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Tecle Haiylu  12-10-20

Commonly, criminals prefer the cover of darkness to commit their crimes. Similarly, Ethiopia’s favorite weapon of communication blackouts is another form of darkness in which Abiy Ahmed Ali of Ethiopia and Isayas Afewerki, dictator of Eritrea, want to hide their war crimes and crimes against humanity. The international community must recognize that the blackout is in and by itself an indictment of the criminal intent of the dictators. Abiy Ahmed and Isayas Afewerki have been denying that Eritrea is a party to the war against Tigray. But already this is false according to a US Government source: “There doesn’t appear to be a doubt anymore. It’s being discussed by U.S. officials on calls - that the Eritreans are in Tigray - but they aren’t saying it publicly, the U.S. government source, who has been privy to the internal calls, told Reuters. A senior diplomat from another country concurred, saying “thousands” of Eritrean soldiers were believed to be engaged.”

By the time the full light shines on Tigray, Oromia, and Eritrea, the war crimes and crimes against humanity by these two “heartless Savages” will become evident to the rest of the world, but it would be too late for too many of the victims.

At the moment, the international media is being fed a one-sided account of what is going on in Ethiopia’s genocidal (Stage 9 on Genocide Watch) war against Tigray and ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans in the rest of the country. International media is picking up Abiy Ahmed’s lies with the caveat that there is no independent verification. By now the world ought to realize that Abiy Ahmed has the propensity for lying. When he first took office in April 2018, he told the Ethiopian people that the past 27 years of the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) rule, of which he was a member, were the dark years. A year later, at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he told his audience that Ethiopia was among the fastest-growing economies, consistently averaging 9% growth for the last decade, GDP multiplied by 10 fold in 25 years, and that Ethiopia is one of the leading foreign direct investment countries in Africa. More recently, Aljazeera ( quotes Abiy Ahmed saying, “ federal troops had not killed a single civilian in their nearly month-long offensive against regional forces in Tigray.

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Abiy also assured Parliament on Monday that the army would not destroy Mekelle, capital of Tigray, after announcing its capture yesterday.”


However, on December 3, 2020, the New York Times reported, “Ethiopia’s prime minister promised a swift, surgical military campaign in the restive province of Tigray. But doctors in the regional capital reported civilian deaths, looting and a looming crisis….But doctors at the city’s main hospital reached on Thursday painted a very different picture — indiscriminate artillery barrages on civilian areas, looting by armed men and the deaths of at least 27 civilians and injuries of more than 100.

Their testimony offered a rare glimpse of the increasingly dire conditions in a city that has been largely cut off from the outside world since Mr. Abiy launched a military operation against Tigray on Nov. 4.”

Abiy Ahmed is not ashamed to tell lies as long as it serves his primary objective of vanquishing the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party, removing the state of Tigray from the map or subjugating it, if he cannot exterminate Tigrayans, with the help of Isaias Afewerki, who also has an ax to grind against the TPLF.

Abiy Ahmed’s announcement of unconditional acceptance of the previous peace treaty on border demarcation with Eritrea earned him the Nobel Peace Prize from the Norwegian Noble Committee. If the Committee had dug a little deeper into what was going on in the country after Abiy Ahmed became the interim Prime Minister, it would have come across the multiple inter-ethnic conflicts that were raging in the country, and the internal displacement of over a million Somalis from their homes in Oromia into the desert of the Ogaden. International reports described how Abiy Ahmed’s government did very little to aid these people, let alone help them return to their homes.

Later, there have been several unsolved murders, suspected to have been engineered by Abiy Ahmed and his followers, starting with the “suicide” of Bekele Simegnew, Chief Engineer of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the coup attempt in Bahir Dar and the killing of the Amhara administrator with some of his cabinet members, and within hours of that in Addis Ababa, the shooting of the Tigrayan General Seare Mekonnen, Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian Army along with a retired Major General Gizae Aberra, also a Tigrayan,  by a newly assigned bodyguard, and the shooting also in Addis Ababa of Hachalu Hundessa, a popular Oromo activist singer, to name just a few. These crimes under the watch of the laureate, Abiy Ahmed, no doubt tarnish the value and dignity of the Nobel Peace Prize. Now, to top it all off, the Laureate has declared a genocidal war against the people of Tigray to legitimize his hold on power at all costs.

The best characterization of Abiy Ahmed, as well as Esayas Afewerki, was given by Abiy Ahmed himself in his speech in Oslo:

“War is the epitome of hell for all involved. I know because I have been there and back.

I have seen brothers slaughtering brothers on the battlefield.

I have seen older men, women, and children trembling in terror under the deadly shower of bullets and artillery shells.

You see, I was not only a combatant in war.

I was also a witness to its cruelty and what it can do to people.

War makes for bitter men. Heartless and savage men.


Let us ponder the following questions to understand who Abiy Ahmed Ali is and how, under his watch, Ethiopia got to this tragic stage in its long history as a country.

1.   Why is there a blackout of communications, earlier in the Oromia State, and now in the Tigray State?

Abiy Ahmed started his career as a trained intelligence officer starting from the time of the Ethio-Eritrean war until EPRDF, the ruling party, chose him as an interim leader of the party. It was during his watch in the national security apparatus that frequent internet blackouts were practiced. Not providing the reasons for doing so showed his team’s scorn of the people. Imagine the financial losses that many businesses have suffered from such brazen acts.

Communication blackout in the two states was to hide killings of civilians by the Ethiopian army and to suppress dissent, and imprisonment of political opposition leaders to  Abiy’s authority. Amnesty International has documented some of the crimes committed in Oromia State and denounced Abiy’s government for the imprisonment of Oromo and some Amhara political leaders and other activists, and not bringing them to the court of justice or disclosing their whereabouts to their families.

In Tigray, the war was declared officially by Abiy Ahmed Ali because no blackout can hide the mobilization of an army of 250,000 strong from all corners of the country, backed by tanks, long-range artillery, helicopter gunships, and bomber aircraft. As recent bits and pieces of accounts of the war have disclosed, it is to hide heinous crimes being committed by the Ethiopian army, the Amahara militia, and the Eritrean army (a partner in this war, despite Afeworki Isayas’s denial) against civilians from the eyes and ears of the world. Over 45,000 civilians are forced to flee to Sudan.

It is to be recalled that Abiy Ahmed repeatedly denied his intent to wage war against the people of Tigray as unthinkable. His deceptive reasoning is that the people of Tigray and their ruling party the TPLF are two separate entities even after the TPLF won 98% of the votes during Tigray’s defiant free and fair elections of September 2020. To deter Tigray from conducting the election, he had threatened that “young people will die, mothers will cry and homes will be destroyed”. Undeterred by the dire warning, Tigray State stood firm in defense of Ethiopia’s federal constitution, which stipulates that national and regional elections be held every five years. Abiy Ahmed’s security agents at the Bole International Airport even forbade international reporters from flying to Tigray to witness the elections. On the other hand,  Abiy Ahmed used COVID-19 as an excuse to indefinitely postpone national elections and as a consequence, made himself and the rubber-stamp parliament usurpers of power by the end of September 2020.

Abiy Ahmed Ali claimed that it was the “red line that the TPLF crossed” by attacking the Northern Ethiopian Army Command stationed in Tigray that made him declare war against Tigray to supposedly “uphold law and order”. Law and order is normally police work, not the mission of a full-fledged army invasion. But, as stated above, Abiy Ahmed has no longer any mandate to enforce law and order against a state that adhered to Ethiopia’s federal constitution and was at peace while many parts of the country were in turmoil. Much earlier than Abiy’s “red line”, Tigray TV was showing Ethiopian army personnel from the command post, volunteering in the fight against the locust infestation by harvesting crops alongside the Tigray peasants. The President of Tigray also stated that a large part of the Northern Army Command was in disagreement with Abiy in his deploying the national army to do police work in Oromia State and other places instead of adhering to national defense and upholding the constitution. It is reported that the Northern Army Command had the largest stockpile of armaments of all the other commands. So, there is the possibility that the TPLF took the preemptive step of taking control of the armaments before they fall into enemy hands. The truth will eventually come out, but our thought process urges us to raise other related questions.


2.   Why was the content of the peace agreement that Abiy Ahmed and Isayas Afewerki of Eritrea signed on December 10, 2019, never disclosed to the Ethiopian and Eritrean people?

According to a report by The United States Institute of Peace, dated August 29, 2020, “…, Eritrea closed border crossings between the countries again. To date, the peace has largely remained elite, political levels – and even personalized between Abiy and Isayas.” From what has transpired so far, we can safely surmise that the frequent meetings of the two leaders were to strategize war plans against Tigray. The sinister motives for the blackout may have already been hatched when Abiy and Isayas paraded in public as intimate friends with Abiy acting as the respectful and subservient junior partner-in-crime of the duo.

Having won the Nobel Peace Prize, Abiy’s first mission was to successfully appeal to the UN to lift sanctions imposed on Eritrea. Isayas on his part lobbied the UAE and Saudi Arabia to bless their peace agreement with possible financial aid down the road. These reciprocal favors must have further cemented trust in each other. Further, the two dictators disclosed to each other their national secrets as evidenced by opening the doors to the Ethiopian airforce base in Debre Zeit for Isayas and his secret agents to explore. Likewise, Isayas took Abiy to his infamous military camp, the Sawa, to visit. The only thing Isayas did not need to disclose to Abiy is where he has jailed many of his former comrades after he took full control of power over Eritrea. Abiy had already applied the lesson and done the same to his political opponents by putting them in jail of unknown locations.

3.   What exactly happened during the 1998-2000 war with Eritrea when Abiy Ahmed’s foxhole was “wiped out” by Eritrean artillery while he stepped out to adjust the antenna for better reception?

Abiy Ahmed describes the incident thus: “Twenty years ago, I was a radio operator attached to an Ethiopian army unit in the border town of Badme. The town was the flashpoint of the war between the two countries. I briefly left the foxhole in the hopes of getting a good antenna reception. It took only but a few minutes. Yet, upon my return, I was horrified to discover that my entire unit had been wiped out in an artillery attack.”


Was this truly a mere coincidence that Abiy Ahmed left the foxhole for “a few minutes” and the enemy artillery wiped it out or did he somehow know it was going to happen?  If so, why didn’t he save his 7 or 8 comrades? Did this incident play any role in the later rapprochement between the two dictators? We hope the truth will come out in the future.


4.   Knowing very well the animosity between the TPLF and Isayas, why is it that Abiy Ahmed did not inform or invite Tigray to join him in the peace agreement, if the intent was for a sustainable and genuine peace between the two countries, disregarding the few photo ops of the three leaders at the border areas?

Abiy Ahmed knows very well, that historically Tigrians are known to have never compromised Ethiopia’s sovereignty with external enemies. Instead, they have sacrificed their lives generation after generation fighting against all invaders. A good example is the reign of the Tigrayan Emperor Yohannes IV from 1871 to 1889. The Emperor had a very brave and capable commander, Ras Alula. Emperor Yohannes IV and Ras Alula fought and defeated Egyptian incursions twice from today’s northern Eritrea and kept Italians pinned down at the Red Sea port of Massawa.

As a devout Orthodox Christian, the Emperor regraded the Mahdist incursion from Sudan and their burning of churches in Gondar as the biggest threat to his country and died fighting the Mahdists at the battle of Metema in western Gondar. Menelik II of Shewa and Tekle Haimanot of Gojam & Kaffa, who have been coronated as kings by Emperor Yohannes IV and appointed to rule their respective domains, never came to his aid to fight the Mahdists, let alone the Egyptians and the Italians.


Instead, Menelik II of Shewa/Amhara conspired with the Italians and allowed them to march into the highland areas, and allowed Eritrea to be born as an Italian colony, and thus splitting the Tigrigna speakers of Eritrea and Tigray into two, while he declared himself Emperor of Ethiopia. It is interesting to note that although the Italian army was later routed at the Battle of Adwa in 1896, Menelik forbade his army to pursue the few remaining enemy soldiers across the Mereb River. Instead, he gave the few Italian survivors pack animals and horses to take them to their fortress in Asmara. By contrast, he ordered the arms and legs of all the captured Eritreans who were conscripted by the Italians, cut off.


Did the kings and emperors of Ethiopia appreciate the sacrifices the Tigrayans paid defending the country? Not at all. On the contrary, the Amhara rulers feared the Tigrayans as their competitors to power and did everything they could to keep them oppressed and exploited by appointing corrupt administrators over them. Today, history seems to want to more than repeat itself. Internal and external enemies of the people of Tigray want to exterminate them and obliterate the geographic entity called Tigray from the map of the earth. Time will tell.



5.   Why is it that no mention was made of redrawing the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea following the ruling by an international commission in The Hague in April 2002, after Abiy Ahmed and Isayas Afewerki signed their peace agreement in 2019?


The total omission of the issue of the border demarcation is proof that the two dictators had bigger eggs to fry than squabble over border demarcation.  To begin with, the earlier conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea was not a dispute over “a barren wasteland”, as the international media likes to characterize it, but over economics. One year, Eritrea was listed among the coffee exporting African countries. Eritrea does not grow coffee to be listed as an exporter of coffee. The coffee Eritrea exported that year was bought dirt cheap from Ethiopian farmers in the south and west of the country using Ethiopian currency it had appropriated from Ethiopian banks that were operating in Eritrea when Isayas’s forces took over Eritrea from the military government, the Derg. Later, Eritrea also appropriated all goods that were destined for Ethiopia but were coming through the ports of Massawa and Assab. The Algiers peace agreement did not even include compensation issues that Ethiopia suffered due to the Eritrean-Ethiopian war that was started by Eritrea.


The EPRDF took a decisive step to stop Eritrea from exploiting Ethiopia by suddenly changing the currency and stipulating that any commercial transaction with Eritrea was to use the hard currency. This enraged Isayas who had dreamt of turning Eritrea into the Singapore or Taiwan of Africa, by freely exploiting Ethiopia, and he retaliated by invading Badme, which made it look like a territorial dispute from thereon.


6.   What are the grievances that Abiy Ahmed and Isayas Afewerki have against the TPLF that made them open a vendetta war against Tigray?

In 1998, when Eritrea opened war against Ethiopia Isayas was confident that his fortified trenches along the border with Tigray were impregnable. International observers had also concluded the same. Isayas refused to negotiate a peaceful settlement (like Abiy Ahmed is doing now) proposed by President Clinton’s government and other agencies. The TPLF, however, destroyed his fortifications very quickly and advanced toward Asmara. At which point, he was forced to appeal for negotiations and the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi suddenly ordered the advance of the Ethiopian army toward Asmara to stop. That defeat badly wounded the inflated ego of Isayas who turned against his comrades-in-arm who criticized his leadership and threw them in jail and made Eritrea a pariah state. Isayas Afewerki also fomented to destabilize Ethiopia by proxy wars through Somalia and by harboring armed opposition groups from Ethiopia. Now, however, he found a trusted ally in Abiy Ahmed who is more than willing to sell his country to the devil and vanquish the TPLF as long as he can remain in power.


For Abiy Ahmed, who had ascended the ‘throne’ unexpectedly, when the EPRDF selected him to be the interim Prime Minister specifically to bring peace to the country and lead it through a national free and fair election by May 2020, is not ready to relinquish the power that had landed on his lap, so easily. Instead, he wants to hang on to it at all costs. In his acceptance speech to parliament, he talked of love, forgiveness, tolerance, unity, etc. like a preacher, emptied prisons and welcomed all external opposition groups to the country, and received them over the red carpet like dignitaries, and widened the political space. People felt this was the savior Ethiopia needed. Slowly but surely, his words did not match his deeds or their absence. His sleek manners and speech gradually revealed his cheap character of twisting the truth and his propensity to unashamedly tell lies with a straight face. Inter-ethnic strifes became rampant and the country became more divided than ever before. It is, therefore, not surprising that Abiy Ahmed and Isaya Afewerki became close ‘friends’ in a short time because they share a similar dream whose fulfillment is only hampered by the TPLF. Here is what Naty Berhane Yifru wrote in Ethiopia Insight of March 26, 2020:

“Rather than being concerned about self-determination rights for substate nationalists, Eritrean observers believe that Isaias has a grand vision of uniting the region, envisioning himself at the Horn’s helm. And he also believes that the biggest obstacle to the realisation of this vision is TPLF. Hence, the irreconcilable enmity.


In 2018, it seems that Isaias felt he had found a partner to implement his ‘vision’ in the newly minted Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. One of the insurgent groups he hosted, and many believe aligns with his regional vision, is Ginbot 7. This organisation was among the first to embrace Abiy. In fact, Andargachew Tsige, one of its top leaders, has said he was the one who convinced Isaias that Abiy is a person to be trusted.”


7.   What possible arrangements could Abiy Ahmed and Isayas Afewerki have made for their end game, assuming that they eliminate their common foe, the TPLF? Here are some assumptions:

We can state a few things with certainty. There is no turning back what Abiy Ahmed and Isayas Afewerki have unleashed. Even the ‘darkness’ of the blackout that they thought they could hide their crimes in, is lifting and the glimpses that the international community is getting have shown to the world the “Heartless and savage men”  that Abiy Ahmed and Isayas Afewerki are. Their hands are smeared with the blood of thousands of innocent civilians. Their footprint of destruction and mayhem will remain for years to come. They will never attain their dreams of being President or king of Ethiopia. Instead, they will be lucky to run away from the country alive and hide somewhere.

Another certainty is that Ethiopia if it survives disintegration and avoids ending up as a failed state, will never be the Ethiopia that it has been known through the past century. If Amhara chauvinists take control and try to resurrect their domination over others the country will continue to remain in turmoil. However, if the federalist forces succeed and recognize the rights of all small and big ethnic groups to have a say in the future of the country, where no one ethnic group dominates and imposes its will over others, then democracy has a chance to be institutionalized and peace and prosperity will reign again in the country.

As long as the “hate Tiigray and Tigrayans” campaign and attitude remains, it is unlikely that Tigray will want to be part of Ethiopia. Generation after generation Tigray has sacrificed enough for the sovereignty of Ethiopia and deserves at least appreciation not hate. The future Ethiopia has to fully recognize this history and find ways to atone for the mistakes of the past and find ways of building mutual trust to bring Tigray back into the fold. Left in peace, Tigray can not only survive but thrive well. The suffering that the people have gone through in three decades has thought them to appreciate their land and their community and will strive to work harder than ever before and be self-reliant.

The most urgent thing right now, is that the very existence of Tigray is threatened by the two “heartless savages” and every Tigrayan, wherever they may be, has to do what they can to save Tigray and Tigrayans!


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