Conflict in Tigray: for the patriarch of Mekele “Abiy Ahmed walks in the footsteps of Issayas Afewerki”

English translation of a broadcast article on Radio France International, https://www.rfi.fr/fr/afrique/20210524-conflit-au-tigr%C3%A9-pour-le-patriarche-de-mekele-abiy-ahmed-marche-dans-les-traces-d-issayas-afewerki

Published: 05/25/2021 – 01:49

Abune Isaias, patriarche de Mekele, dans la région du Tigré, en Ethiopie, le 24/05/2021.
Abune Isaias, patriarch of Mekele, in Tigray region, Ethiopia, 5/24/2021. © RFI / Sébastien Nemeth

For nearly seven months, the war has affected Tigray, a region in northern Ethiopia. The federal government launched a military operation in the province in early November and the conflict has spread. The Eritrean army has sent thousands of soldiers to Tigray and ethnic Amhara militiamen have taken control of large areas. Thousands of people have been killed in the violence. Massacres have been revealed and the humanitarian situation is more than worrying. In an exclusive interview with RFI, the Patriarch of the Mekele Orthodox Church spoke for the first time. He makes a vehement appeal for help: “I want my people to survive”

Since the beginning of the Tigray War, some have criticized Ethiopian religious leaders for not reacting sufficiently. Two weeks ago, the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Abune Mathias, accused the government of wanting to “destroy Tigray.”

Our special envoy to Tigray, Sébastien Németh, was able to meet Abune Isaias, Patriarch of Mekele, the most important diocese in the province. He explained that the authorities had cut off communications and that the Church was therefore unable to make its voice heard.

In an exclusive interview, the Patriarch of the Mekele Orthodox Church spoke for the first time. In turn, he, too, has very harsh words against Addis Ababa.

Abune Isaias: I’ve never seen something like this. Crimes follow one another. Churches are destroyed. And it is a war against the Tigrayans. They’re after our hisstory and they want to kill everyone. It’s genocide. They want to destroy the Tigrayans and Tigray… It is the federal government that attacks us and gives the orders. As a result, we were attacked from all sides. But it is Addis Ababa that is primarily responsible. I’m so sad. I’d rather die than see that. God decided otherwise. But I still wonder why I’m still alive.

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RFI: Is this a war of revenge for the days when the Tigrayans themselves were in power?

The Tigrayans are brave, hardworking. Our values are as strong as stones. And some are jealous of that. They knew they could not run Ethiopia the way they wanted to. So they want to destroy Tigray to control the country as they see fit. The Tigrayans will not seek revenge. That is not our mentality. But when it comes to defending our freedom, we will never stop. If they touch it, we’ll try to preserve it no matter what.

I think Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Issayas Afewerki just want to eliminate anyone who prevents them from owning power. They want to be kings.

Eritrea fought for its freedom and gained its independence. But then Issayas Afewerki killed the intellectuals, people fled the country. He did this for 30 years, staying in power. He teaches Abiy Ahmed the same things. The Ethiopian Prime Minister walks in the footsteps of Issayas Afewerki.

How to get out of this conflict? Can the Church play a mediating role as seen in other African countries in particular?

We are all equal in the eyes of God. When your brother dies, you have to react. So the world has to do something right away. Why is the international community silent? Listen to our voice, help us.

Our Church has tried to talk, but the federal government is not listening. In the past, when someone came to power, he sought the blessing of the church. But today’s leaders are only interested in their own power.

I no longer believe that Tigrayans are still Ethiopians. There’s been so much destruction and murder. They want to enslave them.

There are robberies, murders, people are starving. My people don’t sleep anymore, because they’re afraid of being killed at any moment. So we have to act immediately. I ask the Eritrean forces and Amhara to leave Tigray. I ask the world to hear us. I want my people to survive.

“I’ve never seen that. Crimes follow one another. Churches are destroyed. It’s a war against the Tigrayans. They’re after our history and they want to kill everyone. It is genocide. . . . We must act immediately. I ask the Eritrean forces and Amhara to leave Tigray. I ask the world to hear us. “

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