Political myopia led the Norwegian Nobel Institute to grant its once highly coveted and prestigious Nobel Peace Prize to a war criminal in 2018. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was presented with the prize by the institute when he portrayed himself as a peacemaker in a war-torn country after forging a peace deal with Eritrea in 2018.
But Ahmed has committed genocidal crimes in his home country reminiscent of those of former African dictators such as former president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire) Mobutu Sese Seko, or former Ugandan president Idi Amin. The current chaotic situation has allowed Ahmed to literally get away with murder.
Since coming to power in Ethiopia, Ahmed has had nothing but theatrical displays to offer to his people and the international community, while posing as a peacemaker to mask his megalomaniacal ambitions to grasp power and control his country’s citizens while expanding his dominion in surrounding countries.
According to the latest figures, nearly 2,000 people have been killed in 150 massacres committed by Ethiopian soldiers, paramilitaries and insurgents in the Tigray region of Ethiopia that followed the orders of the Ethiopian regime. These massacres have not discriminated against people as old as 90, children or even infants. Reports of mass rapes, kidnappings and the torture of women have been identified by researchers studying the conflict.
International human-rights organisations have documented acts of genocide committed by the Ethiopian military in the conflict and the use of both ground and air forces to target civilians. Ethnic cleansing has been committed in several regions of Ethiopia, including Tigray and the western region of Wellega.
But Ahmed is not done with killing his own citizens, and he is now shifting his greedy eyes on neighbouring countries such as Egypt and Sudan by refusing to negotiate with them on the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). His blunt and insolent stance has led to the failure of all diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the dispute over the dam for nearly a decade, with the Ethiopian side insisting on filling its reservoir without any heed for Egypt’s and Sudan’s demands since these two countries rely on the Nile for their water.
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi has warned that Egypt will not allow Ethiopia to withhold a single drop of the Nile River, and in his latest warning to the Ethiopian leadership he stressed that the Ethiopian regime should not imagine that it could escape Egypt’s long arm should it try to harm Egypt’s national interests. Al-Sisi has stressed that all choices are open, especially after a decade of futile negotiations with a regime that has no intention of honouring any deal and that has broken international law by interfering in a natural water resource without international agreement.
On any given day, Egypt could crush the Ethiopian army without breaking into a sweat. Some of the military equipment and weaponry on display in the Egyptian Military Museum is more advanced than that in possession of the Ethiopian army. But the Egyptian state does not want to get involved in a war with Ethiopia unless there is absolutely no alternative. The Ethiopians have been relentless in their defiance, and this is making the situation more and more grave.
The Ethiopian regime has broken all its former deals with Egypt, including the 2015 deal and even the one brokered by former US president Donald Trump and signed by both Egyptian and Ethiopian representatives. Trump expressed his disappointment and showed his understanding of Egypt’s concerns over these dishonourable Ethiopian policies. Current US President Joe Biden for the moment has not shown any real intention to intervene in a crisis that could explode in the region, apart from expressing his administration’s “concerns” about the ongoing massacres in Tigray and other parts of Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian government is desperately seeking to revamp its tainted image by employing US public-relations firms such as Venable and Holland and Knight. It is conducting orchestrated and vicious campaigns on Ethiopian social-media accounts, viciously attacking any Egyptian or even non-Egyptian commentators or social media users who write in favour of Egypt’s historical rights to the Nile River.
The unprecedented delusions of those in power in Ethiopia and their online minions have led them to believe that they can hijack a river that a nation has depended on for 7,000 years. However, such pathetic attempts to distort the truth will not succeed, and the fact that the Nile is a matter of life and death to Egypt will not be altered. Even if some choose to believe what is said by delusional Ethiopian politicians or online minions, this will not change the facts. Attempts to polish up a criminal regime through public-relations work are futile because no one can polish up war crimes.
The African continent would do much better without the likes of war criminals such as Ahmed in power. He has not flinched from taking decisions to kill his own people and harming others for political gain. It had been thought that the days of African tyrants had gone by, this being the 21st century, but the rise of Ahmed in Ethiopia is a reminder that criminal dictatorships can still flourish. But Egypt for one will not be a victim of such tomfoolery, and it will not sit idly by if there is a risk of seeing the Nile River at the mercy of a megalomaniacal leader.
The current policies of Ethiopia are risking a major war in the region, something that both Egyptian and Sudanese officials have warned about. This would be a war that would seriously destabilise the region, and its ripple effects would be felt worldwide as the region is an integral part of international trade routes.
Last month, the world witnessed firsthand what a few days of disruption of the Suez Canal could do to international trade. So, imagine what a few weeks or months if not more could do to international trade if Red Sea trade routes were blocked by conflict. It is time for the world’s leaders to put the Ethiopian regime and its mass-murdering leader in its place before it drags the whole region into chaos.
The choice of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the Ethiopian prime minister will haunt those behind it, since it gave unwarranted credibility to a regime that has committed documented war crimes and refuses to accept any criticisms or logical arguments.
At a time when the Western media has been propagating the Black Lives Matter (BLM) cause over the tragic deaths of a few people in the US, thousands upon thousands more black people are perishing in Ethiopia every month as a result of crimes committed by a regime that is trying to distract its people by engaging in a feud with Egypt and Sudan.
Ahmed must be held accountable in international courts of law for his crimes in Ethiopia and neighbouring countries. Moreover, those who have showered him with unwarranted praise and prizes should feel ashamed of themselves and should retract those awards as this young tyrant’s policies could be about to set the Horn of Africa on fire.
“You play stupid games, you win stupid prizes” is an American saying that certainly applies to the policies of the Ethiopian prime minister. If he continues, these will lead him to outcomes that are much more negative than his worst nightmares.
The writer is a political analyst and author of Egypt’s Arab Spring and the Winding Road to Democracy.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 15 April, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly