The banality of Evil? How TPLF has evolved into a nefarious and villainous death machine

Author Contact information:
Girma Berhanu
Department of Education and Special Education (Professor)
University of Gothenburg
Box 300, SE 405 30
Göteborg, Sweden
E-mail: Girma.Berhanu@ped.gu.se

 

The banality of Evil?

How TPLF has evolved into a nefarious and villainous death machine

“Never react to an evil in such a way as to augment it,” the great French philosopher and activist Simone Weil wrote in 1933 as she contemplated on how to be a complete human being amid a world that seemed to be falling apart.

 

Introduction

 

As a young boy growing in the Mengstu’s era (The Derg), I was continually mesmerized or absorbed by the thoughts of evil in relation to atrocious and cruel acts committed against young people who were accused of anti Derg operation. Many intellectual elites were eliminated during this period. In the name of justice, revolution and ‘proletarian dictatorship’ innocent and hard-working people were executed. I saw these acts as evils in different forms, embedded in structural as well as individual spheres. All that was during my teenage; it left me wondering agonisingly. I never had a conversational partner to grapple with this issue. These tormenting ideas have been hanging upon me for 30 plus years. I have never had an opportunity to discuss the matter with anyone up until now, although I read a number of books on the matter including Hannah Arendt’s.

 

My intention with this less digested paper is just to reflect, based on the research literature and my own observation, on evil deeds and evil motives that engulf Ethiopia under the auspices of TPLF and other destructive political forces, and show the reader the way out of this quagmire.

 

Some people may see evil as a supernatural force, whilst others deny its existence or seek to ignore it. I want to avoid either of these approaches and to account for evil, with all its power, in human experience. It appears that the meaning and seriousness of evil seems to be undermined and trivialised in modern culture[1]. I never associated evil or wickedness with Satan or supernatural factors. In my view the problem of evil is certainly the greatest obstacle to my belief in the existence of God. When I ponder both the extent and depth of suffering in my homeland, whether due to man’s inhumanity to man or to natural disasters, then I must confess that I find it hard to believe that God exists. No doubt many of you have felt the same way. How can we be sure that God does not exist? Perhaps there’s a reason why God permits all the evil in the world. Perhaps it somehow all fits into the grand scheme of things, which we can only dimly discern, if at all. How do we know?

 

According to the logical problem of evil, it is logically impossible for God and evil to co-exist. If God exists, then evil cannot exist. If evil exists, then God cannot exist. Since evil exists, it follows that God does not exist. But the problem with this argument is that there’s no reason to think that God and evil are logically incompatible. There’s no explicit contradiction between them. But if the atheist means there’s some implicit contradiction between God and evil, then he must be assuming some hidden premises which bring out this implicit contradiction. But the problem is that no philosopher has ever been able to identify such premises. Therefore, the logical problem of evil fails to prove any inconsistency between God and evil[2]. When the Mengsitu regime collapsed, I thought no worse system would replace it. It did not take me much to realize how destructive and callous our new rulers were. That was in 1991. I still hoped then that things might change. The 27 years of tyranny by the TPLF[3] has been unbelievably monstrous, brutal and savage in suppressing dissent.

 

Too many devilish and unconscionable acts have been committed against individuals and the nation Ethiopia the consequences of which may last several decades. A month ago, more than 600 unarmed civilians were massacred by TPLF forces (a youth group) in Maikadra area, which is only 30 kilometres away from Humera town, upon which TPLF placed important strategic significance due to access to Sudan and Sudanse port.[4] Apparently, the attack was ethnicity based;[5] and it specifically targeted men. The attackers profiled people, often mainly through their identification cards, as Amharas and Wolkaits. Even so, a number of people from other ethnic groups have also been killed. While it can be verified that women and children were mostly spared, some women, including mothers who had tried to shield their families, suffered severe physical and mental injuries. Moreover, as testified by eyewitnesses, women were also harshly threatened by the perpetrators that the following day would be their turn, “the attackers would come back after the women the following day.”[6].

 

The Northern Command has been stationed in the Tigray region for more than two decades, to serve and protect the people of Tigray from external military threats. In the early hours of 4th November unprovoked, TPLF forces carried out an attack on a federal military base located in Mekelle city. According to the Prime Minister, that attack had been aimed at large-scale looting of military equipment and indiscriminate killings of the soldiers and officers stationed in the military camp[7]. It was that midnight attack on that army camp that plunged Ethiopia into a deadly armed conflict which the government calls law enforcement action.

 

In today’s world of mass communication, gruesome content has become just about as normalized in our society as any other piece of information. However, some atrocious crimes of war are so staggering that they simply defy comprehension even to a most desensitized individual. The monstrous attack on the military base and the barbaric murders committed therein actually defy comprehension. The dreadful testimony about that specific attack by Tigrean members of the military base against their own compatriots from other ethnic groups is virtually beyond comprehension. Imagine, soldiers were killed while still in their pyjamas![8]

 

Countless horrendous acts of terrorism have been and are still being carried out by TPLF[9]. In a recent article entitled Digging own grave: The End days of Ethiopia’s TPLF, Thomas Mountain (2020 Nov)[10] wrote that TPLF has been Africa’s, if not the world’s most corrupt, brutal genocidal regime for the past forty years. Removed from national power in Ethiopia during the peaceful revolution of 2018, the peace deal the USA brokered left them holding out in their home province of Tigray, accommodating one of Ethiopia’s smallest minorities. Providing sanctuary to fugitive criminals, and then sending their paid undercover operatives to commit murder and ethnic mayhem across Ethiopia these past two years, the TPLF has most ruthlessly instigated mayhem and plunged the country into havoc. Indeed, in other words, ‘digging their own graves!!!

 

Those acts are indeed an embodiment of nefarious and devilish organizational behaviour. The belligerently committed atrocities were not in any manner difficult to be discovered by observers of Western powers, who apparently by choice ignored the malice of TPLF. Accordingly, the TPLF considered itself free and somewhat encouraged to defy all moral and legal boundaries. According to Bronwyn Bruton (2020),[11] despite the massive human rights violations that were associated with TPLF rule—despite the authoritarianism and theft, the imprisonments and the torture that have been laid at its door—TPLF international allies have neither repudiated those well-founded concerns, nor have they examined their own inappropriate investment in the TPLF welfare. International analysts, in their assessments of the current crisis, have pointedly and repeatedly failed to even raise any concern about any aspect of the TPLF dishonourable maladministration and intransigence.

 

In this paper, I will attempt to expand upon the foregoing premises as well as the evolution of TPLF evil intentions and monstrous deeds. The reflection is not only upon TPLF deeds and misdeeds but also other destructive forces, in particular the devilish and unconscionable acts instigated by the OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) in the Oromia region.

 

Obedience, Authority and the Banality of Evil: Psychological and philosophical dimensions

 

In the 1960s, psychologist Stanley Milgram (1963, 1974)[12] conducted a series of studies on the concepts of obedience and authority. His experiments involved instructing study participants to deliver increasingly high-voltage shocks to an actor in another room, who would scream and eventually go silent as the shocks became stronger. The shocks weren’t real, but study participants were made to believe that they were. Today, the Milgram experiment is widely criticized on both ethical and scientific grounds. However, Milgram’s conclusions about humanity’s willingness to obey authority figures remain influential and well-known.

 

Had the Tigrean Special Forces, who committed the horrendous crimes in Maikadra, merely obeyed orders from the ageing murderous TPLF rulers? Are the OLF mercenaries and the extremist groups of the Oromo youth (Queeroo) just naïve confused youngsters obeying their bosses? Or are they just following brute impulse, showing a lack of reason or intelligence? Or both?

 

Probably the best-known statement of the thesis that ordinary people may engage in outrageous torture and killing of innocent fellow humans is Arendt’s (1963) report of the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem. Although Eichmann had played a major role in organizing the planned extermination of the European Jews, Arendt portrayed him as an uninspired bureaucrat who had only carried out his instructions. In her famous phrase, Eichmann illustrated the “banality of evil”. For Milgram (1974), and for many of the social psychological discussants of his research (see A. G. Miller, 1986), Arendt’s characterization of Eichmann applied as well to his obedient participants: After witnessing hundreds of ordinary people submit to the authority in our own experiments, I must conclude that Arendt’s conception of the banality of evil comes closer to the truth than one might dare imagine. The ordinary person who shocked his victim did so out of a sense of obligation and not from any peculiarly aggressive tendencies (Milgram, 1974, p. 6)[13].

 

Berkowitz (1999, p. 248) has correctly maintained maintained: “…. at this point, I voice my misgivings. I wonder if those who stress the generalizability of Milgram’s (1974) experiments to the Holocaust and talk about the banality of evil have not unduly neglected the sadism in some of the killings”. Episodes of genocidal acts have been committed intermittently in Ethiopia. One of the latest acts of genocide took place on 1st November 2020 in Guliso district in Oromia Region. The victims (ca 200) were summoned and dragged from their homes; and were taken to the local school compound where they were summarily executed. Dead bodies not having been collected, relatives of the victims pleaded to authorities in the region to help collect littered bodies, in the hope of organizing a proper funeral[14].

 

The gruesomeness of those massacres as well as several others committed elsewhere in Ethiopia, by the master minder TPLF and its ally OLF, have some similarity with what Hannah Arendt herself documented. She was struck by the sadistic nature of some of those who participated in the murder of the Jews. In Arendt’s introduction to Neumann’s 1966 book about the trial of 22 SS men in Frankfurt, she commented about the charges that the defendants had committed horrific acts of torture and murder: No one had issued orders that infants should be thrown into the air as shooting targets, or hurled into the fire alive, or have their heads smashed against walls…. Innumerable individual crimes, one more horrible than the next, surrounded and created the atmosphere of the gigantic crime of extermination (Arendt, as cited in Blass, 1993, p. 36)[15].

 

White (23 April 2018) posed one interesting question: What is the basic confusion behind it? ‘Arendt never did reconcile her impressions of Eichmann’s bureaucratic banality with her earlier searing awareness of the evil, inhuman acts of the Third Reich. She saw the ordinary-looking functionary, but not the ideologically evil warrior. How Eichmann’s humdrum life could co-exist with that ‘other’ monstrous evil puzzled her. Nevertheless, Arendt never downplayed Eichmann’s guilt; she repeatedly described him as a war criminal and concurred with his death sentence as handed down by the Israeli court. Though Eichmann’s motives were, for her, obscure and thought defying, his genocidal acts were not. Indisputably, Arendt saw the true horror of Eichmann’s evil’[16]. In that context, we can see and assess the extent of the TPLF leaders’ inhuman acts against groups of people, individuals and the nation. In my view the leaders are ideologically evil warriors and war-lords intent on the destruction of a rich culture, history and harmony that Ethiopian people have built for centuries.

Mustafa Omer,[17] the President of the Somali Regional State in Ethiopia, succinctly illustrated that when the TPLF lost power in Addis Ababa the EPRDF was disbanded a year later. While the rest of the country embraced a new horizon, the TPLF ideologically evil warriors and warlords clung upon their old divisive ideology and even took it further. Its exclusionary mythology gave birth to the far-right “Agazian” movement, an incipient movement that seeks to create a Tigray homeland by uniting Christian Tigrigna-speaking people in Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is driven by those who see themselves as the successors of the ancient Axumite kingdom and dream of reviving it. I maintain that it is this divisive ideology of lies that has caused havoc in the country. Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate recently said: “The root of all evil is the Ethiopian constitution. A constitution which called itself Ethiopia and ethnic federation. Ethnic federation that means Ethiopia is the only state in the whole world with the system like that. There is no other country in this world with ethnic federation and that’s what ruined this, Ethiopia became the most racist country in the world, we are the only place in Africa where in our identity cards you have the word race written on it.”[18]

Eichmann was not an amoral monster, Arendt concluded in her study of the case, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963). Instead, he performed evil deeds without evil intentions, a fact connected to his ‘thoughtlessness’, a disengagement from the reality of his evil acts. Lacking this particular cognitive ability, he ‘commit[ted] crimes under circumstances that made it well-nigh impossible for him to know or to feel that he [was] doing wrong’. I am not sure that this applies to the TPLF rulers. In my view and observation data, they performed evil deeds with devilish intentions, to cause harm to the historical nation and its proud people.

For Arendt’s critics, this focus on Eichmann’s insignificant, banal life seemed to be an ‘absurd digression’ from his evil deeds[19]. I partly agree with that statement. So what should we conclude about Arendt’s claim that Eichmann (as well as other Germans) did evil without being evil? “Evil comes from a failure to think. It defies thought for as soon as thought tries to engage itself with evil and examine the premises and principles from which it originates, it is frustrated because it finds nothing there. That is the banality of evil” (Arendt, 1963[20]). Eichmann in Jerusalem may remain, unfortunately, an increasingly relevant masterwork as we face a world like Ethiopia, seized by time-worn tyrants (such as Jawar Mohammed, Dr. Debretsion, Professor Ezkiel Gabisa, Bekele Gerba, Getachew Assefa, Getachew Redda Tsegaye Ararsa etc) capable of perpetrating enormous evil with their small hands.

Rape, genital maiming/mutilation and infamous secret killings

Rape, genital maiming/mutilation, and sexual violence including sodomy, was a practice in Ethiopian prisons during the EPRDF/TPLF era. Whether rape is conducted in a war situation or within the bounds of prison as a method of torture, the purpose is to humiliate the victim, and to intimidate others. It may be carried out to obtain information from a third party. Apparently, it is one major reason why the authorities condone or encourage the rapes, which are never purposeless. Rape is committed for a combination of motives, including the exercising of power, the infliction of humiliation, and for quenching the perpetrator’s perverted sexual inclination. It is significant that it is not uncommon that even the perpetrator is not likely to know which is predominant. Unsolicited and not consented sexual activity, by its very nature, is invariably humiliating and degrading, which is not necessarily the case for non-sexual assault. When it is carried out in an organized manner it aggravates the humiliating and degrading treatment such that it can be considered torture[21].

The evidence in Berhanu’s report (2018)[22] testifies to the fact that Ethiopia under TPLF/EPRDF had become a hub of those evil practices, which overwhelmingly were never investigated and those suspected of criminal responsibility never brought to justice. Criminal proceedings in Ethiopia continue to place the burden of proof on an individual complaining of torture or other ill-treatment, something which flies in the face of international human rights law and standards. The law rightly places the burden of proof on the authorities to prove that confessions were lawfully obtained, but judges (extension of the corrupt political system) still continue to give primacy to evidence presented by a public prosecutor without questioning its legality, and are failing to exclude evidence obtained under rape-sodomy or other form of sexual torture and ill-treatment. These acts of evil can mushroom into monumental tragedies; the individual human perpetrators of those acts are however often marked not with the grandiosity of the demonic but with absolute mundaneness.

In the early days of TPLF a lot of crime, sabotage and executions in brutal manners against dissenters occurred.[23] The dissenters were either veteran members of the movement or members of other movements who at one time had collaborated with them. Commonly, those dissenters to TPLF were those fighters and grass root members of such groupings as EPRP and other Tigrean political movements that were not in line with the core thesis of the TPLF. Some people have described these plotters within the TPLF as evil people, malicious (cunning) on secret killings and kidnappings.

Malevolence and General Dark Factor of Personality (D-factor)

Do evil people exist? While the answer to this question may depend on your religious, ideological or educational background and what you understand “evil” to be, scientists have figured out that people have a “dark core” to their personality. What’s more, a General Dark Factor of Personality (D-factor) exists that can tell the extent of a person’s dark traits, which cause questionable ethical, moral and social behaviour.

One research team from Germany and Denmark defined the D-factor as “the basic tendency to maximize one’s own utility at the expense of others, accompanied by beliefs that serve as justifications for one’s malevolent behaviours.” “Antisocial behaviour, aggression, cheating,” he said. “This should all be related to the dark factor.”[24]The psychologists established that the D-factor observed in the human population not only serves as a unifying theme among the dark traits, it also works with the principle of “indifference of indicator”. This term is typically used in the context of the ‘general factor of intelligence’ (g-factor), whereby scoring highly on one intelligence test usually means you’ll score higher on other intelligence tests. Intelligence types are related, and no matter what tests you administer to gauge it, the g-factor will still be there—its existence is independent of the tests used to measure it. The researchers discovered that people who score highly on a single dark trait tend to also score highly on several other dark traits, suggesting that there is a common core of darkness: dark traits are related[25]. The 9 traits of malevolence that one finds in this line of research are: 1. Egoism:  2. Machiavellianism:  3. Moral disengagement:  4. Narcissism:  5. Psychological entitlement:  6. Psychopathy 7. Sadism:  8. Self-interest:  9. Spitefulness. According to my limited observations and the stories I have been hearing over several decades about TPLF and extreme Oromo nationalists, including their militant organizations, it is a justified conclusion that the leaders or their ardent supporters appear to have some of these traits of malevolence or The Dark factor.

The difficult aspect of this line of research is to reveal the extent to which these traits can be developed or manifested within certain radical movements, or the extent to which these traits are products of the environment in which they are formed (socialization within the movements or elsewhere), or the extent of the disposition that these individuals are born with that gravitate them to these kinds of movements. These all are complex matters. How do we characterize Berhanemeskel Abebe Signe, Shimelis Abdisa, Abaye Tsehaye, and Mellese Zenawi etc. along those dimensions mentioned in the foregoing theoretical references?[26] These traits are sources of evil in the sense of profound immorality, demonic and monstrous acts. In my opinion these people ‘lack an inherent human quality: the capacity for thought, consciousness – conscience’. In my line of thought I am partly in agreement with Arendt (1963)[27] and partly in line with her critics (see Wolfe, 2011)[28]

The philosopher Alan Wolfe distinguishes between evil in general and political evil in particular; and argues that we should think politically about evil because the evil that we can actually do something about is a form of politics and can be defeated only if understood as such. Political evil—genocide, massacre, terrorism, ethnic cleansing—is another matter. Here, Wolfe argues that we are dealing with motives, intentions, which while repellent are political. Killing all Jews is not crazy: It is a plan that will make you master of all you survey. Expelling everyone unlike yourself is not insane: It guarantees eternal domination for your kind. Terrorizing a people you cannot defeat in battle is not pathological: It may force your enemy to yield. Wolfe asks us to fight evil with the restraint of adults, not with the certainty of adolescents: Politics does not ask that we eradicate evil from the dark hearts of men and women. It does demand that when faced with tactics that threaten our way of life in the pursuit of political goals, we at least make an effort to understand why those goals were chosen in the first place. Fighting evil with evil contaminates, but fighting politics with politics does not[29].

 

The current Ethiopian government is fighting against a ruthless organization (TPLF) that is vividly involved in terrorism, accountable for genocide and other criminal activities. Its demonic bird of the feather, OLF, is still also carrying out the same. The government fails to label the organizations as terrorists, despite calls from the parliament that it should do so. Government reservation generates more speculations among Ethiopians, on the intent of such a decision, not knowing the purpose it might serve. What else can one expect from other governments, to support the case, when the Ethiopian government itself avoids declaring the organization a terrorist? Al-Qaida was labelled a terrorist organization without checking and taking into account the number of innocent members in the group. The Ethiopian government has much disqualified itself politically by not addressing this crucial issue[30]. Similarly, Dr. Aklog Birara, in a recent article, with a title Time for the International Community to Designate the TPLF as a Terrorist Group, wrote that TPLF terrorism is the same as terrorism by Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab and Boko Haram. The fact that its architects are Tigrean does not make it any less brutal and lethal. Just think of this. The TPLF murdered more than 600 innocent people in Mai Kadra because they were Amhara and Wolkaite. The TPLF sponsored other murders in Ethiopia.

 

Tribalism is outdated but alive and kicking in the evil minds of the TPLF. Do you know of any African nation that has not banned political party formation based on ethnic identity or religion? Why did the TPLF, the chief architect of ethnic-federalism and the current constitution, select such a divisive architecture? The answer is simple. It is to enable it to divide and rule. It is to plunder Ethiopian resources for the benefit of TPLF families, friends, and stooges. The TPLF has accomplished that with aplomb. Any benefits grudgingly dripping down to ordinary Tigreans are however minuscule.

 

The TPLF and the OLF/Shine must be designated as terrorist organizations[31]. Sometimes I have been tempted to believe that ‘God is dead in Ethiopia’. Friedrich Nietzsche, the great atheist of the 19th century who proclaimed the death of God, understood that the death of God meant the destruction of all meaning and value in life. The evil forces in Ethiopia are intent on destroying the meaning of life and intrinsic value of humanity.

 

Intellectual Genocide and Cultural genocide

 

Berhanu (2017) argued that during the TPLF era (up until now in disguised form) intellectual genocide had been in the making in three different forms: (1) Systematic discrimination against certain groups in matters regarding higher education opportunities, and particularly scholarship grants; (2) Brain drain — the disproportionate emigration of intellectuals and young skilled Ethiopians— that increased under the TPLF regime;[32] and (3) Cultural genocide.[33]

 

Cultural genocide is a strong term, and its definitional explanation is contentious in the international literature. For my purpose, it refers to the actions of the TPLF regime that had the aim or effect of depriving Ethiopians of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities, and tried to construct a new narrative on the origin of Ethiopia. Within that context, it also includes the actions of the regime aimed at, and effecting, dispossession of land-ownership and occupancy; and dispossession of territories or resources, as witnessed for instance in Gambela region, in Oromia region, in Wolqait Tegede, and in North Wollo region (Berhanu, 2017). The agony of the Wolqait Tegede people in particular, is a telling example of depriving them of their integrity as distinct people, and dispossession of their lands, territories, or resources. Those people were forced to assimilate into the Tigrean culture and language — technically imposed on them by legislative, administrative, or other measures. One aspect of this cultural destruction or disintegration of social fabrics and networks is deeply related to large scale land investments by foreigners. As Abbink (2011: 609)[34] captured: “A new phenomenon since c.2006 is that of the federal and regional governments handing out huge tracts of land for commercial agrarian investment, mostly to foreigners, against lease fees and easy conditions.”[35]

 

The spread of asymmetrically exaggerated grievance narratives, and outright false historical assertions made by Oromo extremist nationalists, that have deadly and potentially genocidal consequences, are not widely known and accordingly much less being refuted based on historical facts and evidence. [36]

 

 

Human Wickedness and Our Only Effective Antidote to It’

“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

In her book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, Hannah Arendt discussed “Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship”, which provoked much heated controversy throughout the intellectual world. In that specific book, as well as in a number of her articles in The New Yorker, she deals with the topic from a philosophical perspective. She has referred to the post-war climate in Germany — where those personally innocent during the Nazi period all admitted to their “collective guilt” while the real criminals showed no remorse —  as “the quintessence of moral confusion” (Arendt, 1987)[37].

Arendt (ibid.) is of the view that the concept of collective guilt, as opposed to individual guilt, is “senseless,” and it only serves as an effective “whitewash” for guilty individuals to hide behind. I raise this point because I would like to reflect on the consciousness of the TPLF supporters, including the Tigreans at large. I am sure that not all of them supported the regime, the one which lost power in 2018. I want to believe that they also live (d) under fear and control. Of course, there is a great deal of brainwashing. I am sure all did not benefit from the new opportunities. That is what I want to believe, although some of my respondents tell me different discourses.

My position is that it is not right to blame an entire group collectively simply because members of the group have committed genocide or massacres, or have shown indifference to the plight of others. Legal analysts and philosophers still argue about the phenomenon of collective guilt.[38] The English dictionary defines collective guilt as guilt that is shared by a group of people over an act or actions that are seen as shameful. It is not commonly talked about, but does in fact manifest, for instance that the Afrikaners of South Africa have a collective guilt over Apartheid. So do the Germans with regard to the Holocaust. In this regard, it should have probably been high time to hear from the ethnic Tigreans such voices as ” Not In My Name”. All the same, the phenomenon of collective responsibility, also known as collective guilt, is a highly contentious matter in the Ethiopian context. Are all the Tigreans responsible for the atrocities of TPLF — through tolerating them, ignoring their criminal activities, harboring them, or actively collaborating in their actions? Are the Oromos responsible for the actions of OLF?

In July 2020, a disheartened friend of mine wrote to me:

“I’m puzzled and perplexed by what is happening at home in Ethiopia. The Oromo youth is simply pilling down the onion of Oromo civility. Pumped with empty bravado and false pretext history for decades since the days of the Derg regime, the youth has turned out to be wild, partial, ethnocentric, and without any humane empathy in them. To this youth Ethiopia is synonymous to Amhara. Even some close friends have cut connections with me because of my stand on united Ethiopia. I’m not sure how to cure and rekindle sense of unity in the minds of this furious and fiery Oromo youth.” 

Various new forms of destabilization narratives, and hate speech openly uttered by the political elites as well as some sections of groups of the Queeroo, have been repeatedly documented. Most of those speeches incite hatred and conflicts, apparently intended to destroy the peacefully woven inter-ethnic relationships prevailing in the country. These hate speeches have very recently resulted in killings of hundreds up to thousands of civilians, mostly non-Oromos in the Oromo region. Thousands were injured and most of the victims are members of the Amhara, Gurage etc. ethnic groups. The reports which are still arriving detail horrible killings, looting and other violence. The attacks were driven by a misguided urge to fully get rid of non-Oromos from the entire region.[39]  Schools, hospitals, business centers, places of worship and public facilities were attacked and destroyed, and houses and villages burned down. According to local reports, there were incidents whereby the local security forces collaborated with the killers.[40]

Probably the oldest example of accusation for collective responsibility is the practice of blaming the Jews for the crucifying of Jesus Christ. In this case, the blame was cast not only upon the Jews of the time but upon successive generations as well. This comes from Matthew 27:25-66 New International Version (NIV) 25: “All the people answered, ‘His blood is on us and on our children!'”. This collectivist idea that groups of humans can bear guilt above and beyond the guilt of individual members, and hence individuals hold responsibility for what other members of their group have commited, even if they themselves did not, is problematic in my view. However, at least a symbolic resistance or some form of manifestation is morally expected from the Tigran and Oromo people, and their civil societies, because the crime is being committed in their names. After all, if they do not ally with the oppressed segments of the Ethiopian population, history will harshly judge them. Moreover, one expects some form of dissent or disagreement with the methods, goals, and policies of the political party, local security forces and government. In any case, Tigreans or Oromos should not all be held collectively responsible for the crimes of their elites, although it may be argued that they have a moral responsibility.

The key components of the basic notion of moral responsibility, as David Risser accurately captured,[41] are deeply rooted in the fabric of every society and are constitutive of social life.[42] Without some conception of moral responsibility, no amount of imaginative insight will render a society recognizable as a human society. While there is broad, often tacit, agreement regarding the basic model of moral responsibility as it applies to individuals, there is considerable debate about how this notion might be applied to groups and their members.

 

 

 

Conclusion

We should sensitize people on moral responsibility. Without having to deeply enter into the philosophical discussion on moral responsibility, it is expected that it should be generally within our capacity as human beings primarily and secondly as Ethiopians to make the correct moral and ethical choices. Our free-will capacity makes us morally accountable. Our main problem contributing to the prevailing evil intentions and deeds to dismantle the county and spill blood has to do with our lack of making appropriate judgment about whether a person is morally responsible for his or her behavior, and holding others and ourselves responsible for actions and the consequences of actions. It is a fundamental and familiar part of our moral practices and our interpersonal relationships. It is high time to exercise this moral responsibility at a family, school, religious institutions and at other social sectors.

We should be well aware that the political elites play with fomenting conflicts and tensions among our religious and spiritual leaders as well as ethnic groups. The existence of this kind of power games and domination should neither be concealed nor denied, and should be openly discussed by the religious establishments, schools and youth clubs, as these tensions might lead into ethnic-based violence and instability

The faithful[43] demand honesty and integrity from their leaders. We need the resolute voices of our religious and community leaders, because they carry great power to galvanize our communities toward more effective and spiritually-grounded measures for justice and moral responsibility. It is unacceptable that our leaders are silent in the face of unspeakable atrocities. They should make their voices for peace heard, and call upon for the political leaders to appropriately address matters, and encourage the regime to abide to the rule of law and bring the perpetrators to justice.[44]

The whole state and federal political, social and economic infrastructure are infiltrated by ethno-nationalist cadres and dangerous forces. “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”[45]

If you, religious and community leaders [including the multitude of political parties] in Ethiopia, do not stand in uniform condemnation of this killing spree, genocidal act, then not only will you be judged by our people, not only will you be judged by history, you will as well be judged by God. There is no room in today’s Ethiopia for different faiths, different sects or different doctrines to battle over power, when the battle is between good and evil, death and life. It is a matter of priority! A Great Evil has pervaded that ancient land. And there’s more but our attitude will govern the rest, including our alertness to the dangers facing us as a nation and of the necessity to put on the whole armor of God and be ready.

[1] Leonard Berkowitz (1999) Evil Is More Than Banal: Situationism and the Concept of Evil. DOI: 10.1207/s15327957pspr0303_7. Pers Soc Psychol Rev 1999; 3; 246

[2] https://www.middlewaysociety.org/what-is-evil/

[3] TPLF was, until two years ago the main and most powerful party within the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the so- called ruling political coalition which consists of four political parties. The TPLF-backed Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front took power after the collapse of the Derg in 1991.

[4] A Tigrayan youth group stabbed, strangled, and bludgeoned to death at least 600 civilians with the collusion of local security forces during a massacre in the town of Mai Kadra, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said on Tuesday. https://in.reuters.com/article/ethiopia-conflict-massacre-idINKBN2841X1

[5] The TPLF murdered more than 1,500 innocent people in Mai Kadra because they were non-Tigrean. The TPLF preidentified and murdered non-Tigrean members of Ethiopia’s Northern Command in Mekele. It also sponsored other murders in Ethiopia. The TPLF perpetrated rocket attacks. (https://www.satenaw.com/time-for-ethiopias-friends-to-designate-the-tigray-peoples-liberation-front-as-terrorists/) Dr. Aklog Birara: Time for Ethiopia’s Friends to Designate the Tigray People’s Liberation Front as Terrorists (December 2, 2020).

[6] https://ethiopiaobservatory.com/2020/11/24/ethiopias-human-rights-commission-preliminary-findings-about-the-maykadra-massacre/?fbclid=IwAR3ofLKpWY6KeS-ldDvljvEBaPzClv1FvjtpNc8RIeyFzzkwI8BqK80VP3c. Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission Preliminary Findings about the Maykadra Massacre | THE ETHIOPIA OBSERVATORY (TEO).

[7] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-54805088

[8] https://ecadforum.com/2020/12/06/the-midnight-attack-on-an-army-camp-that-plunged-ethiopia-into-war/amp/

[9] The TPLF Special Forces committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Mai Kadra, the Amhara region of Ethiopia where more than 1,500 innocent civilians were massacred in a single night on November 9, 2020. It called on all terrorist, extremist, and jihadist forces in Ethiopia to rise-up and create havoc and destruction. The specific intent to cause civil war and to Balkanize Ethiopia. https://www.satenaw.com/time-for-ethiopias-friends-to-designate-the-tigray-peoples-liberation-front-as-terrorists/

[10] https://www.tesfanews.net/digging-own-grave-ethiopia-tplf-end-days/

[11] Bronwyn Bruton. FRI, NOV 13, 2020. Calls for negotiation are driving Ethiopia deeper into war. Africa Source by Bronwyn Bruton. Africa Conflict Ethiopia Politics & Diplomacy Security & Defense

[12] Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. Journal ofAbnormal and Social Psychology, 67, 371-378.Milgram, S. (1974). Obedience to authority: An experimental view. New York: Harper & Row.

[13] See Leonard Berkowitz (1999)

[14] Ethiopia: Over 50 ethnic Amhara killed in attack on village by armed group | Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/11/ethiopia-over-50-ethnic-amhara-killed-in-attack-on-village-by-armed-group/. https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/w/massacre-in-ethiopia-sparks-fears-of-war-as-country-plunges-into-further-instabilityhttps://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/02/world/africa/ethiopia-school-massacre.html.  https://www.news18.com/news/world/survivors-of-a-rebel-massacre-have-counted-54-bodies-in-a-schoolyard-in-ethiopia-says-amnesty-international-3035978.html

[15] Leonard Berkowitz (1999)

[16] What did Hannah Arendt really mean by the banality of evil? Thomas White is a Wiley Journal contributing author, whose philosophical and theological writings have appeared in print and online. https://aeon.co/ideas/what-did-hannah-arendt-really-mean-by-the-banality-of-evil.

[17] https://www.geeskaafrika.com/the-conflict-in-ethiopia-and-tplfs-ultra-nationalist-ideology/amp/

[18] https://ecadforum.com/2020/12/06/the-root-of-all-evil-is-the-ethiopian-constitution/amp/

[19] https://aeon.co/ideas/what-did-hannah-arendt-really-mean-by-the-banality-of-evil

[20] Arendt, Hannah (1963) Eichmann in Jerusalem. New York: Viking.

[21] Milkias, Paulos, “Ethiopia, The TPLF and Roots of the 2001 Political Tremor” (2001). International Conference on African Development Archives. 4. https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/africancenter_icad_archive/4

[22] Berhanu, G. (2018). Rape and genital maiming/mutilation as a torture method in Ethiopian Prisons: Evidence that prisoners of conscience, critical journalists, and activists have been abused. Advances in Social Sciences Research Journal, 5(10) 346-361.

[23] EVIL DAYS 30 YEARS OF WAR AND FAMINE IN ETHIOPIA. An Africa Watch Report. September 1991

485 Fifth Avenue. New York, NY 10017-6104

[24] Hilbig, B. E., Thielmann, I., Klein, S. A., Moshagen, M., Zettler, I. (in press). The dark core of personality and socially aversive psychopathology. Journal of Personality. https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12577

[25] Moshagen, M., Hilbig, B. E., Zettler, I. (2018). The dark core of personality. Psychological Review, 125, 656–688. http://doi.org/10.z1037/rev0000111

[26] They have all been implicated in a number of occurrences of hate-speech unlawfulness, crimes against humanity and ’genocidal acts’.

[27] Some argue that Her use of the phrase “the banality of evil” in the context of Eichmann and the Holocaust was highly controversial. She was accused of being naïve in interpreting his motives and insensitive to her fellow Jews. But she was making an important point – with some courage under the circumstances – about the universal human potential for dehumanisation.

[28] Political Evil: What It Is and How to Combat It (2011),

[29] Wolfe, Alan (2011).Political evil : what it is and how to combat it. New York : Alfred A. Knopf, ©2011

 

[30] 20201204.Dr. Taye Demeke. Gothenburg posted on facebook

[31] https://ecadforum.com/2020/12/01/time-for-the-international-community-to-designate-the-tplf-as-a-terrorist-group/amp/

[32]   According to some observers, Ethiopia has become a substantial net exporter of academic talent. That is what is brain drain from Ethiopia to other countries.( https://www.satenaw.com/ethiopia-intellectual-genocide-making-george-carlin/)

[33] https://www.satenaw.com/ethiopia-intellectual-genocide-making-george-carlin/

[34] Jon Abbink (2011) Ethnic-based federalism and ethnicity in Ethiopia: reassessing the experiment after 20 years, Journal of Eastern African Studies, 5:4, 596-618, DOI:

[35] Berhanu, G. (2017). Ethiopia: Intellectual Genocide in the making? The Strong and Pervasive Evidence of Ethnic Inequalities.

Advances in Social Sciences Research Journal, 4(13) 133-165. Most of the land is said to be unproductive and empty terrain, fit for cultivation. Partly this is true. But a large portion of these lands is also used in a low- intensity manner by local groups as essential livelihood supplement (e.g., livestock pasture,   forest product gathering, beekeeping, shifting cultivation, water supply). The figures are staggering, and the land being formally state property is easily alienated from local people and then fenced off. In many cases, proper socio-ecological assessment studies have not been carried out, and the idea of serious dialogue about the plans is absent. Again ethnic minorities, although not the only ones affected, are especially vulnerable because they   cannot defend their rights (small numbers, lack of language knowledge and regional      connections). The options for local people are to move out and migrate to other areas, or to become (low-paid) laborers on the newly established mega-farms, taken out of their social fabric and networks. Alternative areas or facilities are not prepared for them and many are lost and become destitute” (see extensive references there in).

[36] Settler Colonialism: The Oromo Extremist Narrative (Getaneh Yismaw). https://borkena.com/2019/06/13/settler-colonialism-the-oromo-extremist-narrative-getaneh-yismaw

[37] Bernauer, J. (ed.), 1987, Amor Mundi: Explorations in the Faith and Thought of Hannah Arendt, Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff.

[38] Arendt, Hannah, “Collective Responsibility.” in  Amor Mundi, ed. J.W. Brenner (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, (1987) p. 50. For a further analysis of the phenomenon see French, Peter A., ed., Individual and Collective Responsibility, (Cambridge, Mass: Schenkman, 1972).

[39] According to the field report “These were the most horrific days for Christians in the Oromo region. There are different factions in the region. Some are ethno-nationalist and others are religious. The majority of those who got killed in a brutal way (beheaded and mutilated) are Orthodox Christian of Amhara Ethnicity. The other targets were Gurage, Wolayita, Tigreans, and Gammo ethnicities. No governmental forces were present in the scene. The murders were armed with knives and guns. Nobody stopped nor interfered. After the massacre, government soldiers are deployed.” (Source Source: OCP http://www.spc.rs/eng/genocide_orthodox_christians_and_minorities_ethiopia. Christian world News.

[40] https://mg.co.za/africa/2020-07-14-my-son-died-the-worst-kind-of-death-horrific-details-of-violent-unrest-in-ethiopia/ ; https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/07/160-killed-ethiopia-protests-singer-murder-200705063929720.html; https://www.dw.com/en/ethiopia-death-toll-doubles-from-unrest-over-singers-murder/a-54059817; https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/ethiopias-week-of-unrest-sees-239-dead-3500-arrested/2020/07/08/8eb30952-c100-11ea-8908-68a2b9eae9e0_story.html  ;https://www.france24.com/en/20200716-we-have-nothing-ethiopia-s-ethnic-unrest-leaves-destruction-in-its-wake.

[41] Risser, David T., “Power and Collective Responsibility.” Kinesis, vol. 9, no. 1 (1978) pp. 23-33. Risser, David T., “The Social Dimension of Moral Responsibility: Taking Organizations Seriously.” Journal of Social Philosophy, vol. 27, no. 1 (1996) pp. 189-207. http://www.iep.utm.edu/collecti/. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP). Collective Moral Responsibility May, Larry, The Morality of Groups (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987).

 

[42] French, Peter A., ed., Individual and Collective Responsibility, (Cambridge, Mass: Schenkman, 1972) ; and also Arendt, Hannah, “Collective Responsibility.” in  Amor Mundi, ed. J.W. Brenner (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, (1987) p. 50.

 

[43] The overwhelming majority in Ethiopia is religious and the importance of religion in creating harmony cannot be underestimated.

[44] https://ecadforum.com/2020/10/14/silence-gives-consent-the-tragedy-of-ethiopia-and-ethiopians/ ‘Silence gives consent’ The tragedy of Ethiopia and Ethiopians. Posted by: ECADF in Opinions October 14, 2020. by Girma Berhanu

[45] https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/705426-each-time-a-man-stands-up-for-an-ideal-or

4 Comments

  1. Professor Girma Berhanu has written a thoughtful, informative, and highly educative article about the the morally depraved, murderous cabal that is the Tigray people’s Liberation Front. Marked by academic rigor, it is, however, written in a breezy style that is accessible to a much broader public. Bravo, Professor Girma!

  2. sewbelaw Tesfaye Demmelash , are you one of those pad PP cyber militias ? They paid 5,000 euros to Tolosa Ibassa to wage war on Tigray and Oromia . I guess you are paid more than that . Wusha yesew dem metach

  3. Professor had highlighted numerous facts which are hidden from international community and especially from major media outlets. The normal reaction of major media groups in the world in situations like the Tigray conflict is ‘protecting/defending the minority from the majority’. Significant number of countries believed that the Weyane leaders in Tigray had genuine reasons to fighting the rest of the country. A few had little idea that it was the minority who were preparing themselves for 27 years for war, arming themselves even with technologically advanced weaponary, including rockets and missiles. The “minority” group had recruited, trained and deployed about a quarter of a million troops. The day the war started, the criminal old Ethiopian leaders in Tigray attacked several garrisons after disconnecting telephone routes and electric supply lines.
    I think professor’s article is an eye-opener to those who were misinformed and misguided by baised information. The whole world should understand the hienous crime committed by TPLF.
    Thank you professor girma

  4. Greetings, Doctor Girma Berhanu

    1st. I am NOT — NEVER HAVE BEEN — a voluntary follower of ANY Ethiopian Leaders.

    2nd: I confess, I did not read ALL the pages of your admired detailed Article but enough to trigger a question to you

    Therefore: In just a a COUPLE OF WORDS (no more), how would you characterize Emperor Haile Selassie, the King of Kings, of the Tribe of Judah ?
    —————————————

    P.S.
    We will not go onto the horror of Mengistu, who still garner admiration by his followers (without being vocal )!!!!!!!

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