Thinking Citizen Blog — Ethiopia — Is There Ethnic Cleansing in Tigray? Who Cares? Who Should?
Thinking Citizen Blog — Monday is Foreign Policy Day
Today’s Topic: Ethiopia — Is There Ethnic Cleansing in Tigray? Who Cares? Who Should?
Last week, Nicholas Kristof wrote about atrocities being committed by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers in Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia that is sometimes called the “cradle of Ethiopian civilization.” According to the New York Times columnist “the scale of torture, starvation, murder and destruction in the past few months may have been the worst in the world.” The “Tigray War” began last November and pits the Ethiopian government of Abiy Ahmed against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) headed by Debretsion Gebremichael. Apparently, over two million people have been displaced. Many are starving. Is this a Rwanda-like situation where an historically privileged minority (the Tigrayans) are being “ethnically cleansed”? Knowing little, I decided to learn more. Today a few notes. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
TWENTY SEVEN YEARS OF DOMINANCE BY TIGRAYANS CAME TO AN END IN 2018
1. “Following the end of the Ethiopian 1991, Ethiopia became a dominant-party state under the rule of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (ERPRDF) a coalition of ethnically-based parties dominated by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.The founding and most influential member was the TPLF and the chairperson was Meles Zenawi, who was the Prime Minister of Ethiopia until his death in 2012.”
2. “On 2 April 2018, the once powerful TPLF was ousted from power in the federal government owing to a growing discontent within the public, a reaction to 27 years of repression. In a closed door election to chair the EPRDF, executive committee members from Amhara, Oromo and Southern Nations regions voted for Abiy Ahmed in defiance of the TPLF, which was hoping to get Shiferaw Shikquite elected chairman. After losing the election and being ousted from the federal government,TPLF officials relocated to Tigray and continued administering the region for three years frequently clashing with the federal government.”
3. Fighting between the Tigrayans and the federal government began in early November 2020. By November 28, federal forces had taken control of the Tigrayan capital of Mekelle and declared the conflict over. But fighting has continued with Tigrayan forces controlling about 40% of the territory and the federal forces 60%.
NB: The Ethiopian government has accepted the assistance of the Eritrean Defense forces in suppressing the Tigrayans. (Parenthetically, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has been described as “pro-western” received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for brokering peace with Eritrea.)
THE PERSONAL STORY OF THE HEAD OF THE W.H.O., DR. TEDROS GHEBREYESUS
1. Dr. Tedros (above), now in charge of the global campaign to fight Covid, is a Tigrayan and has been denounced by the Ethiopian military chief as a “criminal.” Tedros is a “high ranking member of the TPLF” and was health minister from 2005 to 2012 and then foreign minister until 2016.”
2. “His cousin, a 68 year old woman, was killed while trying to shelter in a church.”
3. “Another relative, a 16 year old high school student, was shot in the street.”
NB: “Internet and telephone links have been cut off, so Dr. Tedros can’t reach family members to get more information about who has been tortured or murdered.”
THE DEMOGRAPHIC AND ETHNIC CONTEXT
1. There are approximately 6–7 million Tigrayans out a total Ethiopian population of an estimated 109 million (up from 19 million in 1950).
2. The largest ethnic groups in Ethiopia are the Oromo (34%), and Amhara (27%). The Somali represent a share comparable to the Tigrayans.
3. The Oromo are roughly 50% Sunni Muslim and 50% Christian of one form or another. The Amhara are roughly 80% Orthodox Christian and 17% Muslim.
NB: Overall, Ethiopia is about 63% Christian and 33% Muslim. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s parents are both Oromo and he is the first Oromo to head the nation. His father was Muslim and his mother Christian. His mother was his father’s fourth wife. Abiy himself is an evangelical christian as is his wife. He attends church regularly and occasionally preaches. His photo is above.
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Please share the coolest or most important thing you learned in the last week, month, or year related to foreign policy. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in our life related to foreign policy.
This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is the key to depth of thought. The prospect of imminent publication, like hanging and final exams, concentrates the mind. A useful life long habit.