Ethiopia. Abiy is attempting a sham investigation into his war crimes.
Ethnic cleaning, war crimes, crimes against humanity. To many evidences known worldwide to permit to Addis Ababa government to continue to deny. International pressure is too strong to prevent an investigation into what has happened and what is happening in Tigray. The only solution for P.M. Abiy is trying to interfering and influencing the inevitable investigation into crimes, depriving it of the necessary independence through its loyal state body: the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.
The police operation against the TPLF rebel leadership in Tigray is a disaster. A virtual victory declared for propaganda reasons after 25 days from the beginning of the conflict (November 3, 2020)meantime heavy fights are registered on the ground. Uncontrollable Eritrean troops and Amhara fascist militias (called Fano) annexing territories after having carried out terrible ethnic cleansing. The resilience demonstrated by the Tigray defense forces creates the serious prospect of a long and very costly civil war. Economic collapse due to COVID19 pandemic, the cost of the war in Tigray and the start of international economic sanctions. An undeclared border war with Sudan. Risk of a regional conflict that would also involve Egypt due to the mega dam GERD which is seriously compromising the water level of the Nile. Signs of revolt of the majority ethnic group: the Oromo. International condemnations for the crimes against humanity that are taking place in the northern Ethiopian region. Legislative elections (scheduled for July) already delegitimized due to the decision not to participate in it taken by the three main Oromo parties.
Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Laureate Abiy Ahmed Ali is in trouble. His program of democratic reforms that captivated the West now reveals itself for what it is: the destruction of the federalism that had united the country to replace it with a strong and authoritarian central government. A plan hindered by various regions who want to defend their autonomy guaranteed by the federal system invented by the TPLF. The strong central government is backed only by the far-right Amhara leadership. A support that hides a sinister objective: the restoration of the Amhara ethnic domination over the country as in the times of the Emperors.
There are many and too many challenges and problems to solve for the “Little Boy” as the Prime Minister is called by his detractors because of his young age: 44 years. Various regional observers are convinced that the original plans that prompted him to turn the bitter political conflict with the TPLF into a military confrontation are now upset. Abiy would now be sailing on sight trying to plug the leaks of a badly reduced ship that is in danger of sinking.
Among the first and most urgent loopholes to plug are the accusations of crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide. Serious accusations that could lead to more severe economic sanctions, an investigation into the International Criminal Court and, in an extreme case, an international armed intervention if ethnic cleansing continues to turn into genocide.
For nearly four months, the federal government blocked access to NGOs and UN agencies as fighting was ongoing in various parts of Tigray as well as ethnic cleansing and massacres by Eritrean soldiers and Fano fascist militias. It is only since the end of February that the “humanitarians” have access to Tigray. In Abiy’s plans, humanitarian assistance was to become a political and propaganda weapon to demonstrate the “benevolence” of the federal government by contrasting it with the “banditry” of the TPLF. Unfortunately for the Little Boy, this plan also failed.
The Amhara leadership behind the scenes worked to turn humanitarian access into a farce. NGOs and UN Agencies only have access to 30% of the regional territory which corresponds to the areas controlled by the federals. The rest continues to be the theatre of war where the massacres of innocents have become common currency. In southern Tigray, humanitarian aid was diverted to the Amhara population who settled in the area after the Fano militias “cleaned” the territory by Tigray civilians. According to some local sources, part of the humanitarian aid in Mekelle and Shire has disappeared while the conditions in I.D.P. camps set up by the government are disastrous and inhumane.
The government is left with paradoxical propaganda proclamations. On Friday 19 March, the Prime Minister said that the federal government (without external aid) assists 70% of the Tigrigna population, that is 4.2 million people. International NGOs on the ground disavow this claim. Our Ethiopian sources say with exasperation: “The feds do not distribute food. They dispense Death ”.
From the timing, ferocity and coordination (between federal soldiers, Eritreans and Fano militias) more and more regional observers assume that the ethnic cleansing has been agreed between Abiy, the Eritrean dictator Isaias Afewerki, Agegnehu Teshager (current Amhara governor) and Temesgen Tiruneh (former Amhara governor now head of the secret services). The orgy of violence was to be swift and incisive according to the original plans. The unexpected resistance of the TPLF has upset everything and the instigators of the Ethiopian civil war are now forced to take the risk of being discovered. A risk that could not be avoided as the cleaning is the necessary preliminary for the annexation of the Tigray territories to Eritrea and the Amhara Region.
The first testimonies of the horrendous massacres have come from the Tigrinya refugees who escaped from certain and violent death by crossing the border with Sudan when it was still open in November 2020. Abiy, with ill-concealed contempt, accused them of being TPLF sympathizers who spread fake news. Following these testimonies, international associations in defense of human rights (including Amnesty International) began to gather evidence by publishing reports on the real situation in Tigray. Abiy smiled kindly, explaining to A.I. and to other associations that have been misled by the TPLF propaganda. The investigation conducted on the spot by Human Right Watch (probably in hiding), the satellite photos, the reports of the American secret services and the testimony of Doctors Without Borders have now confirming the testimonies of the survivors and the first international reports. Abiy, cornered, has ordered federal government representatives and the diplomatic corps a simple tactic: deny, deny, deny.
Unfortunately, international pressure is too strong to prevent an investigation into what has happened and what is happening in Tigray. Preventing it would mean isolation for the “Little Boy” and the risk of an investigation into the ICC that could lead him to the chair of the accused at the court in The Hague, Netherlands. Investigations are inevitable, so it is necessary to study a treacherous and deceptive stratagem. Abiy, Agegnehu Teshager and Temesgen Tiruneh have only two cards to play, reassuring the Eritrean Dictactor, Isaias Afewerki that everything will be for the best.
The first card is an international investigation piloted and controlled by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commision (EHRC). This was the offer that Michelle Bachelet, head of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, has received from the federal government. UN spokesperson Jonathan Fowler reported that Bachelet responded positively to Ethiopia’s request to jointly investigate “possible war crimes” in the conflict-affected part of Ethiopia, adding that the EHCR and the UN Commission are already working on a plan, including the financial resources needed to jointly investigate.
The EHRC is a government entity with staff selected by Prime Minister Abiy and the head of intelligence, Temesgen Tiruneh. The selection is made on the basis of loyalty and political affiliations. The Commission does not have the minimum requirements to comply with the Paris Principles, which came into force 25 years ago to regulate national human rights institutions. The first non-questionable requirement is the independence of the Association or Commission from the state apparatuses. An independence foreseen as a fundamental requirement also by the UN resolution 48/134 of 1993.
EHRC dependence and connivance with the needs of the Addis government have already been demonstrated in the investigations into the massacres carried out in July 2020 in Oromia by the federal police and army. Although principals and executors were well known, they do not appear in EHRC summary investigations. The recent investigations into the massacres in Guji, Gedeo, Konso, Shashemene, Benishangul-Gumuz were also summary and produced no results as the main suspects of the crimes were Abiy’s political allies: the Amhara leadership. EHRC has a reputation for inability to conduct serious investigations into the widespread repression and ethnic violence that have occurred in the past 3 years since Abiy took office as Prime Minister.
The Ethiopian Commission for Human Rights was also the author of the false investigation of the mass killing in Mai-Kadra, carried out by the Fano Amhara militias. The EHRC, according to the accusations made by the Ethiopian opposition, would have intentionally ignored the trail of the Fano militias to blame the TPLF with extremely labile evidence. The misguided investigations would have been a “hustler” to please the federal government and Amhara leadership. By accusing TPLF, the Commission contributed to Abiy, Teshager and Tiruneh’s policy of further fuelling hatred and violence against Tigrinya population and galvanizing support for the war against Tigray.
To bolster the EHRC’s “investigation”, the federal government presented Amnesty International with bogus witnesses blaming the TPLF. The trick worked and A.I. published a first report blaming the TPLF later denied by the same A.I. after interviewing eight Mai Kadra residents in a refugee camp in Mekelle. The real witnesses claimed that the massacre of civilians had been carried out by the Amhara Fano militias, known for their reputation for primitive and irrational brutality.
EHRC’s subjection to federal political “needs” is made even more evident in its absolute silence on suspicions of political and social persecution, arbitrary arrests, illegal surveillance and extrajudicial executions of Tigrinya citizens residing in Addis Ababa and other parts of the Country, suspected of being TPLF “Fifth Column”. The wave of repression, that began in November with its peak between December 2020 and February 2021, was personally led by Temesgen Tiruneh, head of the secret services. While various international associations denounced these blatant human rights violations, EHRC has locked itself in an embarrassing and complicit silence. EHRC participation in the UN investigations risks opening the doors to manipulation and interference by the government and the fascist Amhara leadership.
The risk of interference also looms over the geographical area of the investigations. It is unlikely that the joint investigation commission will be able to travel to the Eritrean-controlled areas of northern Tigray. The Asmara regime does not wish to disclose the presence of its troops in Ethiopia or be subjected to investigations into the horrendous crimes committed in Tigray. If the EHCR has avoided investigation on the violations committed by Tiruneh, it will hardly facilitate UN investigators in investigating the crimes committed by the Fano militias commanded by Governor Agegnehu Teshager and supported by the head of Intelligence himself: Tiruneh. The Joint Commission will only investigate in federally controlled areas and “witnesses” will be interviewed in presence of government officials who will influence their depositions for fear of federal retaliation.
The second card Abiy intends to play is the African Union. On Thursday, March 18, the Ethiopian government agreed to the UA’s involvement in the investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Tigray. According to experts from The East African magazine, Abiy’s move is aimed at blocking investigations by other non-African entities, including the UN. On 11 March, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen met with African Union Commission President Moussa Faki, where they decided to include the African Commission on Human and Citizens’ Rights which should work with… EHCR…
The move came two days after Prime Minister Abiy addressed the AU Peace and Security Council, chaired by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, in which he berated the West for “admonishing” his country. . US President Biden in early March approached President Kenyatta to mediate between the warring parties to impose a ceasefire and peace talks. A very questionable interlocutor.
Uhuru Kenyatta was investigated at the ICC for crimes against humanity committed during the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007. Violence that immediately took on ethnic and genocidal connotations, stopped only by the population who, unlike Rwanda 1994, realized after the first weeks of the massacres, to be exploited by corrupt and unscrupulous politicians. Following this awareness, ethnic violence ceased and genocide was averted. The Kenyatta case was frozen at the ICC. The charges were dropped due to lack of evidence due to the Kenyan government’s intimidation of the main prosecution witnesses. In 2014, the ICC prosecutor denounced widespread witness tampering in the case orchestrated by the Kenyan government which failed to cooperate or provide key evidence. The case was dismissed without acquittal or conviction but could be reopened if further evidence comes to light.
The joint U.A. investigation and Ethiopian Commission could avoid UN interference. The United Nations would hardly have the courage to question the validity of this investigation if the African Union is involved. An unmanageable and very dangerous diplomatic fracture would arise. The skilled Ethiopian Prime Minister, in promoting the U.A. appeals to the principle of Pan-African solidarity and to the use of continental instruments created by African institutions.
With the choice of the African Commission on Human and Citizens’ Rights, there is little chance that those responsible for crimes against humanity can be brought to justice. The 11-member Commission, based in Banjul, Gambia, is a semi-judicial body that aims to protect human rights in Africa, as well as to interpret and consider complaints about violations. actions of the African Charter of Human and Citizens’ Rights. The commission, currently chaired by Ethiopian Solomon Dersso, can investigate rights violations, but has no enforcement power, in the sense that it relies on individual member States to act. Indeed, traditionally, the Commission often draws up “recommendations” without condemning the parties.
In its 33-year history, no member state has ever been accused of violating human and people’s rights by the U.A. Commission. The most recent example concerns Burundi. The African Commission has never investigated the crimes committed first by the warlord Pierre Nkurunziza and now by the military junta that replaced him. Even at the diplomatic level, the U.A. (based in Addis Ababa) avoided any condemnation of the ongoing conflict and any mediation to stop it.
So in summary, Abiy’s tactic is clear. Interfering and influencing the inevitable investigation into crimes, depriving it of the necessary independence through its loyal state body: the EHRC. If the investigation is carried out with the U.A. it will be child’s play to divert justice and pollute investigations thanks to the complicity of African leaders. Dog does not eat dog. If carried out together with the United Nations, Abiy will try to play the card of regional stability (theoretically guaranteed by him) in order to obtain a “complacent” collaboration. It should be noted that Addis Ababa is betting on the U.A. as the United Nations is an institution, perhaps ambiguous, but not controllable by the Ethiopian federal as it is made up of a thousand souls and international political currents.
A Twitter campaign expressed opposition and strong reservations, saying the international community should carry out independent investigations. The TPLF has already expressed its opposition to these mixed commissions, calling for an external and totally independent commission. It also calls for the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean troops. A request motivated by military logic. Currently the main obstacle for the TPLF’s Tigray reconquest are the Eritrean soldiers. If they left the scene, the Tigrinya defense forces could winn against the federal troops (not very motivated) and the Fano militias, unarmed civilians brilliant killers but unable to sustain real military clashes.
As the fighting continues in northern Ethiopia, another actor from the Abyssinian drama enters the scene. The Oromia Liberation Front armed organization and first party of the Oromo ethnic group (40% of the population). More and more news appears regarding a sudden military offensive by the OLF that would aim at the capital Addis Ababa. According to information reported by former BBC journalist Martin Plaut, the OLF controls 13 woredas (districts) in the Western Shoa area and Muger, 70km west of the capital Addis Ababa. The threat looks serious. It seems that the opportunity to bring back to Addis Ababa some of the federal forces fighting in Tigray to defend the capital is being explored. More details will be given soon.