Afar, which is one of Ethiopia’s regional states located in the northeastern part of the country, is home to the Afar people who are predominantly Muslims and their livelihood mostly depends on pastoralism.
The area is one of the two regions outside Tigray that were unjustifiably invaded by the Tigray regional forces, TPLF, who meted various devastating atrocities on the locals including abuse of women, destruction of property and killing of innocent lives. The other is Amhara found in Northern Ethiopia.
Our reporter, Kungu Al-mahadi Adam who is currently in Afar for us, says the ”wounds” of war inflicted on them are still fresh, and could take decades if not forever, to heal. He says the dreams, future and hopes of the locals are all gone. He now reports,
At a symposium in Afar that took place today at Kuriftu Resort, as one of the activities of the Great Ethiopian Homecoming, the participants were treated to among others emotional pictures of destroyed school buildings, health centres, injured individuals and killed animals.
The locals told depressing and heartbreaking stories of how the conflict left dozens of hundreds of children orphaned and homeless, thousands abused and killed by the invading forces.
To put this into context, TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front), a declared terrorist group that claims to represent less than 6% of Ethiopia’s population, controlled the Ethiopian army, security apparatus, and the economy for almost three decades from 1991 to 2018. It ruled Ethiopia with an iron fist through a coalition of four ethnic parties it created.
The masses through nationwide protests forced it out of power on the basis of among others plundering the country’s resources, corruption, tribalism and gross violation of human rights, thus ushering-in the current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed through elections.
Abiy, on taking power, introduced political and economic reforms that were designed to reduce corruption, rent seeking, privileged access to resources and to remove the strong link between the TPLF and the bureaucracy, the army, and the intelligence and security agency.
He also released thousands of prisoners and allowed exiled political parties to return to Ethiopia.
These, to the TPLF who controlled all sectors of the economy, posed a serious threat to their domination of Ethiopia’s polity and thus opted to oppose him.
In fact, when Abiy administration made peace with neighboring Eritrea that wasn’t at peace with Ethiopia under TPLF, the latter felt sidelined. They wanted to be included in the discussion, negotiation, and signing of the peace agreement, yet it is a known that international treaties are signed by national governments, not regional.
TPLF leaders, convinced that power had slipped away for good and fearful that their domination was in danger, and worried that they may face justice for the crimes they committed while in power, chose to oppose the reforms, withdrew from the coalition government and retreated to Mekele, the Capital of Tigray.
They then planned how to overthrow the Ethiopian government through an armed insurrection. They also committed various crimes on the people of Tigray in order to blame them on federal government. They wanted to play victim to their own-committed crimes in order to incite global hatred against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
But on November 4, 2020, TPLF attacked the army bases in Tigray with an aim of acquiring weaponry and forcefully cause regime change. The Ethiopian military repulsed them in response and actually removed them from power in Tigray.
The country’s Army however withdrew from Tigray in June last year after declaring a Universal Ceasefire on humanitarian grounds.
TPLF which rejected the cease-fire regained control of Tigray and this time expanded the conflict beyond Tigray to Afar and Amhara, purposely to overthrow the government, as it had originally planned.
Damages caused in Afar
The region that was not in any way initially involved in the then 8-month long conflict, on July 19 last year witnessed the unexpected. Mothers and children raped, the vulnarables killed, schools and basic service centres burnt into ashes. The terrorists, TPLF, had actually, arrived.
The atrocities went on for months until recently when the Ethiopian army and Afar regional forces inspired by the Prime Minister who was on the frontline pushed them back to Tigray, although they claim it was a tactical withdrawal.
Buildings of schools, furniture, books, computers and other school office equipment worth 1.1 billion Birr was destroyed. One of the residents Tsegaye Morka wondered why Tigrayan fighters targeted harming the future of their children.
“If they have issues with federal government, why are they burning books and classrooms of the learners? What have the innocent souls got to do with the conflict?” asked Tsegaye.
Adinan Hussein, a Child Protection Officer from Afar region office of Women and Children’s affairs told Plus News that in Galicoma area alone,TPLF killed a total of 204 people including 107 children, 84 mothers and 44 elders.
“Many children are surviving with injuries and lifelong disabilities, others are now disabled. We have now embarked on a process of rehabilitating them but challenged by the meager resources,” he says.
The same was the case in the health sector where health facilities and medicine worth 1.2 billion Birr were burnt.
“Mothers are dying in the bush giving birth, the health centres were destroyed and expectant ones can not access maternity services,” Adinan says.
The group also burnt and destroyed livestock, crops and farms estimated 1.4 billion Birr. Pictures of of bodies of animals killed are seen lying lifeless with injuries in what seemed to be a deliberate move to starve the local population since their lives mainly depend on animals.
Using irrigation, local farmers had embarked on engaging in agriculture but the water and irrigation system worth 754 million Birr was also damaged.
The Tigrayan fighters went as far as destroying worshipping places particularly mosques and burning Islam’s central book, the Holy Quran, as shown to participants in today’s symposium.
It is also worth noting that leaders of the terrorist group have severally claimed that they are fighting to protect the people of Tigray but many here wonder, if at all that is the case, why rape women and girls, why kill animals, why destroy schools and health centers, or even why burn the holy books.
Below are some of the photos of the destroyed property and animals killed by the group in Afar;