A forgotten war

Publish date 01-05-2021

by Paolo Lambruschi

In the Horn of Africa 300,000 displaced people, humanitarian aid at risk.

I press the button that rewinds the images imprinted in my memory and I remember a song from almost 40 years ago "Do they know It's Christmas" which in the meantime has become a classic. Sung by several international music stars, it was supposed to finance the famine victims in Ethiopia and then led to the organization of the LiveAid benefit concerts. It came to my mind following the latest developments of the conflict that broke out on November 4, 2020 in Tigrai, a northern Ethiopian region where a communication and telephone blackout and isolation prevented the access of the media and humanitarian workers, hiding atrocious facts.
The suspicion that in the Tigrai, northern region of Ethiopia, if not a genocide something terrible against the population is taking place, is strong, but it is not possible to prove it. We can only patiently collect the pieces of a mosaic depicting death, violence and destruction. And a cruelty never seen even 40 years ago, when the famine and hunger that moved the world thanks to a song - we discovered it later, they told me about it during a trip to the Tigray - were also caused by drought, but above all by civil war and from the aid freeze. A million people died. The accusation made today by the Tigrinya diaspora, very lively on social networks, is that an attempt at genocide is underway like that of 40 years ago, when the communist government that then ruled Ethiopia, failing to militarily defeat the guerrillas that some year later they drove them out, starved the people. Today the plague of locusts that have plagued the Horn of Africa for two years has been joined by a new conflict and the blockade of humanitarian aid.
We must stop this forgotten war which has displaced 300,000 people. We do not know the number of victims and injured despite the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who launched the offensive against a part of his own people (making the committee repent that only a few months ago awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize 2019) has declared the hostilities ended on November 27. Because instead, fighting continues in different areas of the region and the reports of the few humanitarian agencies that have been allowed to enter speak of only five functioning hospitals. Therefore there is a lack of medicines, drinking water, electricity, food. According to the United Nations at least 2 million out of 6 million citizens risking starvation, once again screaming in silence. Until a year ago, no one thought that there would be such a violent confrontation between a federal and a regional government. The chronicles speak of destroyed churches, massacres of the population, rape perhaps perpetrated by both sides with the addition of Eritrean troops alongside the federal army of dictator Isayas Afewerki, regional Amhara militias and Somali troops - all sworn enemies of Tigrinya rulers - who allegedly committed terrible crimes. But the conditional is a must in this war without images and words, fought above all on social media while on the ground it risks killing thousands of people.
Now we can once again understand where the ethnic nationalisms incited by politicians lead. And the error of that Constitution wanted by the Tigrayans themselves when they led the country on the Yugoslav model that allows each region to have its own militias. The tragic history we saw in the Balkans in the 90s is thus repeating itself in the Horn of Africa to which we are linked not only by colonial history, but also by many relationships of friendship and solidarity built over the years by missionaries, NGOs and many people. of good will. The only possibility is that now the weapons will be silenced by the UN and the new American administration, leaving room for those who help and those who have to tell what really happened. To avoid going back 40 years.
Paolo Lambruschi
NP February 2021

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