Source: US State Department

The following is the text of a joint statement signed by the governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Begin Text:

We, Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States, are profoundly concerned by recent reports of the Ethiopian government’s detention of large numbers of Ethiopian citizens on the basis of their ethnicity and without charge. The Ethiopian government’s announcement of a State of Emergency on November 2 is no justification for the mass detention of individuals from certain ethnic groups.

Reports by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Amnesty International describe widespread arrests of ethnic Tigrayans, including Orthodox priests, older people, and mothers with children. Individuals are being arrested and detained without charges or a court hearing and are reportedly being held in inhumane conditions. Many of these acts likely constitute violations of international law and must cease immediately. We urge unhindered and timely access by international monitors.

We reiterate our grave concern at the human rights abuses and violations, such as those involving conflict related sexual violence, identified in the joint investigation report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the EHRC, and at ongoing reports of atrocities being committed by all parties to the conflicts. All parties must comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, including those regarding the protection of civilians and humanitarian and medical personnel.

It is clear that there is no military solution to this conflict, and we denounce any and all violence against civilians, past, present and future. All armed actors should cease fighting and the Eritrean Defense Forces should withdraw from Ethiopia.  We reiterate our call for all parties to seize the opportunity to negotiate a sustainable ceasefire without preconditions. Fundamentally, Ethiopians must build an inclusive political process and national consensus through political and legal means, and all those responsible for violations and abuses of human rights must be held accountable.

End Text


We note the statement on 12 November by the US Treasury that they have sanctioned four entities and two individuals. Sanctions are most effective when countries act together. International cooperation is at the heart of UK sanctions policy, and the UK will continue to work with the US and other international partners to tackle shared global challenges.

Brendan O’Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, whether her Department is coordinating with the US, and other key strategic partners, on the use of Magnitsky sanctions against Eritrean individuals and organisations responsible for a destabilising presence in the conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia.

Photo of Vicky FordVicky Ford Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

We are deeply concerned by Eritrean involvement in the conflict in Tigray. The UK continues to consider the full range of policy tools at our disposal to protect human rights and deter violations of international humanitarian law. It is longstanding practice not to speculate on future sanctions designations as to do so could reduce the impact of the designations.

We note the statement on 12 November by the US Treasury that they have sanctioned four entities and two individuals. Sanctions are most effective when countries act together. International cooperation is at the heart of UK sanctions policy, and the UK will continue to work with the US and other international partners to tackle shared global challenges.


Lord David Alton, a Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Eritrea in the UK Parliament, asked the British government about the plight of Tigrayans, thousands of whom have been arrested and held in Addis Ababa and other parts of Ethiopia.

Below is the response, which – in line with recent British statements – is a vague generalisation. It is worth noting that there has been no ministerial contact with the Ethiopian government since 18 November, despite the pace of developments in recent weeks.


Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL4248):

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate, if any, they have made of the number of Tigrayans who have been detained in Addis Ababa; and what assessment they have made of reports of landlords checking their tenants’ identification cards, including UN staff other relief agencies. (HL4248)

Tabled on: 22 November 2021

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park:

We are extremely concerned by reports of widespread human rights violations and abuses in Ethiopia committed by all sides to the conflict. The Minister for Africa spoke with the Ethiopian State Minister Redwan on 18 November and expressed her concern over ethnic profiling and mass arrests and detentions across the country and stressed the need for all parties to the conflict to engage in meaningful talks. The British Ambassador to Ethiopia also raised our concerns about ongoing detentions with President Sahle-Work on 12 November.

The Foreign Secretary, our Ambassador in Addis Ababa and the Minister for Africa continue to raise human rights issues in our discussions with the Ethiopian Government and more broadly we have reminded all warring parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Our priority is to ensure that Ethiopians, irrespective of ethnicity, religion and political affiliation, receive life-saving aid and that humanitarian access to areas affected by conflict and insecurity is restored.

Date and time of answer: 01 Dec 2021 at 12:03.


The Globe talked to several victims of sexual violence by Tigrayan forces in Geregera. The village is about 100 kilometres southwest of Lalibela, a popular tourist town in the Amhara region, famous for its ancient churches hewn into the sides of mountains. The interviews were obtained independently, without the involvement of government officials. To ensure the security of the victims, The Globe is not revealing their identities. The survivors described how some Tigrayan soldiers went from village to village and raped the women and girls they found, until they retreated from the area in mid-September.

Source: Globe and Mail


Ethiopian government soldiers ride in the back of a truck on a road near Agula, north of Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia on May 8.BEN CURTIS/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

As Tigrayan fighters march relentlessly closer to Addis Ababa in a military offensive that threatens to topple the Ethiopian government, disturbing evidence of brutal abuses is emerging from some of the towns and villages captured by the rebels.

The evidence, gathered by human-rights researchers and The Globe and Mail, suggests that Tigrayan soldiers have perpetrated the same kind of sexual violence documented among the Ethiopian and Eritrean troops the rebels have been fighting for the past year.

The Tigrayan military advances, sometimes in co-operation with Oromo insurgents, have already led to the evacuation of many foreign diplomats and United Nations staff from the Ethiopian capital.

The rebels are now reported to be about 220 kilometres from Addis Ababa – possibly closer. Many Western governments, including Canada’s, have urged their citizens to leave the country as soon as possible because of the risk of fighting in the capital.

To corroborate the reports of rape and sexual assault, and to see if such abuses have spread to other regions, The Globe interviewed women and girls in the village of Geregera, in the Amhara region.

The village was captured by Tigrayan troops in late August. Soon afterward, four Tigrayan soldiers broke into the home of a 12-year-old girl.

“They ordered me to take off my clothes,” the girl told The Globe. “When I refused, one of them slapped me in the face and stripped off my clothes. My father tried to defend me, but they beat him and threatened to kill us all.”

For hours, until she lost consciousness, the soldiers took turn raping her, she said. She recounted the attack with difficulty, speaking between sobs and long pauses. Her mother gave permission and was present for the interview.

“They raped me in front of my father,” the girl said. “They would get angry and beat me when I tried to fight back, so I stopped. I was so scared they would kill me and my father.”

The Globe investigation found that the girl was one of many to suffer sexual assaults by Tigrayan troops. But all sides in the worsening war have been guilty of similar attacks.

The war began in November, 2020, when the Ethiopian military, supported by Eritrean troops, launched a massive offensive in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The region had defied the federal government by demanding autonomy and refusing to cancel a scheduled election last year.

Almost from the beginning of the war, human-rights researchers and United Nations agencies have documented the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. The earliest reports emerged in Tigray in late 2020, revealing frequent sexual assaults by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops, along with Amhara militias, as part of their offensive to gain control of the region.

More recently, the war has expanded to new regions, including Amhara, after Tigrayan forces launched a counteroffensive. After regaining control of much of their home region, the Tigrayans have advanced into Amhara and closer to Addis Ababa – reportedly exhibiting a similar pattern of sexual violence along the way.

Many of the victims have been unable to get medical treatment or mental health care, largely because of the fighting, the growing number of military checkpoints, the shutdown of electricity and telecommunications, the destruction of health centres and a government blockade of humanitarian supplies to some regions.

“One year since Tigray’s devastating conflict began, survivors of sexual violence – from gang rape to sexual slavery – remain in desperate need of health care and support services,” Nisha Varia, women’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said in a report this month.

In the village of Geregera, the 12-year-old girl has received no medical treatment for her injuries, nor any other health support, not just because of the social stigma that surrounds sexual assaults but because of the shortage of health facilities in the area. Almost three months after the brutal attack, some of her internal injuries persist – she still suffers from urinary incontinence.

The Globe talked to several victims of sexual violence by Tigrayan forces in Geregera. The village is about 100 kilometres southwest of Lalibela, a popular tourist town in the Amhara region, famous for its ancient churches hewn into the sides of mountains.

The interviews were obtained independently, without the involvement of government officials. To ensure the security of the victims, The Globe is not revealing their identities.

The survivors described how some Tigrayan soldiers went from village to village and raped the women and girls they found, until they retreated from the area in mid-September.

Zewde, a mother of two in Geregera, said her 14-year-old daughter was among those who were gang-raped by Tigrayan troops.

On the afternoon of Aug. 28, she said, her daughter disappeared. A group of villagers found the girl dumped in a nearby forest and carried her home.

“She was bleeding and unconscious,” Zewde told The Globe tearfully. “She was scratched and beaten.”

Her daughter, still in shock, could barely speak for days. Only weeks later did Zewde learn what had happened, although her daughter is still uncertain of how many soldiers were involved in the attack.

“She has nightmares,” Zewde said. “Sometimes she counts them as five. Other times she said they were six. But she is certain about one thing: Her abusers were uniformed fighters from Tigray.”

Others from the same village gave similar accounts to The Globe. None of the victims, they said, had received any medical or psychological help after the soldiers attacked them.

“At first they said they would not harm the women and that their targets are only armed men,” said Meteke, one of the villagers. “But afterwards they raped and tortured our girls mercilessly.”

Meteke said she knows several of the victims, but most would not talk about their ordeals because of the stigma surrounding sexual assault.

The Globe could not independently verify the number of cases in the village. But separate witnesses estimated that dozens of women and girls, at least, were raped by Tigrayan fighters.

The Globe contacted Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the main Tigrayan fighting force, to ask about the allegations of sexual violence in Geregera. He did not respond to the message.

Amnesty International, in a report on Nov. 9, documented how 16 women were raped in mid-August by Tigrayan fighters who had captured another Amhara town, Nifas Mewcha, about 50 kilometres from Geregera.

The women told Amnesty that they were raped at gunpoint, robbed, physically assaulted and subjected to dehumanizing verbal attacks during the nine days when the Tigrayan soldiers controlled the town. The attacks amounted to war crimes, Amnesty said.

Fourteen of the 16 told Amnesty that they were gang-raped. Some said the Tigrayans told them that the rapes were revenge for earlier rapes of Tigrayan women by Ethiopian soldiers.

Almost all of the women had suffered physical and mental health problems as a result of the attacks, but most were unable to receive any health care because the Tigrayan soldiers had damaged and looted the town’s hospital and health clinic, the report said.

An independent humanitarian agency that normally provides health services told Amnesty that it cannot enter the area because of security concerns caused by the government’s verbal attacks on relief agencies.

A joint investigation by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the UN human rights office found strong evidence of widespread sexual assaults by all sides in the war in northern Ethiopia. It found a continuous rise in the number of survivors visiting hospitals to seek treatment for sexual and gender-based violence, with more than 1,320 hospital visits in Tigray alone in the first six months of the war.

The joint investigation, in a report released on Nov. 3, found that Ethiopian, Eritrean and Tigrayan troops were implicated in multiple reports of gang rape in more than a dozen cities and towns. The assaults were so widespread and systematic that they could be defined as crimes against humanity, it said.

“Some of the reported accounts of rape were characterized by appalling levels of brutality,” the report said. “Acts of rape were frequently intended to degrade and dehumanize an entire ethnic group.”

Some governments and activists are proposing an international convention to make sexual violence as universally prohibited in wars as chemical weapons or land mines.

“It is grotesque that sexual violence and rape is used as a weapon of war, and it’s used to exercise power over women,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a speech last week.

She cited a study in South Sudan that found that about a third of all women had suffered conflict-related sexual violence.

“It’s wrong that it’s treated less seriously than chemical warfare or land mines,” she said.


From the early days of UN peacekeeping to some of today’s most vital operations, Ethiopian men and women have played an important role in the UN’s efforts to advance peace in the world’s hot spots. The country’s participation in UN peacekeeping operations dates back to 1951, as part of the UN multinational force in the Korean War. Credit: United Nations

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 25 2021 (IPS) - In Hollywood movies, the legendary Wild West was routinely portrayed with gunslingers, lawmen and villains—resulting in the ultimate showdown between the “good guys and the bad guys”.

Linda Thomson-Greenfield, US ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council early this month that the warring parties in the devastating 12-month-long civil war in Ethiopia involve the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, the Eritrean Defense Forces, the Amhara Special Forces, and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front.

And invoking a Hollywood metaphor, she remarked “there are no good guys here”.

The battle is perhaps best characterized as a showdown between one set of bad guys vs another set of bad guys –despite the fact that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who is currently leading the conflict, triggering accusations of war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

As in many ongoing conflicts and civil wars—whether in Afghanistan, Yemen, Myanmar, Syria, Palestine, Iraq or Ethiopia, the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, namely the US, UK, France, China and Russia, are sharply divided and protective of their allies — and their prolific arms markets.

But the conflict in Ethiopia has also resulted in a “monumental humanitarian disaster” where UN agencies and relief organizations are being hindered by the Ethiopian government from delivering food and medical supplies for political reasons.

Still, who are the merchants of death in this vicious conflict which has “already claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced upwards of 2 million people,” and where rape is being increasingly used as a weapon of war.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is providing emergency food assistance to more than 800,000 people affected by conflict in the Afar and Amhara regions of northern Ethiopia. Credit: WFP/Claire Nevill

According to figures released by international aid organizations, tens of thousands of people are reportedly displaced in Amhara and Afar regions because of active fighting in multiple locations; about two million rendered homeless overall and about seven million urgently in need of humanitarian assistance.

Ambassador Thomson-Greenfield told delegates it is time for all parties to immediately halt hostilities and refrain from incitement to violence and divisiveness.

The bellicose rhetoric and inflammatory language on all sides of this conflict only aggravate intercommunal violence. It is time for the Government of Ethiopia, the TPLF, and all other groups to engage in immediate ceasefire negotiations without preconditions to find a sustainable path toward peace, she said.

And it is long past time for the Eritrean Defense Forces to withdraw from Ethiopian territory.

“It is time to put your weapons down. This war between angry, belligerent men – victimizing women and children – has to stop,” she declared.

But one lingering question remains: where are these weapons coming from?

China and Russia, two permanent members of the UN Security Council, have been identified as the primary arms suppliers to Ethiopia.

“The time when the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) almost solely relied on aging Soviet armament, mixed in with some of their more modern Russian brethrens, is long gone.”

“Over the past decade, Ethiopia has diversified its arms imports to include a number of other sources that presently include nations such as China, Germany, Ukraine and Belarus”.

Arguably more surprising is the presence of countries like Israel and the UAE in this list, which have supplied Ethiopia with a number of specialised weapon systems, according to a Blog posting in Oryx.

Alexandra Kuimova, Researcher, Arms Transfers Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told IPS in terms of volume (measured in SIPRI’s TIVs), Russia and Ukraine were the largest supplies of major arms to Ethiopia over the last two decades, accounting for 50 per cent and 33 per cent of Ethiopia’s imports in 2001-2020, respectively.

Deliveries from Russia included an estimated 18 second-hand combat helicopters and combat aircraft transferred to Ethiopia between 2003-2004.

The most recent deliveries included an estimated four 96K9 Pantsyr-S1 mobile air defence systems imported by Ethiopia in 2019. Deliveries from Ukraine included an estimated 215 second-hand T-72B tanks received by Ethiopia between 2011-2015.

She said there are also European states transferring major arms to Ethiopia since 2001. For example, Hungary supplied 12 second-hand Mi-24V/Mi-35 combat helicopters to Ethiopia in 2013. French Bastion vehicles delivered to the state in 2016 were financed by the US. Deliveries from Germany included 6 trainer aircraft in 2019.

Stephen Zunes, a professor of Politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, who has written extensively on the politics of the Security Council, told IPS: “The perception of such conflicts as being simply an African problem ignores the fact that much of the killing would not be possible were it not for Western arms sent to the combatants.”

In most civil wars, however, small arms and light weapons were critically important, and were often backed up by major conventional weapons.

Since 2011, China has emerged as one of the largest arms suppliers to Ethiopia. Some of the known deliveries from China included a single HQ-64 air defence system delivered in 2013 and 4 PHL-03 300mm self-propelled multiple rocket launchers received by Ethiopia in 2018-2019.

Ethiopia also imported about 30 armoured personnel carriers from China between 2012 and 2014, said Kuimova.

Other media reports have provided information on the presence of Chinese Wing Loong and Iranian Mohajer-6 drones in Ethiopia. In addition, several media outlets claim that Turkey is negotiating arms deals on selling an identified number of Bayraktar TB-2 armed drones to Ethiopia.

Meanwhile, in one of the world’s worse conflict zones, namely Yemen, the air attacks are mostly by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, equipped with arms primarily from the US and UK, two permanent members of the Security Council.

According to SIPRIs Kuimova, there is not much known about transfers of major arms to Eritrea. She said it appears that the country has not received any major weapons since 2009 when the UN arms embargo on Eritrea came into force. The embargo was lifted in 2018, however, no deliveries of major arms have been documented since then.

Between 2001-2007, Eritrea’s imports of major arms included two second-hand modernized S-125-2T air defence systems supplied by Belarus in 2005. Bulgaria supplied 120 second-hand T-55 tanks in 2005. Between 2001-2004 Russia delivered 4 combat aircraft to Eritrea, and an estimated 80 Kornet-E anti-tank missiles between 2001 and 2005. Deliveries from Ukraine included 2 second-hand combat aircraft.

“We are currently collecting, analyzing and verifying open-source information on deliveries of major arms to both Ethiopia and Eritrea over the last year,” she said.

But lack of transparency in armaments in the cases of both importer states and exporters make it difficult to determine the order and delivery dates and the exact numbers and types of weapons transferred over the last years.

For example, Ethiopia has not been submitting reports on its imports of arms to the UN Register of Conventional Arms (UNROCA), the main UN transparency instrument on conventional weapons, since 1997.

And China, one of the largest exporters to Ethiopia over the last decade, does not appear to have reported to UNROCA, information about its arms transfers to Ethiopia.

Source=Ethiopia’s PM has gone to the battlefront: State-affiliated media | News | Al Jazeera

Abiy Ahmed on Tuesday promised to lead his country’s army ‘from the battlefront’ after Tigrayan rebels threatened to march on Addis Ababa.

The TPLF dominated government for nearly three decades, until Abiy came to power in 2018 [File: AP Photo]

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has gone to the front lines to lead his troops in the battle against forces from the northern Tigray region, state-affiliated media reported.

Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen would take charge of routine government business in Abiy’s absence, Fana news outlet said on Wednesday.

Other senior government officials have also immediately responded to the call made by the prime Minister to save Ethiopia and joined the campaign, he added.

State media has shown no images of Abiy, a 45-year-old former soldier and winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, at the battlefront. The government has not disclosed his location but a spokesman said he had arrived at the front on Tuesday and was joined by other government officials who heeded the call to “save Ethiopia”.

“The time has come to lead the country with sacrifice,” Abiy had said in a Twitter post late on Monday. “Those who want to be among the Ethiopian children who will be hailed by history, rise up for your country today. Let’s meet at the battlefront.”

Northern Ethiopia has been racked by conflict since November 2020 when Abiy sent troops into the Tigray region to topple the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) after months of tensions with the region’s governing party. The TPLF had controlled national politics for three decades until Abiy came to power in 2018.

Abiy promised a swift victory, but by late June the TPLF had regrouped and retaken most of Tigray, including its capital, Mekelle. Since then, the Tigrayan forces have pushed into the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions and this week claimed control of Shewa Robit, just 220km (135 miles) northeast of the capital, Addis Ababa, by road.

On Tuesday, US Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman said the Ethiopian military and regional militias had been able to hold back Tigrayan attempts to cut the corridor but Tigrayan forces had been able to move south towards Addis Ababa.

Much of northern Ethiopia is under a communications blackout and access for journalists is restricted, making battlefield claims difficult to corroborate.

Later on Wednesday, during a joint news conference with Colombia’s President Ivan Duque, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for an end to the fighting.

“The peace process in Colombia today inspires me to make an urgent call to the protagonists of the conflict in Ethiopia for an unconditional and immediate ceasefire,” Guterres said, referring to the 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC rebels.

‘Risking his life’

Mustafa Ali, co-founder and chairman of Horn International Institute for Strategic Studies, said Abiy’s decision to move to the war front was a “big gamble”.

“Aby is risking his life and he’s also risking the lives of those who are going to be alongside himself,” Ali told Al Jazeera.

“The calculation here from Aby’s administration is because … that many armed grounds are converging around Addis Ababa, he sees it fit as part of a psychological operation to inspire other Ethiopians to join the [national army] and fight this war and push back the Tigrayans,” he said.

“Ethiopia is a huge country; if it descends into anarchy then we are going have a huge problem of stability in the entire Horn of Africa,” Ali warned.

On Wednesday, hundreds of new army recruits took part in a ceremony held in their honour in the Kolfe district of Addis Ababa.

“I was amazed when I heard” Abiy planned to join soldiers in the field, one of the recruits, 42-year-old driver Tesfaye Sherefa, told AFP news agency.

“When a leader leaves his chair… and his throne it is to rescue his country. His focus is not to live, but to rescue this country, and I sobbed when he said ‘follow me’ and went to the front line.”

At least one prominent distance runner – marathoner and Olympic silver medallist Feyisa Lilesa – has joined thousands of ordinary Ethiopians keen to follow Abiy’s lead.

The marathoner gained political prominence by raising and crossing his arms as he finished the marathon at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro – a gesture of solidarity with fellow ethnic Oromos killed while protesting against abuses committed during nearly 27 years of TPLF rule.

In the state media interview which aired Wednesday, Feyisa said he would relish the chance to fight the TPLF himself.

“When a country is violated, there is no way I will stand by and just watch,” he said.

A separate state media report quoted Ethiopia’s most famous distance-running champion, Haile Gebrselassie, as saying he, too, would fight at the front.

“What would you do when the existence of a country is at stake? You just put down everything. Alas, nothing will bind you. I am sorry!” Haile told Reuters news agency on Wednesday.

In an interview in his office in Addis Ababa, where he runs more than a dozen companies engaged in hospitality, real estate, agriculture and education, Haile, who set 27 long distance running records, spoke of the role he was willing to play in the war.

“You expect me to say until death? Yes, that is the ultimate price in a war,” the 48-year-old said. “There is no way that I can sit here due to fear because it will come to my door. It will come to my house. We wouldn’t know when it comes. We wouldn’t know who will do what.”



This information is from an Eritrean friend of mine. It comes against the background of reports of arrests of Tigrayans in Addis Ababa and other parts of Ethiopia.


Friends are telling me about how Eritreans are suffering as a result of the mass arrest of Tigrayans. My friend  sent me the message below about her husband.

“My husband was in the 3rd police station Piassa. (Sostegna). There were 300 prisoners there were only three toilets and there was no water. There were 18 Eritreans some of them were elderly.

They eventually charged him with illegal money transfers, not terrorism or supporting terror.

Many of the others are simply charged with supporting terror and simply kept under arrest even after the courts discharge them.

My husband told me there were even disabled people held at the police stations and a lot of elderly people too.

One woman who refused to be separated from her blind daughter, so she was simply taken to prison with her.

Another woman who used to work for the UN and is a mother of twins.

The numbers rise almost exponentially. There are areas of Addis such as Cherkos where nearly every household has been affected.

Even Tigrayans with exit visas are too scared to go to the airport, as this would expose them.

Many people are in hiding but often their neighbours give them away them. When caught all they have to be is Tigrayan to be taken away.”


“Several witnesses have told AFP of mass roundups of Tigrayan civilians in western Tigray in recent days.”

Source: AFP

Western Tigray continues to be patrolled by Amhara security forces and Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers (AFP/EDUARDO SOTERAS)
Wed, November 24, 2021, 5:21 PM·

The United Nations on Wednesday expressed worry over reports of large-scale displacement from western Tigray, part of the war-hit Ethiopian region where the US has previously warned of ethnic cleansing.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR and other agencies have “received very concerning reports of new waves of displacement” from the territory which borders Sudan and Eritrea, UNHCR said in a statement.

“Tigray zonal authorities report of 8,000 new arrivals, potentially up to 20,000,” UNHCR said.

“However, at this stage, we cannot corroborate or confirm these figures.”

Several witnesses have told AFP of mass roundups of Tigrayan civilians in western Tigray in recent days.

The area has been fiercely contested throughout the brutal year-long war in northern Ethiopia pitting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group.

In November 2020, after Abiy sent troops to topple the TPLF, then Tigray’s ruling party, forces from the neighbouring Amhara region rushed in to occupy and administer western Tigray.

Amhara officials contend the fertile land rightly belongs to them and was illegally annexed by the TPLF three decades ago.

As Amhara civilians have poured in over the past year, Tigrayans have fled in the tens of thousands — either west into Sudan or east, deeper into Tigray.

The exodus has been so dramatic that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress in March that “acts of ethnic cleansing” had occurred.

While the TPLF managed to retake control of most of Tigray by late June, western Tigray continues to be patrolled by Amhara security forces and Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers.

The TPLF has vowed to “liberate” western Tigray but the area has not seen heavy fighting in recent months, with the rebels instead pressing south towards the capital Addis Ababa.

In Humera, the biggest town in western Tigray, security forces on Saturday placed Tigrayan civilians — mostly the elderly, women and children — on 21 buses headed east, said one resident who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity for safety reasons.

“They told them to carry their luggage and clothes and took them towards the Tekeze river,” the resident said.

“I am in hiding now.”

Amhara officials have not responded to requests for comment on conditions in western Tigray.

A joint UN mission is planned “to the areas where new arrivals are located, which will give us a better understanding of the situation,” UNHCR said Wednesday in its statement.

 MR PRICE:  Good morning, everyone, and thanks very much for joining us, especially today, for this very important topic.  We wanted to offer another opportunity for you to hear an update from, in this case, our Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeff Feltman on the situation in Ethiopia.  The special envoy will have some opening remarks at the top, after which he will look forward to taking your questions.

This call is on the record.  Its contents are embargoed until the conclusion of the call.  But with that, I will turn it over to Special Envoy Feltman.

AMBASSADOR FELTMAN:  Thanks, Ned, and good morning to everybody.  I returned from Ethiopia yesterday, and this was my second trip there in just a couple of weeks.  And there is some nascent progress in trying to get the parties to move from a military confrontation to a negotiating process, but what concerns us is that this fragile progress risks being outpaced by the alarming developments on the ground that threaten Ethiopia’s overall stability and unity.

I want to be clear:  The basis for talks to lead to de-escalation and a negotiated ceasefire exists.  Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy told me again on Sunday that his top priority is to get the Tigrayan Defense Forces and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, the TDF and the TPLF, out of the lands that they have occupied in the states of Amhara and Afar and get them back into Tigray.  We share that objective.  The TDF and TPLF leaders that we have engaged tell us that their top priority is to break the de facto humanitarian siege that the Government of Ethiopia has imposed on Tigray since July.  We share that objective as well.  And the two sides have given the same message to a number of other diplomats and leaders, including former Nigerian President Obasanjo, who, as you all know, serves as the African Union’s high representative for the Horn of Africa.

The basic point is that these two objectives are not mutually exclusive.  With political will, one can achieve both.  Unfortunately, each side is trying to achieve its goal by military force, and each side seems to believe that it’s on the cusp of winning.  After more than a year of fighting and hundreds of thousands of casualties and people displaced by fighting, it should be clear that there is no military solution.  The government must remove the shackles that are hindering humanitarian relief and stop offensive military actions, and the TDF must halt its advance on Addis.  All those in need, regardless of ethnicity or geography, should have immediate access to lifesaving humanitarian assistance, and we call for an immediate end to human rights abuses and violations.

Our goal is to support diplomacy as the first, as the last, and as the only approach to address the underlying causes of this conflict.  We are not taking sides here.  Rumors that we are supporting one side are simply false.  We have no intention of any engagement except diplomatic engagement on behalf of international efforts to promote a political process.  Ethiopia’s neighbors, the African Union, the United Nations, and the international community all agree:  There is no time to waste in pivoting to diplomacy.

Ethiopian Americans, too, have an important responsibility to create a conducive atmosphere for de-escalation.  For decades, Ethiopian Americans have been instrumental in advocating for reforms that would ensure that all Ethiopians live in dignity with their basic human rights and freedoms respected.  Now is the time for Ethiopian Americans to play a similar leadership role in advocating for an end to incitement and fanning the flames of war.

Continued war risks unraveling Africa’s second-most-populous country, the home of the African Union, and the traditional linchpin of security and stability in the strategic Horn of Africa/Red Sea area.  We’re putting our collective – we’re putting our diplomatic tools behind the collective efforts to promote de-escalation and a negotiated ceasefire.  It is time for the Ethiopians to pursue their objectives not on the battlefield, but at the negotiating table.

And one final note is I want to reiterate that the Department of State has been urging U.S. citizens in Ethiopia to depart now using commercially available options.  The U.S. embassy has been issuing daily messages to U.S. citizens since early November with this message.

With that, I look forward to your questions.

MR PRICE:  Terrific, thanks.  Operator, would you mind repeating the instructions for putting yourself in the question queue?

OPERATOR:  Once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you have a question, press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad.

MR PRICE:  We’ll start with the line of Francesco Fontemaggi from AFP.

OPERATOR:  Francesco, your line is open.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Thank you both.  I was wondering if you can elaborate on how you’re so confident that there has been progress on the diplomatic front at the same time the TPLF claims being just 130 miles northeast of Addis and the prime minister said he would go himself on the battlefield to fight against the rebels.  The – all this doesn’t really sound very optimistic.  So is there a discrepancy between your progress and what’s going on on the battlefield?  Thank you.

AMBASSADOR FELTMAN:  Francesco, thanks for the question.  And I hope I didn’t come across as excessively optimistic.  I think I made it clear that what worries us is that while there’s some nascent progress, that it’s highly at risk of being outpaced by the military escalation on the two sides.

But I’ve been having a series of trips to Addis and elsewhere in the region.  Of course, the Secretary has engaged the Ethiopian officials by phone.  We had Senator Coons back in March go out.  There’s been a number of U.S. engagements with the Ethiopians, and what I sense is a much greater willingness to brainstorm with us about how you would put together the pieces of a de-escalation and negotiated ceasefire process.  There’s no longer just a refusal to talk about how you would move into a negotiating process.  There’s more of a sense of realism that after a year of this horror, that there might be other approaches to consider in order to achieve goals.

What I find interesting is when you talk to the two sides separately – and of course, we’re talking to them separately, of course – when you talk to the two sides, the elements that they describe as being essential to get to de-escalation, negotiated ceasefire overlap: end to incitement, end to offensive military operations, opening of humanitarian corridors to whoever – wherever the needs are, having the TPLF withdraw back to Tigray, a – removing the TPLF from the terrorist designation that the Ethiopian parliament put in place.  They’re willing to discuss these issues now.  That’s not the same as saying that they’re moving forward in putting together some kind of program, but I think that there is the potential for President Obasanjo with the support of the international community to take these elements that both sides agree have to be part of a political process and start sequencing them, start deciding how does the reciprocity work between the sides.

But again, what I worry about is that the military developments on the ground are moving more rapidly than we’ve been able to get the diplomatic process to move.

MR PRICE:  We’ll go the line of Daphne Psaledakis from Reuters.

OPERATOR:  Daphne, your line is open.

QUESTION:  Oh, sorry.  Thank you for doing this.  I was wondering if you could give some details on the rough estimates of the number of people that have been detained in Ethiopia, as well as on the front line.  Do you have any sense of where the front line is in Afar and Amhara?

And if the TPLF can secure the road to Djibouti, would aid convoys move down it?  If so, would that involve a no-fly zone?  Thank you.

AMBASSADOR FELTMAN:  Thanks, Daphne.  Our information on the detainees is not at all – I mean, it’s not at all clear to us how many have been detained.  We’re alarmed by the numbers of people who’ve been picked up, by the reports of people being sort of put in camps where COVID may be rampant, where they have – where they’re not having access to due process.  But the numbers we simply don’t know.

In terms of the lines of – the battle lines on the ground, it seems to us that in terms of the TDF/TPLF’s moves toward Mile, which is the road to Djibouti, it looks to us as though for whatever reason that they’ve not advanced as much, that the Ethiopian National Defense Forces and their partners – the regional militias and stuff – have been able to more or less stem the TDF’s advances toward Mile and keep the major access roads between Djibouti and Addis open, whereas the – it looks as though the TDF/TPLF in the information we have has been able to move past some of the defensive lines on the road to Addis – the defensive line that was Ataye, the defensive line at Shewa Robit, down toward Debre Sina.

So the – for a while the lines were static, and then about a week ago, the TDF/TPLF started to move again.  And this alarms us.  It alarms us for several reasons.  It alarms us because more – the more that you have the military conflict expand, the more people are affected.  The closer that the TDF is able to move to Addis, its own demands may increase and what it would expect in the negotiating process.  And I want to make it clear we are absolutely opposed to the TDF threatening Addis by cutting off the road to Djibouti or threatening Addis by actually entering Addis.

MR PRICE:  We’ll go to the line of Jennifer Hansler from CNN.

OPERATOR:  Jennifer, your line is open.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you so much for doing this.  I just wanted to confirm that you met with Prime Minister Abiy, and did he give any indication in your meeting that he would put out this call that he would go to the front lines to direct the war effort from there?  Did you discourage him from taking this step?  And if this military campaign continues to outpace the diplomatic efforts, is the U.S. prepared to take more punitive actions, perhaps under the sanctions regime or another step?  Thank you.

AMBASSADOR FELTMAN:  Thanks, Jennifer.  I mean, what the prime minister and I mostly discussed was how his goals could be achieved through the negotiating table rather than on the military battlefield.  He has – he is confident that he will be able to push back the TDF northward back into Tigray.  I question that confidence.  I’m just looking at a map over the – of what’s happened since the Ethiopian National Defense Forces withdrew from Tigray at the end of June.  Just looking at a map makes me question his confidence.

But be that as it may, even if it’s true, what I was trying to tell him was that the cost to Ethiopia’s stability, the cost to the civilians, the dignity of Ethiopians being damaged by this war, the costs are too high; that you can achieve the same thing through a diplomatic process that has the support of the African Union, the immediate neighbors of Ethiopia, and the international community; you can achieve what it is that you say you’re trying to achieve militarily, which is to get the TDF/TPLF back into Tigray.  That’s what we discussed.

But again, I was encouraged that he was willing to talk to me in detail about what a diplomatic process could look like.  This is not something that would be a U.S.-led.  It would be something where the U.S. would be one of many actors supporting it, supporting a process.  But at the same time, he also expressed confidence that militarily he would be able to achieve his goals, which is – but no, in terms of did he preview the statement that he released yesterday, no.

MR PRICE:  We’ll go to Rosiland Jordan from Al Jazeera.

OPERATOR:  To whom was that again?  Rosiland, yes.  Your line is open.  Please, go ahead.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) much for the call.  I wanted to follow up on yesterday’s call from a couple of senior department officials strongly encouraging Americans and legal residents to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible.  Is that a pragmatic bit of advice given how tenuous the political and security situations are inside Ethiopia, or is this because there is a real fear within the U.S. Government that the country is about to collapse into civil war and the U.S. does – would not be able to assist Americans in that case?

AMBASSADOR FELTMAN:  Thanks for the question.  I mean, it’s basically a reflection of the reality that we view travel to Ethiopia right now as being unsafe due to the ongoing armed conflict and that the situation may – and I emphasize may – escalate further and cause supply chain shortages, communications blackouts, and travel disruptions.

Right now, the airport in Addis is operating normally.  I flew – as I said, I flew back overnight Sunday/Monday morning, and there were empty flights on the – empty flights on the Ethiopian Airlines plane that I was on.  And so what we’re saying is that since the U.S. embassy would be unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Ethiopia with departure if commercial options became unavailable, take the available seats on the commercial flights now since we can’t predict if demand would eventually exceed capacity.

MR PRICE:  We’ll go to Ali Rogan from PBS NewsHour.

OPERATOR:  Ali, your line is open.

QUESTION:  Hi there.  Thank you so much for doing the call.  I have a very specific question regarding reports out of Kenya that a Tigrayan businessman was abducted.  There has been a social media campaign that appears to be linking his abduction to the Abiy government, and so I wanted to know if you have any comment on this particular abduction.  And in general, are you concerned about any other instances of individuals who are Tigrayan descent or are Tigrayan being detained outside of Ethiopia?

AMBASSADOR FELTMAN:  I hadn’t heard that – I had not heard that report, to be honest, so we’ll have to look into that.  I mean, what we are concerned about are the levels of incitement by the various actors or those who support the various actors in this fight, the incitement against the Tigrayans, the Tigrayan incitement against others, the possibility of Amhara-Oromo violence, the two largest ethnic groups.

And we really have been calling on all sides to dial back the incitement that’s sort of exacerbating the ethnic aspects of this conflict.  And as I said earlier, we are alarmed by the roundup, what seems to be a systematic roundup, of Tigrayans in Addis and house-to-house searches looking for Tigrayans in Addis.  It’s time to dial back the incitement and roll up the sleeves and work on diplomacy rather than trying to exacerbate the conflict through ethnic polarization.

MR PRICE:  We’ll go to Nick Wadhams from Bloomberg.

OPERATOR:  Nick, your line is open.

QUESTION:  Hi, thanks very much.  Ambassador Feltman, I just wanted to try to clarify something, because at the beginning you said essentially that you see some progress on getting the sides to move from a military-political process, but everything you’ve said since that initial comment seems to go exactly the other way.  So could you elaborate a little bit more on what positive signals you actually see that makes you think either side wants to move to a political process?  Because your description of the conversation you’re having with the Ethiopian leadership suggests that they don’t have any desire or have shown any indication that they would be willing to do that.

AMBASSADOR FELTMAN:  As I said, what’s different, what has – I’ve gone out to Ethiopia and had a number of conversations with the same people.  We have met with – we’ve met with TPLF leaders in Nairobi and discussed with them elsewhere.  And what has changed is the willingness to engage.

Now, this is still – I put this in the premediation or sort of intellectual discussion part.  I don’t want to overstate the case.  This is not the – that there’s no sign that there would be direct talks on the horizon between the two sides, and nor is that necessary, frankly.

As you know, I was at at the UN for six years, and I have learned that there’s a whole different – a whole lot of different ways to have political processes.  You don’t have to go to the Palais des Nations in Geneva with international spotlight and journalists and lots of hoopla in order to be able to have – to have processes back and forth.  Look at how the Colombia peace process got started when you had the representatives of the FARC and representatives of the Government of Colombia having proximity talks via some intermediaries in Havana before they moved to direct talks.

There’s a lot of different ways you can do a peace process that is discreet, and that’s the sort of things the two sides are now talking to us about, that there’s a – it would be politically costly for the Government of Ethiopia right now to sit down with TPLF leaders across the table when parts of Amhara and Afar, the constituents of the government, are under occupation.  They don’t have to.

And the fact that they were talking to us about how processes might work politically for them I found encouraging.  That wasn’t possible a few weeks ago.  The fact that both sides were talking to us about the elements that they would expect to see on the table if they’re in an active proximity talks encouraged me, the sorts of things I said earlier.  The fact that the – that what they’ve – that what both sides have defined as their primary objectives can be made compatible, I found encouraging.

Now, I don’t want to overstate this case.  What I want to say is that we are using our diplomatic channels along with the political support of the neighbors, of the African Union, of the international community more generally, to try to encourage this.  I mean, what I would say that what you’re seeing now is that the two sides are starting to think about whether or not they can really achieve their goals only on the battlefield.

When we talk – there’s politics on both sides.  When we talk with the Tigrayan leaders, there are some who recognize that entering Addis could be catastrophic for themselves and catastrophic for the country, and they don’t want to be responsible for the collapse of Ethiopia.  But they do want to see the siege that’s been imposed on Tigray since the end of June lifted.

So are there ways that they can get the humanitarian relief that they need that would strengthen the more moderate voices inside the Tigrayan camp to refute this idea that they need to move – try to move on to Addis?  These are the sorts of things that we’re trying to encourage now.  There was a little bit of humanitarian relief that we believe reached Tigray today, but not nearly enough to be able to strengthen those voices inside the Tigrayan leadership that, as we would think, as we believe, moving on Addis is just unacceptable and catastrophic.

So right now, both sides are still pursuing military options, but they are also engaged on the idea that there may be other ways to pursue their objectives.  That’s – and they’re engaged not only with us but with others.  And that’s what I find, again, marginally encouraging, but I don’t want to overstate the case.

MR PRICE:  Time for a couple final questions.  We’ll go to Simon Ateba from Today News Africa.

OPERATOR:  Simon, your line is open.

QUESTION:  Yes, thank you for doing this.  It is Simon Ateba with Today News Africa in Washington.  On the administration call for U.S. citizen to leave Ethiopia now while commercial flights remain available, to your assessment, how much time do they still have?  Do they have to leave now, this month, this week?  And on the American citizen being detained in Ethiopia, how many are currently being detained, U.S. citizen?  Thank you.

AMBASSADOR FELTMAN:  We are urging and we have been urging U.S. citizens in Ethiopia to depart now.  As I said, there are commercially available options now.  And the U.S. embassy has been giving that message daily to U.S. citizens since early November.  So it’s simply a reflection of the fact that the situation on the ground is changing, that the U.S. embassy would be unlikely to assist U.S. citizens in Ethiopia with departure if the commercial options would become unavailable.  And so now is the time for them to leave.

Whenever we have information on detained U.S. citizens, the embassy asks for consular access to them so that we can perform the consular services that are such an important part of our overseas diplomatic presence.  There’s obviously a very large Ethiopian American community in Ethiopia as, of course there’s a large Ethiopian American community that has enriched the United States on this side of the Atlantic.

MR PRICE:  We’ll go to a Pearl Matibe.

OPERATOR:  Pearl, your line is open.

QUESTION:  Thank you so much.  Good morning, Ambassador Feltman, and thank you for your availability.  Ambassador Feltman, I have a three-part question here for you.  In 1991 Mengistu Haile Mariam fled from Ethiopia and was granted asylum in Zimbabwe.  He’s now an official guest of Zimbabwe, as he was under Mugabe – he is under the current President Emmerson Mnangagwa – and he blamed the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev for his policies and the ending of his regime.  From your assessment, who do you believe Prime Minister Abiy blames for this crisis?  Photos are circulated him being real friendly with President Uhuru Kenyatta.  Do you see in your evaluation any indication that Abiy may be making private plans to seek asylum from some leaders on the continent?

And I also just wanted to say I appreciate your sharing your diplomatic efforts, but might be – you are being overtaken by events on the ground.  So I’d like to press you further:  Could you be more precise on what is it exactly that is demonstrating to you that you – about what’s happening on the ground – what has happened faster, and why is diplomacy not happening faster?  What would it take for the diplomatic effort to move faster?  What is the – what are the barriers?  What are the hurdles?  Help my audiences understand why diplomacy is not moving faster?

And if you say you spoke to Abiy on Tuesday, are we days away from the diplomatic effort succeeding?  Are we weeks away from a siege on Addis?  How far away are we from either track?  Thank you so much, Ambassador Feltman, for all of your sharing.

AMBASSADOR FELTMAN:  That’s a rather expansive list of questions there, Pearl.  I mean, first of all, let me – you raised 1991.  And this is a message that we have said to the Tigrayan leaders, to the TPLF, to the TDF leaders: that they need to remember this is not 1991.  In 1991, as you know, the TPLF led a popular entry into Addis with the fall of the Mengistu regime.  The TPLF would be met with unrelenting hostility if it entered Addis today.  This is not the same as 1991, and we believe that the Tigrayan leaders understand that.

In terms of Prime Minister Abiy, I – again, I have spoken with him repeatedly in our meetings over the months since I’ve had the honor of serving this administration in this capacity.  And he is very concerned that the United States and others did not properly credit him for things like the June 28th unilateral humanitarian ceasefire, or properly attribute blame for what happened back in November with the assault on the Northern Command.  But there’s a larger narrative that I want to really refute, which is that somehow the United States is nostalgic for the TPLF’s return to government, for a return of that EPRDF, TPLF-dominated regime that was under Meles Zenawi for 27 years.

That is not what we’re after here.  We are not taking sides in this conflict.  We’re not trying to tip the scales in favor of the TPLF.  Prime Minister Abiy emerged – his party emerged successful in elections that took place in June and additional elections in September for other districts.  He has a parliament that backs him.  Whatever the imperfections are in the elections, I think that they – in general his premiership reflects a popular mandate that we recognize.  And so this idea that we’re taking sides on behalf the TPLF is pure fantasy, but it persists.

You mention President Kenyatta of Kenya.  President Kenyatta is very concerned about the stability in Ethiopia.  He shares the same concern we have about Ethiopia’s overall stability, but he shares it as a neighbor.  So I think that he’s playing an extremely important role in being able to talk to Prime Minister Abiy, sort of peer-to-peer, about the need for stability in the Horn of Africa with stability in the Horn of Africa not being possible if there’s destabilization in Ethiopia.

The main hurdle to moving decisively to a diplomatic negotiating track isn’t the United States; it’s not the African Union; it’s not the international community.  It’s the political will of the parties themselves.  One would think that at this point, given the suffering, given the loss of dignity to too many Ethiopians and northern Ethiopia, that the two sides would recognize that the cost of continuing this conflict militarily is far too high for Ethiopia.  And that’s the case that we’re trying to make.  But in the end, they’re going to have to muster the political will.

And as I said, I was encouraged that they’re at least willing now to talk to us, to talk to President Obasanjo, to talk to others about the elements that they would see as essential to get to de-escalation and negotiated ceasefire.  The – I think the tragedy is, the sadness is, that both sides have in mind the same type of elements.  They may have different views on sequencing – who goes first, how far does the TPLF withdraw before something happens on the government side, et cetera, et cetera – but the elements, they agree upon.  The primary goals, as I said earlier, of each side are not mutually irreconcilable.  So they just need to muster the political will in order to pivot from the military to the – to negotiations.  And we’re not the only ones encouraging them to do so, but we can’t force them to the table.

MR PRICE:  We’ll take one final question from Conor Finnegan from ABC.

OPERATOR:  And Conor, your line is open.

QUESTION:  Hey.  Thank you, Ambassador.  I just wanted to follow on the blockade of Tigray.  You spoke about the small amount of aid that was able to enter the region.  Do you take that as sort of a first gesture here?  Do you expect more in the coming days?  And you said that the prime minister seemed open to other means of achieving his objectives, but did you get a sense that he would be willing to end the blockade, that he understands the situation on the ground there, as opposed to continuing to deny the reality?

AMBASSADOR FELTMAN:  The – I mean, I should say that the aid that we understood – understand reached Mekelle and Tigray today was quite modest, so I don’t want to – we hope it’s the beginning of sustained, expanded assistance, because the amount of assistance that has reached Tigray since the beginning of July is something like 12 percent of the needs that should have reached Tigray.  But I also want to note that there are needs in Afar and Amhara as well, in the areas that the TDF now occupies, where you have civilians under TDF occupation outside of Tigray.

So our goal is to be able to deliver assistance to wherever it’s needed across the military frontlines.  And that’s been the conversation that we have had with the TDF/TPLF leaders, and with the Government of Ethiopia, is that we need to find mechanisms, channels, corridors to reach the – to have the assistance reach those in need wherever they happen to be in Ethiopia.  And I think that there’s – again, there’s a greater understanding.  I mean, it’s no longer just the Tigrayans who are suffering from deprivation under this conflict that you have – as I said, you have people in Amhara and Afar now, so there’s a collective need for assistance to flow.  And we’ve been looking at a number of ways with the government, with the UN, of how you would do that.

But in terms of Tigray itself, the restrictions are largely imposed by the government and there’s layers of restrictions.  We have this – I have the sense that there’s a seriousness on the part of the government to start to strip away some of the restrictions that have been put in place since June.  But I’m not even sure that the government recognizes how many layers of restrictions have been imposed since June and how difficult it’s going to be to dial all of this back.

The other thing is the commercial siege of Tigray, that the banking services, the utilities, electricity, telecom, et cetera have been cut off also since the end of June, and fuel supplies, et cetera.  And simply having trucks drop off food in Mekelle is not going to be sufficient to address the needs.  There needs to be cash, telecom, fuel, et cetera to be able to do this.  And it’s a struggle, still, even if there’s a stated willingness of the government to work with us on releasing it.

We see this as essential.  It’s essential not only to save people’s lives wherever the people’s needs happen to be, but it’s essential in order to make that argument as strongly as possible with the Tigrayan leaders that they cannot enter Addis under the guise of trying to break the humanitarian siege, that there are other ways to achieve those goals without tipping Addis into a bloodbath situation or chaos.

MR PRICE:  Thank you very much, Special Envoy Feltman.  Thank you all for tuning in.  Again, this call was on the record, attributable to the special envoy.  The embargo is now lifted, and we look forward to speaking with many of you very soon.  Thanks, all, very much.


Britain’s upper house (the House of Lords) has debated the Tigray war. The government accepts evidence of widespread rape and sexual abuse by Eritrean troops and: “the UK will consider the full range of policy tools at our disposal to protect human rights and deter violations of international humanitarian law.”

Source: Hansard

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