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Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch Report on Ethiopia’s Wolkait Region: Biased and Tendentious

We, the undersigned, strongly protest against the joint report of Amnesty International (“AI”) and Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) issued recently accusing the Federal Government of Ethiopia, the Amhara Regional Government and the Amhara militia and Fano of committing human rights violations in what the report refers to as “Western Tigray.”

As argued below, we affirm that the findings and recommendations of the report are fraught with inconsistencies and biases and lack methodological rigor and objectivity.

Flagrant Perpetuation of the TPLF Narrative of “Western Tigray”

Although the report acknowledges the fact that the so-called Western Tigray was known as Welkait –Tegede –Humera (collectively “Wolkait”) and was part of the Province of Begemeder (Gondar) before the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) annexed it, for its strategic attraction, to Tigray in 1991, it prefers to perpetuate the use of the misnomer so as to confer international and political legitimacy to TPLF’s claim to the territory. If that had not been its apparent purpose, there is no reason to prefer a newly minted name that does not exist in the lexicon of the local population or the history of the region. This fact, along with the report’s evocative title (“We will erase you from this land”), presages the heavily biased and tendentious nature of the report.

Biased and One-sided Reporting of Atrocities

While the report is replete with numerous citations, it nowhere makes even as much as a passing mention of the animus toward Amharas the TPLF has harbored since its inception as a liberation movement in 1975 by openly declaring the Amhara people as its sworn enemy in its founding document. Notably, the report blithely ignores the atrocities the TPLF has committed while forcibly annexing

Wolkait to Tigray in the mid-70s and during almost three decades of its brutal rule. Thanks to the work of a team of scientists in Gondar University, however, TPLF’s atrocities have recently come to light for the world to see. This team of scientists has reported that the remains of fifty-nine thousand Amhara victims have been discovered in several mass graves in Wolkait. Yet, the joint report does not reference the team’s report, nor have its authors bothered to consult the team about these findings.

In rare instances, the report begrudgingly acknowledges that the TPLF security forces abused the rights of Amharas “over many years.” Yet, it makes absolutely no effort to describe in any detail the gravity of these abuses as it has done on behalf of members of the Tigray community residing in Wolkait. Because it does not take these abuses as seriously, it does not call for any accountability of TPLF officials in the same way that it has been quick to do so against Amhara officials currently administering the Wolkait region. Indeed, the report recommends the suspension of these officials pending investigations into their actions, in utter disregard of their right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

While the report is quick to call for the demobilization of Amhara security forces, there is no similar call for the demobilization of thousands of militia the TPLF has mobilized to wage war and wreak havoc in the Amhara and Afar regions. The TPLF and its militia have shown by their actions and public statements that they are still waiting in the wings to forcibly retake Wolkait and in the process to cause even more death, mayhem and destruction than they have already caused. We would like to note in this regard the atrocities the TPLF has continued to inflict on the inhabitants of the Afar region.

Intrusiveness and Violation of Ethiopia’s Sovereign Rights

The call by the report for the disarming and demobilization of Amhara security forces, such as the Fano and militia, is totally unacceptable, for it is a clear violation of Ethiopia’s sovereign right to organize its security forces in any manner it deems fit. As enunciated in the UN “Declaration on Principles of International Law”, one of these fundamental principles concerns the sanctity of non-intervention in matters within the domestic jurisdiction of another state. It is interesting, although not too surprising, that the report’s call for demobilization of the Fano and Amhara militia echoes the position declared by the US Secretary of State a year or so ago, suggesting that AI and HRW do seem to be acting in concert with the US Government.

Further, the joint report’s recommendation that calls for a peacekeeping force to be deployed to the region strikes us as especially egregious as it appears to be intended to make it easier for the TPLF to gain direct access to its foreign backers – regional and international. Not only will such a move constitute a blatant violation of the country’s sovereignty but also has the potential to prolong rather than to defuse the tension in the region.

Flawed Research Methodology:

Particularly unpersuasive and disconcerting about the report is that its findings and recommendations are based on an egregiously flawed research methodology. As the report itself makes clear, its findings are based on information and data largely gathered by sending “five separate research missions” to interview Tigrean refugees in the Sudan. In fact, many of these so-called refugees are the very same individuals who fled the country after participating in the gruesome Mai-Kadra massacre. We would be too credulous to believe that the very perpetrators of such a horrendous crime would come forward to tell the truth about their own involvement or what really happened in Wolkait. On the contrary, it is reasonable to assume that they would prevaricate or shade the truth in order to avoid their own accountability for the crime of mass murder they committed in Mai-Kadra.

The report also indicates that the interviewees were informed of the purpose of the research with the “help of trusted interpreters.” Who are these trusted interpreters? Knowing TPLF’s tried- and- true modus operandi, we should be forgiven for surmising that these “trusted interpreters” can be none other than TPLF operatives, activists and sympathizers who populate the Sudan, Washington, DC, and the World Health Organization. Indeed, these operatives have apparently also infiltrated AI and HRW themselves, as evidenced by the fact that Fisseha Tekle, the son-in-law of TPLF’s notorious Sebhat Nega, is Amnesty International’s “researcher for Ethiopia and Eritrea” and is currently promoting the report on their behalf. In his capacity as AI’s “researcher for Ethiopia and Eritrea”, Tekle has produced multiple video accounts about “mass extrajudicial executions” in Tigray.

It is also noteworthy, though not surprising, that Amhara and Kunama natives of the region were systematically shunned in the interview process. There is absolutely no justification for their exclusion other than that their testimony would cast doubt on the credibility of the story spun by the TPLF. Curiously, the report offers no explanation or justification for this exclusion, leaving us to surmise that the omission must have been deliberate.

It is on the basis of self-serving interviews conducted in the Sudan and some in Tigray that the report accuses Amhara regional authorities of having engaged in a “coordinated” and “purposeful” policy of ethnic cleansing and other human rights violations. This conclusion is totally unconvincing, meritless and unfounded. For one thing, many of those interviewees are those who fled the area to avoid apprehension and accountability for the heinous crimes they committed in Mai-Kadra. For another, those who relocated to Tigray did so on their own fearing retaliation and accountability for the many abuses “over many years” the natives of the area suffered under TPLF rule, rather than as consequence of an official policy of “ethnic cleansing”. As such, the allegation of “a coordinated and purposeful policy” of ethnic cleansing cannot stand close scrutiny. (One point worthy of note here is the egregious fact that the report dismisses, as a legitimate response, the November 2020 Mai-Kadra Massacres against Amharas by TPLF’s youth league.)

Also unwarranted is the report’s negative aspersion on the regional authorities of Wolkait for undertaking to resettle “hundreds of Amharas from the Amhara region and [those returning] from the Sudan.” Finding fault with the actions of the regional authorities in this regard completely ignores the fact that many of these settlers are natives of the area who were forced to leave their homes and farms by the TPLF since the mid-70s. Righting a wrong that remained unrequited for so long does not deserve to be seen in a negative light.

Perhaps, one of the strongest indicators of the sloppiness of the report is its assertion, citing the federal interim administration of Tigray, that 723,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Western Tigray had been registered in other parts of Tigray. However, according to a report of the Federal Demographic Republic of Ethiopia Central Statistical Agency, conducted while the TPLF was in power, the projected total number of people in Western Tigray, including Amharas and other ethnic groups, for 2017 was only 410,662. This ridiculously inflated number, which cannot be justified by any known demographic principles, is indicative of the flawed and biased nature of the entire report.

Questionable Timing of the Release of the Report

Finally, it is curious that the joint report became public at a time when both Houses of the US Congress appear to be busy considering essentially similar bills aimed at imposing sanctions on Ethiopia. Given how often the international system seems to do the bidding of the US Government and its allies, including human rights organizations, the timing of the report hardly seems to be a coincidence. It is noteworthy that the US Government took no time to endorse the report and to call for “independent investigations” into alleged violations of human rights in Ethiopia. Given the release of the joint report and consideration of the US sanctions bills are occurring at almost the same time, and when we recall the earlier effort of the US Government and its allies to employ the Human Right Council’s process to do essentially what the report calls for, we believe that the sanctions bills and the joint report have been meant to work in tandem to accomplish the same overriding purpose: to coerce Ethiopia to submit to their demands and thereby to revive the political life of a terrorist organization that the Ethiopian populace has overwhelmingly rejected.

For all the foregoing reasons, we find the joint report of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch simply one-sided, tendentious, bereft of methodological rigor, and, therefore, unacceptable.

Endorsed by:

Dr. Abdella Usman, USA
Dr. Abebech Demissie, Ottawa, Canada
W/O Abekyellesh Allene, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Dr. Abera Molla, Denver, USA
Dr. Abiy Tadesse, USA
Dr. Abraham Betre, M.D., California, USA
Dr. Adam Waksor, M.D., Atlanta, USA
Dr. Addisu Yilma, M.D., USA
Dr. Adane Kassa, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Mr. Aklilu Abraham Adeye, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Mr. Aklilu Tafesse, New York, USA
Dr. Aklog Birara, Maryland, USA
Prof. Alemante Gebre-Selassie, Virginia, USA
Dr. Amanuel Alemu Abajobir, Kenya
Dr. Amelework Kebede
Dr. Amir Ibrahim, Toronto, Canada
W/O Amsal Woreta, Maryland, USA
Mr. Amsalu Belay, Arizona, USA
Mr. Andy Groum, USA
Dr. Araya Amsalu, Ohio, USA
Ato Ashenafi Nebro, Florida, USA
Ato Assefa Adefris, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Dr. Assegid Kebede, USA
Dr. Awgechew Teshome, Ottawa, Canada
M/s. Awlae Woldehanna, RN, Saskachewan, Canada
Lt. Ayal-Sew Dessye, Arlington, Virginia., USA
Dr. Bayabel Mengistu, Houston, Texas, USA
Professor Eng. Bantyehun Tezazu, Toronto, Canada
Dr. Beeletsega Yeneneh, Arizona, USA
Mr. Belen Gizachew, Portugal
Dr. Belete Alemu, M.D., California, USA
Eng. Behailu Assefa, San Francisco, USA
Dr. Benyam Gessesse, M.D., Philadelphia, USA
Dr. Berhane Gebre-Kidan, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Dr. Berhanu Abegaz, Williamsburg, VA, USA
Mr. Berhanu Ayele Wurseno, CFGM, USA
Professor Berhanu Alemaw, Botswana
Professor Emeritus Berhanu Mengistu, USA
Dr. Berhanu Tadesse Taye, Virginia, USA
Ato Betru Gebregziabher, Texas, USA
Dr. Bisrat Aklilu, New York, USA
Associate prof. Bizu Gelaye, Boston, USA
Professor Damtew Teferra, South Africa
Dr. Dawit Mekonnen, USA
Eng. Dawit Tesfaye, Zurich, Switzerland
Engineer Dejene Eshete, Connecticut, USA
Professor Demel T. Fanta, Botswana
Dr. Demissie Gebre-Mariam, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Dr. Demissie Tadesse, New Zealand
Dr. Dereje Woreta, M.D., Maryland, USA
Dr. Desalegne Bayih, M.D., Sweden
Professor Desta Mebratu, South Africa
Professor Enawgaw Mehari, M.D., Nashville, USA
Dr. Efrem Alemayehu, M.D., Toronto, Canada
Dr. Elias Kassa Mamo, M.D., Maryland, USA
Mr. Ephrem Getahun Hailu, South Africa
Professor Eyualem Abebe, USA
Eng. Elleni Mengesha, Sweden
Dr. Endale Ketefo, Sweden
Dr. Erku Yimer, Chicago, USA
Dr. Fantahun Degneh, Germany
Dr Fassil Gebremariam, Florida, USA
Dr. Fasil Melaku Wubu, M. D., Maryland, USA
Dr. Fassil Tefera, M.D., New York, USA
Dr. Fekadu Folle, Maryland, USA
Dr. Fikre Germa, Toronto, Canada
Dr. Fikru Maru, M.D., Stockholm, Sweden
Dr. Fitsum Tariku, British Columbia, Canada
Ato Frework Ayalew, North Carolina, USA
Dr. Gabe Hamda, Washington, USA
Dr. Gebeyehu Ejigu, Phoenix, AZ, USA
Dr. Gebeyehu Teferi, M.D., Washington D.C., USA
Dr. Gebrehiwot Lebsekal, Vancouver, Canada
Professor Genene Mola, South Africa
W/O Genet Abebe Ejigu, RN, Phoenix, AZ, USA
Dr. Getachew Begashaw, Illinois, USA
Ato Getachew Dessye, Canada
Dr. Getachew Felleke, M.D., New York, USA
Dr. Getnet Asrat, Ottawa, Canada
Dr. Girma Aman, Kitchner, Canada
Dr. Girma Lulu, Calgary, Canada
Mr. Girma Mekonnen, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Dr. Girma Molla, Australia
Dr. Girma Tezazu, M.D., Toronto, Canada
Dr. Guadie Sharew, Lesotho
Professor Gulelat Desse, Botswana
Dr. Haile Fenta, Canada
Engineer Hizkiel Eskender, Ohio, USA
Dr. Imiru Assefa, Michigan, USA
Dr. Kalkidan Belaye, M.D., Toronto, Canada
Professor Kassa Darge, Pennsylvania, USA
Assoc. Professor Kebede Begna, M.D., USA
Prof. Kebede Gessesse, Georgia, USA
Mr. Kidanemariam Jembere, South Africa
Dr. Kitaw Negash
Dr. Lulsegged Abebe, London, England
Dr. Liyew Desta, Sweden
Professor Makeda Semret, Montreal, Canada
Prof. Mamo Muchie, South Africa
M/s. Martha Gebreselassie, USA
Professor Mekibib Altaye, M.D., Ohio, USA
Dr. Mekdim Ayana, Eswatini
Dr. Mekonen Bayissie, Maryland, USA
Dr. Melaku Berhane, M.D, California, USA
Dr. Melaku Game, M.D., Canada
Professor Emeritus Melaku Lakew, Sweden
Dr. Melaku Teshome, USA
Dr. Mengistu Yemane, M.D., Tennessee, USA
Ato Menelik Andargie, Bay Area, CA, USA
Dr. Mesfin Seifu, M.D., Ohio, USA
Professor Messay Kebede, Ohio, USA
Dr. Mengiziem Emiru, M.D., USA
M/s. Meron Ahadu, USA
W/O Metassibia Mulugeta, Seattle, USA
Dr. Mezegebu Effa
Dr. Million Belay, Stockholm, Sweden
Dr. Minwiyelet Mussie, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Dr. Moges Sisay, M.D., Indiana, USA
Professor Mulatu Fekadu, South Africa
Dr. Mulu Geletu, Toronto, Canada
Professor Mulugeta F. Dinbabo, South Africa
Dr. Mulugeta Yilma, Sweden
Prof. Muluneh Yitayew, Tucson, Arizona, USA
Professor Nega Debela, Ohio, USA
Mr. Negash Abdurahman, USA
Engineer Negesse Gutema, USA
Dr. Negussie Nega, Maryland, USA
Dr. Rahel Alemu, USA
Engineer Samson Engeda, California, USA
Mr. Samson Getu, Sweden
Dr. Samuel Tenaw, Durban, South Africa
Professor Seid Hassen, Kentucky, USA
Dr. Shiferaw Adilu, Alberta, Canada
Dr. Shiferaw Gessesse, Washington, D.C., USA
Dr. Solomon Afework, London, UK
Professor Solomon Aklilu, Ottawa, Canada
Dr. Solomon Basore, Calgary, Canada
Dr. Solomon Bokre, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Mr. Solomon Lema, USA
Professor Sissay Asefa, Michigan, USA
Dr. Solomon Gashaw, Minnesota, USA
Dr. Solomon Haile-Mariam, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Professor Solomon Harrar, Kentucky, USA
Dr. Solomon Kibret, USA
Professor Solomon Negash, Georgia, USA
Mr. Solomon Teffera, USA
Dr. Tadesse Desta, M.D., California, USA
Dr. Tariku Teshale, M.D., Sweden
Dr. Tegegnework Getu, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Mr. Tekesteberhan Tefera, Minnesota, USA
Mr. Terefe Zeleke, USA
Dr. Tesema Meganasa, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia
Mr. Tesera Moges, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Dr. Tesfalem Tegegn, South Africa
Dr. Tesfaye Biftu
Mr. Tesfaye Engida, Minnesota, USA
Professor Tesfaye Kidane, South Africa
Ato Teshome H. Tesema, Seattle, Washington, USA
Mr. Tewodros Teklearegay, Arizona, USA
Dr. Theodros Mengesha, M. D., Alabama, USA
Dr. Tihut Asfaw, M.D., Ottawa, Canada
Dr. Tikikil Mekuria, M.D., USA
Professor Tilahun Adera, Virginia, USA
Prof. Tilahun Eneyew, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Dr. Tsehaye Atlaw, London, England
Mr. Tsehaye Demeke, Tennessee, USA
Dr. Tsegaye Metz,M.D., Germany
Dr. Tsegaye Tegenu, Uppsala, Sweden
Dr. Umer Kssa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
M/S Wassy Tesfa, USA
Dr. Wessenu Abitew, Florida, USA
Dr. Wondimu Mekonnen, UK
Dr. Wondwossen Gebre, M.D., New York, USA
Professor Wondwossen Gebreyes, Ohio, USA
Dr. Worku Abera, Montreal, Canada
Dr. Yacob Hailemariam, Virginia, USA
Dr. Yared Hailemariam, M.D., Kentucky, USA
Dr. Yemisrach Hailemeskel, Toronto, Canada
Dr. Yeshimebet Retta, M.D., Virginia, USA
Engineer Yeshitila Mulugeta, California, USA
Dr. Yeshiwas Amsalu, M.D., Canada
Professor Yilma Gultneh, Springfield, VA, USA
Dr. Yilma Tekle-Mariam, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Mr. Yilma Zerihun. Texas, USA
Dr. Yohanes Dawd, M.D., Atlanta, USA
Dr. Yohannes Negash, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Professor Yohanes Tiruneh, San Diego, USA
Mr. Yonas Tafesse, Atlanta, GA, USA
Mr. Youm A. Fesseha, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Dr. Zebaye Baye, USA
Mr, Zerfu Takele, Seattle, Washington, USA
Dr. Zergabachew Asfaw, New York, USA
Dr. Zewdu Lisanu, M.D., Kentucky, USA

Endorsing Organizations:

  • Adwa Great African Victory Association (AGAVA)
  • All Shewa Ethiopian People Multipurpose International Association
  • American-Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee (AEPAC)
  • Amhara Dimtse Serechit
  • Amhara Wellbeing and Development Organization
  • Bay Area Ethiopian Community Association, California, USA
  • Communities of Ethiopians in Finland
  • Ethio-Canadian Human Rights Association
  • Ethiopian-American Development Council (EADC)
  • Ethiopian Community Association in Atlanta
  • Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago
  • Ethiopian Community Association in Milwaukee
  • Ethiopian Community Association of Minnesota
  • Ethiopian Community in Seattle
  • Ethiopian Dialogue Forum (EDF)
  • Ethiopians for Ethiopians
  • Ethiopians in Tennessee
  • Ethiopiawinnet: Council for the Defense of Citizen Rights
  • International Ethiopian Women’s Organization (IEWO)
  • Global Alliance for Justice – The Ethiopian Cause
  • Global Alliance for the Rights of Ethiopians (GARE)
  • Global Amhara Coalition
  • Global Ethiopian Advocacy Nexus (GLEAN)
  • Global Ethiopian Scholars Initiative (GESI)
  • Gondar Hibret for Ethiopian Unity
  • New York/New Jersey Tri-State Hope for Ethiopia, Inc. (H4E)
  • Major Lemma Woldetsadik Memorial Foundation
  • Menelik Hall Foundation
  • Network of Ethiopian Scholars (NES)
  • People To People, Inc. (P2P)
  • Radio Yenesew Ethiopia
  • Selassie Stand Up, Inc.
  • The Ethiopian Broadcast Group
  • Tibibir
  • United Ethiopians
  • Vision Ethiopia (VE)
  • Worldwide Ethiopian Civic Associations Network (WE-CAN

Gebeyehu (“Gebe”) Ejigu, Ph.D.
Executive Vice President and Visiting Professor (Retired)
Governors State University
University Park, IL 60484