Post war recovery processes are very expensive and often complex involving multiple actors of different interests, and requiring a deeper understanding of the social and economic support systems that existed before and after the war. The recovery processes need to be seen as long-term social rehabilitation within the context of development without being overly technical and segmented. This calls for coordinated and participatory planning processes across key phases of recovery (emergency, transitional and reconstruction). The case of Tigray is not an exception, and requires in-depth and complete analysis of the nature and scale of problems faced by Tigrayan communities, and identifying key determinants for successful restoration efforts. I will try to reflect on success factors for post war restoration efforts in Tigray by highlighting key areas of concern outlined in three sections. The first section highlights some of the diversity of problems inflicted by orchestrators of the multifaceted chaos; the second section points on the role of our own actors and the international community in exacerbating the humanitarian catastrophe; section three suggests how the recovery processes should proceed to achieve success. Mine is only to stimulate further thorough discussion on the topic that will guide the entire recovery processes in Tigray.
Diversity of problems inflicted by orchestrators of the war
During the two years of heavily financed bloody war in Tigray, individuals, families, communities and society have sustained all sorts of losses and damages. Tigray witnessed extremely incomprehensible human induced disasters that span from loss of lives and properties to psychological demoralization.
- An estimated 300,000-600,000 innocent civilians indiscriminately massacred in the most inhumane way; 
- Tens of thousands of women and underaged girls gang-raped and sexually tortured before their loved ones;
- Millions of children deliberately malnourished (one out of three children facing acute malnutrition) and alienated from life saving vaccines (rates plummeted from more than 90% to barely less than 10%);
- Millions of homeowners forcefully displaced from their properties and slept in makeshifts and public schools without food aid;
- Savage soldiers robbed and burned the crops and livestock of smallholder farmers;
- The salaries of more than 200,000 civil servants (more than 29,000 working for federal institutes) and pensioners irresponsibly suspended for over 18 months and millions of their dependants exposed to severe food insecurity never recorded in modern history;
- Significant number of patients unmistakably confirmed their death due to lack of medical supplies;
- Innocent school children developed fears due to disturbing sounds of fighter jets and military drones freely roaming in the skies and mercilessly dropping toxic explosives on them.
- Large number of residential, business and public buildings bombarded and shelled from the air and ground and literally converted to rubble that made removal of injured and dead bodies difficult;
- Massive private and public properties looted and critical infrastructure reduced to ash.
Role of accomplices within and outside Tigray
Undeniably, our own weak system has contributed to the manifestation of the above crises at larger scales. For instance, it could have been possible to save lives and reduce damage to properties by applying proven early warning tools and deploying a rapid response taskforce before and during the war. Notably, a nonfunctional law enforcement system has encouraged and muscled war profiteers to add fuel to climax level miseries.
- Greedy traders took no time in inflating commodity prices by many folds and were persistently reluctant to deposit millions of their daily cash sales at banks (indeed, partly discouraged by ill-conceived financial regulations);
- Loan sharks/unlicensed hawaladars acted quickly in grabbing up to 50% illegal interest on cash transfers to vulnerable borrowers;
- Commercial banks essentially breached their fiduciary duty and betrayed customers as they deny depositors accessing their savings and seen starved to death; Some bankers took the law at their fingertips and prescribed withdrawal as it pleased them;
- Some banks promoted financial malfeasance by tacitly approving the engagement of unethical employees in covert and overt acts of unlawful enrichment;
- The global response to food aid demands is generally appalling and not according to the massive demands of a typical imminent and large scale emergency situation. Within this limitation, the meager food aid supplies already at hand have been abused and misused by corrupt administrators who lacked any sense of accountability and capacity in properly targeting and timing of food aid;
The magnitude of Tigrayan suffering is further aggravated by the silence of Western powers that undermined the plight of seven million encircled people.
By and large, these unspeakable agonies are undoubtedly the outcome of a carefully worked out wicked master plan that jeopardized Tigrayan resilience capacity and invariably compromised the entire livelihood system in the course of two years of highly incentivized and closely supervised brutal siege and blockade.
Ways to successful post-war recovery
Any attempt to reverse such planned humanitarian crises in the most efficient and speedy way will require thoughtfully developed plans across all recognisable phases of recovery. Demands are expected to be high and hierarchical, making rebuilding (of livelihoods, economies, infrastructure, properties, social services and networks, religious/cultural/heritage sites, environments, etc) efforts complex and may follow trajectories different from what is commonly known as straightforward and directly reversible. The need for adequate planning along major phases of recovery is clearly reflected in the recently released emergency and recovery document by the Tigray Bureau of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Successful reconstruction captures existing best practices and experiences, identifies innovative approaches to chronic problems and above all recognizes long-term development needs of the victims. In the context of Tigray, effective and sustained post war recovery success will depend, among others, on
- Understanding trends of the fundamental factors that precipitated the war as similar forces are expected to operate in the post recovery period;
- Scrutinizing and developing short and long term conceptual recovery models/frameworks that guide the entire recovery process;
- Defining the level of integration and balance among internal and external actors working along the recovery phases;
- Empowering local economy and capacity—creating enabling environment for competent post war recovery professionals across diverse areas of life;
- Identifying effective crowdsourcing strategies and establishing clear lines of accountability for its use.
The presence of a dedicated and transparent leadership at top and bottom tier is one of the basic prerequisites of success in recovering from the trauma of war. It is dubious that the leadership in its current form and capacity can spearhead a complex recovery process effectively. A reformed and restructured leadership that promotes law and order, and able to comprehend evolving threats is a prerequisite to success. The recovery works demand huge finance that is also liable to misappropriation and embezzlement, and the leadership should be told in no uncertain words to severe its ties with inept and corrupt individuals and groups.
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