“Murder by Hunger," Wall Street Journal editorial, January 10, 1985.

(Summary by Harminder Bhullar)




            The title of this article itself unveils its essence. It argues that the Russian-backed Ethiopian government exploits famine as a weapon against proliferating rebellions. More than half a million natives of the Tigre province straggle west towards Sudan, receiving “meager rations from whatever supplies the Relief Society of Tigre, an NGO) has managed to bring into the province.” Some have been on this trek for eight weeks, rather than a three-hour walk to a government controlled feeding center. Occasional truck shipments of Western grain supply the million or so children and aged too week to make the move. Both, the truck and the refugees travel only at night to avoid being spotted and attacked by Ethiopian government MiGs.

“Here is the real horror of the Ethiopian famine….The true cause and extent of the Ethiopian famine is being whitewashed by the U.N.,

 large Western charities, and American journalists working under the Ethiopian government’s influence.”   

The mere fact that these Tigrean natives are shunning the much publicized Ethiopian relief centers in government controlled areas should tell you that more is in play than a drought. The Tigre People’s Liberation Front, a Marxist nationalist group which controls more than 80% of the Tigre province, has been fighting an even more Marxist, Soviet-backed regime. The Red Sea province of Eritrea, led by the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, has been fighting secession for 23 years in the north, capturing several strategic areas last year. At least four other groups are fighting elsewhere. The government will do with hunger, “what its helicopter gunships and ‘Stalin organ’ rocket launchers can’t.”

However, this tactic is not particular to Ethiopia. The article makes notes of “Stalin’s man made Ukrainian famine of 1932-33, and similar patterns in Cambodia and Afghanistan. The military will not allow Western agencies to cross its lines to give aid to areas outside of government control. “If the Soviets can’t control a people, they’ll gladly let them starve, helping the process by bombing crops, restricting relief and depopulating the countryside.” Many Tigreans are shunning government feeding center because they say that they are “forcibly shipped to an inhospitable climate where they are used to displace native Oromos, also in rebellion.” The Ababa regime claims they are helping the family victims start anew in more fertile areas, but it provides no housing, doctors or medication (malaria prevails in the region). Yet still, “some Western reporters swallow the government line with modest reservations.” And more than 90% of foreign continues to flow through the Ethiopian government. The only way to avert this catastrophe is to work through Sudan with native groups such as the Tigrean and Eritrean Relief Societies, and redirect aid to the worst-hit areas.