(Statement by the Government of Tigray on the Status of Western Tigray)

The government of Tigray takes note of an article in ‘Le Monde’, entitled ‘’In Ethiopia, negotiations between the government and Tigray to be organized behind the scene.’’

The newspaper suggests that, as part of the behind-the-scenes pre-negotiation talks, the Government of Tigray has loosened its ironclad position on the status of Western Tigray and that it might abandon its claims to a legitimate, constitutionally-recognized Tigrayan territory in the interest of facilitating peace talks.

This outrageous claim, apparently based on unnamed diplomatic sources in Addis, could not be farther from the truth. The Government of Tigray has always made it clear that any lasting resolution of the current crisis must be predicated on the reestablishment of the prewar status quo ante. In practical terms, such a step requires the complete and verified withdrawal of all invading forces from every square inch of Tigrayan territory seized by force.

It is to be recalled that the genocidal war on Tigray has led to the violent revision of Ethiopia’s internal boundaries. The expansionist Amhara elite has forcibly seized, exponentially complicating efforts to bring this tragic war to an end.

The genocidal Eritrean army, which has been credibly accused of violating international humanitarian laws by using starvation as a weapon of war, among countless atrocities, provides the military muscle behind the occupation of a constitutionally-recognized, legitimate Tigrayan territory. The Eritrean army also occupies parts of the North-Western, Central and Eastern Zones of Tigray, with the horrific human rights violations inherent in occupation by a murderous army.

These forces have committed and continue to commit unimaginably atrocious war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide on our people in Western Tigray. The U.S. Government had, in fact, publicly accused occupying Amhara forces of engaging in a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing as early March 2021.

In a recent investigative report, Amnesty International and Human Rights watch systematically document a vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing against Tigrayans, with rampant extrajudicial killings, forcible eviction of Tigrayans and mass detention of Tigrayans under cruel, inhumane and degrading conditions. Hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans have been uprooted from their homes. Thousands have been viciously murdered, with their bodies dumped into the Tekeze river, and their remains floating offshore in Sudan. The goal behind such a murderous rampage is simple: to manufacture “new” demographic facts on the ground to legitimize the expansionist Amhara elite’s baseless irredentism.

Against this backdrop, it defies common sense that the Government of Tigray would betray its people by abandoning a legitimate, constitutionally recognized Tigrayan territory and rewarding the aggressor. On the contrary, the Government of Tigray has always underscored that the liberation, by peaceful means or otherwise, of every square inch of Tigrayan territory remains its top priority. Friends and foes alike should know that there is nothing confusing or contested about the status of Western Tigray: it is a constitutionally-recognized, historically legitimate Tigrayan territory. No amount of spin-doctoring or peddling of fictitious historical narratives by the occupying Amhara expansionist elite is going to change that fact. In short, the status of Western Tigray is not up for negotiations.

Known for its selective citation of historical ‘facts,’ the expansionist Amhara elite likes to make baseless claims to Western Tigray based on the mere fact that it was part of the Amhara region before 1991. But it is important to reiterate the fact that Western Tigray has always been inhabited by Tigrigna-speaking people and that the post-1991 federal arrangement has redefined Ethiopia along ethnolinguistic lines. What is more, there was no Amhara region before 1991. The expansionist Amhara elite is willing to assault the basic framework of the Ethiopian constitution in service of legitimizing its baseless claim to Tigrayan territory but happily embrace it for giving them a territorially consolidated Amhara region.

The depiction of Western Tigray as a contested land is, therefore, unacceptable and inimical to any peace-making efforts. The expansionist Amhara elite has seized it by force and that is simply unacceptable. The international community should insist on, and work towards, the withdrawal of these marauding gangs of criminals who are terrorizing innocent people.

The people and Government of Tigray are, on principle, committed to a peaceful resolution of the current conflict. But such a commitment does not extend to signing away a legitimate Tigrayan territory, allowing the genocidaires to escape accountability and acceding to the permanent dislocation of hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans viciously uprooted from their homes in Western Tigray. Doing so would be an abdication of the Government of Tigray’s solemn duty to ensure the existential security of the people of Tigray. Our people in Western Tigray have been subjected to vicious atrocities. The Government of Tigray is committed to ensuring their return to their rightful homes and holding their tormentors accountable.

It should be noted that Chief Obasanjo’s shuttle diplomacy has made contributions toward creating a permissive environment for the exploration of peace talks between Tigray and the Abiy regime. We also understand his efforts have their own serious limitations too. Our recent release of over 4000 prisoners of war as a confidence-building measure is indicative of our commitment to a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

Unfortunately, the Authorities in Addis have little appetite to reciprocate our good-faith cooperation. In fact, despite repeated efforts, there has been little progress, in large part due to the Addis Authorities’ foot-dragging and predilection for coercive tactics. If and when the Abiy regime reorients itself away from its coercive mindset and decides to give peace a chance, the people and Government of Tigray will, as always, extend a cooperative hand.

In conclusion, Western Tigray remains a non-negotiable part of Tigray. Any suggestion that our position has changed has no merit. The Government of Tigray remains committed to liberating it, peacefully or otherwise!

Tigray External Affairs Office

11 June 2022, Mekelle, Tigray

By Lilay

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