Getachew Reda on BBC HARD Talk

Getachew Reda on BBC HARD Talk

[Music] my guest is the spokesperson for the tigre people’s liberation front get a chew raider who joins me on the line from the tigrayan regional capital mckelly now welcome to hard talk let me ask you this we see the terrible suffering uh that millions of people are experiencing in your region as a result of what eight nine months of conflict why is it that your side the tigre people’s liberation front appears intent on intensifying the fighting rather than ending it well it’s exactly the same reason why we took up arms and tried to liberate our people from the suffering you’ve alluded to in fact we do not consider ourselves rebels we are legitimately elected government who was removed from from the capital by abby and his partners in crime the yamaha expansionist forces in the eritrean regime so these people these partners in crime have brought all kinds of untold miseries on our people and we did everything in our power to to bring together all our efforts to liberate every square square inch of cigarette territory from from the invaders of course this crisis the humanitarian crisis you’ve been alluding to of course people our people millions of our people are suffering from from this man-made crisis was was systematically engineered and generated by by the very people who invaded our territory invaded our people it’s hugely important that we talk about the humanitarian crisis and we’ll do so in in just a minute but first to talk about the military situation i referred to intensification on your part because because in june we know that abi ahmed the prime minister of ethiopia declared a ceasefire the the ethiopian forces withdrew from the city you’re in mckelly you you claimed a victory and he said that his forces would stop fighting but since then your forces have pushed beyond tigray’s regional borders into amhara into afar you are now taking the fight beyond your own borders look we have not yet liberated a significant part of the western part of cuba is still in the hands of uh either irritants or amharic forces as well as uh federal and forces and the the the joke that avi uh did declare a unilateral ceasefire in the itunes of june is is simply a joke because uh it was only a decision made by abby once his strongest military units in tigray were absolutely decimated by our forces so we vowed then and will continue to vow even now that until same time that the very were apparatus military apparatus that road havoc integra uh ceases to operate as long as there is their continues to be attracted to our people safety and security of our people who continue to take whatever action is necessary to make sure the guns are silenced because there still has been there has been there continues to be a concert referred on the part of abi and his partner suppose amhara expansionist forces as well as the air train forces to to call us into submission to continue to alter the kind of perpetrators the kind of suffering kind of heinous crimes that they have been committing against our people how far are you prepared to go the world’s media hang on the world media saw just the other day that your forces seized lalibela the the very famous site of ancient churches in amhara region we also see your forces in afar region there are tens and tens of thousands of newly displaced people because of the expansion of the territory controlled by your forces how far are you prepared to go there are two things here you know we have to make sure the safety and security of our people is secure and to do so we have to make sure that arabi and his forces will it will not be in a position to come back and haunt our people anymore abby has continued to maintain a chop hole on our people he has cut off communications he has cut off electricity he has to cut off access to humanitarian aid and he wants us to continue what he has failed to achieve in in the war front to continue through the kind of siege he has imposed on the people of the great so we have made it abundantly clear that until set time that such a siege is lifted and that our people are back to normalcy that no amount of security the security trait is is continues to be positive against our people by because eritreans or ethiopians or the amr expansionists will continue to take whatever action is necessary so to be clear to be clear then yeah let’s let’s keep this as concise as we can to be clear you’re saying that as things stand right now you have on your side that is the tplf side to grand people’s liberation front side you have no interest in a ceasefire right now we have made it abundantly clear that we will agree to a ceasefire and negotiated ceasefire as long as the conditions were put forward are made these conditions have nothing to do with additional infrastructural facilities on abyssbar no additional arrangements on the federal government’s but it’s about switching on telecommunications about switching on banking services it’s about switching on electricity this this does not require any amount of effort on habits he switched off those services i i understand you’re saying that the ethiopian government and its allies must open up all of the services the communications the supply routes into tigre as a precondition for ceasefire but but the u.s government nevertheless hang on never mind the addis government the u.s government is saying that another immediate urgent precondition for a ceasefire must be you withdrawing your forces from amhara and from afar regions and i want to know if you’re prepared to do that we’re not prepared to do that while we understand where the americans are coming from while we understand the kind of exerted effort they have the the the kind of conservatives they have exerted on behalf of our people we are very grateful to that but we totally beg to differ when it comes to withdrawal of our forces back to chibrai because we still have to liberate every square square inch of the great territory the west is still in the control of her expansions the irrigation and the federal forces second we don’t have any security arrangement will which will ensure that abi with his declared intention to commit genocide integra will not come back and unleash the kind of suffering he had perfected into our into an art form the last nine months i’m listening very hard to what you’re saying and when you accuse prime minister abby ahmed who’s ruling party let us not forget did win a a crushing majority of seats in the in the federal parliament just a couple of months ago when you were hang on when you were accused of that a joke well you say it’s a joke but when he is accused by people on your side of genocide i’m wondering whether you’re really saying that there can be no peace as long as abi ahmed is still in power in addis ababa is that what you’re saying i don’t care if it sticks around in arabic but what i care more about is whether he is in a position to treat an acceptance activity of our people anymore whether he stays put in arab killer is is a totally different story the europeans are entitled to keep their own leader and if they want to to to to to maintain abi ahmad as their leader even if he presides over the disintegration of the nation that the list of my problems isn’t their leader he’s also your leader you are an ethiopian i respectfully disagree he’s not my leader i didn’t take part in the elections and i i would you you don’t live you do not live in a separate you do not live in a separate state called tigre you live in ethiopia and tigre is one region within ethiopia i still yes i live in ethiopia but i live in a territory which we thanks to the struggle of our people have liberated from from the chocolate of abhiyama except that he wants to extend his chocolate through other means because he happens to control the the switch uh in addis so so that’s your that’s your agenda is it it’s separatism what this is really all about it’s important people are around the world is that you are seeking entire separation from ethiopia you no longer regard addis ababa legitimate rulers of your country no i i don’t consider rabbi as the ladies leader not only of children but also even so as far as we’re concerned it’s separatism to the extent that there is attendance of separatism integra it’s imposed on us it is because abi and his partners in crime caused the kind of suffering which no one in their right mind could have could have imagined would come from a government that considers them its own so you know to the extent that there is a tendency of separatism i don’t think this was something we willfully uh pursued this wasn’t something that was part of our agenda it still is not part of our agenda but we have to make sure that our people have their right self-determination and they should have and better access to the full exercise of this right whether abby is considered religious leader by the rest of the world is is is of no relevance as far as we’re concerned when i hear you use this kind of language i i then read what uh abi ahmed said to ethiopians just the other day he said that he was calling up all able-bodied civilians who could serve to join the military he said we need to quote halt the destruction of the treasonous and terrorist tplf organization and the machinations of foreign hands once and for all so you talk of separatism he describes you as treasonous and terrorist there is no reason to believe that this conflict is going to get anything but much worse you should stand to be corrected i didn’t say we are for separatism to the extent that there is a tendency of separatism which is imposed upon us and i’m particularly proud of the fact that our people are fighting to the nail to make sure that they their self-determination rights are fully exercised fully protected whether that will result in independence is an entirely different matter as far as we’re concerned abby committed genocide in the people of debra he didn’t do it simply because uh he was forced into it it was because there was a method to the madness that was with strapped pontegra there was a method a systematic nature of the campaign that he unleashed against the people of dubai his forces committed rape his forces committed disappearances his forces committed all kinds of heinous crimes we’ll get to the the accusations of atrocities egregious abuses of human rights accusations because frankly you know you know they apply they apply to your side as well as abby’s side in this conflict and we’ll talk about them in just a moment but before we get there let us just consider the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people civilians who might listen to this conversation between you and me and might be in despair because they know that the tone you are taking just as the tone taken in addis ababa suggests this conflict is going to get worse 400 000 people according to the un are already facing man-made famine because of it we see hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people already displaced because of this conflict and you appear to be prepared to see those numbers get much worse it would be unfair to accuse us of intensifying the conflict the conflict the ball is in abi’s court it is for abby to agree to the very terms who have put forward because it doesn’t require like i said earlier it does require an additional arrangement on his part all you have to do he has to do is switch off the services okay once he does that we can sit together and negotiate on we know conditions for the negotiations ceasefire he wants us to continue to maintain his chocolate on our people he wants us to continue to bombard our people he sends divisions after divisions simply because he has claimed that he has declared unilaterally a ceasefire doesn’t mean he it was indeed a ceasefire in fact his his call to arms the entire civilian population of ethiopia is another form of calling on genocide against the people of the great we’ve discussed abi ahmed and you’ve used your accusations many times let’s move on i want to know whether the humanitarian assistance desperately needed by hundreds of thousands of people who are facing famine is actually reaching them right now the w world food program chief says that hundreds of trucks a day are needed to deliver urgent aid to those people are trucks getting through yes or no they’re not getting through i know of 178 trucks that have gotten sprue but it is it is the tip of the iceberg compared to the kind of volume that is required to feed the hundreds of thousands of people avis ahmed’s forces are obstructing the traffic they are coming up with all kinds of excuses in fact they are using conflict that is taking place in areas where there is no traffic whatsoever and he is giving all kinds of excuses and pretexts to to obstruct food convoys and of course i again reiterate that it is the ball is in abi’s court and it is for him to relent on his chocolate lunch to allow even humanitarian agencies to have access to cash for god’s sakes he has cut cut off banking services and humanitarian organizations do not have access to cash if we’re talking about the humanitarian crisis we then have to talk about the allegations of terrible horrifying abuses and atrocities committed against civilian populations in tigre and the surrounding regions now i know that human rights groups independent observers have laid accusations at the door of the ethiopian military forces but they have also laid serious accusations at your door too and today i’m interviewing you not the authorities in addis so how do you respond for example to the latest reports that your forces in the tplf bombarded displaced civilians just days ago in galakoma town in afar region and according to reports many dozens possibly a couple of hundred civilians including many many scores of children were killed in the tplf attack you know we are against impunity of any sort whether it comes from abe or from any force whatsoever as far as this garlic coma incident is concerned we have made it abundantly clear that we are open for investigation independent investigation but to put matters into well you must you must know you’re a senior advisor to the tplf uh governing authority you must know whether your military forces the tigran defense forces did bombard civilians and it caused multiple casualties you know the story that galicoma was bombarded by our forces an absolute lie you know how i know because our forces were operating there our commander units neutralize an alpha special unit and it’s the only only the average special initial retreating who destroyed a government warehouse but the the claim that hundreds of children are killed is is something we take seriously but as far as we’re concerned it is not the work or the job of our our military forces because i mean people might wonder how how real your investigation is going to be if you’ve already dismissed the accusations as lies to send a team to see for themselves what did happen see you’ve had monks let’s go through it you’ve had months and months to investigate the very serious allegations backed by important work done by reuters news agency and others into what exactly happened in a small settlement called my cadre where which is a mixed a mixed community of tigrayans and amhara people and according to multiple eyewitnesses tigrayan youths working alongside tplf forces shot stabbed and killed hundreds of amhara civilians you’ve had months to investigate that you tell me what you found you know we we still are open for investigation even in the case of mike so as we know uh we’re not in a position to even feel um excuse me eight months to investigate what have you discovered in eight months you know stephan i will give you a rudimentary idea of what was happening the last six seven months we were struggling for our lives where we were training our people we were we’re cornered in many parts of the cry and of course we have to come back and reassert ourselves we still are open for investigation but you know the story about my cadre is a story of advertising you keep saying something a thousand times over and you end up believing it because we were cut off from media we were denied of any access to communications and every story that was turned down by abi ahmed ended up becoming a reality simple question are your forces using child soldiers we’re not using child soldiers because mature soldiers have never been short supplied but there are children who want to join the army because of the suffering that they have suffered because their parents have found themselves at the receive the receiving end of isis or obvious high-handed tactics but we we refuse because we have tons of people lining up to join our ranks we don’t have to use child soldiers so the pictures that have been shown on ethiopian tv of children captured during conflict with tplf forces what they’re all fake are they they’re fake because they are these forces are not in a position to even take prisoners because they are retreating towns after towns they have already abandoned practically half of the country and they would have you believe that they have prisoners however they have prisoners they are simply rounding up helpless children who are returning from saudi arabia or helpless children in many parts of addis ababa would taking out a living selling all kinds of communities or doing all kinds of errands and then parading them in on tv as prisoners of war that’s an absolute lie let’s talk about the future right now as we’ve discussed in this interview your forces are fighting uh in amhara they’re fighting in afar you’re fighting eritrean soldiers who are on ethiopian territory and of course you’re fighting the ethiopian national forces as well you’ve just as i understand it signed some sort of military alliance deal with the rebels in oromo it seems that you want to fragment ethiopia to ferment fighting on many multiple fronts across ethiopia is it your desire to tear apart your own country no it’s not our desire to tear apart apart the country even if we were to decide to become independent we still want the rest of ethiopia to be intact i’m not saying we are fighting to become independent but i wouldn’t rule that out because the tendency on the part of the population is that probably it’s not a good idea to stick around but the point is we are doing the most responsible thing under the circumstances b o l f whether it is considered terrorist bias or not that that is that secondary is significant is is playing a significant role in in a significant part of the country and we are also reaching out to other political organizations political entities who would have one way or another to contribute to the uh continuity of the ethiopian state because i find your answer is very interesting to be honest i also find the way you just looked rather you know you gave me a smile when you talked about your alliance with the new the rebel forces in arama i’m just wondering when one leading analyst says that there is a real possibility hanging on the real possibility of genocidal violence in ethiopia and it is increasing week upon week do you agree with him we are clearly seeing signs of genocide being altered being systematically pushed by the prime minister himself is it’s been referring to the people of riots as uh as weeds to be to be to be got rid of you know this kind of periodic vitriolic propaganda is is obviously creating intention so of course the writing is on the world so our arrangement with ual for example our arrangement with our with with other political organizations is to make sure that there is some sort of uh responsible traditional arrangement which would uh somehow avoid the kind of calamities uh aimed abby’s irresponsible behavior will likely lead well we have to keep watching and hoping that the worst can be avoided in your country i thank you very much get a jurado raider for joining me from mckelly thank you very much indeed
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Getachew Reda on BBC HARD Talk

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