USA’s call for Amhara Forces’ Withdrawal from Tigray: Sovereignty, cover-up and the way forward

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It is now an open secret, as reported by Amnesty International, CNN and Human Rights Watch, that the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies and the Amhara forces are committing ethnic cleansing against the people of Tigray by murdering, raping and torturing them en masse; looting and evicting them from their homes; wantonly vandalising and destroying their private and public property, services, infrastructure and their cultural and religious heritages; and ethnic profiling, arresting, searching and intimidating them in the whole of Ethiopia.

These were partially investigated and considered by human rights and other groups as war crimes and crimes against humanity, but the crime of genocide appears to be engaged too. 

A U.S. government leaked report published by the New York Times, confirms that the Amhara forces in the Tigray conflict, are “deliberately and efficiently rendering Western Tigray ethnically homogeneous through the organized use of force and intimidation …. Whole villages were severely damaged or completely destroyed”.

These findings are largely, but not fully, recognised by the Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission Report of atrocities, sexual violence, looting and vandalism committed by the Amhara forces that are effectively controlling western (and southern) Tigray.

At the time of writing this note, Humera residents of Tigray origin are given 24 hours to leave the town or face shooting and be thrown in to the nearby river called Tekeze; the Amhara forces have also continued to forcibly evict residents towards central Tigray. They are arrogantly telling them ‘let the US rescue you from this’.

This, is of course, a policy of the Federal and Amhara political elites, and carefully executed by the Amhara forces backed by the federal army and dictator Isayas’s forces.  

On 27 February, 2021, the US Secretary of State released a press statement titled: ‘Atrocities in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region’. This statement strongly condemns ‘the killings, forced removals, and displacement, sexual assaults, and other extremely serious human rights violations and abuses’ and expresses deep concern regarding ‘the worsening humanitarian crisis’ in Tigray. 

The Statement then urges: a) ‘the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces and Amhara regional forces form Tigray’ as first step imperatives; b) a ‘unilateral declaration of cessation of hostilities by all parties to the conflict’ with the purpose of delivery unhindered humanitarian relief to the people; and c) to ensure that ‘investigations into human rights violations and abuses’ are carried out leading to ‘full accountability’ of those who have committed the crimes. 

The Statement further calls upon the African Union and the international community more generally to work with the US ‘through action at the UN and other relevant bodies’. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia (MoFA) responded to the Secretary of State’s statement by deliberately omitting the call for Eritrea’s withdrawal from Tigray. The statement focused on their ‘priority’ to deliver humanitarian aid to Tigray. United Nations and other agencies are still concerned, as is the US, that the people of Tigray who live in 80% of the territory are not getting access to relief.

The MoFA response also attempts to convey a message that Ethiopia is committed to investigate the allegations of human rights abuses and hold those responsible to account.

The MoFA, however, regrets the “attempt by the US to make pronouncements on Ethiopia’s internal affairs and specifically, the reference to the Amhara regional forces redeployment in the above-mentioned press statement”. The response considers this as a violation of Ethiopia’s sovereignty.

It seems to be that the Ethiopian regime is arguing that they are entitled, as a sovereign country, to commit ethnic cleansing against part of their population, by deploying regional

forces, such as the Amhara special forces, militia and the vigilante group called Fano.

First and foremost, the Ethiopian regime can, and should, not be taken seriously by the Ethiopian public and the international community, when they pretend to be a guardian of Ethiopia’s sovereignty. They partnered with the criminal foreign regime of Isayas Afewerki to kill, maim, rape, loot and destroy Ethiopian Tigrayans along with their historic and religious heritages. They deployed UAE Drones and allegedly Somalian forces to exterminate the people and their administration in the name of law and order. 

Secondly, the Ethiopian regime must be informed that the US and other members of the international community that they not only have the right to demand the end of ethnic cleansing through removing perpetrators of crimes from the areas and regions of mass crime; and also a duty to respond and protect the Tigray population.

On a serious note, the head of the MoFA, Minister Demeke Mekonen, an allay and right hand man of dictator Abiy Ahmed, is the head of the Amhara Prosperity Party, that is ruling the region, and heads the Amhara paramilitary, militia and Fano forces; Mr Mekonen and Co. must therefore, be investigated for planning and executing, or for condoning and not preventing, the on-going ethnic cleansing, by his political and security associates.

The crimes committed, and continue to be committed, by the Amhara forces and their leaders do not imply that the Amhara public has full knowledge of, or endorsers, all these grave offences against their fellow human-beings and earthly neighbours.

It goes without saying, as a conclusion, that using sovereignty as a shield from international action and accountability is unacceptable in today’s world order. Thus, as per the US call, the Amhara and Eritrean murderous forces must withdraw from Tigray immediately. All world powers and others must dissociate themselves from the Ethiopian and Eritrean regimes and join the US to take concrete action to protect the Tigray population as a matter of urgency. There is also, as suggested by Amnesty International and others, a strong need to investigate the international crimes perpetrated in Tigray and against Tigrayans by an impartial and international body, such as the ICC prosecutor or a UN commission of inquiry, rather than by the real suspects of the crimes themselves. The regime’s Federal Attorney General and the Federal Police offices are among the main suspects of state-sponsored wider ethnic profiling, mass arrests and collective intimidation of Tigrayans, and therefore, highly likely to engage in a systematic cover-up and obstruction of justice should they be bestowed with the mandate of undertaking such criminal investigations.

Fitihi Ashenafi (from Mekelle) 01.03.21

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