By: Asmelash Yohannes Teklu (PhD)
Who started the war again? Tigray’s Central Command issued a statement on August 24, 2022, blaming the federal government for violating the temporary ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ that had been in place for five months. In response, the federal government issued a statement that contradicted Tigray’s statement and directly blamed Tigray forces for starting the war. We’ve returned to the same circle of blaming and counter-blaming as in the November 2020 scenario. It could take months – if at all – to figure out who fired the first shot on August 24, 2022.
However, if we focus on who broke what the federal government called a ‘humanitarian truce’, we will be drawn into an endless cycle of blame and counter-blame. This clearly is a dangerous situation, and it must be resolved immediately. What matters most is who was dragging their feet to create every possible impediment to a peaceful resolution to the war. Since fighting erupted once again, it has already resulted in the loss of hundreds of lives and the destruction of property worth billions of dollars.
The questions that now arise
We must ask who it was that condemned a population of over 7 million people to die due to hunger, lack of medicine, and denial of essential services. We need to find out who impeded the safe entry of humanitarian aid into Tigray. We must investigate who is to blame for Tigray’s massive humanitarian crisis. We need to know who prevented UN agencies and other trusted humanitarian organisations from travelling to Tigray to investigate the atrocities. We must inquire as to who has isolated Tigray from the rest of the world by refusing to resume banking, Internet, and telecommunication services.
We need to find out who made it illegal to send money to starving families without even the need for legislation.
We must inquire as to who invited foreign forces into Tigray and permitted them to occupy a large swath of land in Western and North Western Tigray.
We need to find out who committed various international crimes (war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide) in Tigray. We need to know who holds hundreds of thousands of innocent Tigrayans in Nazi-style concentration camps across Ethiopia.
The answers to these questions all point in the same direction. The federal government, the Abiy regime, must be held accountable for the so-called ‘humanitarian truce’ failure. Abiy and his cronies have been content with the siege imposed on a population of over 7 million people. As a result, they were cynically bluffing whenever the Tigrayans made a peace gesture.
Putting the onus on the international community
Abiy and his accomplices have launched a devastating war on Tigray that has now lasted almost two years. That crime was committed with impunity. They were not held responsible for this. This has given them confidence that the international community will continue to stand idly by if they attempt to exterminate Tigrayans once more. They were dissatisfied with the ethnic cleansing, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the deaths of over 500,000 Tigrayans in the first phase of the war. They have begun a new phase of attrition warfare.
The international community has tried and failed to persuade the Abiy regime to resume essential services in Tigray. A recent joint statement by delegations from the United States and the European Union demonstrates this. Their pleading, however, fell on deaf ears. Why? To answer this question would be to state the obvious.
The international community cannot claim it did not foresee the return of a devastating war. Everyone could see the writing on the wall. After a brief respite, the second phase of the devastating war appeared on the horizon. Another phase of a humanitarian crisis, destruction, looting, and death, has already begun.
With a new round of atrocities looming, misguided statements from the international community began to emerge from everywhere. Secretary Blinken’s deceptive claim that the humanitarian truce “saved” lives is false and fails to reflect the reality in Tigray. The ‘humanitarian truce’ did not result in any lives being saved. It only changes how people die. The sounds of barrels may have stopped for a few months, but the death toll from Tigray’s deadly siege continued unabated. Efforts to end the war should have been redoubled – not now, but before the warring parties pulled the triggers. ‘Concerns’ and ‘deeply shocked’ statements do not save lives. This type of rhetoric emboldens the Abiy regime further to tighten the noose around millions of innocent Tigrayans.
Aside from these meaningless statements, the international community has shown little to no interest in alleviating Tigrayans’ plight. It uses the nonsensical rhetoric of “African solutions for African problems.” This is an obnoxious statement. This mantra is used when the West does not want to get involved. When the West’s interests are at stake, they offer a Western solution to an African problem. This has happened in Libya and throughout Africa! Only fools will believe that former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was deposed with the assistance of the West after vowing to “crush the “cockroaches” who were behind the revolution in Libya”. They would have acted similarly when Abiy promised to wipe out Tigrayans and delivered by turning Tigray into a nothingness. But Tigray is not Libya! Oil speaks louder than atrocities!
The question of survival
The international community may have forgotten the war, but Tigrayans have not. How could they forget when they see their loved ones and neighbours die every day? No, Tigrayans have not forgotten the war. They have endured enough. Nobody wanted to hear about their anguish and suffering. They have been trapped, with no way out of the noose around their necks.
Tigrayans fight for their freedom! They fight to free themselves from the shackles of oppression and the deadly siege. The question of who started the war again is irrelevant to the people of Tigray.
Abiy made it clear in a recent speech to youths in Addis Ababa that he is willing to drag negotiations out for ten years. However, given the current death rate of Tigrayans due to starvation and other causes, it is unlikely that half of Tigray’s population will survive in about five years. Tigrayans’ survival has been called into question. To talk and negotiate, they must first survive. However, the Abiy regime has blocked every route that would ensure the Tigrayan people’s survival.
Finding long-term peace?
When people are dying every day, there can be no peace talks. You would negotiate for peace to prevent deaths. In Tigray, however, people are already dying. What is the point of negotiating if it cannot save people’s lives?
Is it still possible to put a stop to the war? Yes, but only if the international community applies maximum pressure on Abiy and his accomplices to negotiate. The people of Tigray’s demand for the restoration of essential services cannot be considered a condition. It is a matter of survival that must be met at any cost.