The Platform

UNICEF Ethiopia

The international community must do more to help the voiceless Tigrayans.

The international community, which had pledged “never again” in 1948, has stood by as helpless and voiceless Tigrayans in northern Ethiopia have been subjected to unimaginable atrocities since late last year.

But is the international community disposed to learning lessons? Just as the world missed the opportunity to stop the Rwandan genocide in 1994, humanity has missed the opportunity to prevent ethnic cleansing and genocide in Tigray by the Ethiopian government. Tigrayans have pleaded with the international community, including the African Union, to intervene. Nobody has listened.

News coming out of Tigray has been prevented, and livestock, farm crops, and infrastructures have been targeted. The mechanics of the assault include starvation, air bombardment, shelling, machetes, machine guns, and rape. The intent of this multi-faceted assault, which primarily focuses on children and the youth, is “to destroy [Tigray] in whole or in part…as such by killing or imposing conditions inimical to [their] survival.” A textbook genocide includes ethnic cleansing which has rendered 1.2 million people from western Tigray unaccounted for.

Despite the media blackout, some harrowing and nauseating news about ethnic cleansing, manufactured starvation, and massacres have been filtered out. And yet, the international community does not want to hold the Amhara and Eritrean perpetrators accountable. Instead, ignoring the time-sensitive nature of the calamity, it is calling for an independent investigation. What is even more incensed is the behavior of the UN Commission on Human Rights. It has decided to collaborate with the Ethiopian state apparatus, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, in conducting an investigation. The government should not be expected to investigate itself and come up with self-incriminating evidence. Why is the UN Commission on Human Rights making such a blunder?

In any case, time is running out. For nearly six months, people have been dying. Enough evidence of crimes against humanity has been made public. Immediate action is needed. When the Serbs were committing atrocities in Kosovo, there was no delay. If Tigray were in Europe, the international community would be pounding Bahr Dar, Asmara, and Addis Ababa, as it did with Slobodan Milosevic’s Belgrade, to capture the perpetrators of genocide in Tigray, Abiy Ahmed, Isaias Afwerki, along with their entourages, and hand them over to The Hague to stand trial. So, why this double standard? Aren’t Africans and Europeans, Blacks and whites, all members of the human family? Is the international community attaching different skin pigmentation values and treating Tigrayans as less human and more disposable than Kosovans?

The international community needs to align rhetoric with reality, words with actions, and threats with sticks. Particularly, the U.S. has a unique responsibility to stop ethnic cleansing and genocide in Tigray. As the world’s sole superpower, as well as the beacon of liberty and human rights, it is uniquely responsible to act. The moral responsibility for Tigray gets even heavier on the U.S. when its role in nudging the Abiy regime to the ascent of power in 2018 is taken into consideration. Act now and save innocent lives!

Dr. Alemseged Abbay is Professor in the FSU Department of History. He completed his Ph.D. in Comparative Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1996, where he studied the history and politics of nationalism and identity in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. Before coming to Frostburg State University in 2005, Dr. Abbay taught at Lakeland College in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Temple University, San Jose State University, and UC Berkeley.