TPLF & Genocide: A Love Affair5 min read
The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rose to power in Ethiopia in 1991, on the eve of the Yugoslavian civil war and the resulting Bosnian genocide. It was against this backdrop that it started reshaping Ethiopia into an Ethnic Federation. By 1994, while Rwandan bodies were floating down the Kagera river, TPLF was ratifying a new constitution that divided Ethiopia into ethnic-based regions. While genocide was being facilitated in Rwanda against the Tutsi population using ethnic classification displayed on identification cards, TPLF chose to enforce the same rule in Ethiopia. It knew the only way to prolong its hegemonic hold on power as a political organization claiming to represent an ethnic minority was to sow division and hate among ethnic groups.
To that end, it began institutionalizing animosity between the Oromo and the Amhara, the two largest ethnic groups in the country, which it tended to for three decades. TPLF made sure to propagate a narrative that these two groups had an irreconcilable difference, thus making itself the only conduit by which they could communicate with each other. It portrayed itself as the only entity that could avert imminent bloodshed between the two ethnic groups and the disintegration of Ethiopia as a result.
The third character in TPLF’s evil play was the people of Tigray. Everything it had done to hold onto power would be for nothing without ensuring that its base constituency did not have any other choice. Thus, it made sure to convince Tigrayans that their prosperity and survival was contingent upon TPLF’s survival. It created an ever-present sense of danger within Tigrayan society and made itself their only savior. TPLF was always fascinated with the concept of genocide and its implications. Two instances illustrate their fascination with genocide. First, when they came to power after the fall of Derg, a brutal regime that massacred thousands of Ethiopians from all Ethnic groups, they charged members of the regime with genocide. In another instance, when TPLF’s hold on power was threatened during the infamous 2005 elections, the TPLF started labeling opposition parties as “Interahamwe” in reference to a group that led the Rwandan genocide.
After being dislodged from their hegemonic grip on power in 2018 by a popular movement, TPLF retreated back into Tigray, where they fortified behind their ethnic fortress. They had groomed and primed Tigrayans for decades, and now was the time to call upon the boogey-man they had created, the “long-feared threat of genocide.” Within 24 hours of starting the war by attacking the northern command of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) on Nov 3rd, 2020, TPLF’s “digital army” (aka Digital Woyane) and its associates started an organized campaign of disinformation about a genocide. For example, Stand with Tigray was founded on Nov 6th, 2020, mere three days after TPLF’s attack on the northern command of the ENDF. The Government of Ethiopia (GOE) had not even started organizing itself to respond to this heinous military attack when the TPLF started the genocide rhetoric.
After the GOE announced a unilateral ceasefire on June 28th, 2021, and withdrew its forces from Tigray, the TPLF sought to capitalize on this situation by continuing the ‘genocide’ narrative. For example, even though the war was in Afar and Amhara regions after the TPLF invaded large swaths of these regions, TPLF and its allies in the mainstream media chose to call the war the “Tigray war”. Another example of propagating a false “genocide” narrative was creating stories of atrocities, which were eventually debunked, but at the time, were meant to tarnish the GOE. One such report was produced by CNN journalist Nima Elbagir, a Sudanese National, claiming bodies of ethnic Tigrayans were showing up in Sudan after the GOE killed and dumped their bodies in the Tekeze River.
At first glance, this is a heinous crime anyone should condemn with vigor. But the details of the story started falling apart at the slightest inspection. The claim that Sudanese officials were told to expect a certain amount of bodies before even the alleged killings happen, the claim that the bodies were chemically preserved, the claim that one can identify the ethnicity of the victims by just looking at corpses, the requirement that one had to suspend their sense of disbelief and intelligence that the government of Ethiopia was dumping bodies knowing they would wash up at an adversary’s front door, or the fact that the journalist used a dentist as a forensic pathologist were all large holes in the plot of this drama. And when one considers TPLF’s past obsession w/ genocide as a tool to silence decent, it’s not farfetched to assume the TPLF would stage scenes of bodies floating down Tekeze river drawing parallels of Rwandan bodies floating down Kagera river . Please check this link attached for a detailed understanding of this matter.
More recently, the TPLF has been using another war crime as a tactic as it’s losing on the battlefront — it has been committing massacres in areas it had invaded in Amhara and Afar regions. This action is not just a testament to its vengeful character, and it’s also planned to instigate retaliatory attacks against ethnic Tigrayans by Ethiopian allied forces. TPLF is hoping such an event would make it more likely for the international community, especially its allies in the west, to militarily intervene by invoking the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) under international law. .
Knowing TPLF’s true character, most Ethiopians fear as TPLF loses and ENDF pushes them out of Amhara and Afar regions, it will retreat into Tigray and start committing heinous atrocities on Tigrayans, the very people it claims to represent, and provide the international community justifications to invoke the R2P. This is not an accusation born out of unsubstantiated suspicion. TPLF has a history of orchestrating atrocities on Tigrayan civilians for a political goal. This was confirmed when Wikileaks leaked the US Addis Embassy cables to the state department by former Ambassadors and the embassy citing an embassy source and their own clandestine reporting.
Thus it is important to recognize that by not placing responsibility on and refusing to punish TPLF, the west (US/EU/UK), international organizations (UN/HR groups) and mainstream media are complicit in prolonging this war and in turn making sure these atrocities and massacres will continue unabated. Most institutions including governments in the west have interacted with TPLF for 30 years, and they know its character as mentioned above (Wikileaks, HR group reports etc). Consequently, most Ethiopians and Africans have already started doubting that naivety is to blame for the neglect to report and act on the truth.
Source : Addis Qnie & Fitsum Fekade