 17 years struggle against the fascist Derg regime.
Eternal glory for our fallen gallant fighters.
Unfortunately, however, circumstances conspired such that TDF had to retreat back to Tigray. When nobody, including the international community, came to save Tigrayans detained in the concentration camps and in hiding places the TDF was our only and last hope. It had now retreated back to Mek’ele with no promise to return back. I witnessed a lot of anger, confusion, and resistance to accept the ‘strategic’ or ‘tactical’ forced evacuation of Tigray forces from Amhara and Afar regions at least for a while. Many Tigrayans spent sleepless nights after the retreat. Many more Tigrayans cried non-stop in despair the whole night because it seemed the hope of rescue was now dead. The rest of us (including myself) were asking unanswerable questions: “What went wrong?” “Why did TDF retreat back to Tigray?” Why? These involuntary emotions were evoked by seeing how “nothing has gone well quite as planned.”
“Ethiopia” Imagined as Symbol of Pan-Africanism
Apart from the “strategic” or “tactical” retreat of TDF, there is one more personal perspective I just want to put here in my diary. The most recent stratagem that has been adopted by the belligerent pseudo-Ethiopians is the “no more” campaign. I have been seeing this movement on social media, especially on YouTube shorts which is now getting a degree of support from fellow Africans. The Ethiopian regime supporters are promoting these baseless campaigns to get full-fledged support from Africans and the rest of the world to perpetuate more atrocities, not to resist “western disinformation and political intervention in Africa” as they claim. Many fellow Africans who have extended support to this campaign seem unaware that Tigray is fighting to survive a genocidal war. I also believe that this campaign played some role to pressure the Western powers to force the TDF not to enter the capital and to withdraw back to Tigray.
Addis Ababa has been branded not only as an African city but also as a global city, the center of politics in the Horn of Africa. The superpowers have made significant investments in the capital (including building and renovating its palace) and in other parts of the country to promote their interests. As a result of this branding and these geopolitical realities, it has become an almost ‘impossible’ scenario to enter Addis Ababa through Waldia and Debre Berhan (just like in the 1990s), even if the regime’s army was destroyed. Personally, I was infuriated to hear the spokesperson of the government of Tigray government saying “there is no mighty force that could stop our forces from marching towards Addis Ababa.”
There is one naked truth that Africans don’t know the extent to which Tigray is both the cradle and origins of the long history of Ethiopia which they point to in their effort to advocate for the current campaigns of the Ethiopian regime. I believe not only all people in Ethiopia but also all people and nations in the world have their own unique language, history, culture, and civilization. However, the unique and proud history and civilization, language, sovereignty, and other contributions which are now considered as the pride of Ethiopia originate in Tigrayan history.
It also bears stressing that the multi-cultural federation that came into being in the early 90s was a shared project realized by Tigrayans – along with other nations and nationalities that have been subjugated in the creation of the modern Ethiopian empire state. Through this project and today, Tigrayans have advocated both for political self-determination, equality, and respect of different peoples in Ethiopia as well as promoting a unifying vision of economic development and co-existence.
Sadly, the new breed of pseudo-Ethiopians don’t want to live in coexistence with us but still want to claim our history, language, and civilization. They are stealing our history by erasing us from this planet earth. Now we say Amhara elites have misinformed and disinformed our fellow Africans. For this mere reason, Gen. Tsadkan, in his article published on December 24, 2021, said “Tigray is an African nation. We have contributed to the vision of an Africa that is stable, secure, independent from external powers, whether they are European, America, the Middle East, or Asia.” It behooves us to constantly share with our fellow Africans and the world the extent to which the proud history which is being packaged as Ethiopian, is now being used to garner support for a genocidal campaign against Tigrayans, is unabashedly Tigrayan history and civilization. We should tirelessly work to prove that HOA’s current peace and security fragility will be solved if Tigray can become an INDEPENDENT nation and other nationalities and minority’s interests are also met and respected, be it through independence or other means.
Shame on the World; Accept my Apologies Tigray!
As a group of people, Tigrayans have been in agony for more than four hundred days now. In short, it has become the norm to hear that Tigrayan children are starving to death and to see images of mothers carrying malnourished babies in their arms awaiting the fate of death; the whole region is in aid blockage and basic services have been cut off since the war erupted. People living with chronic illness are at risk and dying due to a shortage of medical supplies; hundreds of civilians die nearly every day from horrific and repeated drone’s strikes; thousands of Tigrayans are now jobless and are struggling to survive in utmost hardship; thousands are suffering immensely in the concentration camps all over Ethiopia; nearly one-third of Tigray’s land is still occupied by the enemy forces and many civilians in this area are being slaughtered on a daily basis.
I live in anxiety when I see the suffering of our people back home. I often think of my family: What are they eating? Are they still alive? Every day hearing horrible news out of Tigray is absolutely heartbreaking regardless of how things stack up here for me. I feel pain, deep in my heart. I cry so much. No one deserves to suffer in life like this. No one. Sometimes what pains me most is that I feel guilty for worrying about these things when I can’t bring practical solutions for the situation. Very tragic.
Above all, my heart pours out to see the world is embracing the heartless deeds of the génocidaires (with their chronic hatred to the people of Tigray). The world is watching in a global consensus while our enemies are eliminating us so quietly. The world has heard more than enough what the génocidaires have done to us and seen what we have been through in the past fourteen months, but it seems unfathomable to put themselves in our shoes. We are placed in such a standpoint, there seems like there is nothing that could set the world off from the génocidaires. Shame on the world; accept my apologies Tigray for not fulfilling my wishes and duties!
Do We Justly Deserve Genocide?
The unholy pact between Addis Ababa, Asmara, and Gondar has resulted in a genocidal war against the people of Tigray. As a people, we have suffered a lot for our life and to protect our liberty and dignity. Thanks to the good-hearted, peace-loving people and close friends who are helping us to escape the mass arrest, to survive materially, and to regain our sense of wholeness and emotional wellness. Personally, the war helped me to learn the evils that exist in a world suffering from an empathy deficit; yet what I find most remarkable is that there are also quiet acts of humanity. That’s how I am surviving and enduring Addis’s cruelty towards and its barbaric treatment of Tigrayans.
I have to realize that fourteen months ago I really had a privileged lifestyle. I took peace for granted. The mountains that are now shielding our gallant fighters, we were climbing to the top of them for about two years before the war broke out on Nov 04 2020 along with my other friends at Tigrai Hiking Group. Now that part of my life is history. Like what my people are going through, I am experiencing a year full of fatal trauma. I thirst for peace, like a caravan guy in a desert who wants to drink water to quench his thirst on his long and arduous journey.
The life that I am living currently is teaching me difficult but important lessons. Peace is indeed a prerequisite to live what is called a “Business Life,” unfortunately, it’s not often available in due proportion. I here say peace, though notable by its defect, should come first before any ambition in life. I need peace; Tigray needs peace in UNIFORMITY and STEADINESS!
I miss everything back home.
I miss taking a deep breath outside.
I miss my freedom.
I miss my family and my friends.
I miss my work and my students.
I miss all the adventurous travels on the mountains and listening to the language and wonders of nature.
I miss drinking coffee and relaxing with my friends at the cafes.
I miss properly sitting with concentration and studying my books.
Overall, I miss my life.
I yearn for better days to come so early so that I can lift myself up. This genocidal war has knocked me down, as it has done my people. Why do we, as people suffer this much as if we justly deserve this?
Enough; stop Tigray genocide. Free Tigray, now.
I dream of peace, safety, and freedom will come to my people soon.
TDF, we trust in you.