It’s time to get informed about the genocide in Ethiopia

by Yaabsra Habtom, Guest Writer

In November of 2020, the Ethiopian government launched a military offensive into the region of Tigray after the state’s leaders rightfully held regional elections after it was denied by the federal government. This offensive then escalated into a citizen-based war against the Tigaru people with the goal of ethnic cleansing. Although this may have come seemingly abruptly, the political leaders of Ethiopia have been in tense relations for decades.

It began around the 19th century when the orthodox church and the emperors imposed a structure composed of their own ethnic and social fabric to unite the people of Ethiopia. Conflict arose as nations had to choose between their own ethnicity and access to healthcare and education that the orthodox church and emperors held control over. 

Fast forward to the 21st century before the genocidal war, Ethiopia had a federal structure supported by both the marginalized and minority groups. Despite this, there was, and still is, a group of people named the Ethiopianists who believe that the government should be a unitary system, meaning that there should be no room for ethnic or cultural diversity. This idea was birthed during the restrictive times of the imperial era in the 19th century.

In the 20th century, Menelik II and Haile Selassie, the ruling monarchs at the time, took away the other nations’ right to practice their culture by imposing their own cultural and traditional values in an attempt to create a nation-state. This was when Amharic was declared the official language and the use of other languages for official use was prohibited. This continuation of singularity grew to become fuel for the current war.

When examining what finally ignited the genocidal war, the “peace treaty” between the prime ministers of Ethiopia and Eritrea, Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki, can easily be pointed toward because, in reality, it was a war pact to ensure Afwerki’s assistance in Ahmed’s dictatorship and working destabilization of Ethiopia. By using the name of God repetitively, Ahmed, in conjunction with Afwerki, is still currently looting, mass-murdering, and weaponizing rape and hunger against the Tigrayan citizens.

The region of Tigray has a population of 7.07 million people, 90 percent of whom are in dire need of immediate food aid, while an estimated 900,000 people are currently living in famine conditions. It is critical to keep in mind that this is not a natural phenomenon. .. These are man-made famines and conditions you are reading about and to simply ignore the “bit” about extermination is nothing short of being ignorant. As permanent as the situation sounds, it is not irreversible, according to United Nations humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths, the problem could be solved with effective government action. This seemingly hopeful solution has taken place, however, all aid deliveries have been reduced by the federal government as only 4 percent of the trucks filled with resources to address the man-made famine have been allowed to enter the region.

Furthermore, the Ethiopian government has shut down telecommunication and internet services for the Tigaru people for more than 500 days. This means that family members living in other countries don’t even have the courtesy of knowing for sure if a mother, father, or sibling has been lost. More than 2.2 million people are internally displaced while there are more than 70,000 refugees in Sudan. Of all the state and private universities belonging to the Tigaru people, 75 percent of them have been looted and damaged beyond repair. 80 percent of health facilities have been looted along with being vandalized or destroyed. There are more than 120,000 weaponized sexual and gender-based violence victims who have survived. The fate of the others has not yet been determined. Finally, a total of more than half a million Tigaru civilians have died due to conditions created by Ahmed’s government making it “The World’s Deadliest War,” according to the Washington Post.

Trauma can’t and shouldn’t be measured or compared; however, that does not mean that countries that are made up of people of color shouldn’t get an equal amount of time and attention as other countries, like Ukraine and Russia, are getting.”

— Yaabsra Habtom

Trauma can’t and shouldn’t be measured or compared; however, that does not mean that countries that are made up of people of color shouldn’t get an equal amount of time and attention as other countries, like Ukraine and Russia, are getting. The International Criminal Court announced that they would be opening an investigation on war crimes only four days into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As they should. That is the kind of action the people of Tigray and many others are in desperate need of because meanwhile, it has been more than 500 days of countless war crimes in Ethiopia and the ICC has been unresponsive. 

Last but not least, I’d like to remind you that it is not only Tigray’s genocidal war that has been ignored. Due to the downfall of their former government, Afghanistan’s economy has no money to pay salaries or for food. Millions of civilians are on the brink of malnutrition and starvation as help from western countries has been suspended. The country lacks the proper control needed during a transitional period and because of it, its people are suffering. Lebanon is having one of the worst economic crises in modern times with nearly 80 percent of its population residing under the poverty line. As the government continues to delay social protection plans, hospitals aren’t properly equipped to provide life-saving care. Regardless of these issues and more, no one is being held responsible and as police brutality escalates with lethal force being used against protesters, the innocent civilians of the country are in desperate need of proper leadership. Lastly, Yemen has been in a civil war since 2014, when its capital Sana’a was taken over by the Shiite rebels who demanded lower fuel prices and a new government to replace the Sunni government. Since then, the political conflicts have taken a huge toll on the Yemeni civilians. The United Nations estimates that 131,000 of the estimated 233,000 deaths in Yemen since 2015 can be blamed on the lack of food and health access the political conflicts have created.

These are only a couple more examples that prove that our world is bigger than it seems but the point of this piece wasn’t to make anyone feel guilty or to make you ask yourself, “Well what can I, a high school student, do about any of this?” because yes, at the end of the day we can’t shake our finger at the government leaders of the world who are doing wrong and force them to stop. That doesn’t mean we are powerless. I urge you, as a fellow student and member of the Tigaru people, to please visit the websites and resources below to do the least you can do, educate yourself.

That is truly the most powerful tool anyone can have.

Photo from iStock