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Ethiopia: African intellectuals call for urgent action over Tigray war

By The Africa Report
Posted on Friday, 27 August 2021 10:01

Recruits to join Ethiopia's Defense Force queue during the farewell ceremony at the Meskel Square in Addis Ababa
Recruits to join Ethiopia's Defense Force queue during the farewell ceremony at the Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 27, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

With multiple actors joining the fray in Ethiopia's civil war, a group of concerned African intellectuals call for dialogue and an end to the fighting.

August 26, 2021

Re: An Open Call by African Intellectuals for Urgent Action on Ethiopia

We write this letter as concerned African intellectuals on the continent and in the Diaspora. Many of us have dedicated our professional lives to understanding the causes and potential solutions to intra-and inter-African conflicts. We are appalled and dismayed by the steadily deteriorating situation in Ethiopia – so tragically illustrative of the continued lack of uptake of the abundant commentary produced by African intellectuals on how to resolve African conflicts.

We are deeply disturbed by the ongoing civil war in Ethiopia — which some refer to as a regionalized internal conflict, given Eritrea’s role within it. We note with dismay that protagonists to the conflict no longer include just the Tigray Defence Force (TDF) and the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) together with the special forces from Amhara, but now also include the Oromo Liberation Army on one side, and on the other side, special forces from several other regions, as well as numerous conscripts. We note too, the advance of the TDF into Amhara and Afar regions, which, despite the TDF’s claims to be seeking to enable humanitarian and other supply access chains, is contributing to the expansion of the conflict across Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is of continental significance, not only for its record of successful resistance to European imperial expansionism, but also for its being the home of the African Union (AU), our inter-governmental institution whose lack of effective engagement on the situation in Ethiopia we also find deplorable. The AU, its member states — particularly Ethiopia’s neighbouring states — must not allow Ethiopia to dictate the terms of their engagement in seeking resolution to this conflict.

We condemn the fact that the conflict is affecting ever-increasing numbers of civilians — the deaths, the sexual violence, the refugee outflows, the documented hunger and unmet medical and psychosocial needs, the reports of widespread and targeted illegal detentions (especially because of ethnicity), the enforced disappearances and torture in captivity. We also condemn the destruction of hard-earned physical and metaphysical infrastructure across Tigray, as well as other regions of Ethiopia, including institutions of higher learning, houses of worship and cultural heritage. Ethiopia and its peoples have suffered enough. Ethiopia cannot afford any further destruction.

All Ethiopians must recognize that a political rather than military solution is what is now called for, regardless of the claims and counterclaims, legitimate and otherwise, as to how Ethiopia has come to this place. Retributive justice, including the seizure and counter-seizures of contested land, and the detention of family members of recently outlawed political groups heightens tensions, leading to generational cycles of violence.

Ethiopia is on the precipice; we must take action. We therefore call on: 

  • The Ethiopian government and the national regional government of Tigray to respond positively to the repeated calls for political dialogue, including with the affected and implicated groups in the Amhara and Oromia regions;
  • The Ethiopian government and the national regional government of Tigray to make positive use, in such dialogue, of the numerous African intellectuals who have put forward their views on pathways out of conflict;
  • Neighbouring countries to exercise maximum pressure on the Ethiopian government and the national regional government of Tigray to—under the framework of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the AU—submit to external mediation of this conflict;
  • The IGAD and the AU to proactively take up their mandates with respect to providing mediation for the protagonists to this conflict—including providing all possible political support to the soon to be announced AU Special Envoy for the Horn;
  • The rest of the international community to continue to support such IGAD and AU action with the carrots and sticks needed to get the protagonists and all other stakeholders to the table, keep them there and determine a political solution leading to more broad-based national dialogue on the future of the Ethiopian state.

We urge all Ethiopian leaders and civic groups to demonstrate the magnanimity and vision needed to reconstruct a country that has suffered far too long already. We call on any negotiated political settlement to include a process of public accountability for mass atrocities committed across Ethiopia. The history of the African state attests to the efficacy of an alternate path committed to truth, peace, justice and reconciliation.

Signed:

Souleymane Bachir Diagne 
Professor of French and Philosophy
Director of the Institute of African Studies
Columbia University

Mamadou Diouf 
Leitner Family Professor of African Studies
Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies
Columbia University

Elleni Centime Zeleke 
Assistant Professor
Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies
Columbia University

Godwin Murunga  
Executive Secretary
Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA)

Boubacar Boris Diop 
Award winning author of Murambi, The Book of Bones and many other novels, essays and journalistic works

Achille Mbembe  
Research Professor in History and Politics
Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research
University of the Witwatersrand

Jimi O Adesina  
Professor and Chair in Social Policy
College of Graduate Studies
University of South Africa

Ato Sekyi-Otu  
Professor Emeritus
Department of Social Science and the Graduate Programme in Social and Political Thought
York University

Felwine Sarr 
Anne-Marie Bryan Distinguished Professor of Romance Studies
Duke University

Imraan Coovadia 
Writer, essayist and novelist
Director of the creative writing programme
University of Cape Town

Koulsy Lamko  
Chadian playwright, poet, novelist and university lecturer

Willy Mutunga  
Former Chief Justice
Supreme Court of Kenya

Maina Kiai  
Former Chair
Kenya National Human Rights Commission
Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

Rashida Manjoo 
Professor Emeritus
Department of Public Law,
University of Cape Town
Former UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women

Siba N Grovogui  
Professor of international relations theory and law
Africana Studies and Research Centre
Cornell University

Nadia Nurhussein  
Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies
Johns Hopkins University

Martha Kuwee Kumsa 
Professor of Social Work
Wilfrid Laurier University

Mekonnen Firew Ayano  
Associate Professor
SUNY Buffalo Law School

Dagmawi Woubshet  
Ahuja Family Presidential Associate Professor of English
University of Pennsylvania

Awet T Weldemichael  
Professor and Queen’s National Scholar
Queen’s University

Abadir Ibrahim  
Ethiopian Human Rights Activist and Lawyer

Michael Woldemariam  
Associate Professor of International Relations and Political Science
Director of the African Studies Center
Boston University

Safia Aidid  
Arts and Science Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of History
University of Toronto

Abdoulaye Bathily  
Professor of History
University Cheikh Anta Diop

David Ndii  
Kenyan Economist

Siphokazi Magadla  
Senior Lecturer in Political and International Studies
Rhodes University

Fred Hendricks 
Emeritus Professor
Faculty of Humanities
Rhodes University

Pablo Idahosa  
Professor of African Studies and International Development Studies
York University

Ibrahim Abdullah 
Department of History and African Studies
Fourah Bay College
University of Sierra Leone

Seye Abimbola 
Senior Lecturer
School of Public Health
University of Sydney

Makau Mutua  
SUNY Distinguished Professor
SUNY Buffalo Law School

Salim Vally 
Professor
Faculty of Education
University of Johannesburg
Director
Centre for Education Rights and Transformation

L. Muthoni Wanyeki  
Kenya Political Scientist

Dominic Brown  
Activist and Economic Justice Programme Manager
Alternative Information and Documentation Centre

Michael Neocosmos 
Emeritus Professor in Humanities
Rhodes University

Zubairu Wai  
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science and Department of Global Development Studies
University of Toronto

Alden Young  
Assistant Professor
African American Studies
University of California

Benjamin Talton 
Professor of History
Department of History
Temple University

G Ugo Nwokeji 
Associate Professor of African History and African Diaspora Studies
Department of African-American Studies
University of California

Lionel Zevounou  
Associate Professor of Public Law
University of Paris Nanterre.

Amy Niang  
Professeur associé
L’Université Mohammed VI Polytechnique

Sean Jacobs  
Associate Professor of international Affairs
Julien J Studley Graduate Programmes in International Affairs
The New School
Founder and Editor of Africa is a Country

Abosede George 
Associate Professor of African History
Barnard College

Dr Abdourahmane Seck 
Senior Lecturer
Université Gaston Berger

Nimi Hoffmann  
Lecturer
Centre for International Education
University of Sussex
Research Associate
Centre for International Teacher Education
Cape Peninsula University of Technology

Maria Paula Meneses 
Vice-Presidente
Conselho Científico do CES
Centro de Estudos Sociais
Universidade de Coimbra

Ibrahima Drame
Director of Education
Henry George School of Social Science

Cesaltina Abreu 
Co-Director
Laboratory of Social Sciences and Humanities
Angolan Catholic University

Lina Benabdallah  
Assistant Professor of Politics
Wake Forest University

Oumar Ba  
Assistant Professor of International Relations
Department of Government
Cornell University

Samar Al-Bulushi  
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
University of California

Nisrin Elamin 
Assistant Professor of International Studies
Bryn Mawr College

Marie-Jolie Rwigema 
Incoming Assistant Professor
Applied Human Sciences
Concordia University

Eddie Cottle 
Postdoctoral Fellow
Society, Work and Politics Institute
University of the Witwatersrand

Amira Ahmed  
School of Humanities and Social Science
American University of Cairo

Convenors’ Forum of The C19 People’s Coalition 

Ibrahim Abdullah 
Department of History and African Studies
Fourah Bay College
University of Sierra Leone

Jok Madut Jok 
Professor of Anthropology
Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
Syracuse University

Ebrima Sall
Director, Trust Africa

We stand in solidarity with all Ethiopian intellectuals in-country who want to speak out against the war but feel unable to do so due to fear of retaliation.

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