Thank you very much and it’s an honor to be with you on this day.

First of all, let me say something to the people of Tigray which is my condolences to you all for everybody whom you have lost over the last year.  And anyone who has a heart must recognize the unspeakable suffering that the people of Tigray have undergone. Many of you, of course, have perished. Most have survived but with great grief, pain, and trauma. And it’s a hurt and an injustice that is made worse by the silence and the indifference of many of those who are supposed to have responded in the international community.

To the leaders and members of the Tigray Defense Forces: you have won the respect of everybody. The doctrine of a just war has rarely had so clear an exemplar. Faced with the utmost cruelty and determination of your enemies, determined to crush your spirits and your bodies, you have resisted, and resisted honorably.

To the TPLF: you led Tigray at the time when the calamity broke, and you followed the people out of that calamity.  You must now be humble. You must be prepared frankly to admit your errors and to learn the necessary virtues of inclusion of pluralism and of democracy.

My short message for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is summed up in a short poem by Rudyard Kipling, Epitaph for a Statesman. Written after World War I, it speaks of a man who led his country into a needless war as he passed into the next world. And the poem is this:

I could not dig, I dared not rob,
And so I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?

So, to those angry and defrauded citizens of what is still today the Federal Republic of Ethiopia, including those who dreamed of becoming subjects of a revived Great Ethiopian Empire: face your day of reckoning! Face the collapse of those dreams, the exposure of those lies. Face them with civility and composure and repudiate the toxic untruths you have been told. Ask for forgiveness. Offer reparation to the people whom you have wronged.

The future of Ethiopia will for sure be very very different to the past; that full stream of a revived empire will be buried for good. Whether Ethiopia will be a federation, a confederation, or a commonwealth of independent states, that remains to be seen. That is a matter for discussion in the coming weeks. But, for sure, the price that Ethiopia as a state, as a nation of nations, the price Ethiopia will pay for that attempt to destroy Tigray, the price will be that Tigray will never, for sure, entrust its security to anyone other than itself and will never put its international relations and aid partnerships in the hands of anybody except itself.

 My message to the United Nations including the Security Council, the Secretary General and many many others in positions of responsibility:  shame on you! Shame! Shame for your silence! Shame for your failure to stand up for basic humanity and for ALL the principles for which the United Nations was founded! Shame on you for your failure to stop starvation! Shame on you for failing to call out those responsible for inflicting it on the innocent! And shame on you for your appeasement of the perpetrators of the grossest crimes against humanity, every crime prohibited under the solemn commitments of the United Nations! For sure there is a reckoning of the United Nations that is coming.

And even more so, the African Union which has betrayed the norms and principles that animated its foundational constitutive act; the principle of non-indifference to grave circumstances; the principle of the responsibility of neighbors to offer and the responsibility of states to accept mediation when offered in good faith. The Assembly Hall of the African Union is constructed on the site of the former central prison Alem Bekagn (ዓለም በቃኝ). The ghosts of those who died in that prison under the reign of terror during Mengistu Hailemariam, those ghosts have not been exorcised. Those who meet in that assembly hall, the officials and leaders, are still haunted by those ghosts imprisoned within those walls.  One year on, they must reckon with their failure.

So, one year on after this needless war was inflicted against the people of Tigray, let us hope, let us pray for wisdom, compassion, and justice and let those of us, those of you who are Tigrayans, let me hope, and it is I know it is too much to ask, but let me still hope that you will not be animated by any spirit of revenge or bitterness, hard as it may be. Let us pray and hope we can all rise up and be better than that and look forward to a better future.

Thank you.

Alex de Waal

UMD Media

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