ADDIS ABABA, 22 December 2020 – Ethiopian state television has shown footage of elders from Tigray narrated in vivid details the horrors of the ongoing war in the northern region of Tigray.
The elderly residents of Mekelle, capital of Tigray, say their fellow citizens were “slaughtered like chicken”.
The mortal remains of victims were abandoned to be “eaten by hyenas”, some of the elders said in the interviews.
Rampant looting and vandalism are among the other crimes the elders said were most frequently committed.
The airing of the footage broke with the usual wartime propaganda that the state-owned broadcaster has been airing since the conflict began last November 4.
Overall, though, the interviews hammer a narrative Addis Ababa appears anxious to share more widely.
The elders claimed that the horrors they witnessed were committed by unknown outsiders, not by Ethiopian federal forces.
Aid workers, diplomats and eyewitnesses have alleged that thousands of soldiers from neighboring Eritrea have been involved in the fighting alongside Ethiopian federal forces.
Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a bloody 12-year war (1998-2000) in which an estimated 100,000 people were killed.
On account of the role Tigrayans played in the war and their dominance of Ethiopian politics until 2018, it is believed that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s President, Isias Afwerki, view the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) as political enemies.
After taking office in 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed formed a political alliance with the TPLF.
The alliance broke down after the prime minister postponed elections earlier this year, citing difficulties imposed by coronavirus pandemic.
TPLF leaders insisted on organizing the ballot, describing Abiy Ahmed as an illegitimate prime minister.
The Prime Minister accused the TPLF of attacking an army base in Tigray and of killing about 50 soldiers and stealing weapons.
Federal forces were sent in by Addis Ababa to restore peace in the northern region, sparking the ongoing conflict.
Thousands of people, mostly civilians, are believed to have killed in the conflict, which has driven nearly 50,000 people into refugee camps in neighboring Sudan and left millions internally displaced.
Earlier this month, the United States and the United Nations accused Eritrea of joining in the fighting in Tigray.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said he can guarantee no Eritean troops had entered Ethiopian territory.