By Tibebe Samuel Ferenji
Terrorism is defined as a violent means aimed at triggering political change by affecting a larger audience than its immediate target. What took place in Ethiopia on November 4, 2020, was a terrorist attack by the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) against the Ethiopian Defense Force Northern Command (EDFNC). The TPLF is not new for acts of terrorism; it has been listed with the US State Department as a terrorist organization. As a rebel force in the 1970s and 1980s, the TPLF targeted civilians. It engaged in mass killings and bombing civilian targets including convoys that carried food and support for Tigrayan civilians.
As a government of Ethiopia, the TPLF ruled the nation with an “Iron Fist” and engaged in state-sponsored terrorism. TPLF’s crime against humanity and brutality is too many to list here; however, it is important to highlight some of its terrorist acts. As soon as it took power, it used government media outlets to incite violence against the Amhara ethnic group. As a result, many Amharas were killed and displaced. Oromos, Wolaytas, Gambelas, and other groups also killed in mass by the TPLF security forces.
As if this was not enough, the TPLF bombed vehicles and hotels in various cities. Among the notables are some of the bombings in Addis Ababa. On May 20, 2008 the TPLF security agents bombed a taxi-minibus that was transporting passengers in Addis Ababa and blamed the OLF for it. This brutal action was leaked by WikiLeaks years later. Six passengers were killed and about seven passengers were hurt in this incident. The TPLF used this blast as a pretext to hunt down Oromos who reflected opposing views from that of the TPLF. Its agents carried out many bombings including the bombing of the Tigray hotel in Addis Ababa. These bombings were used to arrest, torture, and kill opposition party members and anti-TPLF activists.
This brutal organization terrorized the Ethiopian people for more than thirty years as a rebel force and as a government. Many political prisoners were tortured in a brutal manner; its agents tortured many male prisoners by hanging 20-ounce bottle water on their genitalia; they gang-raped and videotaped female prisoners. They forced female prisoners to have sexual intercourse with other female prisoners and videotaped it to use it later to blackmail political dissidents. These brutes sodomized prisoners with a broomstick and murdered countless innocent citizens. The brutality of the TPLF is well documented by the US State Department. What is tragic and hypocritical for the western governments is they supported TPLF’s “state-sponsored terrorism” with funds and by training its brutal police force. We did not hear then, what we are hearing now. Particularly the Amhara ethnic group was marginalized and there are credible allegations that the TPLF used injection to sterilize Amhara women. Those of us who were heartbroken by the brutality of the TPLF pleaded with the western governments to stop funding this terrorist organization to no avail. News outlets like CNN painted a rosy picture about the TPLF while the people of Ethiopia suffered under the brutality of the TPLF.
Terrorism is in the TPLF’s DNA; since its inception, the TPLF conducted its armed struggle by engaging in violent attacks against civilians. The organization did not want any other political organization to operate within Tigray; thus, it massacred the leaders of the Tigray Liberation Front (TLF), while they slept after the two organizations’ leaders, concluded their reconciliation meetings. It also killed and chased out of Tigray many members of the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Party (EPRP). The people of Tigray suffered enormously under the TPLF. Those who refused to support the TPLF was dealt with in brutal manners.
After 27 years in power and the killing of millions of innocent Ethiopians, the TPLF was ejected from power in April 2018, a new prime minister took power in Ethiopia. The new Prime Minister, Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, asked the people of Ethiopia to forgive the atrocities committed by the TPLF and its allies and want the country to move forward with the spirit of forgiveness. He took sweeping reform actions to lead the country on the right path. Such measures made it difficult for the TPLF leaders and their family members to loot the country’s meager resources. The TPLF thought it could make the new Prime Minister a stooge who will be subservient of the TPLF. Fortunately for Ethiopia, the TPLF was not ready for the rude awakening; the TPLF leaders began to realize that Abiy is not someone they can control. He outsmarted them and he was able to break from the trap that TPLF set for him. It was then, these brutes decided to flee to Mekele, to the capital of Tigray, and plot their next move to overthrow Abiy’s government.
The Ethiopian Federal Government was very patient and smart in dealing with these old-guards. He gave them multiple opportunities on multiple occasions to participate in a peaceful political process and to adhere to the constitution they themselves authored and ratified. Although many political actors, including some Tigrayan activists, demanded Dr. Abiy to take action against the TPLF leaders, he was patient. Instead of military action, he chose reconciliation. He sent elders on multiple occasions pleadings with the TPLF leaders to engage in a peaceful political process within the Ethiopian Constitution framework. They refused.
Instead of peaceful engagement, the TPLF chose to engage in a proxy war; it provided arms and funds to various rebel groups and orchestrated the massacre of innocent Amharas, Oromos, and other ethnic groups. To make matters worse, the TPLF made enormous efforts to create religious conflict in Ethiopia. The forces that the TPLF trained burned Orthodox Christian Churches and Mosques. Its effort failed because the people of Ethiopia have been well aware of how the TPLF operates. With all these atrocities, the federal government was very patient.
The TPLF used its media to undermine the federal government; it engaged in propaganda to exacerbate the division it sowed for more than thirty years among various ethnic groups. It collaborated with Oromo extremist groups to attack innocent citizens and destroy properties. Its agents in the military gave comfort and aid to armed groups that terrorized Ethiopians in Oromo and Benishangul regions. Ethiopians suffered a great deal; millions have been displaced from various regions in multiple attacks orchestrated by the TPLF. Even then, the federal government made several attempts to resolve these difficult issues with the TPLF peacefully to no avail. For two years, the TPLF was preparing for war by amassing heavy weapons and training its special force.
On November 4, the TPLF crossed the “reddest line”. The EDFNC was attacked in the middle of the night. These are soldiers who protected the people of Tigray from an invasion and attack for more than 20 years. These soldiers engaged in the region beyond the call of duty. They contributed from their meager salary to build schools in Tigray; they helped farmers in Tigray plow their land and plant seeds. On November 4, 2020, the EDFNC soldiers were massacred while they were in bed in their barracks; killed by their own brothers in arms. Some were able to escape and go to Eritrea where they were cared for and assisted by Eritrean soldiers.
This was an act of terrorism; many doubted the story when the government announced that the TPLF attacked the EDFNC. However, it did not take long for the TPLF leaders to brag about their ill-conceived brutal action. They told us appearing on their own media how they have massacred the EDFNC soldiers in a speeding light. They claim it took the TPLF 45 minutes to “destroy” the EDFNC. The soldiers were killed in one of the most brutal and inhuman manners; the TPLF soldiers drove over Cino Truck’s over some of the soldiers while they were still alive. The TPLF did not only attack the EDFNC in various camps, it also pushed towards the Amhara region and engaged the Amhara Region Special forces in its attempt to invade the Amhara region.
These are the facts; there is a major dichotomy between what is on the ground and what is told by the news media that are fed lies by PR firms. The false narrative that the world is told, orchestrated by the TPLF hired guns and PR firms, are public relation ploys in a desperate attempt to seek the western governments’ intervention in this conflict and to save the TPLF from total disintegration. The US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Resolution passed on March 25, 2020, on Ethiopia is an attempt to prescribe medicine without understanding the root cause of “the disease”. Such a resolution gives only aid and comfort to terrorists. The TPLF and its apologists never cared about the people of Tigray. They used the people of Tigray only to take power by any means necessary. The US officials need to stop listening to lobbyists and PR firms and make efforts to learn the truth. If the US is really interested in enhancing peace and stability in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, it needs to sanction those who are supporting the TPLF, a terrorist organization that has been responsible for the death and suffering of millions. No government in the world would tolerate the way the Ethiopian government tolerates the TPLF.
I know for certain, any responsible person in the Western World would not ask the US government to negotiate with the US Capitol rioters, domestic or foreign terrorists. The US and the rest of the western world have a strict policy not to negotiate with terrorists; if this is the case, why in the world the US demand Ethiopia to negotiate with a terrorist organization like the TPLF? In 2003, the then US President George W. Bush said about terrorists “You’ve got to be strong, not weak. The only way to deal with these people is to bring them to justice. You can’t talk to them. You can’t negotiate with them.” Negotiation with the likes of the TPLF would legitimize the terrorists and terrorism more broadly. Legitimizing terrorist groups and their actions would weaken the democratic quality of states and likely only serve to incite more violence. Is this what the United States wants in Ethiopia?
By Tibebe Samuel Ferenji