In these times when the Ethiopian “final offensive” against Tigray seems to have failed, there may be some hope for negotiations and lifting the siege on Tigray. People there live in famine conditions (section 2) and are far from recovering from the numerous massacres, many of which have even not been documented. We tried to contribute to this documentation effort by preparing an interactive database that can be freely consulted online (section 1). We bring sad news, again, from universities in Tigray and Amhara region (section 3). Finally, we reflect on “bothsidesism” – a worrisome tendency in some media and international organisations (section 4), dangerous rhetoric in social media (section 5), and publish a usual shortlist of interesting media articles (section 6) and opinion pieces (section 7).
In the online database, lists of massacres and victims can be consulted based on location or a description of the incident. We count on our readers to visit the site and share the link through email, social media, etc. It may be interesting to contrast this database with the findings of the joint EHRC-OHCHR investigation, bound to be made public on 3 November in the afternoon.
- Associated Press, 2 November 2021: Ethiopia tried to limit rare UN report on Tigray war abuses
- Globe News Net, 27 October 2021: Former Tigray interim Government Top Official says Genocide ‘Undoubtedly’ committed on Tigrayans
- Vice News, 1 November 2021: Escaping Rape and Murder in Ethiopia’s Civil War
- Famine and inventive farming
I happened to come across this news item that was originally broadcast by Tigrai TV, in early July. https://twitter.com/wijzijntigray/status/1425922125311905796/video/1 It shows a farmer in Esret (woreda Saharti) ploughing with two donkeys. One can only do that in a sandy environment or on other soft soil. Not every farmer would be able to control his donkeys like this man is doing and have them walking in a regular way. Ploughing in July is so late and at this pace, the farmer cannot plough and sow his land timely… Many surrounding lands in the film were unploughed and will not give any yield this year. The journalist takes care not to interrupt the farmer’s activity and walks with him. The man tells that all oxen in their village have been killed by Eritrean soldiers, and the donkeys were stolen. In Esret, at least 37 civilians have been killed by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers in February-March 2021 (massacres N° 292 and 359 in the online database). This farmer took his donkeys to the mountains to carry food while they were hiding for warfare, and, luckily, they have not been looted.
- Associated Press, 16 October 2021: ‘God have mercy’: Tigray residents describe life under siege
- The Spectator, 12 October 2021: Tough times for tenacious Tigray
- The National News, 22 October 2021: Locusts threaten to compound hunger crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region
- RTBF, 2 November 2021: Un an de guerre au Tigré : blocus, famine et contre-offensive [in French] – English translation : One year of war in Tigray: blockade, famine and counter-offensive
- Alex de Waal, 16 October 2021: Why Ethiopia’s Tigray region is starving, but no famine declared
The Ethiopian Ministry of Education had already stopped transferring budgets to the four universities in Tigray (in Mekelle, Aksum, Adigrat and Raya), but now we learned that these institutions have been formally closed and that the students were instructed to report to other universities in Ethiopia.
On 21 October, two Wollo University lecturers of Tigrayan origin were killed in Dessie. They were lynched by a mob, mobilised by the Amhara fano militias. The reliable Tigrayan news site Tghat, mentions that several of their Wollo University colleagues participated in that lynching mob ☹ (https://twitter.com/TghatMedia/status/1454102303280148482-). Numerous other Tigrayan colleagues who work in universities of the Amhara region were arrested and are kept in custody.
See this article by Medhanie Gaim and Temesgen Kahsay, published on 27 October 2021: Whataboutism and Bothsidesism in the War on Tigray – In my view “bothsidesism” seems an easy trick, essentially avoiding to analyse what is going on, on the ground, and protecting the main perpetrators… Paraphrasing Samuel Gebru (https://twitter.com/SMGebru/status/1451769535468642311), one wouldn’t “both sides” the Jewish, Bosnian, Native American, Armenian, Uyghur, Tutsi, and Rohingya genocides. Then why apply it to Tigray? Our database (see section 1) contains 262 massacres, including some attributed to the Tigray Defence Forces. One cannot exclude that some members of the Tigray forces may have committed war crimes, in revenge of what happened in their village for example. Yet, it certainly is in a different order of magnitude. Also, on the side of Ethiopian and Amhara authorities, the orders come from the top – think about years old dehumanisation (“daytime hyenas”, “gorillas”, “cancer”, “weeds”, …), the open calls for genocide and the greenlighting of rape, mentioned in our earlier newsletters. “Bothsidesism” is an abolition of judgement, which plays in favour of fanatised genociders, taken out of reality, and who try to win time and confuse the minds by any means.
Yesterday evening I received this message from a colleague at Addis Ababa University: “Here it is state of emergency, and the government may forcibly recruit anyone for the army. Addis is completely deserted at 9:30 PM”. News is also coming in of massive arrestations of civilian Tigrayans throughout the country. Such ethnic targeting is sustained by spreading of rumours through social media. One of the latest: “the 3% Tigrayan residents of Dessie would have defeated the Ethiopian army and fano militias and opened the way for the TDF”.
Unfortunately, some international supporters of the war against Tigray participate in spreading this dangerous rhetoric, such as Prof. Jon Abbink (African Studies Centre Leiden, The Netherlands) – see https://twitter.com/wdavison10/status/1455422546480881670.
An interesting discussion has developed on such lies that lead to dangerous ethnic tensions – see https://twitter.com/N0tWoofers/status/1455701315934380035. Conclusion of one of the participants in that discussion: “So basically yet another stab in the back myth. Why bother coming to terms with the reality that the military force you support lost a fight when you can just blame a convenient scapegoat for that defeat.”
- CNN, 25 October 2021: Facebook knew it was being used to incite violence in Ethiopia. It did little to stop the spread, documents show
- Meron T. Gebreananaye, 31 October 2021: “Do It Even If It Grieves You”: Social Media Platforms Ignore Escalating Calls for Genocide in Ethiopia
- Addis Standard, 2 November 2021: Details of Ethiopia’s State of Emergency proclamation
- The Telegraph, 2 November 2021: Ethiopian capital prepares for attack as US warns Tigrayan rebels to stop flash advance
- VOA News, 29 October 2021: Terror in Tigray: The Ethiopian Refugee Crisis
- Africa Confidential, 21 October: Ethiopia – Into the hell of war again
- BBC Newshour, 22 October, largely addresses the situation in Ethiopia. Mekelle University past-president Prof. Kindeya Gebrehiwot at 30:00, on the Mekelle bombings and the siege; at 35:00 Samuel Getachew, independent journalist who was in Dessie and on the impacts of the conflict.
- Dimtsi Weyane Radio, 21 October 2021: recording, showing the conditions under which most of Tigray can listen to the radio – if they have still batteries…
- Daily Maverick (South Africa), 31 October 2021: Abiy’s offensive against Tigray collapses: Dreams of a ‘new Ethiopia’ arise
- Gerjon, 16 October 2021: A look inside Harar Meda Airport, Ethiopia
- Globe News Net, 16 October 2021: Negotiation between Ethiopia and TPLF by excluding other political forces in Tigray ‘futile’ say three opposition parties in Tigray.
- Bloomberg, 19 October 2021: Ethiopia Stages Airstrikes Targeting Rebel Region’s Capital
- Channel 4, 28 October 2021: Civilians joining Ethiopia’s military to fight Tigray’s rebels amid new offensive
- Democracy Now, 7 October 2021: Ethiopia: New Reports Expose Ethnic Cleansing & Illegal Arms Shipments on Commercial Flights
- France24, 14 October 2021 : Ethiopia’s expanding civil war: ‘We see a very worrying trajectory’
- The New York Times, 12 October 2021: Ethiopia Launches New Offensive on Tigray Rebels as Famine Looms
- Der Spiegel, 22 October 2021: Friedensnobelpreisträger und Kriegstreiber Abiy Ahmed – Wie konnte sich die Welt in diesem Mann so täuschen? [in German] – A Brutal War Waged By a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
- Reuters, 1 November 2021: Dual Agenda – In Ethiopia’s civil war, Eritrea’s army exacted deadly vengeance on old foes
- Reuters, 1 November 2021: Key events in a year of war in northern Ethiopia
- Reuters, 28 October 2021: Doctor reports 10 dead from latest air strike in north Ethiopia war
- BBC News, 25 October 2021. Tigray crisis: How the West has fallen out with Ethiopia’s PM
- BBC Newsday, 2 November 2021. Interview of Gebrekirstos Gebreselassie on the TDF-OLA alliance and breaking the siege. Start at 27:00
- André Crismer & Jan Nyssen, Le Soir, 21 October 2021: “Au Tigré, un peuple meurt et le monde se tait” [in French] – English translation : In Tigray, a population dies and the world is silent
- CNT-AIT, 19 September 2021: Spain 1936, Ethiopia 2021: the fight against fascism continues …
- Alex Rondos and Mark Medish, 17 October 2021: Ethiopia Is Plunging Into Chaos. It’s Time for a New Dayton Peace Process.
- Jan Nyssen & André Crismer, La Libre Belgique, 2 November 2021: Un an de guerre au Tigré, mais à quand le dialogue ? [in French] – English translation : A year of war in Tigray, but when will there be dialogue?
- International Crisis Group: Ethiopia’s Civil War: Cutting a Deal to Stop the Bloodshed
Follow up communication compiled by Prof. Dr. Jan Nyssen.
Jan Nyssen is full professor of Geography at Ghent University (Belgium). Besides numerous scientific publications mostly related to Ethiopia, he published two books: “ካብ ሓረስቶት ደጉዓ ተምቤን እንታይ ንስምዕ”? “What do we hear from the farmers in Dogu’a Tembien”? [in Tigrinya] (2016), and “Geo Trekking in Ethiopia’s Tropical Mountains, the Dogu’a Tembien District”. Springer GeoGuide (2019).