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Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Calls His War Against the People of Tigray “A Law Enforcement Operation”

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Calls His War Against the People of Tigray “A Law Enforcement Operation”


By Elias Dawit Nov 09, 2020


Every policymaker and human rights activist in the West should watch Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s declaration of war against the Tigray region and his justification for using MIG fighter planes to bomb civilian targets.


In an aggressively defiant statement, Abiy Ahmed attempts to justify an all-out attack on civilians in Mekelle “to bring to justice”—his own words—the “old guard” of the TPLF.

He urged civilians to stay indoors to avoid “collateral damage” from the bombs being dropped on their homes, their schools, their places of worship and their small businesses. 


According to the Prime Minister, the government is bombing the Tigray people to “apprehend fugitives from law in the Tigray region.” Presumably, these “fugitives” are Getachew Assefa, former head of the EPRDF’s National Intelligence Security Service (NISS) and an unnamed 25 former employees of NISS for human rights violations. It is not a proper arrest warrant but a desire for retribution against a man who knows his secrets.


More importantly however, the Prime Minister is justifying a military attack on his own people because of his failure to arrest 26 people said to be hiding in Tigray.


This is not a presumption. Again in his own words, the Prime Minister’s justifies his war against the people of Tigray by saying that the federal government “is compelled to undertake a law enforcement operation to defend the constitution and uphold the rule of law”—an all-out war to arrest Getachew Assefa and those 25 unnamed NISS officers who have eluded his capture.


His anger is palpable.


Later in his speech, the Prime Minister additionally cites Tigray’s “illegal election” and “half-cocked statehood thesis.”  


Does the international community accept the rhetorical acrobatics of the Prime Minister in calling war “a law enforcement operation?” 


It is not often that a leader so transparently reveals his intentions on television—and in English so that people around the world will know what he is doing and why. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has explained clearly and unequivocally his reasons for send MIG planes to Tigray, warning civilians to stay indoors to avoid becoming “collateral damage.”


Ethiopia has been on the precipice of collapse for several years now. Ethnic tensions and accompanying violence are an everyday occurrence. Amhara have been killed. Oromo have been killed. Somali have been killed. Benishangul have been killed. Afar have been killed.  Tigrayans have been killed and so on. Violence has touched every ethnic group that make up this millennia old experiment called Ethiopia.


The Prime Minister can make speeches that blame the TPLF for all of Ethiopia’s ills, but Abiy Ahmed has failed in carrying out his primary responsibility—protecting all of Ethiopia’s people.


He has imprisoned journalists and opposition leaders.  He has cut off communication and internet in various parts of the country.


He has blocked roads so that food, medicine and other supplies cannot reach the people. He has postponed elections. He has exhorted people to identify people of Tigrayan ethnicity to their local municipality.


He has fired his key ministers, as well as the police and defense chiefs. His government is in shambles.


People are hungry. People are angry. People have lost confidence in their government.


And now he is bombing his people.


Abiy Ahmed has transformed himself into Mengistu Haile Mariam.


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