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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.
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