This is an opinion editorial by Michael Abraha, a contributor to Bitcoin Magazine.
As the world has quickly shifted its attention to Ukraine, the ongoing genocidal war in Tigray, Ethiopia, has continued for almost 17 months. This underreported war hasn’t seen much time in the mainstream media even though 500,000 people have died as a result of it. While CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera have all reported on this conflict for months, those reports have been silenced with the fear of going to war with Russia.
So why is it very important that the Bitcoin community gets involved? It has been confirmed that the Ethiopian government has intentionally blocked humanitarian aid from the Tigray region, cut off access to electricity, froze all banks in the region, and shut down telecommunication services throughout the 17 months. Approximately 5 million to 6 million people live in the Tigray region and 600,000 or more civilians have fled to Sudan to seek refuge. Getting involved is extremely urgent because more than 3 million people are facing famine due to the blockage of aid.
Outside of fundraising money, what could the Bitcoin community do to help end this conflict? With many celebrities and influencers from various industries in the Bitcoin community, it could be possible to get big names to speak out to raise awareness. Major celebrities like The Weeknd already have donated upward of $1 million in January 2021, but since then the war has not received the proper attention. The Bitcoin community must step in. With over $50 million in crypto donated to Ukraine in under a month, we can do the same and aid those in need in Ethiopia as well. Unfortunately, mainstream media outlets tend to ignore atrocities occurring in the developing world such as Yemen, Palestine and Myanmar — so it is our job in the Bitcoin community to bring awareness and aid to those suffering in underserved and ignored communities.
Unfortunately, there are some things to become aware of when researching content about this conflict. Since Tigray is a minority ethnic state of Ethiopia, the majority of Ethiopians have supported the government or remained silent about the war on the people of Tigray. As the war began, many Ethiopians justified the war to remove Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) leaders from power in Tigray, due to their war crimes committed in previous years. Although the previous government, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), was a federation of all Ethiopians, many blame the leaders of the TPLF for creating havoc in the nation for more than 20 years. These claims have allowed Ethiopians to turn a blind eye to the current atrocities occurring in Tigray, and even claim that social media has spread fake news to ruin Ethiopia’s international presence. As the war has continued for 15 months, more recently a handful of Ethiopian influencers have spoken out against the conflict, but the majority has still remained silent or supported the government. I am mentioning this to note that when you look up content about Tigray, you will see comments and responses blaming the TPLF for the war, claiming that there isn’t genocide and even insults on people who are advocating for the people in Tigray. Be aware that there is an active counter-protest against the movement to aid those suffering in Tigray, Ethiopia.
How Can This Be Executed?
First, raising awareness with influencers in the Bitcoin space will help bring awareness to our mission. Writing content within the space to advocate across platforms and ecosystems within the crypto space and researching methods on how Bitcoin can provide the best services for sending and receiving funds to Sudan and Tigray to combat the government closing all banks and cutting off electricity. Some examples of this are sending bitcoin offline such as Bitsms, which allows users to attach a BTC wallet to a cell phone number providing the opportunity to use SMS text to send transactions via radio satellite.
Once this research is done, we can test the method of sending bitcoin with goTenna’s physical antenna devices. Creating a huge buzz around building access and peace needs to occur simultaneously while funds are being allocated to those in need. There also needs to be a global campaign that aligns with the advocates in the diaspora. There needs to be partnering with NGOs run by those in the U.S. and Europe such as Omna Tigray, Tigray Action Committee, Tigray Disaster Relief Fund and many more. We can curate an online discussion (mini conference of multiple speakers) and a series of music festivals to continue raising awareness. Since major artists such as The Weeknd and Lil Baby have mentioned their concerns about the conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia, it would be accessible to be able to work with them and other musicians.
Once enough funds are allocated, mission trips can be led to create food and aid distribution centers in Sudan’s refugee camps and in Tigray at internally displaced people (IDP) camps. These collaborations can be distributed with Omna Tigray, Tigray Emergency Relief Fund, and many other nonprofit organizations.
Bitcoin can also fuel the economy for Tigrayans in Ethiopia, refugee camps and within the diaspora. There is an alarming issue with banking in Tigray since the war began — the Ethiopian government has shut down all federal banks in the region. Alongside lack of electricity and internet services, citizens of Tigray are left to use black market distributions of cash being sent via Sudan. Wire transfers and all means of sending money have been blocked off, which is one of the main reasons why Bitcoin can provide access to the people.
The education system in Tigray has also been destroyed as primary schools and universities are now used to house IDPs; millions of students have stopped attending school for the last 18 months. Bitcoiners can donate books, computers, pencils and other supplies to refugees in Sudan to kickstart education in refugee camps as well as using offline education services such as Internet-in-a-Box. The Internet-in-a-Box is a device that allows users to download content and upload onto multiple computers, tablets and smartphones with no internet required. Devices like these are needed in the thousands alongside the equipment needed for students to use.
Overall, the use of Bitcoin to help end this crisis will not only force the diaspora to educate themselves on how to use Bitcoin, but will fuel other nations and states to do the same in the Horn of Africa. With bitcoin being adopted in various other countries in Africa, the situation in Tigray is a matter of do or die as families all around the world have struggled to send aid to their loved ones. As the Bitcoin community thrives on maintaining decentralization, it would be great to provide aid to millions of people struggling, especially since the international community has failed those in Tigray. Thirty years ago, USA for Africa teamed up with Michael Jackson and various other artists to sing, “We Are the World,” to aid those suffering drought in Ethiopia. Unfortunately, there was a war similar to what is currently occurring today that led to Tigray being blocked off from humanitarian aid. We must recreate these actions to end the current man-made famine and save lives, as well as helping those in need across the Horn of Africa. In the words of the late Michael Jackson, “There's a choice we're making. We're saving our own lives. It's true, we'll make a better day, just you and me.”
This is a guest post by Michael Abraha. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.