Impacts of war and civilian persecution in Ethiopia

The civilian persecution by the TPLF junta has created immense mental distress in the communities in Amhara and Afar regions of Ethiopia. Local and international reports highlighted the increasing mental distress in these regions.

The stresses and uncertainties are driven by political persecution, war, and conflict. The trauma associated with the persecutions of unarmed civilians causes significant social problems, anxiety, and depression.

These lead to morbidity, illness, injury and indisposition that retard development in the war affected regions. The vicious cycle of persecution and trauma driven by repetitive massacre of innocent people retarded socio-economic development in the above mentioned regions of Ethiopia.

This is driven by the trans-generational perpetuation of ethnicbased conflicts designed and implemented by the TPLF in the past decades. The mass traumatization created by the war, requires special fund for the treatment of people affected by post-conflict psychological distress and indispositions.

Shortage of fund may aggravate the situation, which is further intensified by conflicts that originate from cultural, religious and ethnic differences.

Added to these are poverty, famine, bad governance, migration, internal displacement and other related socio-economic factors. In more recent years, many of these psycho-social problems have been driven by war-conflict that enlarged the malicious circle of mental distress of people.

Moreover, these elements shaped the current attitudes of people, politicians, policy makers, and migrants. They have thus attracted increasing attention of the global powers. The trauma and mental distress, and the consequent health-seeking behaviors of Ethiopians living in the war affected regions deserve attention.

The chronic warfare creates significant social and psychological distress. It also creates anxiety and depression which causes illness and injury that retard development in the affected communities. The trauma driven by repetitive aggression in the already affected regions s retardation of socioeconomic development, lack of investment, shortage of output, high unemployment and low income with long-term generational perpetuation.

These negative situations demand mobilization of huge internal and external resource that is guided by realistic economic policy, program and projects in conjunction with the needs of the waraffected people. Along with the period of civil war, there continued insurgencies, cross-border conflicts, and political and governance contentions and discord.

In all this incidents, the Ethiopian people have endured stress and anxiety of unimagined proportions. Following the never ending enigmatic war, the affected people are expected to suffer from stress disorder, anxieties, depression, psychosis, traumatic brain injury, epilepsies, and other physical injuries, all with theirattendant complications. This situation may be followed by substance abuse and epidemics.

There may be spiritual disorders or possessions, rape, mass panic and frenzy, cult preaching and agitation. There are also new and re-emerging threats to communities, posed by the ongoing mass traumatization including mass radicalizations, brainwashing, fundamentalist fanatics or religionists, destructive cults, suicide missions, child soldiers, and finally the problem of population displacements and migration. All these events contribute to the mental distress being felt in the country.

In the past years, there has been warfare in some regions of the country in one form or another resulting in countless losses of life and causing untold misery to the common people. Thousands of Ethiopians have been displaced, impoverished, diseased, starved, or forced to migrate due to civil strife. The country does not produce guns.

But, trade in small arms is proliferating its border areas. The manufacturers of these arms are the developed countries. Ethiopia has enormous and uncontrollable health problems such as physical, mental, social, and ecological; as a result of prolonged social conflicts. These conflicts and clashes break out everywhere at any time.

The arms used have become more fatal fuelled by the global trade in small arms. As a result, civilian deaths are on the rise. Also, they are being targeted for raping, human shields, child soldiers, and genocides. Consequently they are forced to become internally displaced and refugees. Also, the warfare has transformed from rural conflict to urban fighting. In the urban areas, the targets are civilian infrastructure, churches, mosques, markets, shopping centers and college campuses.

Power struggle and fundamentalism drive the civil wars, which are being intractable and unwinnable as observed in the last several months. Because of the war, the country is forced to divert resources from peaceful development endeavors to the battle front. This diversion of resources to the war effort is to ensure the control of resources and territory. In the process, human rights are abused, with the reign of local dictatorships, political repression and anarchy.

Many leaders rule for decades and keep on changing constitutions to ensure their continued rule. Global forces have fuelled many proxy wars in the country by heating up nationalism and ethnic conflicts. These global forces have aligned themselves with local separatist forces to cause and fuel conflict related to greed and corruption and trade in small arms.

These factors play on the poverty and ignorance of people being involved in conflicts and perpetuate wars. The result of all this conflict is massive loss of lives. In wars, civilians suffer the most.

As mentioned earlier, the types of traumas experienced by civilians may be grouped into physical, psychological, social, and ecological torture. Physical torture involves beatings, kicking, gunshots, bombs, and landmines.

It also includes cuttings, tying and blindfolding, child soldiering, disfigurements, burnings, and forced labor. It comprises sexual abuse rape, public rape, gang rape, sexual slavery and defilements.

Physical torture also consists of executions, mass killings, and ethnic killings. Psychological torture involves threats, interrogations, accusations, abductions, mock executions, isolated detentions, humiliations, and deprivations.

Social torture results in the destruction of property and livestock, fleeing, displacements, migrations, community and family breakups. Ecological torture involves destruction of infrastructures, destruction of farms and factories, using landmines and poisoning wells and rivers.

Civil wars aim to destroy people’s identity, culture, beliefs, language, food, etc. and make them submit to newly imposed orders.

They destroy governments, families, communities and economic and social lives. Wars are coercive and lead to the dictation of policies and programs of the winner. The instrument of submission is torture abuse of human rights. Rape of women, for example, is used as a weapon of war to change the genetic composition of people. Some civil wars may lead to genocide.

Such events are abnormal and lead to post-traumatic consequences which may continue for generations. The victims of wars are mainly civilians. Indeed, most of the casualties in conflicts are non-combatants, the majority which are women and children.

The poor and the elderly consist of the bulk of the victims. The young and educated men flee into exile, depriving Ethiopia of the social capital necessary for its socioeconomic development. The survivors of conflicts suffer significantly from diseases, infections, neurosis, and epidemics. The poor people suffer more as healthcare infrastructure is destroyed with most health workers flee for their lives. Socially, communities suffer from increased poverty as production declines.

Quality of education drops as schools are destroyed and teachers flee to save areas. Communities and cultures are destroyed and banished. These communities become disregarded creating negative effects on their people. There will be a breakdown of law and order paving the way to political repression or anarchism leading to population displacements. This leads to internally displaced persons, who are forced to seek asylum.

Educated and professional elites are exiled, exacerbating the brain drain and flight of social capital in the country. Also, children born during the war may cause special concern. Many are vulnerable children as orphans with no adults to care for them. This creates a community of sibling headed households. As products of rape or incest, some children become unwanted or unaccepted.

As the civil war continues, some children become abandoned to grow up in the bush. Children in war-torn areas are often orphaned, malnourished, and do not go to school. Abandoned children tend to live in camps for internally displaced persons.

They become malnourished, stunted, depressed, and they tend to move to urban centers where they become street children or prostitutes. Many children are seen in camps for internally displace persons, wandering about without adults to care for them. After the camps are disbanded many of such children go to live in towns as street children, begging and stealing for survival.

Many girls became sex workers for survival. All these children become urban criminals and become victims of drug and alcohol addiction.

The following measures may help to prevent the impacts of war and persecution in Ethiopia. Universal education is necessary for all citizens including social classes, ethnic groups, religious and political entities.

Political leaders have to focus on participatory democratic governance and keep at bay dictatorships, social conflicts and persecutions.

Also, they should educate their people on the historical, political and socio-economic origins of their problems to know about the global forces that perpetuate their local problems in order to control Ethiopian natural resources irrespective of ideological persuasion, ethnic, tribal and religious creed.

It is imperative to expand through school and community education, respect for universal human rights and avoidance of war through promoting peace building and conflict resolution. In this endeavor traditional conflict handling techniques are useful means of creating peace in the country.

They have to advice conflicting parties to avoid torture and massacre of poor citizens that committed no sins. There is also a need to respect the institution of law and order that perform in good faith without partisan influence. This institution has to be readily accessible to the ordinary Ethiopians that rely on them for their safety.

Editor’s Note: The views entertained in this article do not necessarily reflect the stance of The


The Ethiopian   24 February  2022

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