MARCH 27, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAYUNCATEGORIZED

Source: Daily Telegraph

Doctors say victims of conflict-related sexual violence are seeking emergency contraception and HIV prevention drugs in northern Ethiopia and 27 March 2021 • 8:30am

Illustration of victims of sexual violence outside a crumbling hospital

Hundreds of women are rushing to Tigray’s hospitals in northern Ethiopia for emergency contraception and HIV prevention drugs after being systematically raped, often gang-raped, by Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers fighting in a brutal civil war.

Dozens are seeking abortions, medical care and psychological support in overwhelmed hospitals, many of which have been destroyed by a five-month conflict between Ethiopia’s federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Thousands more are thought to be suffering in silence as they fear reprisals by security forces and rejection from their families, survivors, doctors and aid workers told the Telegraph.

In one of the first in-depth investigations of allegations of rape as a weapon of war in the conflict – which would constitute a war crime – the Telegraph has spoken to dozens in the region to uncover the true extent of what is happening.

One video, which was widely circulated on social media and has been verified by the Telegraph, shows a surgeon in Adigrat hospital removing long nails and pieces of plastic from the vagina of one woman after she was raped and tortured.

Melat*, 20, was at home in Wukro with her elder brother Danayi* when Ethiopian federal soldiers came in, she said. “When five Ethiopian soldiers came to our house to rape me, Danayi tried to defend me from them. ‘I cannot let you rape my sister,’ he said to them. The soldiers shot my brother in the head and took turns raping me,” Melat recalled, still in shock. “They raped me beside the corpse of my brother.”

Like many Tigrayan women, she is now pregnant from the attack. Many others have contracted HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.

Ethiopian and Eritrean forces have for months been battling troops loyal to the former Tigrayan regional government in a war that has left thousands dead and millions on the brink of starvation. The resulting humanitarian disaster has left 4.5 million people in need of emergency assistance.

A coalition of Tigray’s political opposition recently stated that more than 50,000 people might have died since fighting began on November 4. Survivors, doctors, aid workers and experts speaking to the Telegraph all pointed to rape being systematically used as a weapon of war by Ethopian and Eritrean forces despite being harassed and threatened by soldiers in a bid to prevent them from speaking out.

“It’s absolutely ethnic cleansing, rape is being used as a weapon of war, it is being used as scare tactics,” an aid worker who has just returned from Tigray, who asked to stay anonymous, said.

Selam, a 26-year-old coffee seller in Edaga Hamus, 100km away from Tigray’s capital of Mekelle, said she was abducted by Eritrean soldiers with 17 other women in January.

“They took us into the forest. When we arrived there, there were around 100 soldiers who were waiting for us. They tied the hands and feet of each one of us. And then they raped us without mercy,” she told the Telegraph as she fought through tears.

MARCH 27, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

Involvement by Eritrean troops in ‘law and order’ operation tips country into fully fledged crisis

Source: Financial Times

The 78-year-old Orthodox priest stayed inside his house until the killers had gone. Then, leaning on his wooden cane and holding a crucifix, he rushed outside to cover the bodies of his four sons and his two grandsons. Blood seeped through their white cotton scarves. “They gathered them together and massacred them,” Liqe Tiguhan Abraha Gebre said of the killers he identified as Eritrean soldiers by their accents, uniforms and facemarks. Liqe Tiguhan Abraha Gebre at the church in Dengelat: ‘They gathered them together and massacred them’

Liqe Tiguhan Abraha Gebre at the church in Dengelat: ‘They gathered them together and massacred them’ © Eduardo Soteras Jalil/FT

They had arrived on foot in late November, he said, as the priest and his family were sharing injera flatbread and lentils to celebrate a Christian Orthodox holiday in the village of Dengelat in Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia.

The celebration fell in the midst of conflict — the culmination of a power struggle between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF, a regional party that ruled the country for 27 years until 2018. This war has tipped Ethiopia, a gradually liberalising economic powerhouse and Africa’s second most populous country, into crisis. As tightly restricted humanitarian and foreign media access is loosened, testimonies such as that of Abraha are bubbling to the surface. So too is evidence of the involvement of troops from Eritrea, which neighbours Tigray, to help the Ethiopian government fight the battle-hardened TPLF. After previous denials, this week Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister, conceded that Eritrean troops had crossed into Ethiopia because, he said, they feared attack from the TPLF.

During a meeting in Asmara on Friday, Isaias Afewerki, Eritrea’s strongman, “agreed to withdraw its forces out of the Ethiopian border”, read a statement from Abiy’s office. For Eritrea, this conflict has been an opportunity to fight its decades-old Tigrayan foe, many claim. “This is open season for Eritrea,” said a foreign diplomat in Ethiopia. “Isaias wants to get rid of Tigray once and for all.” Their involvement and that of local militias and forces from elsewhere in Ethiopia has escalated a conflict that threatens to destabilise the region.

“You speak like us in Tigrinya. You are Eritreans. We are brothers. Come in and eat with us,” Abraha recalled telling six soldiers. But instead they took six men, aged between 15 and 46, to the banks of the nearby river, tied their hands behind their backs and shot them in the head. “They killed unarmed human beings whom they have not seen killing others. They are barbarians,” Abraha said. ‘Payback for Eritrea’ In total, local church officials and members of the Inter-Religious Council of Tigray estimate that at least 164 civilians were killed in Dengelat over two days in late November. These are just a few of the thousands that diplomats and aid workers say have died since early November when Abiy began the so-called law and order operation against the TPLF, an organisation he has labelled a “criminal clique”. Weeks later, Addis Ababa claimed to “have completed and ceased military operations in the Tigray region”, establishing its own government there and killing or capturing some senior members of the TPLF leadership.

A man holds the portrait of a victim of an alleged massacre in the village of Dengelat © Eduardo Soteras Jalil/FT A list with names and ages of the victims of a massacre allegedly perpetrated by Eritrean soldiers in Dengelat © Eduardo Soteras Jalil/FT

But the fighting rumbles on and Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, Tigrayan and other ethnic militias now stand accused of atrocities and even “ethnic cleansing”.  “This could be like the former Yugoslavia. Ethiopians will be digging up mass graves for a decade,” said a senior humanitarian official in Tigray. Top members of the interim government in Tigray, which was appointed by Abiy, admit that Eritreans are in “full control” of a strip of Ethiopian territory of about 100km along the border. In private, even some senior federal government officials admit that the Eritreans remain present. The involvement of Eritrea, where conscription is unavoidable and often indefinite, “is payback” because “the TPLF is the biggest existential threat to both Tigray and Eritrea”, said a senior federal government official, adding that Eritrean solders “have to leave” now because this has turned into “a majorly ugly war”.

The UN, US and EU have condemned the Eritrean presence in Tigray and said the perpetrators of human rights abuses should be held accountable. On Monday, the EU imposed sanctions on Eritrea, partly for its involvement in Tigray, diplomats say. Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane Ghebremeskel, dismissed the allegations of abuses by Eritrean forces as “outrageous”, while the foreign ministry accused the EU of “doggedly working” to save the “TPLF clique” and to “drive a wedge between Eritrea and Ethiopia”.

Filmon Teame, a survivor of the alleged massacre, shows his scars in Dengelat © Eduardo Soteras Jalil/FT Mulu Nega, leader of the caretaker administration of Tigray, says TPLF fighters are using civilians as ‘human shields’ © Eduardo Soteras Jalil/FT

For its part, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry has strongly denied ethnically motivated violence. The Ethiopian government recently said in a statement that “it undertook the law enforcement operations in the Tigray region with utmost precaution to avoid as much as possible collateral damage on civilians”, adding that it “takes any allegations of human rights abuses and crimes very seriously”. Officials in Addis Ababa say the TPLF is “the source of all this mess”, blaming the party for almost three decades of dictatorship and fomenting ethnic division. Addis Ababa alleges the TPLF sought to undermine Abiy by sponsoring terrorist attacks around the country. It blames the TPLF and its militias for carrying out massacres, such as one at Mai Kadra in western Tigray in November. Mulu Nega, the interim president of Tigray who was handpicked by Addis Ababa, said TPLF fighters were using civilians as “human shields”. “We’re trying to minimise this, but we cannot avoid completely human rights abuses,” he said in his office in the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle. “This is a dirty war,”

Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam, a government general in charge of a task force on the Tigray conflict, told diplomats during a March briefing in Mekelle. “On the atrocities, rape, crime . . . I don’t think we are going to be fortunate to see that such things have not happened,” he added.  Getachew Reda, a senior member of the TPLF, warned from his hide-out that TPLF forces would continue to fight until Tigrayans were liberated from what he called “occupation and perpetrators of genocide”.  ‘In our lifetime . . . we have not seen such wickedness’ The wreckage of war is in plain sight on the 100km drive north of Mekelle to Dengelat. The Financial Times passed shelled villages, churches and mosques, looted factories, mangled tanks and charred combat trucks. On arrival at the mountainous village of stone houses, men immediately rushed out to show mass graves — allegedly of between three and 13 people each — covered with cactus leaves or corrugated zinc. Women crouched under eucalyptus trees, holding photographs of dead relatives, sobbing in anger and despair.  Locals said “Eritrean soldiers” had fired on civilians, saying their orders were to get rid of potential TPLF militias. Some climbed a rock escarpment to shelter in the church but were warned by soldiers it would be shelled. Some who fled were shot dead. Then, residents say, the Eritrean soldiers went on a murderous spree. They broke into the house of Yemane Gebremariam, 53, a seller of soft drinks. Out of the 13 people gathered there, he said, they killed seven, including his daughter and newly wed son, whose wife was shot in the hand.

Yemane Gebremariam lost his daughter and newly wed son in the alleged massacre © Eduardo Soteras Jalil/FT Emnti Gobezay’s son was killed in Dengelat. ‘I saw them with my own eyes,’ she says of his killers © Eduardo Soteras Jalil/FT

“In our lifetime, or even in our history, we have not seen such wickedness,” he said. “They killed youngsters who were wearing white clothes after having taken the Holy Communion. One woman who was holding a child and shouting ‘my son, my son’ was singled out and killed, and her seven-month-old baby fell to the ground right in front of us.” Weeping outside the church at Dengelat, 53-year-old Emnti Gobezay described the past months of conflict as “the worst war I’ve seen in my lifetime”, surpassing the TPLF’s insurgent war against the Derg regime in the early 1990s and the subsequent border war with Eritrea. “I saw them with my own eyes,” she sobbed, describing when the “Eritreans” caught and killed her 20-year-old son. The Ethiopian government and its Eritrean “supporters” want “to wipe out the people of Tigray” by killing “peaceful people, teenagers, children, and priests”, she said. Holding a leaf from a eucalyptus tree, she said: “The innocent blood of Tigrayans will fertilise this ground and grow fresh leaves. Our dead children will not be forgotten.”

MARCH 27, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

Occupation and an information blackout

Irob is now under the total control of invading Eritrean forces – there are no Ethiopian troops in the area.

At the same time the area is under an almost total blockout from the rest of the world.

There are no telecommunications, no transportation, no internet, no banking, no lighting. Nothing at all.

People walk on foot for days to reach Adigrat: that’s this story has reached us. Not a single journalist has managed to come to Irob since the war began.

But getting to Adigrat or Mekelle means passing through many checkpoints.

And at each there’s a strong chance that you will be robbed or anything you are carrying, or even killed, by Eritrean or Ethiopian troops.

Two civilians were killed at checkpoints in Edagahamus  in the last week. Their names are Abraham Zigta and Fissuh Weldu.

A nightmare

The last four months plus have been a nightmare for our people, as it has been for the rest of Tigray.

Irob was the area worst affected by the 1998-200 Ethiopian-Eritrean border war.

Back then hundreds of of civilians were massacred, women and girls were raped, properties looted, houses burned down, civilians abducted.

The whereabouts and fate of over 100 civilians from that time is still unknown.

On top of that, Irob has been for over 20 years a military camp for Ethiopian troops, following the defeat of the Eritrean forces in the border war.

Crimes continues, at least partially, with the rape of women and girls and the random killing of civilians.

Our people never recovered from trauma and war crimes.

Worse than during the border war

The current war is very different from the 1998-2000 conflict.

Them we knew that the government cared for us. There were places we could flee to in the rest of Tigray that had not been occupied by the Eritreans.

Now that all parts of Tigray are under the invading forces of Eritrea, Ethiopia and the Amhara militia, where can we seek sanctuary?

The current Ethiopian regime under PM Abiy invited these foreign forces to come and attack us.

It is Ethiopian troops who are standing by while our people are massacred, raped and our homes looted and our factories destroyed.

It’s heartbreaking that many of today’s of victims are the children of men and women who were killed or abducted by the same criminals 20 years ago.

Who would have thought that 20 years later they would come back and massacre us again?

More than twenty young boys have been killed by Eritrean forces as recently as late February this year.

It’s difficult to get accurate figures for the death toll in the area, given the communications blackout.

But there have been more than 350 verified case of killings. In addition 10 houses have been burned down, and over 40 rape cases.

The looting and slaughter of our livestock for food by the Eritrean troops is so ‘normal’ that no-one bothers to comment on it any longer.

Below are the names of men and women who have been killed or abused in the current conflict.

MARCH 26, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

Source: UNHCR

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov  to whom quoted text may be attributed  at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Eritrean refugee children play in Ethiopia’s Hitsats refugee camp in the Tigray region in 2017.  © REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has gained access to the Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region for the first time since November 2020, amid ongoing security concerns.

During a joint mission to the area with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, we found both camps completely destroyed, and all the humanitarian facilities looted and vandalized.

In Hitsats, most of the shelters in an area known as zone A, as well as UNHCR’s offices and staff guest house, were found burnt to the ground. The mission confirmed what satellite imagery and accounts from refugees had indicated at the beginning of this year.

UNHCR is deeply concerned for the well-being of the Eritrean refugees who had been residing there, all of whom have fled the camps.

The joint mission was also able to visit Shiraro town; refugees are understood to be scattered in the area and in urgent need of safety and support. A subsequent mission will seek to identify the numbers living there and assess the possibility for UNHCR and Ethiopia’s Agency for Refugees and Returnee Affairs, ARRA, to deliver assistance and plan for voluntary relocation.

Of some 20,000 refugees that lived in the two northern camps of Hitsats and Shimelba prior the crisis, more than 7,000 have either made their own way or were assisted by Ethiopian authorities to reach the other two Eritrean refugee camps, Mai Aini and Adi Harush. In addition, we have so far been in contact with more than 2,000 refugees from Hitsats and Shimelba in Shire, Mekelle, Afar, and Addis Ababa.

In Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps, food and core relief supplies have been provided to the relocated refugees. They are currently living with relatives, in schools or other communal buildings in the camps which are already over-capacity, as well in some 500 newly-built emergency shelters. While another 100 shelters are under construction, they will not be sufficient. Urgent identification of alternative locations to accommodate more refugee arrivals is a priority, especially with the coming rainy season.

UNHCR’s individual reception, counselling and registration services have reopened in both camps. UNHCR and its partners are scaling up child protection and gender-based violence support services.

Local authorities have reported the presence of some 95,000 Ethiopians who are internally displaced within Shiraro’s administrative area. About 47,000 people were registered by authorities last month while the rest are estimated to have arrived since. To date, the vast majority of internally displaced people (IDPs) are living within the host community, and some 30,000 are living in five settlements. In Shimelba camp, the humanitarian team found over 2,000 IDPs and vulnerable host community members who had sought sanctuary in the camp.

All of the displaced people in Shiraro and Shimelba are in dire need of urgent life-saving assistance, including food, shelter, health care, water and sanitation. UNHCR reiterates the joint UN call for all parties to urgently enable the free and safe movement of affected people in search of safety and assistance, including across international and within national borders, regardless of their ethnic identification. We call for the right to seek asylum to be fully respected.

MARCH 26, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

After a two day visit to Asmara, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has issued this announcement.

But how should we interpret it?

First: it will not result in a ceasefire in Tigray

This has been ruled out by PM Abiy.

Reuters reported that Senator Chris Coons, whom President Joe Biden sent as an emissary to Ethiopia, said he urged Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to declare a cease-fire in the embattled Tigray region, but his appeal was rejected.

“I pressed for a unilateral declaration of a cease-fire, something the prime minister did not agree to, and pressed for a rapid move towards a full political dialogue on Tigray’s future political structure,” Senator Chris Coons told reporters during a briefing call Thursday.

Second: it is unlikely to see Eritrean forces withdraw from all of Tigray

The borders of what should be recognised as Tigray is disputed.

For a start, areas along the border with Eritrea were awarded to Eritrea by the International Boundary Commission established at the end of the 1998 – 2000 border war. Some areas were awarded to Ethiopia, but key areas like Badme, Zalambessa and Irob were declared to be part of Eritrea.

This is where the internationally recognised border runs, even if they were held by Ethiopia until the November 2020 war with Tigray erupted.

It’s not clear just how much of what was Tigray before November 2020 the Tigrayan forces now hold.

This is one estimate, by Ethiopia Map.

If this is accurate, then it might result in re-defining Tigray, which could look like this.

This interpretation would allow Eritrean forces to remain in areas to the West of Shire, which were previously part of Tigray.

Already the Amhara are calling areas north of the Tekeze river the “New Zone” – Wolqait, Tsegede and Setit-Humera. It would, of course, cut off Tigray from Sudan.

It was no coincidence that some of the earliest offensives by the Eritreans when the war broke out was around Humera – where the borders of Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia meet.

Would Tigrayans accept this? Unlikely, and the war might not end on these terms, but this is hard to predict.

Third: The Abiy-Isaias agreement says nothing about a Commission of Inquiry into human rights abuses

Earlier this month the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights agreed to a joint Inquiry with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.

“United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has agreed to an Ethiopian request for a joint investigation in the country’s northern Tigray region, where Bachelet says possible war crimes may have been committed.

The United Nations has raised concerns about atrocities being committed in Tigray, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has described acts carried out in the region as ethnic cleansing. Ethiopia has rejected Blinken’s allegation.

Bachelet “responded positively” to a request from the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for joint investigations in Tigray, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesman Jonathan Fowler said. “The U.N. Human Rights Office and the EHRC are now developing an investigation plan, which includes resources needed and practical modalities, in order to launch the missions as soon as possible,” Fowler said.

Will this now quietly be dropped? Or will President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken, supported by the European Union, insist that Eritrean and Ethiopian forces (together with Tigrayan forces) had to be held to account.

Finally: Will the withdrawal be a prelude to a peace agreement in Tigray?

Peace would require a number of steps.

Here are some that might be involved:

  • Opening talks with the TPLF leadership who won the 2020 election in Tigray by a landslide. This would mean dropping talk (in the communique above) of them being a “criminal clique” and accepting them as legitimate partners.
  • The involvement of the African Union in talks. The AU has already appointed mediators, who were then rejected by PM Abiy.
  • An end to the dispute with Sudan over the al-Fashaga triangle. The UN reported that Eritrean troops were involved in the conflict.
  • A resolution of the dispute over the waters of the Nile between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, since the building of the Great Renaissance Dam
  • Reparations and reconstruction in Tigray, together with a return of the looted historic treasures which have been taken by the Eritrean troops.

These are only some of the issues that will have to be resolved.

Even a glance at this list shows how difficult it will be.

Might the UAE play a role in bringing the dispute to an end? They were involved in the 2018 peace agreement between Abiy and Isaias. And they have offered to mediate in the Nile dispute over the GERD. 

But the alternative to “jaw-jaw” is “war-war” and that could continue for years, if this opportunity is not grasped.

MARCH 25, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

Source: Addis Standard

Breaking: Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrived in #Asmara “in mid afternoon hours today for a two-day working visit to the country”, Eritrea’s Information Minister Yemane G.Meskel said. “President Isaias Afwerki accorded warm welcome to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his delegation on their arrival at Asmara International Airport,” Yemane said.
This is the first official trip by PM Abiy since the war broke out in Tigray on November 04. Eritrean forces are part of the Ethiopian forces offensive against the Tigray Regional state forces led by TPLF.
A report by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, (EHRC) released on March 24 said that Eritrean forces have committed massacre in #Axum city on Nov. 28 and 29/2020, which may amount to war crime and crimes against humanity.

MARCH 25, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

Source: MSF

MSF Driver Assaulted, Staff Witness Men Dragged off Buses and Killed in Tigray

 Karline Kleijer, MSF Head of Emergency Desk: 

“We are horrified by the continued violence in Tigray, Ethiopia. This includes the extrajudicial killings of at least four men who were dragged off public buses and executed by soldiers, while our staff members were present, on Tuesday 23 March.

The latest incident took place on the road from Mekele to Adigrat, where three MSF staff members were travelling in a clearly marked MSF vehicle. Along the journey they encountered what appeared to be the aftermath of an ambush of an Ethiopian military convoy, by another armed group, in which soldiers were injured and killed. Military vehicles were still on fire.Ethiopian soldiers at the scene stopped the MSF car and two public transport mini buses driving behind it. The soldiers then forced the passengers to leave the mini buses. The men were separated from the women, who were allowed to walk away. Shortly after, the men were shot. The MSF team was allowed to leave the scene but saw the bodies of those killed on the side of the road. A short distance further away, the MSF vehicle was stopped again by soldiers. They pulled the MSF driver out of the vehicle, beat him with the back of a gun and threatened to kill him. Eventually the driver was allowed to get back into the vehicle and the team could return to Mekele.This horrific event further underscores the need for the protection of civilians during this ongoing conflict, and for armed groups to respect the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including medical aid. Our teams are still reeling from witnessing the senseless loss of lives from this latest attack.”ENDS

MARCH 24, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

The situation on the border could see forces from across the region confronting each other – with Egypt and Sudan on one side and Ethiopia, Eritrea and Amhara militia on the other.

This is what we know. But if you want the history of the al-Fashaga dispute you can find it in this background report.

First: Today there has been a reported clash between Ethiopian and Sudanese militia in the disputed al-Fashaga triangle.

Second: came this report from Bloomberg quoting the UN as saying that Eritrean forces had crossed into al-Fashaga.

Eritrean forces are present inside disputed territory that straddles the border between Ethiopia and Sudan, according to the United Nations.

The deployment in the so-called al-Fashqa triangle comes amid escalating tensions between Ethiopia and and Sudan, according to the United Nations. The deployment in the so-called al-Fashqa triangle comes amid escalating tensions between Ethiopia and Sudan over control of the area of fertile farming land.

“The conflict along the border between Sudan and Ethiopia remains active, with Sudanese Armed Forces and Ethiopian — including Amhara militias — and Eritrean forces deployed around Barkhat settlement in Greater Fashaga and clashes reported since early March,” the UN said Tuesday in its latest situation report on Ethiopia.

Third: Just three weeks ago, Egypt and Sudan signed a new joint security pact.

Egyptian Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Mohamed Farid signed the treaty in Khartoum on 2nd March.

General Farid stressed that Egypt “seeks to consolidate ties and relations with Sudan in all fields, especially military and security fields,” adding that “solidarity is a strategic approach imposed by the regional and international environment.”

Warnings of war

These developments came as the Washington Post ran a story headlined: “A border war looms between Sudan and Ethiopia as Tigray conflict sends ripples through region”

The article argued: “Ethiopia’s sudden descent into civil war in its Tigray region has upended a delicate web of regional political equations, sending ripple effects across this corner of Africa, and bringing Ethiopia and Sudan to the brink of a territorial war over this disputed area, known as al-Fashaga. Military and government officials on both sides, as well as independent analysts, said they worry such a war would quickly escalate into a much broader regional conflict….”

“On a recent trip with Sudanese forces to the front line, a major deployment of military and paramilitary troops was visibly underway. Through binoculars, Sudanese officers eyed Ethiopian settlements and fortifications in parts of al-Fashaga they had not yet retaken…”

“Sudan retook most of al-Fashaga after Ethiopian soldiers and Amhara militias were deployed to fight in Tigray. ‘Up until the war in Tigray began, the situation was essentially an Amhara occupation of al-Fashaga,’ said Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Gabir, one of 11 members of Sudan’s so-called sovereign council that presides over government decisions.

“As they became occupied with the war in November, we were able to retake the area with fewer casualties. But recently the Amhara militias came back and killed so many of our people, robbed so many,” he said. “Ethiopia is not controlling these militias, so of course we see it as supporting them. We do not want to be drawn into a reckless war…

Abiy’s increasing reliance on Amhara support for the war in Tigray is a fundamental driver of conflict in al-Fashaga, analysts said.”

MARCH 24, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

It is no easy task representing Eritrea abroad with President Isaias Afwerki as your master.

But seldom are lies so rapidly exposed.

The remark that an ambassador is “sent abroad to lie for his country” comes to mind. Here’s an example.

On Monday this week the Eritrean embassy attacked the Channel 4 programme for reporting that Eritrean troops are in Tigray. As Mr Yared wrote to Channel 4: “there are no Eritrean troops in the region.”

On Tuesday, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed admitted this is not true. Eritrean forces are in Tigray.

 

MARCH 24, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

It is worth recalling that when the Tigray war began in November 2020 Prime Minister Abiy denied that it was any such thing. Instead, as he told Ethiopians in a Tweet, the fighting was a “law enforcement operation” that would “wrap up soon”.

Five months later the situation looks rather different, with Abiy accepting that he is engaged in a war in Tigray. “We know the destruction this war has caused,” he said.

(see the Al-Jazeera report below.)

PM Abiy tweet 9 Nov

Source: Al Jazeera

Ethiopia PM admits Eritrean soldiers entered Tigray region

Abiy Ahmed acknowledges ‘atrocities committed’ during the conflict in the northern region amid concerns over the humanitarian crisis.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has admitted for the first time that troops from neighbouring Eritrea entered the northern region of Tigray during the conflict that broke out five months ago, suggesting they may have been involved in abuses against civilians.

The admission on Tuesday comes after months of denials from Ethiopia and Eritrea, even as credible accusations from rights groups and residents mounted that Eritrean soldiers have carried out massacres in Tigray following the start of the Ethiopian government’s offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), then the region’s governing party.

In a wide-ranging speech to parliament, Abiy said on Tuesday Eritrean troops had crossed the border and entered the region because they were concerned they would be attacked by the longtime foe – the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for decades until Abiy came to power in 2018, had presided over a brutal 1998-2000 war with Eritrea.

Abiy said Eritreans had promised to leave when Ethiopia’s military was able to control the border.

He added that the “Eritrean people and government did a lasting favour to our soldiers”, during the conflict, without giving more details.

“However, after the Eritrean army crossed the border and was operating in Ethiopia, any damage it did to our people was unacceptable,” he said.

“We don’t accept it because it is the Eritrean army, and we would not accept it if it were our soldiers. The military campaign was against our clearly targeted enemies, not against the people. We have discussed this four or five times with the Eritrean government.”

‘War narrative’

The comments also marked the first time Abiy appeared to acknowledge that serious crimes have taken place in Tigray, home to six million people.

“Reports indicate that atrocities have been committed in Tigray region,” Abiy said.

War is “a nasty thing”, he added, speaking the local Amharic language. “We know the destruction this war has caused.”

After months of tension, fighting erupted in Tigray after forces loyal to the TPLF – whose leaders challenged Abiy’s legitimacy after the postponement of elections last year – attacked army bases across the region overnight and in the early hours of November 4.

The attacks initially overwhelmed the federal military, which later launched a counteroffensive alongside Eritrean soldiers and forces from the neighbouring region of Amhara. The federal army is now hunting the fugitive TPLF leadership.

Abiy said soldiers who raped women or committed other war crimes will be held responsible, even though he cited “propaganda of exaggeration”.

He spoke as concerns continue to grow over the humanitarian situation in the embattled region.

Abiy accused the TPLF’s leaders of drumming “a war narrative” while the area faced challenges such as a destructive invasion of locusts and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This was misplaced and untimely arrogance,” he said.

The Ethiopian prime minister, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his efforts to make peace with Eritrea, faces pressure to end the conflict in Tigray as well as to institute an international investigation into alleged war crimes.

The government’s critics say a continuing federal inquiry is not enough because the government cannot effectively investigate itself.

On Monday, the heads of nine UN agencies and other officials demanded a halt to attacks against civilians in Tigray, “including rape and other horrific forms of sexual violence”.

In a joint statement, the UN agencies, the UN special investigator on the human rights of internally displaced people, and two umbrella organisations representing NGOs also called on all parties in Tigray to explicitly condemn all sexual violence and ensure their forces “respect and protect civilian populations, particularly women and children, from all human rights abuses”.

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said on Monday the conflict continues to drive massive displacement, with tens of thousands of people arriving into Shire, Axum and Adwa, most fleeing fighting in western Tigray in the last few weeks.

There are also reports of people uprooted by violence in the northwest and central areas, he said.

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch reported that Eritrean forces shot dead hundreds of children and civilians in a November massacre in Tigray.

An Amnesty International investigation into the same events detailed how Eritrean troops “went on a rampage and systematically killed hundreds of civilians in cold blood”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres joined calls for the Eritrean troops to leave Tigray while the UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, urged an investigation into the situation.