Ethiopia, the war darkened. “From 800 to 1,000 dead, the truth about the Axum massacre”
By olo Lambruschi, Avvenire.

A year after the massacre, an eyewitness speaks. He is a senior official, now in exile, of the interim administration of Tigrai appointed by Prime Minister Abiy. Heavy accusations against Eritrean troops

Tigrinya teacher Gebremeskel Kassa Taffere, 34, is now a refugee in the Netherlands

             Gebremeskel Kassa Taffere, 34, is now a refugee in the Netherlands, taken from avvanire site.

Hundreds of unburied dead, in the street, left to feed the hyenas after being killed without mercy. A little more than a year ago in Axum took place the worst massacre of defenseless civilians of the darkened war. On November 28, 2020, Eritrean troops began the cold-blooded massacre of pilgrims, who arrived in the holy city of Orthodox Christians for a religious holiday, and all citizens, taken were taken from house-to-house search and finally murdered them infront of their family members.

And then mass rapes and destruction. All denied by the Ethiopian authorities, according to the government authorities, the witnesses were all members of the TPLF, the enemy. Reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reconstructed the facts in January 2021, but on 4 November an investigation by the UN High Commissioner and the Ethiopian Human Rights commission reduced the number of victims to 110. Now a new witness confirms the gravity of the massacre and names those responsible. He had already made statements to the BBC last spring, now he has agreed to speak with Avvenire out of “gratitude to the Pope, who has repeatedly asked to pray for peace in Ethiopia”.

Gebremeskel Kassa Taffere, 34, is Tigrinya, Lecturer of archeology and tourism at the University of Mekelle, but he was a member of the Prosperity party of Prime Minister Abiy and a senior executive of the interim administration established by the central government once the Tplf, party of the popular front for the liberation of Tigray.

“I was chief of staff and spokesperson for the president of the interim administration – he explains from Holland where he had to flee and seek asylum last September -. On 29 November I was in Shire and I heard about the clashes in Axum. I reached it immediately, but the Eritrean troops stopped me on the outskirts.

Since the 28th the Eritreans had started killing hundreds of people on the street or looking for them door by door. They weren’t done yet. I immediately notified the federal authorities, who denied even the presence of the Eritreans. After 24 hours of negotiations, on November 30, 2020, I was able to enter, the first high-level government official, to negotiate an end to the mass killings, rape and looting ».

The commanders of Asmara had an agreement with the federal government to take the properties they found in their path. I saw the victims on the street: adults and children

I asked the Ethiopian general Yeshambel Ferede to stop the massacres and looting, but he replied that he could not. The Eritrean commanders had an agreement with the federal government to take any property they found in their path.

          Axum University professors who were killed by Eritreans last year.  from file.        

How many were the dead in Axum?
I saw hundreds of victims on the streets, mostly adult males, females, and children. Relatives had been prevented from burying them. As soon as I managed to get clearance from the Eritrean commanders, I mobilized the community and between 800 and 1,000 bodies were buried in two days.

Who are the Eritrean commanders responsible for the massacre?
Their battle names are: R’Esi Mrak, Wedi Moke and Colonel Tewolde, intelligence chief for the southern front. But the worst criminal is Wedi Halibay head of the Eritrean command in Adua and Axum. The leaders of the Ethiopian military command who did not want to intervene are Generals Abebaw Taddesse and Yeshambel Ferede. An independent commission must investigate them.

Were you aware of the Eritrean presence in Tigray?
Everyone knew that Abiy, Isayas Afewerki and the leadership of the Amhara regional state were preparing for war.

So, was the PM intention to intervene militarily known?
Yes. Ten days before the war began, I attended a meeting with about four hundred Prosperity Party members and senior officials from the Addis Ababa city administration. Prime Minister Abiy intervened on video saying that the Tigray would no longer be a problem and that he would conduct a victorious military operation in five days at the most.


What are the facts for accusations that Addis Ababa is carrying out a genocide in Tigray?
In addition to the massacres of civilians such as that of Axum and the air force bombing of the Togoga market, near Mekelle, the mass rapes carried out by Eritreans, Amhara, and the federal army and which have affected women of all ages, even girls. And the famine intentionally caused by the blocking of aid and the destruction of crops and health facilities. Today there are over two million displaced people in a war that aims to humiliate and subdue people.

The report was translated from Italian into English for readers.

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