By Michael Hagos translated by Yafet Zereou
Eritrea might be a nation with a relatively small population, but it is endowed with a rich and proud history.
Eritrea’s foreign policy is geared towards safeguarding Eritrean national interests by aspiring to establish peace and stability in the region and beyond. The basic principle of the policy is based on the belief that one has to engage in good faith with countries in the region and work towards developing a relationship that will further strengthen partnerships.
The main tenets of the internal development programmes of Eritrea is to establish and strengthen working relationships with foreign partners, while at the same time working to enhance the unity of the nation and defend against all attempts to create obstacles to derail the country from the path of development it has embarked upon.
In pursuit of its foreign and domestic policy objectives Eritrea had sought to bring about peace in the troubled region of the Horn of Africa. Eritrea’s role in bringing about peace and stability in the region is well known and the record speaks for itself.
It is however rather unfortunate that through the miscalculation of the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF), which until it had been ousted from power by a popular revolt had been the ruling party of Ethiopia up until April 2018. Once removed from power, the TPLF had withdrawn to its home region of Tigray, where it had acted as if the region had was now a de facto state in all but name.
The TPLF had done all it could to derail the peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia which had been signed in July 2018, bringing to an end two decades of hostility between the two countries, hostilities which had been instigated by the TPLF when it was in control of Ethiopia.,
Things had come to head in the region when in the early hours of 4th November 2020 the TPLF had launched an unprovoked attack on Ethiopian Federal army bases in the region it controlled. The attack prompted the Ethiopian federal government to launch a military operation in the Tigray region to restore the rule of law and the constitutional order and to safeguard the sovereignty of the Ethiopian nation. The operation lasted about two weeks after which the TPLF was ousted from the regional power it had clung to and the organisation was effectively dismantled with most of its high ranking leadership — both political and military — either dead, captured or isolated in remote parts the country.
With the TPLF grossly overestimating its power and underestimating the might and determination of the Ethiopian federal forces, by the end of November 2020, the military operation was over, with the Ethiopian PM declaring and end to the operation.
It did not take long for the TPLF, which had been unable to withstand the embarrassment of being swept aside so quickly and effectively by the Ethiopian forces, to begin looking for excuses and a scapegoat for the its rapid, but yet predictable demise.
As expected, Eritrea was made a scapegoat for the misadventure of the TPLF, despite Eritrea having always stood for peace and stability, something that the TPLF cannot claim to have done in its 30 years in power.
No sooner had the Ethiopian army disempowered the TPLF, which for a long time had been used as catalyst of instability in the region by western powers, its former partners in crime began to leap to its defence, in the vain hope of reviving the fortunes of the TPLF which had been effectively been confined to the dustbin of history.
One of the methods to revive the fortunes of the TPLF, was to turn an Ethiopian domestic issue into an international one in the hope of creating a pretext for the involvement of the UN or other international bodies, thereby throwing a life line to the remnants of the TPLF. In order to do this stories of Eritrean troops being involved in the operation began to circulate in sections of the western media which had strong affiliations with the defunct TPLF. These were no ordinary stories of military support by Eritrean troops for the Ethiopian army, but they were harrowing accounts of looting, raping and massacres supposedly committed by Eritrean troops, whose presence on Ethiopian soil had never been established.
One such story was an alleged massacre in the city Axum on the 28th and 29th November 2020, where it is claimed that something like 800 people were indiscriminately shot and killed. It is to be noted that Reuters and other western media had at the time run a story about how they had received confirmation by text from the TPLF leader from his hideout, that the city of Axum was under the control of TPLF forces, a fact which seems to have been conveniently forgotten by the time the Amnesty report was published.
Though the incident was supposed to have happened at the end of November 2020, news of this alleged massacre did not emerge until January of 2021, the delay was blamed on the lack of the means of communication as telephone and internet services had been interrupted.
No sooner had this news broken out, when Amnesty International wasted no time to cobble together a report which placed the blame of the alleged killings squarely at Eritrea’s feet. The report was intended to be ready just in time for the UN Security Council meeting which was to be held in early March 2021. The intention of the report was to ‘expose’ the mass killings that were supposed to have happened in Axum, Ethiopia, making a drama out of it by publishing a report on Friday 26/02/2021. The Amnesty report was supposedly based on hard evidence and prepared by one Fessha Tekle — a man greatly indebted to the TPLF and who has been accused of covering up atrocities committed by the TPLF while in power, e.g. the genocide in the Gambela region of Ethiopia. The report was supposed to be used as a stick to beat Ethiopia and Eritrea into submission at the UN Security Council.
The haste of Amnesty in bringing forward the publication of the alleged massacre at Axum, greatly contrasts against its reluctance to investigate and report on the tragedy at Mai Kadra which unfolded in broad daylight where some 700 people were killed by TPLF forces as result of their ethnicity and the atrocities committed on members of the Ethiopian Northern Command by the TPLF while they slept in their beds. These barbarous acts of the TPLF were not given any attention apart from a superficial condemnation. As the perpetrators of these inhuman acts were members of the TPLF, there was no appetite on the part of Amnesty and others, to investigate these gross violation of human rights which were in fact crimes against humanity. Rather than focus on verified gross breaches of human rights, the likes of Amnesty have instead chosen to work towards internationalising the operation by the Ethiopian government to establish the rule of law and the constitutional order in territories formally under the control of the TPLF. Despite this attempt to internationalise the domestic affairs of Ethiopia, the 16 rocket attacks by the TPLF on Eritrean cities which targeted civilians were never raised but quietly swept under the carpet as if they never happened. It is unfortunate but not unexpected that Amnesty deliberately and maliciously presented unfounded allegations of the presence of Eritrean troops in Northern Ethiopia as tangible fact. The patently untrue reports based on fabricated ‘evidence’ produced by Amnesty and others is nothing more than a blatant attempt by the TPLF and the western nations to distort the truth for the sake of furthering their own ulterior political agenda.
A good example of this distorting of facts is the story published by Carra Anna of the Associated press on 18th February 2021. Ms Carra Anna based her entire story on ‘witnesses’ provided to her by Mr. Alula Solomon — the TPLF’s propaganda mouthpiece in the Diaspora. The supposed ‘eye witness’ of the Axum massacre were in fact Tigrayans who actually lived in the USA and assembled by Alula Solomon, as his personal FB account calling for witnesses on 13th February 2021 would show. In what must be a new journalistic low, Carra Anna took the statements of a few ‘witnesses’ that lived in the west and tried to tarnish the image of Eritrean troops. In reality the article that was written served no purpose other than exposing the light weight nature of the western media institutions.
The report of Amnesty International is based on the following fundamentally flawed evidence which it presented as true.
- Amnesty says that its report is based on the interview of 41 people who claim to have survived the killings at Axum. There is no information on how Amnesty got in touch with these people to conduct an interview, or when and where the interviews were conducted. Little is known about how these 41 people were selected, and who organised the interviews. All these are legitimate questions that need to be asked and answered.
One of the men that Amnesty is said to have interviewed from Axum is a man who claims to be a priest by the name of Woldemariam. It turns out that Priest Woldemairam is actually a man called Michael Berhe who is a member of the TPLF security apparatus and had given testimony claiming to have been at Axum and witnessed the killings himself. Amnesty used this testimony in their report, but this man lives in the USA in the city of Boston and has been exposed as a TPLF cadre. When was he in Axum that his testimony has been accepted. At a time when there were no flights to Axum from Boston or any lines of communication, how did he manage to get into Axum and then make his way back to Boston?
The question is, who is this Michael Berhe? Michael Berhe had been a member of the TPLF fighting force since the early 80s and at this time lives in Boston, USA. He serves as a catholic priest and also works as a translator in the Boston Medical Centre, despite still working as an intelligence officer for the TPLF. He has special links with Alula Solomon of Tigray Media House (TMH) which is owned by the TPLF. Michael Berhe had been given a special assignment by the TPLF to masquerade as an Ethiopian orthodox priest by the TPLF as it was believed that masquerading as a priest would make him more believable and his words would carry more weight with the people. He presented his false testimony on TMH which was intended to malign the reputation of Eritrea and through spreading false propaganda. New evidence which has come to light which confirms that the Ethiopian Orthodox Patriarch based in New York has stated that Michael Berhe who is an imposter and is neither a priest nor even a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox church. The Patriarch added that Michael Berhe’s claim of having been in Axum greatly shocked him and angered him. So what will Amnesty say now about its attempt to be more catholic than the pope?
The official statement made by the Ethiopian government through its foreign affairs ministry stated that those witnesses who are in refugee camps in the Sudan, were actually men who had massacred 700 people in Mai Kadra and then escaped to the Sudan. Therefore the source of the report has been unequivocally been proven beyond doubt that they were nothing more than TPLF cadres.
This therefore means that Amnesty International has compiled a report without engaging with the Ethiopian government, but instead choosing to interview those who themselves are accused of having committed crimes against humanity.
Amnesty in its report stated that the information it gained was from Tigrayans living in Sudan refugee camps through interviews conducted over the telephone. But it is a well known fact that those in refugee camps went there just after the western part of Tigray came under the control of Ethiopian federal forces sometime around 9-11 November. Which raises the question, when were they in Axum? Another glaring fact is that Axum was liberated by Ethiopian forces on 18th November, by which time these witness had already reached the refugee camps in Sudan. Another well known fact is that it was after the areas of Dansha, Mai Kadra, Wolkait and Humera had come under the control of the federal forces that Samri — the TPLF armed youth wing which had massacred civilians — had headed to the Sudan. So how could these people who had crossed over the Sudan before the alleged massacre in Axum, now be able to give evidence from the refugee camps they now live in, about matters that they do not know and were not a witness to? By all accounts it seems the killers themselves have now become witnesses. It is time that Amnesty open its eyes that it has willingly and knowingly closed.
- Still pictures of satellite images of fresh graves whose geographical location had supposedly been confirmed has been presented as evidence. Still images and videos of locations which cannot be determined by the content have allegedly been accurately placed using geo-location analysis. Amnesty claims to have Images of two fresh graves in the compound of churches and although it cannot confirm the number of causalities, it nonetheless can confidently say the killings were committed by Eritrean troops. Although what is said to demonise and condemn Eritrea does not come as surprise, it is somewhat disconcerting to see what was initially thought to be as some sort of sick joke, being repackaged and lined up with gold plated lies in attempt to sell to the world that Eritrean troops massacred 800 civilians in cold blood.
Despite Amnesty’s best efforts to suppress the truth, evidence showing what actually happened is slowly but surely emerging. The current deputy administrator of the North west region of Tigray, Mr Muluberhan Hailu, has gone on Ethiopian national TV, and said that when the TPLF realised that it did not have popular support, in order to gain the support of the people and align them with it, the TPLF began to create all sorts of drama, ( in the hope to shock the people into supporting it).
One of the surprising things that the TPLF did, was to gather the people who were intending to attend the annual celebrations of St Mary at the St Mary of Zion church in Axum, to tell them that the Eritrean army was approaching and warned women and young girls to carry a condom with them, because the approaching troops would certainly rape them. It was Mr Muluberhan in the interview he gave that exposed this shocking campaign of the TPLF to terrify the people. The fact that the TPLF had warned women and young girls to carry condoms, is a clear indication of its evil intentions to carry out rape itself.
Another glaring fact that has been overlooked was the TV footage taken at the time of the alleged massacre of the annual celebration of the St Mary of Zion on 30th November 2020 (21st Hedar 2013) which clearly show that the celebrations went ahead without any security issues. It is also known that in the city of Axum after 30th November 2020 other religious celebrations had been held and again there were no reported issues. All the celebrations were peaceful and this has been shown by the Ethiopian media.
With actual media footage disproving the claims, the burning question is, where did this claim of wide spread killings in Axum around the time when these celebrations were being held come from? How could it be the case that Amnesty overlooked the video footage that has been on YouTube since Dec 4 2020? If indeed there had been a massacre in Axum at the end of November, how could the Ethiopian media which was present in the city fail to mention it? Or is it a case of there being another St Mary of Axum in another part of Tigray?
All these false claims are nothing more than part of the drama which has been playing out. It is to be remembered that the leader of the Amhara region of Ethiopia had revealed that the TPLF had issued Eritrean army uniforms which itself had produced to Tigrayan militia forces and as part of this drama the TPLF forces had been issued with Eritrean military uniforms which the TPLF itself produced at the Almeda Textile Factory which they owned. The purpose of the dressing up of TPLF militia in Eritrean military uniforms was to try and make the people think that the killings, rape and other atrocities were being carried out by Eritrean troops when in actual fact it was TPLF forces masquerading as Eritrean troops that were committing the atrocities.
The TPLF propaganda machine went as far as trying to claim that Eritrean forces were destroying churches in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. And to back this claim, it had unashamedly presented the image of the church in Adi Keyhi in Eritrea, which had been demolished by TPLF forces in 2000. This was a futile attempt by the TPLF to try and instigate religious clashes between Christians and Muslims. Those who know the TPLF, will know that there is no end to their evil machinations and it would be impossible to list all of them here.
The TPLF has a long history of producing such drama and have become experts at misinformation. Their recent attempts to disfigure the truth comes as no surprise to Eritreans, as it is not something new and is in keeping with the duplicitous nature of the TPLF. A good example to cite is the revelations in the wikileaks which came to light in 2010. In the wikileaks it was revealed that the TPLF had planted bombs in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and blamed Eritrea and Al Shabab. Wikileaks citing CIA files had revealed the plot. This is one of the evil and demonic deeds of the Junta. In addition to this, during the period of its armed struggle, the TPLF in order to gain the attention of the world had orchestrated the bombing of its own citizens in the town of Hawzien and had caused its own citizens to flee to the Sudan, this has been recorded in history.
When Ethiopian federal forces took military action to restore law and order in the TPLF controlled region of Ethiopia and when the TPLF realised that its defeat was inevitable, the TPLF released over ten thousand hard core criminals into the society so that they could loot and destroy private property and large corporations, in short so ensure chaos reigned. While the TPLF was willing to let hard core criminals and convicted murders go free, it had intended to massacre some 300 hundred political prisoners that it had held in its prisons. The TPLF had intended to take these 300 prisoners to Abi Adi where it had planned on executing them. Its plans were thwarted by the counterattack of Ethiopian Federal forces. In light of the onslaught of the Ethiopian army the TPLF did not have the time to carry out the execution but fled leaving behind the mass graves it had dug which had been intended for the 300 political prisoners. The TPLF not only left behind the 300 prisoners but also large quantities of weapons and ammunition as it retreated in the face of the Ethiopian counter attack.
Another incident that can be mentioned as proof of the TPLF’s barbaric nature is the killing of many Eritreans that had been in the UNCHR operated refugee camps. Many refugees had been and forced to join the TPLF militia forces. There are reports of refugees being taken away and killed on one pretext or another. These are not empty claims, detailed evidence to back these claims will be presented to the relevant authorities in due time.
The lies of the TPLF must be exposed as the misinformation is being taken to be true by the organisations and International Institutions affiliated with the TPLF. Amnesty International which has a habit of presenting unverified information in its reports, in presenting its 26th February 2021 report has not yet realised that it has jeopardized its name and reputation. The willingness to indulge in unsubstantiated claims is indicative of how low the value and credibility of the major western media organisations has sunk. The fact that these organisations are using this report to inundate the Horn of Africa narrative using different tittles, without making any attempt to verify the reports and accepting them at face value puts a large question mark on their integrity and motive.
The message from the owners of the truth to those who are trying to bury the truth is clear: the truth will never stay buried, it will always force its way out.
The tedious constant attempts to try and portray Eritrean troops in a negative light and the vilification campaign against them must come to an end! The campaign of lies must end! Amnesty international must refrain from indulging in falsehoods
No matter what, in the end Eritrea will always reaffirm its commitment to achieve a peaceful, stable and prosperous region.