This is a brief take from Getting Ethiopia Dead Wrong by Veteran Horn of Africa Correspondent, Rasmus Sonderriis
On November 9 and 10, 2020, less than a week after the attack on the Northern Command, the first big massacre of unarmed civilians took place in the small town of Mai-Kadra, near the border with Sudan. The various investigations range in their estimates between 600 and 1,100 deaths. The killings were perpetrated by TPLF-loyal militia members with rudimentary arms, accompanied by gun-carrying policemen, who were formally under the command of Tigray’s regional government, and who spent the morning of November 9 locating those to be killed. These were all or nearly all Amharas.
The Mai-Kadra massacre ended when various forces loyal to the Ethiopian constitution arrived. Reuters did a fairly thorough journalistic report, although it has been criticized for the testimonies about revenge killings coming from refugee camps in Sudan, full of escaped militia members and under TPLF control. Like countless other media throughout the war, Reuters also used a source exclusively interested in Tigrayan casualties, who is located in Belgium, though he used to reside in Tigray. His name is Jan Nyssen, a geography professor from Ghent University, who gives speeches at TPLF rallies and events, yet passes off his ‘research’ as neutral. We shall look more at his incredibly successful propaganda role in Part 3.
In general, TPLF-friendly analysts have glossed over their mis-prediction that Ethiopian military victory would lead to genocide, by going for a more expansive definition. Thus, in an interview eight days after the peace deal, Kjetil Tronvoll said: “Definition of genocide does not rely on numbers killed, but the intent behind why they were killed.”
If this is so, the Mai-Kadra massacre qualifies as genocide. Ethnonationalist extremists went from door to door to kill men and boys solely for being Amhara. The use of knives, machetes and rope is indeed reminiscent of the Rwandan genocide. So are the many incidents of Tigrayans who risked their lives by hiding their Amhara neighbors. This paper presents enough outrages to emotionally drain the reader without the need for personal closeups. War crimes, it cannot be repeated enough, occurred on both sides, having been widely reported in graphic detail, albeit mainly to attract audiences and score partisan points rather than to present evidence that can hold up in court. Suffice to note that, although Martin Plaut tried to obscure the culpability for some days, the atrocity in Mai-Kadra was thoroughly investigated on the ground, including by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR. There is also abundant photographic and forensic evidence.
The Mai-Kadra massacre may have sought to turn the war into an ethnic one, sowing terror and provoking acts of revenge. Sadly, it had some success in the north-western corner of Ethiopia where Mai-Kadra is located, compounded by a brutal history in the pre-war years and a still-lingering territorial dispute, which will also be addressed in Part 3.
On November 13 and again on November 20, 2020, the TPLF fired missiles against two airports in Amhara Region, arguing that this was retaliation for air raids in Tigray, which the federal government, in turn, said were intended to blow up arms depots. Getachew Reda also threatened cross-border strikes into Eritrea, which were carried out on November 14 and 27, when multiple rockets hit the capital, Asmara. This internationalization of the conflict was condemned by Secretary Pompeo.
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