Dear Editor in chief,
First, we would like to express our appreciation for the interest a media outlet like De Morgen has taken in developments in our country, Ethiopia. However, we regret the inaccurate assertions made in the article “Dode tieners Kunnen geen wraak nemen (Dead teens cannot retaliate)” by Erik Raspoet mainly based on Professor Jan Nyssen’s report published on the 30th of March 2021. In the article, many malicious and sensational insights have been made not only about the current situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, but also about the region’s future. It is unfortunate that the professor has opted to put his favoritism over the board with serious national issue of this nature. According to the facts presented in the article, as an academic, Professor Nyssen has failed to research for the truth and put a nuanced view on his report. Therefore, the Embassy of Ethiopia in Brussels expresses its serious concern about the De Morgen’s decision in entertaining such divisive views and would like to set the record straight to the valued readership.
Considering Professor Nyssen’s background, taking an interest on the current situation of the Tigray region in Ethiopia and expressing personal concern and opinion on the matter is understandable. However, it is most unfortunate that the professor used the opportunity to work in Ethiopia, through the Ethio-Belgium education cooperation, to build malicious stories that fuel inter communal feud, mistrust, and bias among the people of Ethiopia. The deeds of the professor and his assistants was simply abusive of acquaintances established over the years to taint Ethiopia and its Tigray region with reckless authority and to what end? Exploiting opportunities in such a manner is unacceptable by any standard. As an academic, he could have used his knowledge, to tell the truth about how Ethiopians are a multicultural society mingled through, among others, way of life, religion and intermarriages. One wonders why it would be lost on him that the Tigrian people are part and parcel of this deep-rooted Ethiopian culture. It was not sounding to authoritatively claim there is a hatred between ethnic groups. It doesn’t represent Ethiopia of all the places.
The Embassy of Ethiopia remains available for a candid discussion with any concerned party and accepts constructive and balanced criticisms in dealing with the law and order ascertaining operation that was concluded in three weeks in November 2020. This being the case, not only our Embassy has tried to invite Professor Nyssen for a candid discussion since he took part in the petition in November in misrepresenting the cause of the operation in Ethiopia, he had declined a meeting that he so agreed to join through the invitation of the respected VLIR- OUS at another time.
The Professor, in an unfounded manner, is war-drumming, calling a doomsday, by referring a ‘civil war is eminent’. He has even the audacity to call the law and order ascertaining operation an ‘invasion’. The world is familiar with the truth now; the cause for the Operation was the unwarranted attack of the Ethiopian National Defense Force by the TPLF clique.
What the professor claims to have collected evidence of casualties in Axum and other areas of Tigray, better be channelled to the ongoing independent investigation in country. One wonders why he fails to mention atrocities committed in Mai Kadra right at the beginning of the law and order ascertaining operation.
The statement made by Prof. Nyssen, “…. Food is being used as a weapon in this war” is a far-fetched allegation and doesn’t reflect the situation on the ground. The Government of Ethiopia has come a long way in granting full access to those partners that have expressed to lend a hand in the humanitarian work. It is to be recalled that the Government of Ethiopia continues to deliver 70% of the humanitarian aid demand in the Tigray region. Thus far about 4.2 million beneficiaries have been reached. Ever since the unfettered access, the arrivals of new assistance have not
been yet promising. Ethiopia and the Horn region have faced multiple challenges due to the locust infestation and floods compounded with the COVID 19 pandemic and even in Tigray alone there were 1.8 million people on safety-net support before the November operation. Hence, this is where international partners that called for unfettered access need to extend support.
The audacity of the professor to dictate the future of the Tigray region of Ethiopia is unacceptable by any standard. Although the article does not clearly mention from which Ambassadors and NGOs the report got complements, there is no doubt through his interest for praise he has gone out of his way to taint the image of Ethiopia. This is simply a huge indication of how he lacks the understanding of our people’s strong social fabric, which has overcome several challenges encountered over the centuries and remained united.
Regarding the effect of the conflict on innocent civilians and with particular reference to alleged human rights violations, we fully share such concerns. However, the piece misses the essential point in that the Government of Ethiopia has established a mechanism to take allegations of human rights violations seriously and its determination to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of human rights violations, including sexual violations. In this context, the Government has made it abundantly clear that it is ready to collaborate with the African Union and United Nations human rights bodies. Based on this the African Union has accepted the invitation on African Human and Peoples right Commission to jointly take part in the investigation with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC). In the same manner the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has also accepted to collaborate in the investigation with EHRC.
Besides, the Federal Attorney’s Office and the Federal Police Commission are investigating alleged human rights atrocities in the Tigray region, including an investigation into the massacre that took place at a place called Mai Kadra, sexual violation and alleged atrocities in the city of Axum. An investigation is underway to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
The Ethiopian government, with all the challenges ahead, is determined to continue steadfast with the deep-rooted reforms including making the upcoming national election in early June 2021 a fair and free contestation.
We still call on academics like Professor Jan Nyssen that it would not do any good to be preoccupied in such a divisive and unproductive engagements. It is rather incumbent on them to understand the constitutional mandate of the Federal Government of Ethiopia to maintain law and order and restore peace and stability in the country.
Public Diplomacy Division
Embassy of Ethiopia