TGCC (December 22, 2021) – Since November 2020, the world witnessed the genocidal war the Ethiopian government declared on the state of Tigray in northern Ethiopia, under the cover of a “law enforcement” operation. The war, waged by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and its external allies, has been unimaginable.  The intensity of destruction, mass killings, torture, systematic rape of girls and women as a means of ethnic cleansing, the use of hunger as a weapon of war, including demolition of civilian infrastructure and social services that severely harm the economic survival of the people of Tigray is unprecedented.

The consequences of this horrific war have continued at a wider and deeper scale despite attempts to stop it, and in spite of limited and timid condemnations by the international community, notably the U.N., E.U., the US Government, international human rights organizations and international media outlets. The magnitude of the atrocities, the economic destruction, and the societal and psychological harm the war has caused the people of Tigray is so massive that trying to detail it in this letter is near-impossible and is hence only mentioned to provide minimal context.

The Tigray Global Chamber of Commerce (TGCC) will instead, through this letter, expose the outrageous measures that have been taken by the Ethiopian Government against Tigrayan-owned businesses and Tigrayan entrepreneurs in Addis Ababa as well as across Ethiopia. This heinous crime has unmasked the real intent of the Ethiopian government, an all-encompassing economic dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the people of Tigray.

In recent months, the Ethiopian government’s mission of destruction has escalated, resulting in the targeted closure of businesses and the imprisonment of business owners with the aim of economically looting and uprooting the industrious Tigrayans, and denying them any meaningful role in the Ethiopian economic arena both in the short and long term. In the last three-months alone, well over 80,000+ Tigrayan-owned businesses of all sizes in Addis Ababa have been summarily closed, 520+ businesses’ licenses were revoked and 2,230+ businesses were sued, while owners have been imprisoned and blackmailed. These 80,000+ law-abiding business owners and their families were targeted for the sole reason of being Tigrayan and because they cannot and would not agree to assist the Ethiopian government in committing illegal acts. The fact that these business owners are physically located well outside of the war zone in Northern Ethiopia has not given them any protection. This economic war has become part and parcel of the ethnic cleansing and the genocidal war waged against the people of Tigray.

The significant contribution of these Tigrayan-owned businesses to the Ethiopian economy in terms of creating employment opportunities for citizens of all ethnic backgrounds, paying taxes to the government of Ethiopia and contributing to GDP growth is undeniable. Similarly, the economic, social and emotional value these businesses — mostly family-owned — offer is incalculable. The discrimination and harassment have also damaged the aspirations of the younger generation of Tigrayans who had hopes of taking over, modernizing, transforming and making these businesses competitive in the global marketplace. The damage will be felt for many generations to come.

The government of Abiy Ahmed knows the devastating consequences these mass closures of Tigrayan-owned businesses have on employment, that they take away the economic security of all those who directly and indirectly benefit, and that they weaken the Ethiopian economy. Nevertheless, it deliberately continues to carry out systematic dispossession of Tigrayans to fulfill its agenda of destroying Tigray, its people and economy in pursuit of a fanatical political end.

This is happening in a country that is on the waiting list to be a WTO member; a country that is a founding member of the African Union and the United Nations. It is particularly ironic to see such ethnic-specific harassment against Ethiopian nationals of Tigrayan descent occur in Addis Ababa, a city which touts itself as “Africa’s Capital”, where Africans from all corners of the continent are welcome to seek opportunities.

The international community has attempted to put pressure on and taken some limited measures against the Ethiopian government and its allies. These concerns and pleas have unfortunately fallen on deaf ears, as the Ethiopian government adamantly continues its genocidal campaign in Tigray and on Tigrayans across the rest of Ethiopia, and in addition to all the atrocities under its belt, has now initiated destructive economic measures against Tigrayan businesses. While we appreciate the efforts and intent of the international community, the measures taken so far have not been forceful enough to bring about the desired outcome.

The TGCC, as the voice of the Tigrayan business community, would like to call upon the international community to protect Tigrayan-owned businesses from arbitrary and illegal closures; and to put meaningful pressure on the Ethiopian government in a coordinated manner (measures strong enough to bring visible results). We specifically appeal for strong intervention to pressure the Ethiopian government to:

·       Immediately stop arbitrarily closing remaining Tigrayan-owned businesses;

·       Lift all sanctions imposed on the 80,000+ recently closed businesses;

·       Immediately and unconditionally release the business owners, managers and employees imprisoned or taken to concentration camps due to false and fabricated allegations;

·       Publicly apologize and assure a stable business environment for Tigrayan-owned businesses who have been economically and psychologically affected, frustrated and intimidated by the irresponsible acts of the government.

About TGCC

The Tigray Global Chamber of Commerce is a 501(c(3)) not for profit organization established in Delaware, USA, that advocates and promotes businesses owned by people of Tigrayan origin and Tigrayans wherever they live around the world. This open letter is sent in protest of the recent Ethiopian Government’s unprovoked and discriminatory mass closure of Tigrayan-owned businesses in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia and the seat of the African Union.

By aiga