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WAR – From a Perspective of an Ex-Soldier


The last four years have been tough years to many people globally. First the Covid-19 pandemic and soon after the war in Ukraine. The devastation of both events has been felt so much that nobody needs to tell you about it. The war has forced food prices, inflation and other markets globally.

Going back further, the history of humans can be summed up as a history of wars. Is war something the human race cannot live without? The UN was set up after WW2 with that core objective – to eradicate war or minimize its devastating effects on people. It seems like we – the human race – haven’t learned our lesson, we are repeating the same mistake again and again.

The human suffering

As an ex-soldier myself and someone who lost a dear brother, cousins, friends, colleagues in a senseless war, it pains me seeing other people going through it again. The one fact about war is that the human suffering is the same whether the war is in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, Russia, Sudan, South Sudan, the DRC, Ethiopia, Yemen, Palestine, Israel…etc. The soldier who carries the brunt of the war is the same human being who has passions, fears, ambitions, and other emotions. The soldier has a family and friends who worry to death about him/her. To them, (s)he is not a mere statistical number. The physical, mental, emotional suffering a soldier has to endure is beyond comprehension. In every soldier’s mind is “When is this current battle and ultimately the war going to end?”

A Ukrainian soldier in a BBC interview said, each unit’s day and week is defined by the losses the unit suffers in the ongoing war. “The severity of the day depends solely on one thing - the number of people we lose1. I second that from my experience of the 1998-2000 Ethiopia-Eritrea border war which is believed to have claimed about 100,000 innocent young lives. During the times when the war is in a recess – for example the winter season in the case of the Ukraine war – what the soldier longs for is to go back home and live his “normal” life. And when the fierce battle resumes, what the soldier yearns for is to see that raging round of battle end so that the losses of lives can stop.

Today you are chit-chatting with your “brother-in-the-army” and the next moment, he is gone for good. Each battle claims the best of the unit members; the ones who are gentle, loving and selfless and willing to sacrifice their lives for others. They die being heroes while the ones who remain behind suffer the most from their loss. WAR IS EVIL!

War makes you lose your sense of humanity

It is very interesting to hear any soldier referring to the opposite warring side as an ENEMY! By chance, even more so by design, the soldier is instilled with the notion that the enemy is not the same human being as you are. The instigators of the war usually find something that makes it easy, at least in the mind of the soldier, killing the other person on the other side as a noble, acceptable and heroic act. They refer to the other side as enemies, aggressors, savages, neo-Nazis, terrorists and sub-humans. Name calling is a very common tactic employed.

War is a lose-lose situation

Any war claims first and foremost the most precious human life. The 2020-2022 Ethiopia’s civil war on its Tigray region alone is believed to have claimed 600,000 – 800,000 innocent lives 2. This happened while the whole world’s gaze was on the Russia-Ukraine war which also is believed to have claimed over 200,000 from both sides between 24 February 2022 – 18 August 2023 3. We are witnessing the human tragedy of the current war in Gaza between Israel and Palestine daily on our TV sets. It is believed to have claimed over 30,000 lives and counting. The war in Sudan so far has claimed between 13,000 - 15,000 lives and displaced millions 4.

In a very short space of time, war destroys infrastructure and livelihoods which took years and decades to build. In the last two years alone, we have witnessed Ukrainian cities being decimated and their dwellers turned into refugees. Within the last 4-5 months, Gaza’s buildings have been turned into rubble.

In the aftermath of any war, both warring sides have to deal with post traumatic disorders, displacements, devastated infrastructure, economic hardship and so on. WHY?

Dictators must be stopped

More often than not, wars are started by power hungry dictators. Or they are the root cause of the war. By their nature, dictators are not whole heartedly open to a negotiated settlement of differences. Their ego clouds their mind so much that they could not envision the devastating effect of war on human lives and livelihoods. Or they just conveniently ignore it by saying that they were forced into the war and had no other better option.

Unchecked ego of one person in a position of power can devastate nations and generations for the worst. Hitler is an obvious example. But we are witnessing many ‘Hitlers’ of our generation.

Active citizenry

If we agree war is a lose-lose situation, a man-made disaster, it must be avoided at any cost. To achieve that citizens can’t stand still while decisions are made on their behalf that affect them grossly. To be indifferent is not an option. Every citizen has an obligation to say ‘NO TO WAR’, ‘NOT IN MY NAME’. Every citizen’s voice counts. Organize and stand for what is right! Civil society should be active to influence decision makers to make the right decision – avoid war at any cost.

Eyasu Andemariam

Photo credit to Vladyslav Misiienko / Reuters


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