Open Call to the Norwegian Peace Committee: Please Take your Share of Responsibility
Kaleb Mandela 01-11-21
This is an open call to ask you take your share of moral and institutional responsibility for the enduring human misery in Tigray/Ethiopia as a result of the injudicious decision you have made to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Mr Abiy Ahmed in 2019.
While the primary legal, political and moral responsibility rest on Mr Ahmed himself (and his associates in crime) for waging a war against his own people, for committing and condoning the commission of gross human rights and humanitarian law violations by the Eritrean armed forces, the Amhara special forces and militia and the Ethiopian armed forces in Tigray and against Tigrayans, I am of the view that your unintended but grave mistake has contributed to the anguish of millions of Tigrayans, other Ethiopians and Eritreans.
Although an impartial and credible investigation is required to serve justice for both the victims and the alleged perpetrators, I have no slightest doubt from what I, the United Nations and humanitarian actors have gathered, that what is happening in Tigray and against Tigrayans by those concerned constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and potentially genocide.
This is notwithstanding the unprecedented public call you have made upon your awardee to de-escalate the conflict in early November which was utterly ignored by Mr Ahmed in the name of ‘law enforcement operation’ and ‘sovereignty’.
My grounds for this call are four-fold:
First, you said in your announcement of a premature and unmerited award that the Prime Minister has brought peace and cooperation with Eritrea. The fact of the matter is that in about a year or so after your blessing to his power, Abiy Ahmed has waged a full-fledged war against his own people, the people of Tigray, in coordination with his aggression and crime partner, Isayas Afewerki of Eritrea.
You, or diehard supporters of Mr Ahmed, might try to forgive or exonerate him from responsibility by blaming the Tigray authorities for taking action against the Northern Command of the Ethiopian Defence Forces (EDFs). It is unfortunate that a clash happened between regional and federal forces and people have been killed, wounded and affect from both sides. The truth of the matter, as renowned experts and sources have confirmed, however, is that the two leaders, Ahmed and Afewerki have been planning the war for more than two years to eliminate and subjugate a common political enemy, the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) by a brute force; that is what they are exactly doing until today. This has been expressly and publicly stated by Mr Ahmed in response to Tigray’s decision to go for election in September 2020; such a goal was also expressly set and publicly stated by the Eritrean president in 2018.
You or proponents of the Prime Minister may still give him the benefit of the doubt on taking a ‘law enforcement operation’ in response to the controversial ‘incident’ involving the Northern Command of the Ethiopian army and contain Tigray dissidents. However, what the Eritrean and Ethiopian armies and the Amhara militia are doing in Tigray is a blatant violation of Ethiopian and international laws: broad daylight execution of Tigrayan youth, women and children and the elderly en masse; rapping and sexually assaulting women and girls in many towns and villages of Tigray in front of family and loved ones; looting and vandalising private homes, businesses, public infrastructure and property using soldiers and militia and air raids, artillery shelling and drones across Tigray; killing, torturing and forcefully returning Eritrean refugees; killing and targeting aid workers; and impeding humanitarian assistance, internet and telephone services to the Tigray population. These are well-documented by the UN, human rights organisations, victims, family accounts and even by military and civilian authorities of the Ethiopian regime, although the full-scale of Ahmed and Afewerki’s crimes require full and impartial inquiry.
None of these has to do with law enforcement measures any one government can take, rather they are evidence of grave violations of human, humanitarian, refugee and UN laws and universal moral standards.
Secondly, you expressed recognition of ‘all stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast Africa regions’ as further justification for your 2019 award. This was understood as an implied recognition of the Eritrean life-time leader, Mr Afewerki. The sad reality tells a tale of a grave security crisis in the region. Not only that Ethiopia is now a war zone in many fronts, including in Tigray, Oromia, Benishangul, Afar and Somalia regions mostly put under- undeclared emergency military commands, but also Sudan and Ethiopia, two countries that enjoyed peaceful and close co-existence for the last three decades, are fighting a border war with an alleged Eritrean involvement in support of Ethiopia. There is also an alleged involvement of the Emirates in the Tigray war through military drone provision. Furthermore, Kenya and Somalia are at a brink of war, thanks to the conflict-ridden policy of Afewerki and Ahmed on the Horn of Africa region.
Thirdly, you also said in your announcement that Mr Ahmed ‘has initiated reforms that gave many citizens hope for a better life and brighter future’ by releasing prisoners, opening up the political space and promoting media freedom. Since his ascendance to power and since your peace prize award, however, thousands of Ethiopians have been killed or maimed, millions displaced within and outside Ethiopia due to incompetence and ill-informed political agenda of Mr Ahmed that led to ethnic division and conflict among the people of Ethiopia. The country has never seen such level of armed violence among citizens in its recent history. This is often blamed on the TPLF despite the fact that the Ahmed regime has been in power for the last three years with full control of executive, judicial and legislative powers at federal and regional levels. This excuse is still used after Mr Ahmed declared a ‘victory’ over TPLF as seen in response to the recent carnage of more than a hundred innocent civilians in the Benishangul region.
Unlawful mass arrest of citizens is rampant in Ethiopia. Thousands of Tigrayans are in detention centres, including businessmen and women, civil servants, army and security officers and soldiers; there are reports of torture and inhumane treatment of officers of Tigray origin in several concentration camps outside and around Addis Ababa such as Dedesa and Zuwai; some army officers have been subject to forceful disappearance as per eyewitness accounts who recently escaped from one of the camps; a total travel ban on Tigrayans within and outside Ethiopia and suspension of bank accounts opened in Tigray were carried out as state policy. All these, when read in conjunction with what is happening in Tigray, demonstrate acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Gross violations of human rights are also rampant in the Oromia, southern and Benishangul regional states of Ethiopia. In Oromia regional state where the award holder claims to represent, thousands of youth are illegally detained in schools, military training camps and other facilities without regard to the due process of law; Oromo political leaders are languishing in prison, so do many journalists, as part of the extreme repression imposed on Ethiopians. Ethiopia is now levelled as the worst country for arresting (and purging) journalists and for suppressing freedom of the press.
I acknowledge that you recognised similar challenges in your explanation for your 2019 award to Mr Ahmed and you wished to encourage him to follow the path of ‘peace and reconciliation’. The outcome is entirely different; your good intentions were used and abused for consolidating power and inflict more harm on the people of Ethiopia and the region at large.
The people of Tigray are at the top of the victims’ list; they have become subject to a shameful and flagrant abuse of their human dignity, property and collective rights. Thousands of civilians have been massacred on a house-to-house or random street basis, heavy artillery, war planes and drones deliberate and indiscriminate attacks across Tigray; women and girls have been subjected to physical abuses in a scale of unheard proportions in the region; such sexual violence is widespread to date even in Mekele city where they claimed to have a full control; tens of thousands have fled to Sudan and millions have been displaced within Tigray; more than 2 million Tigray children are suffering from lack of food, medicine and malnutrition; and the entire population of Tigray have been left by Ahmed and Afewerki to starve to death as humanitarian aid has been deliberately blocked for more than 60 days for political reasons and as a tactic to hide their misdeeds. There are now disturbing reports that Mr Ahmed’s regime has begun abducting and coercing the youth in Mekele and other places into joining his military without any legal basis under Ethiopian and Tigray laws.
And fourthly, I appreciate your courage of expressing a ‘deep concern’ about the Tigray conflict and for calling to ‘end the escalating violence’ on 17 November 2020. I also appreciate the fact that you awarded the prize with good intentions to encourage democracy, accountability and peace in Africa.
However, given that you are a global actor with significant influence in the international community, and your awardee is a prime leader of a bloody war against his own people in collaboration with foreign power(s) and the Eritrean leader who do not have respect to human life and dignity, I respectfully call upon you to:
(i) Take moral and institutional responsibility, as a global actor, for hastily deciding, thereby contributing to the unimaginable human suffering inflicted on the Tigray population and the region at large by empowering Mr Ahmed to realise his political ambition through violence which embraces waging a full-scale war and orchestrating atrocities at worse or failing to protect civilians and condoning ethnic cleansing at best. I note that thousands of combatants and fighters are also dying every day in such bloody war in Tigray, Benishangul, Oromia and in the Sudanese and Ethiopian border.
(ii) Officially distance yourselves from the awardee by formally denouncing the gross violations of international human, humanitarian and refugee laws. I note that Mr Ahmed’s case is entirely different from other controversial Nobel Peace award cases such as Mrs Aung San Suu Kyi’s, as Mr Ahmed is directly commanding, executing and condoning the various international crimes committed against the people of Tigray and other Ethiopians.
(iii) Extend an apology, if possible through revoking Mr Ahmed’s Nobel Peace Prize award, to the Tigray (and other) people, victims and their families as he has become a war champion rather than a Peace Laureate; you were courageous enough to take the risk of awarding him with the Prize, it is thus reasonable to expect you publicly condemn what your awardee is doing on the ground.
(iv) Openly urge Mr Ahmed to stop the war, free Tigray from foreign occupation and extreme repression, give immediate and unhindered access to humanitarian aid to the Tigray region, cooperate with UN’s investigation into the atrocities committed, stop the on-going state-sponsored abuses against Tigrayans and other Ethiopians and lift the telephone, internet and electricity blockage in the region.
(v) Be on the side of justice, victims and the people similar to those who are taking action against the Ethiopian regime such as the European Union, and not on the side of those who sponsor or condone the on-going mass murder and ethnic cleansing like that of the dictatorial Trump Administration and other corrupt African actors.
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