Writing on the Tigray war, the author says “There was no war in recorded human history that was prosecuted in a humane way. War is doom, better left un-started.”
By Bakri Bazara
There are a plethora of disinformation and misinformation about the Tigray war circulating in social media. Unfortunately, some in the international community have been believing what was said on those media, and becoming vocal in their accusations of how the Ethiopian government executed the war in Tigray. Based on unsubstantiated reportage on social media, some In the international community, mainly the European Union, have been pointing their fingers at the Ethiopian and Eritrean troops for violations of human rights laws and laws against war crimes.
After Amnesty International’s report on possible violations of human rights laws and law against war crimes in the Tigray and Amhara regions, a report solely based on interviews of small number of people who fled the war-torn areas in Tigray and Amhara regions, the EU and a number of TPLF (Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front) apologists have been agitating to denounce the way the war is prosecuted by the Ethiopian government. It seems like there is a concerted effort by those who pose as defenders of human rights, those who feel that it is their moral obligation to forcibly denounce injustices wherever they may be committed, to prematurely pass judgment against the Ethiopian government without thoroughly investigating the reality of the war situation in the region. Instead of exercising prudence and seeing the alleged injustices committed in the context of the realties of the war, they opted to hastily condemn and malign the Ethiopian government based on scantily substantiated information provided by Amnesty International, the UN, and the smear propaganda propagated on social media.
War is evil. No war in human history had been prosecuted without some kind of atrocities. The sober thing to do is to avoid it as the plague, not start it, otherwise the consequences of war are to nobody’s benefit. The physical outcome of war are death, sexual abuse, forced migration(internal displacement or refugees) , malnutrition, starvation, physical disability, and illness. When you take all that and add it to the money that will be spent on the war, money that could have been spent on Economic development, it would be obvious that no warring party will have a satisfactory positive outcome. Moreover, the emotional effects of war in the form of Post-Traumatic-stress-Disorder(PTSD) and its negative effects on the individual, his family, and society in general should not be discounted.
No matter how disciplined the warring armies are, and no matter how much of the precepts of the Geneva Conventions on War is inculcated in the minds of armed combatants, it’s inevitable that there would be atrocities in the form of looting, rape, and genocidal acts on innocent non-combatant civilians.
The European Union in its eagerness to maintain their moral high ground were quick to condemn the Ethiopian government and enact aid sanctions as a punitive measure. The EU stopped the ninety million Euros in budgetary aid to Ethiopia. It announced that the sanctions were imposed after the Ethiopian government did not respond to their request for “ immediate, unconditional, unrestricted and unimpeded humanitarian access to all areas in Tigray to respond to the dramatic humanitarian situation.” Abiye’s response in a tweet was apt and to the point: “ my message to friends of Ethiopia is that we may be poor but we are not a country that will negotiate our sovereignty. Threatening Ethiopia for coins will not work.”
It is understandable, even admirable, that the EU is concerned for the welfare of societies around the world, their unequivocal stance on human rights, and their desire to promote and protect democratic values and principles in countries far away from their continent. Abuse of human rights, war crimes, and genocidal acts should be strongly condemned by every body and stopped wherever they may occur. But each humanitarian predicament must be looked at in terms of the overall environment that created it. Rational assessment of the dismal humanitarian situation requires the acknowledgment that war produces complexities that some times is beyond the control of the warring parties. This should be evident for EU members. Devastations of war, and the concomitant violation of human rights and war crimes should not be new to them. Unless they are afflicted with social amnesia, they should remember that historical Europe was ridden with war, and that extrajudicial killings, looting, rape, and mass extermination of non-combatant civilians was a common occurrence.
Maybe if I resurrect some events from past wars where Americans or Europeans were involved, it might jog their memory on the perplexities of war. Like I mentioned earlier, in war, Inhumane acts would be committed. Monitoring the fields of war is not like a football match where the rules of the game is overseen by the arbiter(referee). Although there are rules that govern military actions, such as the Geneva Conventions on war, it is impossible to supervise the actions of soldiers in the fields and know whether they were playing by the rules of the game.
A notorious example is the Mai-Lai massacre in the Vietnam war. American soldiers decimated a whole village killing all the men, gang-raping women before they shot them and their children. Twenty-six soldiers were prosecuted for the crime after the mayhem was uncovered, but only one, Colonel William Calley, was sentenced to life imprisonment but only served three-and-half years under house-arrest before he was freed.
In more recent times, there were civilian massacres and torture of prisoners during both Iraq wars and the war in Afghanistan. In Iraq’s Abu-graib prison, American troops and the CIA committed violations of human rights against detainees including physical and sexual abuse, rape, sodomy, and murder. What transpired in Abu-graib and Guantanamo prisons is emblematic of how stress and the desperation to win the war can lead to violations of the Geneva convention, which the perpetrators are party to.
In general, there was no war in recorded human history that was prosecuted in a humane way. War is doom, better left un-started. Unfortunately, despite the catastrophes of war, and despite the lessons of previous wars, human-beings still resort to war to settle conflicts. Unless people learn to resolve conflicts peacefully, we should not be surprised if the war is executed outside the bounds of international laws, such as the Geneva Conventions. This very fact should have deterred nations not to go to war, but it hasn’t.
In Ethiopia’s case, the Federal government, during the peak of the war, restricted the region to relief agencies and foreign press for security reasons. While the war was at its fiercest, the government could not guarantee the safety of those interested in providing humanitarian relief or reporting on the war. It is because of this action that aid doner countries such as the EU blamed the government for blocking the region to international relief-aid personnel and the press.
Sadly, the EU embraced the first information they could get hold of and gave their cursory judgment , a judgment based on insufficient assessment of the whole dimensions of the war. The swiftness with which they decided to ban budgetary aid to Ethiopia would only alienate the Ethiopian government and compromise the so far constructive relationship the EU had with Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian government eventually opened up some areas of the region to relief-aid agencies and the press, areas it felt were secured enough for movements of people and goods. The Ethiopian government had reiterated their willingness to collaborate in the relief-aid efforts, investigate violations of human rights laws and war crimes, and bring the perpetrators of the crimes to justice. But it seems this was not good enough for detractors such as the EU who continued their negative criticism of the Ethiopian government. One wonders whether their real motive is to alleviate the dire humanitarian relief needs and investigate if war crimes were committed or a surreptitious attempt to save TPLF from the hot fire it is in. Judging from what has been written by some European pundits on the war in Tigray, it’s becoming increasingly evident that there is a coordinated effort ongoing to rescue TPLF.
The recent article on ‘Insight’ titled “Why Peace Will Be Elusive in Ethiopia’s Civil War In Tigray,” written by Kjetil Tronvoll, is quiet revealing about the close relationship TPLF leaders have with pundits in Europe and America. In it Tronvoll disclosed that he had been in contact with TPLF’s leader Debretsion Gebremichael. According to Tronvoll, Debretsion is regrouping and readying his militias to counter the expected attacks by the Ethiopian army before the onset of the rainy season. Tronvoll mentioned that TPLF have been putting up a tough fight against Ethiopian and Eritrean armies and that their fierce struggles have motivated a lot of young Tigrayans to join TPLF. Moreover, Tronvoll stated that without the help of the Eritreans and the role Emirati drones played in the war, TPLF would have had the upper hand in the war. The fact that there is a direct communication between TPLF and Tronvoll and possibly the EU and the American government points to a secretive last-ditch effort to extricate TPLF from the mire it is in.
An important point friends of TPLF should not overlook is the support the Ethiopian government has from its people to make sure that TPLF does not revive itself and try to play a role in Ethiopia’s political destiny. Ethiopians would like to move forward with their lives without the spectre of TPLF hanging over their heads. Those American and European supporters of TPLF should understand that and try to engage in finding positive solutions to the war debacle in Tigray sans TPLF.
Editor’s note : To publish articles on this site, please send submission to firstname.lastname@example.org
Join the conversation. Like borkena on Facebook and get Ethiopian News updates regularly. As well, you may get Ethiopia News by following us on twitter @zborkena