ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia’s rebellious Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has issued a statement accusing the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of lying to the world after the Ethiopian ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement on Saturday night that the TPLF was deliberately starving the Tigrayan population to death.
Below is the full-text statement by the TPLF.
For Immediate Release
Response to the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Judicious Allegations.
For the once-venerated Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), trafficking in outright lies, distortions, and half-truths has become its most distinguishing institutional characteristic. Rather than articulating the country’s national interests and tending to those interests, the MFA spends the lion’s share of its time on divisive, partisan assignments, doing the bidding of the criminal Abiy regime. The MFA, having enjoyed little or no diplomatic success on the international stage lately, has become a full-time propaganda outlet for the Abiy regime, as it wages a relentless genocidal war on the people of Tigray. Consequently, being inundated with a litany of lies by the MFA is no longer surprising.
The MFA’s statement on January 13, 2022 is consistent with the aforementioned institutional characteristic. The MFA accused the Government of Tigray of blocking aid to the people of Tigray by commandeering and preventing aid trucks from departing Mekelle. Such a ludicrous statement would be funny if such a sick joke did not come at the expense of millions of Tigrayans, who have been subjected to a cruel, inhumane and morally repugnant blockade for the past 6 months. The Abiy regime, having laid siege to the people of Tigray, is using starvation as a weapon of war. Only a regime bereft of the capacity for shame would make a baseless claim about an outcome for which it is solely responsible and incontrovertible evidence for that responsibility abounds.
The Abiy regime has suspended banking services, bombed the main hydroelectric dam, plunging the entire Tigray into darkness, imposed a total communications blackout, and halted ground and air transport to and from Tigray. Only the criminal regime and its genocidal collaborators take these actions as anything but part of a genocidal blueprint to exterminate the people of Tigray.
In fact, since mid-October 2021, the criminal regime has carried out indiscriminate bombings and drone-strikes against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Tigray, killing hundreds and wounding thousands of civilians. In the latest orgy of aerial violence, on January 8, the criminal regime unleased a devastating drone strike on a camp for internally displaced people in Dedebit, North- Western Tigray, murdering 56 people, and wounding more than 128 people. The number of fatalities is expected to rise, as victims continue to succumb to an otherwise non-life-threatening injury due to the lack of medications across Tigray. Having escaped from the clutch of a marauding gang of genocidal forces in Western Tigray, these innocent Tigrayans were murdered while asleep on Christmas night.
It is this same genocidal regime that feels it has the moral standing to accuse the Government of Tigray of engineering the starvation of its own citizens. Everyone except for the genocidal regime is convinced that the Ethiopian govemment is deliberately starving its own citizens. Rather than addressing its inhumane policy towards Tigray that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent Tigrayans, the MFA has issued a statement replete with outright lies.
The linchpin of the regime’s genocidal strategy is the aggressive obstruction of humanitarian aid delivery. Humanitarian agencies have been adamant about the Abiy regime’s willful obstruction of humanitarian aid operations. Indeed, senior Ethiopian officials, including Abiy Ahmed have publicly mused that the only way to sever what they view as the strong bond between the Tigrayan people and the Government of Tigray is by laying siege to Tigray in the hope that the people of Tigray would blame their own government for their suffering. Furthermore, it is to be recalled that on September 30 the MFA declared seven high-level UN officials engaged in humanitarian work persona non grata on bogus charges of pro-Tigray bias, as though feeding hungry children and tending to the needy were grounds for losing one’s professional assignment. But such is the tragic reality of Ethiopia under the criminal Abiy regime.
Humanitarian aid agencies had initially estimated that 100 trucks carrying food, non-food items and fuel must enter Tigray to meet needs on the ground. Yet, on account of persistent obstruction by the criminal regime, this initial estimate was revised upwards to 282 to make up for lost ground while meeting current needs. Even so, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), only less than 15 percent of aid trucks have been allowed through since July 2021. From July through January, a minimum of 19, 800 trucks of aid should have arrived in Tigray. In reality, fewer than 3000 trucks have arrived during this period. No humanitarian aid has arrived in Tigray since mid-December.
The criminal regime, seeking to counter the widespread international consensus that it is deliberately starving its own citizens comes up with outlandish accusations that do not pass a smell test. The latest accusation is no different. Indeed, as the Government of Tigray made clear in September in response to an erroneous and hasty statement from UN Ethiopia, to the extent that few hundred trucks have been stranded in Mekelle, the explanation lies in the various security and bureaucratic bottlenecks the criminal Abiy regime has erected to make humanitarian cargo movements virtually impossible. It is a public knowledge that many UN aid truck drivers are still imprisoned at Afar region.
The MFA claims that the Ethiopian government had announced blanket amnesty to all truck drivers. Why truck drivers needed to be granted amnesty in the first place is as baffling as it is preposterous. But perhaps this decision is intelligible in the context of the Abiy regime’s criminalization of being Tigrayan. It also claims that the “federal government left” 14 million liters of fuel upon its departure from Mekelle in disarray. The MFA has institutionalized routine lying about matters small and big. As noted above, believing the claims of a regime that has deliberately laid siege to the people of Tigray, cutting them off from the outside world, suspending banking services, and imposing a total telecommunications blackout that it “left” this much fuel in Mekelle requires the willful suspension of disbelief. Perhaps, the criminal regime thinks that sealing Tigray off from the outside world would prevent the truth from coming out.
Insofar as some trucks have not left Mekelle, as we explained in a September statement, the responsibility must be laid at the feet of the criminal Abiy regime. First, contrary to the MFA’s howling noise, there is a severe shortage of fuel in Tigray, as no fuel tankers have been allowed into Tigray since the end of July 2021. Truck drivers are provided with fuel enough to last the duration of their one-way trip to Tigray. They are not provided reserve fuel that is customary on such trips. Second, harassing truck drivers going into and out of Tigray has become second nature to federal security and military institutions as well as their local affiliates. In fact, Afar Special Police forces routinely cross into Tigrayan territory to continue their obstruction of any traffic, thereby impeding the possibility of further humanitarian cargo movements. Consequently, truck drivers complain of violent inspections at every checkpoint manned by the military and local security officials outside Tigray so much so that they cannot countenance another encounter with these entities. Absent security guarantees such guarantees are hard to come by, given the source of insecurity are the very institutions entrusted with providing security in the first place-it is understandable that truck drivers are unwilling to leave Tigray. In particular, armed local and federal forces are known to engage in ethnic profiling against Tigrayans, subjecting them to inhumane treatment.
Third, truckers experience unexplained delays in Afar, often lasting weeks. At times, drivers are detained for no reason other than their ethnicity. Finally, the suspension of banking services throughout Tigray along with the resulting cash shortage means that truck drivers must move with little to no cash. Understandably, these long-haul truckers are reluctant to return to their origins without money.
The above set of facts have been ascertained by relevant UN agencies and that those agencies have made various declarations to that effect. The criminal Abiy regime, rather than trying to find a solution in good faith, is busy manufacturing fictitious narratives to evade accountability for using hunger as a tool of war-a war crime under international law-by engineering an artificial humanitarian catastrophe in Tigray. The international community must insist on unfettered humanitarian access by deploying a robust package of punitive actions or the credible threat of such actions. It must not allow itself to be snookered by the genocidal regime’s fable. The international community must make it clear that bombing and starving one’s citizens into submission and/or out of existence are not acceptable state conducts in the 21s century. The government of Tigray renews its commitment to collaborating with the international community in addressing the dire humanitarian situation.