By Dr. Aklog Birara

TPLF Child Soldiers“People ‘killed like chickens’ as ethnic tensions continue in Africa’s second most populous country”, the Guardian, June 19, 2022.

I had hoped that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will have the courage, wisdom, moral aptitude, and competence to transition Ethiopia from ethnic maladministration to that of representative governance underpinned by the rule of law and buffeted by strong national institutions. 

Overcoming prior years of ethnic apartheid institutionalized and weaponized by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is an arduous effort. However, the Ethiopian federal state that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed leads cannot operate as a rudderless ship: declaring a unilateral ceasefire while leaving Afar and Amhara people weakened; asserting the primacy of Ethiopian unique identity while rejecting reform of the divisive ethnicity-based constitution; announcing freedom of dissent while jailing critics, etc.

No country achieves success without constant challenges. Those challenges must be addressed. The safety and security of ordinary citizens are the primary responsibilities of any government on this planet.

I have fought hard to defend Ethiopia’s legitimate rights, its sovereignty over its immense natural resources. I have applauded the generosity and humanity of ordinary Ethiopians. I witnessed this unparalleled level of empathy among Ethiopians during my recent visit. This phenomenon takes generations of intermingling among Ethiopians.

Ethnic-federalism and the apartheid like administrative structure imposed by the TPLF and Oromo Liberation Army (OLF) that other African nations banned but Ethiopia retained is a threat. There is no reason not to change the Constitution.

War Victims on the MoveFor reasonable persons like me committed to Ethiopia’s territorial integrity and people-anchored development, it is disingenuous on the part of Ethiopia’s government to mask the unparalleled insecurity, fear, and large-scale slaughter of ordinary and hard-working Amhara in Wollega, Oromia and in Beni-Shangul Gumuz from the rest of Ethiopia’s governance. Development devoid of human security generates conflicts. The cherished human right to live without fear is a foundational principle to all lives.

Regardless of who is involved, perpetrators committed Amhara genocide. We will never know who is accountable and responsible for crime of genocide that cost the lives of an estimated 1,500 Amhara (and counting) and 47 Ethiopians from Gambella in a single day if there is no credible investigation.  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged for the establishment of an independent “investigation” body.

To avert future genocide of Amhara, Ethiopia must hold  perpetrators accountable. Sadly, I have no confidence in the political will of the government of Ethiopia to hold perpetrators to account regardless of whether “Ethiopians defense and security forces were involved.”

Ethnic federalism allows massacres

The rule of human rights law contained in the Ethiopian Constitution never protected Amhara from atrocities. Instead, it has normalized targeted killings.

The TPLF and OLF imposed a language and ethnicity-based constitution and apartheid like administrative structure that gives power to elites to segregate and punish members of other ethnic groups they deem unwanted. Tribalists and terrorists thrive in this environment. It is reported widely that regional, federal, and foreign powers such as Egypt and Sudan support terrorists and extremists.

Genocide of Amhara is systemic and structural and will be exploited by foreign interests including Egyptian and Sudanese conspirators.

More than a dozen Amhara female students were abducted by OLA/Shine and their whereabout are still unknown. Banks were attacked and hundreds of millions of Birrs were reportedly robbed by OLA/Shine. Amhara genocide shows ethnicity-driven inhumanity remains in Ethiopia.

Negligence on the part of federal and regional authorities to provide security for ordinary citizens is a national security issue. If allegation of “ethnic cleansing of Amhara as a deliberate regional Oromia government policy is correct, I predict that slaughter of Amhara will continue. This strangulation weakens Ethiopia.

Observers imagine that genocide taking place in Oromia might happen in Addis Ababa where millions of Amhara live–a catastrophic prospect. Therefore, Abiy’s statement to Parliament last June, in Addis Ababa “there are folks who show hatred for Oromo” is provocative–adds fuel to the fire.

BBC, Guardian, NBC, PBS News Hour, New York Times, Washington Post have condemned this genocidal act–the killing of babies who were just weeks old, children who could barely walk, girls, pregnant, women, the elderly and poor farmers. Their crime is being born Amhara. Millions of Amhara displaced in the North by the TPLF; and in the South by the OLA/Shine. Below are samples of the various media reports.

  1. PBS News Hour quoted AP and confirmed massacre of hundreds of Amhara in Wollega, Oromia, as "One of the deadliest mass killings in the East African Nation.”
  1. On June 19, 2022, the Guardian reported “More than 200 Amhara people killed in attack blamed on rebels. People ‘killed like chickens’ as ethnic tensions continue in Africa’s second most populous country.”
  1. AP quotes a witness. “I have counted 230 bodies. I am afraid this is the deadliest attack against civilians we have seen in our lifetime,” Abdul-Seid Tahir, a resident told AP after barely escaping the attack on Saturday. “We are burying them in mass graves, and we are still collecting bodies. Federal army units have now arrived, but we fear that the attacks could continue if they leave.”

Local administrator rejected request by residents to hire an excavator. His concern is reputational risk for Oromia and federal authorities. Residents had to use shovels to dig and bury: 60 plus in one mass grave. Mass graves became normal in Ethiopia. This is repulsive for a society that is highly spiritual.

  1. “Shambel, who gave only his first name over fears for his safety, said the local Amhara community was desperately seeking to be relocated” before another round of mass killings happen”. He said ethnic Amhara who settled in the area about 30 years ago in resettlement programs were being slaughtered “like chickens.”

Eyewitnesses “blamed the Oromo Liberation Army for the attacks. The Oromia government countered by blaming the OLA, saying the rebels had attacked “after being unable to resist the operations launched by [federal] security forces.”

The truth can be and must be unearthed by a thorough independent investigation. Whoever is responsible must be held accountable. Otherwise, impunity will be normalized at the expense of those who cannot defend themselves.

To get a better understanding of the situation in Ethiopia, we invite rejoinders to this article from readers who may have a different view of the Ethiopian conflict (Editor).