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Briton released from death row accused of inciting genocide in Ethiopia

·4-min read
Andy Tsege has been accused of telling soldiers to carry out genocide in the East African nation’s bloody civil war
Andy Tsege has been accused of telling soldiers to carry out genocide in the East African nation’s bloody civil war

A British citizen who was released from death row in Ethiopia after a high-profile government lobbying effort has been accused of telling soldiers to carry out genocide in the East African nation’s bloody civil war.

Andargachew Tsege, an Ethiopian-born UK citizen who was freed after pleas from Philip Hammond and Jeremy Corbyn, urged soldiers to resort to “the most savage of cruelties”, in a speech seen by The Telegraph.

“I tell you, you must not hesitate from resorting to the most barbaric of cruelties when you face them,” he said, referring to the ethnically Tigrayan opposition army that is advancing on the capital, Addis Ababa.

“You must be merciless, you must act beyond what our [ethnic] Amhara or Ethiopian cultural values permit,” Mr Tsege, a top government advisor dressed in army fatigues, yelled at a cheering crowd which included armed fighters.

Mr Tsege’s inflammatory rhetoric comes at a time when ethnic Tigrayans are allegedly being rounded up into concentration camps and murdered. It has been widely interpreted as a call to kill Tigrayan civilians.

“It is genocide incitation against Tigrayans. It adds to the list of similar public incitements by public figures of the regime in Addis [Ababa],” said Mehari Taddele Maru, a professor at the European University Institute in Florence.

“What is more baffling is the international community’s, including UK’s and US, silence to genocidal incitement and war by their nationals.”

Tens of thousands of people have died since the war between Ethiopian federal and allied troops, and fighters from the northern country’s Tigray region broke out late last year.

Now the prospect of the ancient nation of 115 million people breaking apart has alarmed observers who fear what would happen to the already fragile Horn of Africa.

The British man’s outburst comes after the country’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was filmed in army gear surrounded by soldiers on what he claimed was the frontline.

Andy Tsege is pictured returning to the UK in 2018
Andy Tsege is pictured returning to the UK in 2018

In 2015, Mr Tsege, an Ethiopian-born UK citizen was at the heart of a diplomatic feud between Addis Ababa and London.

The 66-year-old is an opposition leader who first fled Ethiopia in the 1970s after the country’s old Marxist dictatorship murdered his brother.

The UK granted him asylum in 1979 and he went on to study the works of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant at the University of Greenwich.

Later he married in the UK, fathered three children and was granted full UK citizenship, voiding his Ethiopian citizenship as the country does not allow dual nationality.

In the 1990s, Mr Tsege returned to Ethiopia to work in opposition politics against the new authoritarian government which was dominated by ethnic Tigrayan elites.

The Tigrayans are just one of more than 80 ethnic groups in Ethiopia but despite its small size, the group has played a huge role in Ethiopia’s modern history and dominated the country’s politics for almost 30 years up to 2018.

Accused of organising a failed coup

In 2009, he was accused of organising a failed coup and sentenced to death in absentia. Then five years later he was arrested by airport guards in Yemen and extradited to Ethiopia where he was put in solitary confinement on death row.

Mr Tsege was dubbed “Andy Tsege” by parts of the British press. His plight was covered widely and his family appeared on Good Morning Britain and other major news shows, to advocate for his release.

Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Tsege’s local MP, tried to lead a delegation to Ethiopia to secure his release in early 2015.

Later, Philip Hammond, at the time foreign secretary, warned Ethiopia - one of the top recipients of UK aid - that the country’s relationship with the UK was being threatened by the treatment of Mr Tsege.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch also campaigned heavily for his release.

In 2018, he was pardoned by the newly appointed Prime Minister Abiy. He is believed to be an advisor to the Nobel laureate.

According to ABC News in America, at the start of November, the US government is considering designating the Ethiopian federal army atrocities in the northern Tigray region over the last year as a genocide.

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