MARCH 17, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

“The UK has been consistent, alongside the UN and international partners including the US, in calling for the protection of civilians in Ethiopia, respect for human rights and the withdrawal of Eritrean forces.”

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL13783):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the statement by the United States Secretary of State Atrocities in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region, published on 27 February; and what discussions they have had with the government of the United States about the imposition of sanctions on Eritrea until its troops have left Ethiopia. (HL13783)

Tabled on: 02 March 2021

This question was grouped with the following question(s) for answer:

  1. To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the statement by the government of the United States’ Secretary of State on 2 March about the violence in Tigray; and what steps they taking to ensure that (1) those responsible for any violence in Tigray are brought to justice, and (2) reported atrocities are brought before the UN Security Council as soon as possible. (HL13855)
    Tabled on: 03 March 2021

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

The UK shares the concerns outlined by US Secretary of State Blinken in his statements of 27 February and 2 March on the reported atrocities in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The Foreign Secretary discussed the conflict in Tigray with Secretary Blinken on 25 February. The situation in Ethiopia was discussed at a closed session of the UN Security Council on 4 March. The UK has been consistent, alongside the UN and international partners including the US, in calling for the protection of civilians in Ethiopia, respect for human rights and the withdrawal of Eritrean forces. The Foreign Secretary raised the need for independent, international, investigations into allegations of human right abuses and violations when he met with Prime Minister Abiy during his visit to Ethiopia on 22 January.

Date and time of answer: 16 Mar 2021 at 16:12.

MARCH 15, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

“As heavy fighting continues to restrict humanitarian operations across parts of Tigray, people are facing an extremely dire humanitarian situation…Aid workers continue to receive reports of attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Central, North Western and South Eastern zones, including house-to-house searches accompanied by indiscriminate, extrajudicial killings. Gender-based violence remains widespread…About 4.5 million people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance in Tigray.”

This report by the UN OCHA shows how vital it is that aid gets through to people now on the edge of starvation. Below is a selection from the report.


HIGHLIGHTS

  • The humanitarian situation in Tigray remains extremely concerning, with conflict continuing to drive displacements of people and reports of some villages completely emptied.
  • Following the transition to a flexible notification system for access, several organizations have deployed international staff to Tigray to support the scale up of the response.
  • Delivery of assistance is stepping up, with humanitarian partners reaching 0.9 million people with complete food baskets, almost 0.7 million with water, and 136,000 with shelter.
  • Despite some progress in accessible areas, many people remain in hard-to-reach areas due to insecurity, logistical and administrative hurdles, where assistance is needed.
  • Over the past week, a large influx of people has reached Shire from Western Tigray amid reports of grave human rights abuses. Those newly displaced arrived in critical conditions.

BACKGROUND 

SITUATION OVERVIEW

As heavy fighting continues to restrict humanitarian operations across parts of Tigray, people are facing an extremely dire humanitarian situation. Clashes continue to be reported in Central, Eastern, North Western, South Eastern and Southern Zones, where social services have reportedly collapsed, according to partners on the ground. A vast majority of health centres have been vandalized, destroyed or burned, and many health personnel have not been paid and are reportedly being threatened by armed actors, further delaying their return to work. Ongoing looting of health facilities, including in Southern Tigray, is hindering the health response, as partners are discouraged from providing medical supplies. People with chronic diseases and pregnant women are particularly affected, as they are unable to access emergency medical services during curfew hours, causing preventable deaths and delivery complications. Universities across Tigray have reportedly been extensively looted, while at least two have been destroyed by fire or bombs.

Basic services, including communications, electricity and banking, remain disrupted across much of Tigray. Approximately 4.5 million people living in rural areas and major towns in North Western Zone have had no power or communications for more than four months. Lack of communications in most areas are adding significant challenges to the delivery and monitoring of life-saving assistance.

In Western Tigray, partners report that tens of thousands of people have been displaced from the area allegedly on ethnic grounds. Since November 2020, the Western Tigray Zone has been under de facto control of Amhara regional authorities, during which there have been reports of ethnically motivated violence and forced displacement. Since February, thousands of residents in Western Tigray have fled the Zone amid reports of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, and disappearances of people, particularly young men. As of 8 March, more than 45,000 people have been registered in Shire, with an influx of about 1,500 people every day. The newly displaced, who arrive in dire conditions, have reported that some people remain stranded on the way due to lack of transportation from Tekeze River to Shire and have very limited humanitarian assistance. In Shire, aid workers have started delivering some food, shelter, wash and health assistance, and stressed the very urgent need to provide additional relief to the new arrivals, particularly shelter and non-food items. Humanitarian access and response in Western Zone is currently only possible through Amhara Region.

Aid workers continue to receive reports of attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Central, North Western and South Eastern zones, including house-to-house searches accompanied by indiscriminate, extrajudicial killings. Gender-based violence remains widespread, according to the latest Emergency Coordination Centre meeting on 5 March, and humanitarian actors are still unable to measure the full extent of the situation, particularly in rural areas due to limited access. With government social protection, security and judicial systems not functioning, survivors of human rights abuses are receiving inadequate assistance. International actors, including the World Bank, continue to underscore the importance of safeguarding the rights of all people in Ethiopia. Multiple human rights organizations published, on 9 March, a joint open letter to H.E. Ms. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Permanent Representative of the US to the UN in New York, calling for a prioritization of the crisis in Tigray at the UN Security Council, including mobilizing an appropriate diplomatic response.

With many areas of Tigray not having received vital assistance since the conflict started four months ago, the rising needs have vastly outstripped the preliminary response plan that was developed by the humanitarian community in the first weeks of the conflict. Now, partners are increasingly able to access hundreds of thousands of people in Tigray who are in desperate need, and to move more supplies and personnel into the region. The 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview launched by the humanitarian community on 5 March estimates that about 4.5 million people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance in Tigray, of whom 3.5 million people are in accessible and partially accessible areas. The humanitarian community will continue to update this figure as more assessments become possible in the Region.

HIGH-LEVEL VISITS

About 40 diplomats, including the United States Ambassador to Ethiopia and members of the European Union, visited Mekelle on 10 March. Their visit follows the recent announcement by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) on the deployment of a Disaster Assistance Response Team to respond to growing humanitarian needs in the Region.

CROSS-BORDER IMPACT

Conflict along the border between Sudan and Ethiopia has significantly escalated over the past week, with direct confrontations between Sudanese Armed Forces and Ethiopian and Eritrean forces. The rising tensions over the disputed Fashaga area have gained broader geopolitical implications for the Horn of Africa region, including the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region.

Although the number of people arriving in East Sudan has drastically reduced in the past weeks, UNHCR reports that more than 61,880 people are currently seeking refuge in the Sudanese states of Gedaref and Kassala. Both Um Rakuba and Tunaybah camps in the Gedaref State have reached their maximum capacity, each slightly above 20,000 people. Relocations to the camps have stopped after more than 41,180 people were relocated to camps and settlements. More than 20,000 people remain in Hamdayet and Village 8 near the crossing points. UNHCR are working with local authorities and partners to adequately respond to the situation, as well as mobilizing resources to provide life-saving assistance services to the new arrivals.

HUMANITARIAN PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE

Following the recent transition from the previous clearance mechanism for international aid workers to a flexible notification system by email to the Ministry of Peace, a number of humanitarian organizations have begun using the new system and have deployed international staff to support the scale up of relief operations in Tigray. The National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC) and the Logistics Cluster also replaced the previous system on the movement of aid cargos with a similar notification mechanism. Partners are now able to move humanitarian commodities by informing NDRMC 48 hours ahead of any cargo movement into Tigray, without waiting for clearance.

Access to Eastern Tigray has improved over the past weeks as armed hostilities in the area largely subsided, and partners are operating in areas that were previously inaccessible. Movements along the main road between Alamata, Mekelle and Shire remains possible, while partners have reported issues with government clearances and insecurity along the road from Shire, Mae-Tseri, to Gondar. With stronger presence on the ground, there is an urgent need for humanitarian organizations to decentralize their capacity out of Mekelle through the main accessible axis from Adigrat, Adwa, Axum to Shire. Establishing a presence closer to the people is critical in order to reach more people in rural areas with the greatest humanitarian needs, as well as ensuring protection-by-presence.

Despite significant progress, partners estimate that 950,000 people who need urgent assistance remain in areas that are hard-to-reach by humanitarian organizations. The situation is particularly concerning in Central Zone, where about 460,000 people need critical humanitarian assistance. Very limited assistance and services are currently available to the people in hard-to-reach areas, while the overall operational environment is highly volatile and insecure for humanitarian operations.

Further, the humanitarian situation in Shire remains dire, according to a recent mission by the World Food Programme and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and partners on the ground. Thousands of displaced people lack adequate shelter and basic access to health, water, sanitation, and hygiene services, while food aid is also reportedly irregular and insufficient. With the sudden and ongoing influx of more than 45,000 people from the Western Tigray Zone to Shire Town, it became increasingly critical to scale up the multisectoral response to provide life-saving assistance to those in need.

In light of concerns that food aid is not reaching people in urgent need particularly in rural areas despite large amounts of assistance dispatched into and within the Region, the Food Cluster has established the Monitoring Working Group and held its first meeting on 5 March.In the past week, the Protection and Health clusters finalized the Joint Response Plan to Sexual and Gender-Based violence and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support needs in Tigray, and partners on the ground are working to operationalize the plan. The Protection Cluster is also working with the Education Cluster to develop a joint position on safe school reopening, particularly given alarming reports of threats to teachers and kidnappings of several students and the overall politicization of schooling by parties of the conflict.

Protection

Needs

  • Gross violations and abuses against civilians, such as forced displacement and returns, killings, abductions, sexual violence including against children, allegedly perpetrated by various parties to the conflict, and reported since the beginning of the conflict, continue to reach the Cluster partners.
  • Reports of sexual violence are widespread across the region. The Emergency Coordination Center noted on 5 March that there have been at least 417 self-reported cases of gender-based violence (GBV) from Mekelle, Wukro and Adigrat alone, simultaneously stressing that this is only “the tip of the iceberg”. While more than 110 rape survivors are currently seeking medical care in several medical institutions, according to the Protection Cluster, these incidences are believed to be greatly under-reported due to fear of stigma, discrimination and repercussion. Partners have also received reports that survivors of GBV who have reached out locally for community support were not able to access any services. Given the stigma and shame surrounding GBV, survivors in rural and remote areas are less likely to access local or mobile clinics as they are less confidential. Further, since many areas in Tigray remain inaccessible, it is difficult for GBV survivors to receive urgent and life-saving medical care, GBV case management or mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS).
  • Women and children displaced are at heightened risk of abuse and exploitation, while recent assessments in collective centres for displaced people in Mekelle, Adigrat and Shire showed that the severe lack of infrastructure leaves women and children exposed to a range of abuse, including GBV. In general, many are sheltering in unfinished or damaged building and most centres do not include separate spaces or latrines for women and men, doors or even windows. At least 90 unaccompanied and separated children are living in these three centres that were assessed.
  • As of 18 February, 724 unaccompanied and separated children were registered by the Bureau of Labour and Social Affairs (BoLSA) and Protection partners in Mekelle, Adigrat and Axum towns. These children are at increased risk of violence and abuse, including GBV, child labour, trafficking and exploitation.
  • The Cluster is receiving concerning reports that many who have been displaced in western Tigray, including Adi Goshu, Humera and other locations near the Sudanese border, are now struggling to reach Shire. These groups are in urgent need of unimpeded access to safe areas, as well as related assistance and protection. Further, more than 45,000 people who have reached Shire from Western Tigray Zone are living in precarious conditions, mostly in the open air, as outlined in the Shelter section. Partners on the ground report that the pace and circumstances of displacement, together with humanitarian assistance, place these people at heightened protection risks.
  • Reports of exclusion from food assistance are increasing. The Protection Cluster is receiving reports on alleged exclusion of female-headed households from food assistance unless accompanied by a male family member. These reports have been shared with the Food Cluster.
  • Forced relocation of displaced people is also reported by protection actors on the ground. While advocacy by protection actors successfully halted the relocation of more than 30,000 people from Axum University to an unused prison in Shire, it is critical that these advocacy efforts continue in order to ensure that a suitable location is identified, that the displaced people are engaged and informed, and that the conditions for safe and dignified relocation are met.
  • There have been alarming reports of death-threats to teachers and kidnappings of several students by parties to the conflict to deter school re-opening. Focus group discussions and assessments in Mekelle suggested the instrumentalization of education by different parties of the conflict, giving rise to an urgent need to balance the right to education and the non-derogative right to life, as outlined in the section on Education reporting.
  • Overall, many people affected by the conflict in Tigray are traumatized and still face high protection risks, and are in need of urgent assistance, including mental health and psychological support. There is an immediate need for the Government to fulfil its responsibility to protect civilians, restore law and order, and bring perpetrators to account. Access to justice and protection of survivors and witnesses of violence are essential to ensure a favourable protection environment.

Response

  • The Protection Cluster, with 16 partners on the ground, is planning to assist nearly 410,000 people, including 263,000 with protection activities through monitoring aimed at identifying risk groups and referring cases through established and strengthen pathways for specialized services, 106,000 with prevention of GBV programmes, over 35,300 children with specific services for this group, and 4,565 people with housing, land and property activities. A protection actor to carry out monitoring activities has been identified, who will also ensure appropriate referral pathways for specialised provision of services.
  • The Protection Cluster has finalized its input to the Joint Protection-Health Response Plan to address the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) needs across Tigray. The plan includes the scale up of the response in several areas, including legal aid support, case management, MHPSS and enhanced health services. It further outlines additional activities to be implemented through other clusters including Camp Coordination and Camp Management, Emergency Shelter, WASH and Education.
  • In addition to conducting trainings to newly recruited staff who will contribute to the scale up of the response, the Cluster is also engaged in mobilising actors and resources to provide legal aid support and rehabilitate and establish safe shelters. Efforts to increase MHPSS support are underway with a strategy under development to engage actors across different clusters, as well as training relevant actors on psychological first aid and psychosocial support.
  • In the first week of March, Child Protection (CP) partners provided psychosocial support to 422 displaced children in Mekelle and its surrounding areas, such as Hadinet and Kisanet woredas.
  • Since the beginning of 2021, GBV partners have distributed a total of 23,722 dignity kits for women and girls of reproductive age across Amhara and Tigray regions. Importantly, 1,275 women and girls, including GBV survivors, have received psychosocial support and case management. In addition, over 5,000 displaced people have been reached with awareness-raising interventions, including as accompaniment to the provision of dignity kits to provide updates on service availability and key sexual and reproductive health and GBV messages. UNFPA has pre-positioned an additional 3,600 dignity kits in Afar Region for distribution to conflict-affected women and girls in woredas bordering Tigray.
  • The CP/GBV Areas of Responsibility has also consolidated a sectoral work plan to guide partners and humanitarian efforts in the coming five months. The plan is a living document that has also been consulted with the Ministry of Woman, Children and Youth and BoLSA. Its main areas of work revolve mainly around the prevention and response to SGBV and caring for survivors; on providing tracing and alternative care for unaccompanied and separated children; on MHPSS; and on awareness raising/community engagement and support. Ensuring adequate coordination and efficient mechanisms to prevent and respond to SEA is a priority throughout the response. Likewise, scaling up existing operational capacities, gaining access and raising the necessary resources is also urgent to implement these actions.
  • The Protection Cluster and the Food Cluster continue to work together to develop a joint plan to mitigate the risk of food exclusion and reported threats at distribution points.
  • Given the reported death-threats to teachers and kidnapping of students, the Protection Cluster continues to work closely with the Education Cluster to develop a common position to balance the right to education with the non-derogative right to life, and is engaging with other humanitarian partners for advocacy. The Cluster will also work with relevant partners to address protection risks associated with back-to-school plans and ensure the voluntary, safe, and dignified relocation of displaced people currently sheltering in schools.

Gaps

  • Despite the gradual scale-up, the Protection response remains insufficient compared to the scale of the needs and identified targets.
  • The network of local and regional government Protection services has been deeply disrupted by the conflict. Access to these services has been made much more difficult, and the situation is particularly concerning for displaced people across the Region.
  • The volatile security situation is hindering the response, particularly as partners remain reluctant to confirm their implementation locations.
  • The delayed programming for protection interventions is undermining the efforts to provide emergency protection services and mitigate the risk of further exacerbation of the protection needs.
  • Tens of thousands of people displaced from Western Tigray Zone continue to arrive in Shire Town, overwhelming the existing humanitarian capacity.

Logistics

Needs

  • While the Logistics Cluster has so far transported over 300 million tons of humanitarian cargo on behalf of its partners along the main routes into Tigray, primarily Gondar – Mai Tsebri – Shire routes, and from Kombolcha to Mekelle, secondary routes have yet to be serviced due to lack of requests from partners for delivering of cargo along these routes. Additional food operators are needed to complement ongoing efforts to deliver aid to areas that have not been reached for over three months.
  • The supply of commercial trucks is expected to be further limited during the agricultural season–March to September–, according to the Logistics Cluster Partners. Overall, increased capacity to mobilize humanitarian supplies and personnel, particularly to rural areas of Tigray, is needed to allow partners to scale up the response.

Response

  • The Logistics Cluster is increasing its capacity and has now established six storage capacities and common transport from Addis Ababa, Adama, Kombulcha, Semera, Gondar, and Mekelle.
  • Further, a 4,000 square metre facility with a 1,600 square metre warehouse has been established in Mekelle and is operational as of this week. In the coming month, the Cluster will be working to identify common storage for partners in Shire.
  • In the reporting period (3 to 10 March), the Logistics Cluster facilitated the transport of 259 MT of cargo by eight commercial trucks along the Kombolcha-Kombo-Mekelle route.
  • In addition to facilitating a delivery of 75 MT of wheat flour to Mekelle for a partner, the Cluster also facilitated two deliveries of 2.326 MT each to Mekelle and Alamata for two partners. WFP is increasing its fleet size from the current 23 trucks to over 100 fleet trucks by late March to support WFP and Logistics Cluster operations.
  • The Cluster currently supports 31 partners in the Tigray response and is on standby to facilitate access to a dedicated WFP fleet to support the humanitarian community, should commercial transport become unavailable.

Gaps

  • Ongoing insecurity is the main challenge of the response.

MARCH 15, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

Source: MSF

Press Release15 March 2021
  • Violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region has extended to attacks on health facilities, with barely one in 10 functioning.
  • Of the 106 health facilities MSF teams visited, one in five had been or was occupied by armed soldiers; one facility is being used as an army base.
  • The damaged, looted facilities and resulting lack of medical staff means people in the region have very little access to healthcare.
  • MSF urges all armed groups in the area to respect medical facilities and for services to be restored as soon as possible.

ADDIS ABABA – Health facilities across Ethiopia’s Tigray region have been looted, vandalised and destroyed in a deliberate and widespread attack on healthcare, according to teams from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Of 106 health facilities visited by MSF teams between mid-December 2020 and early March 2021, nearly 70% had been looted, and more than 30% had been damaged; just 13% were functioning normally.

In some health facilities across Tigray, the looting of health facilities continues, according to MSF teams. While some looting may have been opportunistic, health facilities in most areas appear to have been deliberately vandalised to make them non-functional.  In many health centres, such as in Debre Abay and May Kuhli in North-West Tigray, teams found destroyed equipment, smashed doors and windows, and medicine and patient files scattered across floors.

In Adwa hospital in central Tigray, medical equipment, including ultrasound machines and monitors, had been deliberately smashed. In the same region, the health facility in Semema was reportedly looted twice by soldiers before being set on fire, while the health centre in Sebeya was hit by rockets, destroying the delivery room.

MSF teams recently visited 106 medical facilities across Tigray region, Ethiopia. Of the facilities visited:

Hospitals occupied by soldiers

Every fifth health facility visited by MSF teams was occupied by soldiers. In some instances, this was temporary; in others the armed occupation continues. In Mugulat in east Tigray, Eritrean soldiers are still using the health facility as their base. The hospital in Abiy Addi in central Tigray, which serves a population of half a million, was occupied by Ethiopian forces until early March.

“The army used Abiy Addi hospital as a military base and to stabilise their injured soldiers,” says Kate Nolan, MSF emergency coordinator. “During that time, it was not accessible to the general population.”

“They had to go to the town’s health centre, which was not equipped to provide secondary medical care – they can’t do blood transfusions, for example, or treat gunshot wounds,” says Nolan.

Health facilities and health staff need to be protected during a conflict, in accordance with international humanitarian law. This is clearly not happening in Tigray.OLIVER BEHN, MSF GENERAL DIRECTOR

Ambulances seized

Few health facilities in Tigray now have ambulances, as most have been seized by armed groups. In and around the city of Adigrat in east Tigray, for example, some 20 ambulances were taken from the hospital and nearby health centres.

Later, MSF teams saw some of these vehicles being used by soldiers near the Eritrean border, to transport goods. As a result, the referral system in Tigray for transporting sick patients is almost non-existent. Patients travel long distances, sometimes walking for days, to reach essential health services.

Many health facilities have few – or no – remaining staff. Some have fled in fear; others no longer come to work because they have not been paid in months.

Devastating impact on people

“The attacks on Tigray’s health facilities are having a devastating impact on people,” says Oliver Behn, MSF general director. “Health facilities and health staff need to be protected during a conflict, in accordance with international humanitarian law. This is clearly not happening in Tigray.”

Before the conflict began in November 2020, Tigray had one of the best health systems in Ethiopia, with health posts in villages, health centres and hospitals in towns, and a functioning referral system with ambulances transporting sick patients to hospital. This health system has now almost completely collapsed.

MSF staff conducting mobile clinics in rural areas of Tigray hear of women who have died in childbirth, because they were unable to get to a hospital due to the lack of ambulances, rampant insecurity on the roads and a night-time curfew. Meanwhile, many women are giving birth in unhygienic conditions in informal displacement camps.

In the past four months, few pregnant women have received antenatal or postnatal care, and children have gone unvaccinated, raising the risk of future outbreaks of infectious diseases. Patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and HIV, as well as psychiatric patients, are going without lifesaving drugs. Victims of sexual violence are often unable to get medical and psychological care.

“The health system needs to be restored as soon as possible,” says Behn. “Health facilities need to be rehabilitated and receive more supplies and ambulances, and staff need to receive salaries and the opportunity to work in a safe environment. Most importantly, all armed groups in this conflict need to respect and protect health facilities and medical staff.”

MSF teams are rehabilitating a number of health facilities across the region and providing them with drugs and other medical supplies, as well as providing hands-on medical support in emergency rooms, maternity wards and outpatient departments. MSF teams are also running mobile clinics in rural towns and villages where the health system is not functioning, and in informal sites where displaced people are staying. However, there are still rural areas in Tigray that neither MSF, nor any other organisation, has been able to reach; MSF can only assume that people living in these areas are also without access to healthcare.

The health system in rural areas has collapsed

While the situation for displaced people in Shire is difficult, it is far worse for people living in areas outside of Tigray’s main towns.

Birhane* has walked over two hours from his village to get medical care. He says that the health centre that served his farming community of 2,500 people has been closed since November, and that all six staff have left.

“We are suffering from a lack of medical care. We don’t have any medication; the village’s two ambulances were taken,” says Birhane. “Many people are sick. Three pregnant women have died during childbirth in the past three months.”

“There is no food in the village. Our fields have been looted,” he continues. “Some of our women have been raped. We stayed for two months in the forest and we are still scared.”

Since the end of January, MSF is sending mobile medical teams to provide patients in villages and towns north, east and southeast of Shire with basic health care. We are also supporting some health facilities with medical supplies and just opened a base in the northwestern town of Sheraro, from where we are supporting the town’s rural catchment area.

Most of the health facilities our teams have visited are not functional. Many were vandalised and looted, and, in most facilities, the staff has left. Most people have not received any medical care since November.

Berhe*, a health professional working with MSF, says that the region used to have a well-functioning health system before the fighting started. Villages had health posts and there were health centres in smaller towns and hospitals in bigger towns. There were health extension workers visiting communities and a referral system with ambulances.

“Now, the health system is completely destroyed,” says Berhe. “When we visit rural areas, mothers say: ‘My child is three months old. He has not been vaccinated yet.’”

“Maternal and child health is very difficult now,” Berhe continues. “During one of our mobile clinics, we heard that a delivering mother died because she could not get assistance from health professionals. In the rural areas there are no health structures, no ambulances.”

As access to towns and villages along the main roads in northern Tigray is getting easier, we are now trying to reach people who are living in the bush, says Juniper Gordon.

“These are the people who really cannot access any kind of healthcare,” says Gordon. “We try to get there and give a bare minimum of healthcare and see their condition. We hear of people who have been in the bush for months and still don’t feel safe enough to go to the clinic.”

Responsibility for the tragic war in Tigray is being laid at the door of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed. But the real culprit is further north.

Eritrea’s President Isaias has plotted and schemed ever since his forces captured Asmara in 1991. Not satisfied with turning his own country into the most repressive state in Africa – without a functioning constitution, parliament, press or freedom of speech, assembly or religious expression – he has intervened in every one of his neighbours.

  • President Isaias has supported Sudanese rebels, fought with Djibouti, Yemen and Ethiopia (1998 – 2000),
  • When the Islamic Courts fled from Somalia, they found a haven in Asmara. President Isaias backed the Islamist group, al-Shabaab,
  • Ethiopian rebel movements were given training and logistical support by President Isaias. In July 2011 the UN Monitoring group on Somalia and Eritrea accused the Eritrean government of plotting to bomb the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa during the summit of African heads of state in January 2011.

US concerns about Eritrea’s role in the Tigray war

President Isaias considered military intervention in Tigray long before war broke out in November 2020.

As President Isaias stated when he gave his annual interview on Eritrean television, he began planning for the war after meeting the Tigrayan leader, Debretsion Gebremichael in Omhajer in January 2019.

When the war in Tigray erupted, Eritrean forces attacked from the north, joining offensives by Ethiopian troops and Amhara militia from the south and the east.

The involvement of the Eritrean forces in Tigray is now accepted by the United States, the European Union and Britain. Even the Ethiopian government now quietly admits their role in this war.

There has been wide condemnation of the role of Eritrean troops in atrocities in the town of Axum and beyond.

President Biden has drawn a line in the sand.

On 27 February Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that: “The immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces and Amhara regional forces from Tigray are essential first steps.”

According to diplomatic sources, Secretary of State Blinken spoke to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy twice in early March, and told him that Eritrean and Amhara forces must be withdrawn from Tigray within 72 hours.

This has not taken place.

There is a great deal at stake

In November 2020, a day after the Tigray war broke out, a range of senior American former diplomats issued a statement.

They warned that the conflict could lead to the: “acceleration of polarization amid violent conflict [which] would also mark the death knell for the country’s nascent reform effort that began two years ago and the promise of a democratic transition that it heralded.” This could lead to “the fragmentation of Ethiopia [which] would be the largest state collapse in modern history.”

This fragmentation would not just threaten the Horn of Africa, it could be send ripples of instability across the Arab world and into the rest of Africa.

It would strengthen the hold of Islamist movements like al-Shabaab and their international Islamist allies.

It is a prospect that threatens Washington, Paris and London – as much as it does Addis Ababa.

But unless Eritrea can be forced to end its role in the Tigray war, and President Isaias shown that he cannot continue his perpetual practice of destabilizing his neighbours, it is difficult to see how this can be averted.

MARCH 13, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

Source: Reuters

State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Friday that while the United States has decided to resume certain types of assistance, including that related to global health and food security, assistance for other programs and most programs in the security sector would remain paused.

“Given the current environment in Ethiopia, we have decided not to lift the assistance pause for other programs, including most programs in the security sector,” Price said at a news briefing.

Blinken has pressed Ethiopia to end hostilities in Tigray and on Wednesday, testifying before Congress, he said he wanted to see forces in Tigray from Eritrea and Amhara be replaced by security forces “that will not abuse the human rights of the people of Tigray or commit acts of ethnic cleansing, which we’ve seen in western Tigray.”

Thousands of people have died, hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes, and there are shortages of food, water and medicine in the region of more than 5 million people.

The State Department last month said Washington will de-link its pause on some aid to Ethiopia from its policy on the giant Blue Nile hydropower dam that sparked a long-running dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.

But it cautioned that resumption of assistance would be assessed on a number of factors, including “whether each paused program remains appropriate and timely in light of developments in Ethiopia that occurred subsequent to the pause being put in place,” according to a State Department spokesperson.

Ethiopia’s military ousted the former local ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), from the regional capital Mekelle in November, after what it described as a surprise assault on its forces in Tigray.

The government has said that most fighting has stopped in Tigray but has acknowledged isolated incidents of shooting.

Both sides deny their forces have committed atrocities, and blame other forces for the killing of civilians. (Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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Source: Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a call with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, discussed the importance of an international investigation into reported human rights abuses in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the State Department said on Friday.

It said that in the call, which took place on Thursday, Blinken also called for “enhanced regional and international efforts to help resolve the humanitarian crisis, end atrocities, and restore peace in Ethiopia.”

The United Nations said last week that Eritrean troops were operating throughout Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region and reports suggested they were responsible for atrocities.

12 መጋቢት 2021

ፕረዚደንት ኣመሪካ ጆ ባይደን

በቲ ኣብ ትግራይ ኣጋጢሙ ዘሎ ቅልውላው፡ ፕረዚደንት ኣመሪካ ጆ ባይደን “ኣዝዩ ተሻቒሉ” ከምዘሎ፡ ውሃቢት ቃል ቤተ መንግስቲ ኣመሪካ (ዋይት ሃውስ)፡ ጄን ሳኪ ትማሊ ሓሙስ ንጋዜጠኛታት ተዛሪባ።

“እቲ ፕረዚደንት በዚ ጉዳይ እዚ ኣዝዩ ተሻቒሉ’ሎ፤ ብቐረባ ድማ ይከታተሎ ኣሎ” ኢላ እታ ወሃቢት ቃል።

ወሲኻ ድማ፡ ፕረዚደንት ጆ ባይደን ነቲ ኣብ ትግራይ ኣጋጢሙ ዘሎ ሰብኣዊ ቅልውላው ከምዝፈልጦን፡ ምምሕዳሩ ነቲ ኩነታት ንምምሕያሽ፡ ናብ’ታ ክልል ሰራሕተኛታት ረድኤት ክኣትዉ ኣብ ምግባር ሓዊሱ ይሰርሕ ምህላዉ ገሊጻ።

በቲ ኣብ ትግራይ ኣብ መንጎ ሓይልታት መንግስቲ ፌደራልን ክልላዊ ሓይልታት ትግራይን ዝተወለዐ ጎንጺ፡ ኣሸሓት ሰባት ከምዝሞቱን ብኣማኢት ኣሸሓት ዝቑጸሩ ድማ ኣብ’ታ ክልል ከምዝተመዛበሉን ይግለጽ።

ብሊንከን፡ ኣብ ትግራይ ግፍዒ ይፍጽሙ ኣለዉ ዝበሎም ሓይልታት ኣምሓራን ወተሃደራት ኤርትራን ካብቲ ክልል ክወጽኡ’ውን ጸዊዑ እዩ።

እቲ ጎንጺ ብኸመይ ናብዚ በጺሑ?

ኣብ መንጎ ብህወሓት ዝምራሕ ክልል ትግራይን ፌዴራል መንግስትን ንልዕሊ ክልተ ዓመታት ዝዘለቐ ፍሕፍሕ፡ ፌዴራል መንግስቲ ኣብ ዝሓለፈ ዓመት ክካየድ መደብ ተታሒዝሉ ዝነበረ ሃገራዊ መረጻ ብሰንኪ ኮሮናቫይረስ ምስ ኣናወሐ ተጋዲዱ።

መንግስቲ ክልል ትግራይ ነቲ ውሳነ ዘይተቐበሎ እንትኸውን፡ ትግራይ መንግስቲ ፌዴራል "ዘይሕጋዊ" ዝበሎ ክልላዊ መረጻ ኣብ መጀመርታ ወርሒ መስከረም ምስ ኣካየደት ድማ፡ እቲ ጎንጺ እናዓረገ ከይዱ።

ቀዳማይ ሚኒስተር ኣብዪ ኣሕመድ፡ ‘ህወሓት ኣብ ልዕሊ መዓስከር ወተሃደራት መጥቃዕቲ ፈጺሙ’ ኢሉ ምስ ከሰሰን፡ ብሕዳር 4 ወተሃደራዊ ስጉምቲ ክውሰድ ምስ ኣወጀን፡ እቲ ዝጸንሐ ወጥሪ ናብ ቅሉዕ ጎንጺ ኣምሪሑ።

ነዚ ስዒቡ ድማ፡ ኣብ መወዳእታ ሕዳር ፌዴራል መንግስቲ ንከተማ መቐለ ምስተቖጻጸረ፡ እቲ ኲናት ከምዘብቀዐ እንተገለጸ'ኳ፡ ውግእ ቀጺሉ ከምዘሎ ውድብ ሕቡራት ሃገራትን ካልኦትን ይገልጹ።

በዚ ምኽንያት ድማ፡ ኣብቲ ክልል ኣማኢት ኣሻሓት እንትመዛበሉ፡ ልዕሊ 60 ሽሕ ሰባት ድማ ናብ ሱዳን ከምዝተሰደዱን፣ ኣብቲ ክልል ከቢድ ጥሜትን ሰብኣዊ ቅልውላውን ኣንጸላልዩ ከምዘሎን ይዝረብ።

ኣብቲ ትግራይ፡ ጾታዊ ዓመጽ፣ ገበናት ኲናትን ግህሰት ሰብኣዊ መሰላትን ከምዝተፈጸሙን ውድብ ሕቡራት መንግስታት ከጻሪ ክፍቀደሉ ምሕታቱን ይዝከር።

March 10, 2021

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court affirms in its Preamble paragraph 4 that: “…the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished and that their effective prosecution must be ensured by taking measures at the national level and by enhancing international cooperation.”

Paragraph 5 of the Preamble asserts that State Parties are:

“Determined to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes and thus to contribute to the prevention of such crimes”

Multiple, consistent and reliable reports of alleged crimes against humanity, crimes of genocide, war crimes committed by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers, and alleged crimes of aggression committed by the leaders of the state of Eritrea in Tigray, have reached the international community. The United Nations has, therefore, the moral obligation and legal responsibility to conduct an independent investigation and bring the perpetrators to a court of justice through mechanisms of national and international cooperation and in particular through The International Criminal Court ( ICC) established for this purpose and which has jurisdiction over war crimes under Article 8, crimes against humanity under Article 7, crime of genocide under Article 6 and crime of aggression under Article 5(2) of the Rome Statute of The International Criminal Court.

Both Ethiopia and Eritrea are non-State Parties of the Rome Statute. Nonetheless, a referral by the UN Security Council can authorize the ICC to exercise its jurisdiction over crimes listed in the Rome Statute. The court has the decisional precedent of repealing the immunity and indicting a sitting president when the State through its national courts and legislation is genuinely unable or unwilling to persecute one of its nationals when accused of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed within the territory under its jurisdiction. There is also an alternative indictment process in which a prosecutor independently conducts a preliminary examination of the alleged crimes falling within the ICC jurisdiction and files an application to an ICC judge (motu propio) and requests authorization to initiate an investigation.

  1. The act of responsibility for crime against humanity

On 4 November 2020 the Ethiopian PM announced brusquely on social media that Ethiopian forces have started conducting airstrikes and sweeping military operations in the northern Tigray region.1 The army spokesman told reporters that the army plans to encircle the regional capital of Mekelle with tanks and attack it with artillery, and urged the civilian population to “save themselves, as there will be no mercy”.2 Tigray was shut down, and a total information blackout was imposed. There were cut-offs of electricity, telephone communications and the internet, and free humanitarian access to the people of Tigray and the four UNHCR dependent Eritrean refugee camps in the region was blocked.

A stream of evidence has since then leaked out of Tigray regarding heinous crimes, in particular crimes committed by the army of the pariah state of Eritrea. Wanton killings, pillaging, sexual violence, ethnic cleansing, destruction of heritage sites as well as the kidnapping of Eritrean refugees and their forced return to Eritrea have been repeatedly reported by refugees who succeeded to flee to the Sudan.3 The international community, including the AU, EU and the US, have repeatedly called for dialogue, transparency and independent investigation. The answer of a high government official Radwan Hussein is that Ethiopia “does not need a babysitter”.4

On January 15, 2021, the EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell stated that he had received consistent reports of ethnically targeted violence, killings, massive looting, rapes, forced return of refugees (to Eritrea) and possible war crimes.5 Likewise, on the same day, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi acknowledged that he continues to receive reliable first-hand reports of gravely disturbing human rights abuses, including killings and forced return of refugees to Eritrea, and states that there is concrete indication of major violation of international law.6 On January 22, Pramila Patten, the UN special representative on sexual violation in conflict said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations including “a high number of alleged rapes” in the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle.7

Under Article 7 of the Statute, the ICC has the jurisdiction over crimes against humanity which include widespread and systematic attacks directed against any civilian population including murder, torture, rape and sexual violence and persecution against any identifiable group or collectively on political racial, national, ethnic, culture, religious, gender or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law.8

  1. The act of responsibility for war crimes

 

On January 22nd 2021, Poland became the first EU country to acknowledge and officially express its deep concern regarding the alleged massacre of 800 persons, the majority of whom were Christian believers and Christian priests, in front of the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum.9 On January 27th 2021, the US called for the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean troops “given credible reports of looting, sexual violence, assaults in refugees camps and other human rights abuses”.10 On February 11, 2021 Human Rights Watch issued an extensive report that shows that the Ethiopian federal forces carried out apparently incriminate shelling of urban areas in the Tigray region in November 2020 in violation of the law of war.11 On February 21st 2021, the Swedish Radio programme Ekot included first-hand testimony from a deacon at the church present during the massacre.12 On February 25th, Amnesty International issued an extensive report on the Massacre in Axum based on evidence given by 41 independent witnesses, and concluded that indiscriminate shelling of Axum by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops may amount to war crimes, and that the mass execution of Axum civilians by troops may amount to crimes against humanity.13

Under Article 8 of the Statute, the ICC has jurisdiction in respect to war crimes which include the serious violations of international humanitarian law mentioned in the Geneva convention of 1949 and the Additional Protocol I of 1977 including indiscriminate attacks affecting the civilian population or civilian objects as well as offences specifically identified as war crimes including rape and other forms of sexual violence. Included in the category of war crimes are the following: the destruction of property; pillaging; outrages upon personal dignity; violence to life and person; intentionally directing attacks against personnel, industrial installations, material, units or vehicles.

III. The act of responsibility for crime of genocide

 

On the February 26th 2021, based on an internal U.S. government report, The New York Times wrote that Ethiopia is conducting “a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing” through the use of force and intimidation and that whole villages were severely damaged or completely erased in the Tigray region. On the February 27th, the US expressed its grave concern and “strongly condemned the killings, forced removals and displacement, sexual assaults, and other extremely serious human rights violations “. On March 1st 2021, the CNN aired an eyewitness report on the massacre committed by Eritrean soldiers of over 50 persons including 20 Sunday school students on Maryam Dengelat Orthodox Tewadhdo Church when the congregation was celebrating Mass.

All major media outlets including the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, the New York Times, Reuters, The Washington Post and The Economist have by now reported on grave violations of human rights including ethnic cleansing in Tigray.

Whether intentionally, or otherwise, the war was ignited days before the seasonal harvest period, in the midst of the COVID pandemic and a massive locust infestation in the region. Together with a total blockade of Tigray, including access to humanitarian assistance, the war was bound to cause maximal damage to the economy and to the wellbeing of the civilian population of Tigray, resulting in over 2 million internally displaced people and over 60 000 refugees who have fled to neighbouring Sudan and 25 000 unaccounted Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia.

Under Article 6 of the Statue, the ICC has jurisdiction over the crime of genocide, genocide by killing of a group; genocide by causing serious bodily or mental harm; and genocide by deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group's physical destruction including using famine as an instrument of war.

 

  1. The act of responsibility for crimes of aggression

 

In an interview on February 8th 2020 on Eritrean National Media outlet the Eritrean president expressed his contempt for the Ethiopian Federal Constitution and all forms of electoral government and stated that “we will not fold our hands and sit still concerning matters that develop in Ethiopia” 14 and he added that Eritrea is “fulfilling its obligations” with respect to Ethiopia's Tigray crisis. On July 20th 2020, the Ethiopian PM become the first foreign dignitary to visit the infamous and secretive SAWA military training camps, a visit which was reciprocated on October 12th 2020 by a visit by the Eritrean president to the headquarters of the Ethiopian Air Forces and the military industrial complex of Ethio-Engineering Groups in what some observers noticed as an indication of a final preparation for a “knock-out” against their common enemy, the regional government of Tigray. 15

 

Both the governments of Eritrea and Ethiopia continue to deny the participation of Eritrean troops in war in Tigray. The presence of Eritrean troops is, however, openly acknowledged by local officials of the government regional administration and war generals.16 Today there is irrefutable evidence of their massive participation and culpability in grave human rights violations, including rape, looting, mass killings, kidnappings of Eritrean refugees, and the dismantling of industrial complexes with their transfer to Eritrea.

On March 4th 2021, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet stated that, given the persistent reports of serious human rights violations and abuses she continued to receive, she stressed on urgent need for a prompt, impartial and transparent investigation that will hold those responsible accountable.17 On the same day, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, informed a Security Council session that “countless well-corroborated reports suggest their culpability for atrocities,” and added “Eritrean defence forces must leave Ethiopia and they must not be enabled or permitted to continue their campaign of destruction before they do so.”18 U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield made statements that urged Eritrean forces to leave Tigray.

Under Article 5 (2) of the Statute, the ICC has jurisdiction over the crime of aggression which according Article 8 bis means “the planning, preparation, initiation or execution, by a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State, of an act of aggression which, by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations."

The case for indictment of the president (non-elected) of Eritrea Isaias Afwerki, the minister of defence of Eritrea, and Eritrean military commanders in the Ethiopian Tigray region.

 

In 2016 the UN Commission of Inquiry submitted its conclusions to the UN Human Rights Council and to the Security Council of the UN recommending accountability on the gross and systematic violations of human rights and crimes against humanity committed by Eritrean authorities. No individual has been charged or punished for these grave violations of human rights in Eritrea. The recommendation of the Commission of Inquiry remains, pending action. Eritrean authorities have however, continued to commit crimes against humanity (Article 7) with impunity in Eritrea. Furthermore, in November 2021 the Eritrean president ordered the army to invade the Tigray region of Ethiopia and conduct a crime of aggression (Article 5), an army accused of committing alleged war crimes (Article 8), genocide (Article 6) and crimes against humanity (article 7).

On February 24, 2021 the current UN Special Rapporteur to Eritrea, Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, in his rapport to the Human Rights Council, underscored that nothing has changed in Eritrea and stated that he has “seen no concrete evidence of progress or actual improvement in the human rights situation in the country. Eritrea has not yet put in place an institutional and legal framework to uphold minimum human rights standards in a democratic society. The country lacks rule of law, a constitution and an independent judiciary to enforce the protection of and respect for human rights. Eritrea continues to have no national assembly to adopt laws, including those regulating fundamental rights and the right of the Eritrean people to participate freely in the public life of their country.” 19 He also expressed his concern about the fate of the Eritrean refugees abducted by the Eritrean army and taken back to Eritrea, and stressed the need for thorough investigation by an independent body.

The State of Eritrea has no national legislative mechanisms that enable it undertake an independent investigation into grave human rights violations. The Eritrean authorities remain unwilling to investigate or cooperate in the investigation of grave crimes against humanity committed in the territory within their jurisdiction or by Eritrean citizens in a neighbouring state.

The Office of the Prosecutor needs, therefore, to review and examine the documentation on the crimes against humanity (Article 7) between 2012-2016 submitted by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea, and to open an investigation after acquiring authorization from ICC judges, as in the case of Kenya, Ivory Coast, Georgia and Bangladesh/Myanmar.

The UN Security Council needs to take a decision to refer and authorize the ICC to investigate the alleged crimes against humanity (Article7), war crimes, (article 8) genocide committed (Article 6) in Tigray as in the case of the Sudan and crimes of aggression (Article 5) the is particular to the leaders of the Eritrean State.

The case for indictment of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed, Birhanu Jula Gelalcha Chief of Staff and Ethiopian military commanders in Tigray.

The UN Security Council needs to authorize the ICC to investigate war crimes where command responsibility falls directly into the hands of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, the Ethiopian Minister of Defence, and the Chief of General Staff of Ethiopia Birhanu Jula Gelalcha (Article 8), crimes against humanity (Article 7), genocide (Article 6) committed by Ethiopian soldiers and militias from the Amhara region, as was the case in Darfur in Sudan.

Ethiopia has national legislature, a criminal justice system and a government agency – the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, in charge of promoting human rights. An indictment process is therefore bound to meet resistance as it will impose certain restrictions and limitation on some state authority. Nevertheless, the Ethiopian government has refused or failed to use its national criminal justice system to investigate and to deal with perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity - crimes which continue to accrue within its territory - or to allow a thorough investigation by an independent and neutral body,

The Ethiopian legal system remains genuinely unable or unwilling to persecute alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide committed by its nationals or nationals of other states, in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

Uppsala 2021-03-10

Tedros Amanuel

Chairperson

Swedish-Eritrean Association of Human Rights and Democracy

Footnotes:

  1. BBC 4 November 2020 Ethiopia PM orders military response to `base attack´
  2. Aljazeera 22 November 2020 `Save yourselves´: Ethiopia warns Tigrayans of Mekelle
  3. UNHCR, 4 December 2020, CNN 8 December 2020 `They left us for dead´ Tigray refugees tell horrors after Ethiopian troops vowed, they´d be safe.
  4. Aljazeera 9 December Ethiopia says it ‘doesn’t need a babysitter’ as it dismisses calls for independent probes into the month-long conflict.
  5. BBC 15 January 2021, Ethiopia Tigray crisis: EU concern over war crime report
  6. Aljazeera 15 January 2021, `Major violations´ of international law ay Tigray refugee camps
  7. Aljazeera 22 January 2021, `Disturbing’ rape allegations in Ethiopia´s Tigray conflict: UN
  8. The Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) adopted in July 1998.
  9. Statement regarding the massacre in front of the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Aksum in Tigray region. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Poland 22 January 2021(www.gov.pl)
  10. BBC 27 January 2021. Tigray crisis: Biden administration calls for Eritrea troops to withdraw.
  11. Human Rights Watch February 11, 2021 Ethiopia: Unlawful Shelling of Tigray

urban Areas (www.hrw.org)

  1. sverigesradio.se 21 februari 2021: Vittnen talar om massaker i Tigray
  2. Amnesty International 26 February 2021Ethiopia: Eritrean troops’ massacre of hundreds of Axum civilians may amount to crime against humanity (www.amnesty.org)
  3. Eritrea 'doing its obligation' on Ethiopia's Tigray crisis BBC 18, February 2020
  4. Eritreahub.org Martin Plaut21 October 2020.
  5. abcNEWS 7 January 2021. Ethiopian army official confirms Eritrean troops in Tigray.
  6. Ethiopia: Persistent, credible reports of grave violations in Tigray underscore urgent need for human rights access – Bachelet Geneva March 4, 2021 (www.ohchr.org)
  7. CNN 3 mars 2021 UN Security Council to discuss Ethiopia conflict following CNN investigation into Tigray massacre.
  8. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26795&LangID=E

Ethiopian diplomat resigns over Tigray war

Wednesday, 10 March 2021 23:14 Written by

MARCH 10, 2021  ETHIOPIANEWSTIGRAY

My name is Berhane Kidanemariam. I have proudly served my country, Ethiopia, for decades at varying levels of public service. Prior to my current post, it was my great privilege to serve as Consul General of the Ethiopian Mission in Los Angeles. Currently, I am serving as the Deputy Chief of Mission to the United States at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Throughout my career, I have always been honest with government and party officials about concerns I have had with the direction of the country. I have suffered consequences, including being excluded from certain political affiliations, because of my differing views. Despite these challenges, I have always tried to put what I believe is best for my country above my political interests. I have long desired for Ethiopia to make the necessary reforms to ensure peace and prosperity for all its citizens.

With the emergence of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, I, like many other Ethiopians, had big hopes for genuine reforms that could transform our political environment. In the beginning, Prime Minister Abiy inspired millions of Ethiopians with talk of reconciliation and change.

However, instead of fulfilling his initial promise, he has led Ethiopia down a dark path toward destruction and disintegration. Like so many others who thought the Prime Minister had the potential to lead Ethiopia to a bright future, I am filled with despair and anguish at the direction he is taking our country.

Instead of solving conflicts through dialogue, the Prime Minister has chosen to solve ideological and political differences by abusing the judicial system and using the military to suppress opposition to his rule.

Instead of increasing press freedoms, journalists have been arrested, assaulted, and assassinated.

Instead of leading a promised transition to democracy, elections have been repeatedly postponed; political leaders have been arrested on false charges; and opposition parties have been debarred and deregistered from participating in the electoral process. Major parties like the Oromo Liberation Front and the Oromo Federal Congress have withdrawn from the upcoming sham elections because the government has jailed their leaders without cause and shut down their party offices.

Some of the most disturbing events of Abiy’s tenure have been the killings of major political and civic figures. These include the assassination of Simegnew Bekele, the passionate project manager of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam; the murder of the Ethiopian Army Chief of Staff, General Se’are Mekonnen and his friend, General Gezae Aberra; the assassination of Dr. Ambachew Mekonnen and other leaders of the Amhara region; and the killing of the popular Oromo singer Hachalu Hundessa, which was immediately followed by the arrests of political leaders like Jawar Mohamed, Bekele Gerba, Lidetu Ayalew, and Yilikal Getnet, among many others. These assassinations all remain troubling mysteries in Ethiopia, and the true perpetrators have never been brought to justice.

On top of these issues, the continuous repression and killings in Oromia, the breakdown of law and order in the Amhara region, the violence in Metekel, and military conflict with Sudan signal a perilous future for Ethiopia under current leadership.

The most urgent crisis in Ethiopia, however, is the ongoing war in Tigray. In November 2020, the Ethiopian government launched a war on Tigray for the supposed purpose of a “law enforcement operation”. The government used its full military power, including ground and air assaults, against the Tigray region. Moreover, the government invited foreign forces from Eritrea and the United Arab Emirates (with the use of drone warfare) to attack its own people.

Tigray’s infrastructure has been completely and intentionally destroyed. Soldiers are systematically raping women and young girls. Hundreds of thousands of people are being displaced, killed, and deliberately starved.

While all of this is happening, the Ethiopian government is intensifying its campaign of lies and deceit by denying the presence of foreign powers, denying atrocities being committed against the people of Tigray, denying all the crimes it is responsible for while the whole world bears witness.

In the rest of Ethiopia, thousands of ethnic Tigrayans have been fired from their jobs, harassed, assaulted, and arrested. I call on the Ethiopian government leadership and its followers to stop these attacks on Tigrayans based on their identity and to stop the witch-hunt that is taking place against Tigrayans in Ethiopia and in the diaspora.

One of the ironies of a prime minister who came to office promising unity is that he has deliberately exacerbated hatred between different groups. By using Amhara militias to attack Tigray, the government has tried to ensure further animosity between Amharas and Tigrayans. By involving Eritrea in this war and allowing its military to commit atrocities and wanton destruction of Tigray, the Prime Minister has deliberately tried to increase enmity between ordinary Tigrayans and Eritreans. I urge all peace-loving Ethiopians and Eritreans to completely reject this strategy.

In addition to the abuses and killings of Tigrayan civilians, another tragic aspect of this war is the pointless deaths of thousands of Ethiopian army recruits and Eritrean conscripts for a cause they do not even understand. This self-destructive war has severely damaged Ethiopia’s economy, its productive capacity, and the military’s ability to provide security for the rest of the country. The government’s recklessness has not only damaged peace and order for Ethiopia, but it risks destabilizing the entire Horn of Africa as well.

Now, more than ever, there is a need for national political dialogue in order to salvage the last vestiges of the imploding Ethiopian state. Therefore, the government must release all political prisoners and bring all Ethiopian political groups together for an inclusive national dialogue to solve the problems the country faces.

The government must allow an independent, U.N.-led investigation into all areas of Tigray. As the government is a party to this conflict, it is in no position to investigate itself through its so-called Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, which serves as nothing but a fig leaf to the international community while the government pursues its crimes with impunity.

Healing will only come to Tigray, and the rest of Ethiopia, when the government demands invading forces leave and ends this war, when there is a credible investigation into all the crimes committed, and when there is accountability for the perpetrators and justice for the victims.

I have loved serving as a diplomat for my country but I cannot do so at the expense of my values, and certainly not at the expense of my people. There is a cost to acting on one’s principles, but there is a bigger cost to abandoning them. I resign from my post in protest of the genocidal war in Tigray, and in protest of all the repression and destruction the government is inflicting on the rest of Ethiopia.

I hope all Ethiopians will join me in raising our voices to oppose the disastrous policies of this government. Despite all of its problems, I believe there is still hope for our country. We must stop viewing compromise as weakness. We must stop continuously seeking to dominate and annihilate our opponents. This will lead to nothing but our mutual destruction. We must learn to forgive each other so that we can live together. Ethiopia will only prevail if we choose the path of dialogue, understanding, and reconciliation.

Eritrea Hub | March 10, 2021 at 6:31 pm | Categories:  Ethiopia, News, Tigray | URL: https://wp.me/p9mKWT-20d

Eritrea Liberty Magazine Issue #67

Thursday, 04 March 2021 06:19 Written by

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Ethiopia's government is rebuffing calls by the United States to withdraw troops from the embattled Tigray region.

In response to U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken's call for Ethiopia to immediately withdraw troops from Tigray, Ethiopia's foreign ministry said that it is an issue to be decided by the Addis Ababa government, not a foreign power.

“It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government,” Ethiopia's foreign ministry said in a statement issued Sunday. “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its federal and regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.”

No foreign country should try to “dictate a sovereign nation’s internal affairs,” said the Ethiopian statement.

Alarm is growing over the fate of Tigray's 6 million people as fierce fighting reportedly continues between Ethiopian and allied forces and those supporting the now-fugitive Tigray leaders who once dominated Ethiopia’s government.

The United Nations in its latest humanitarian report on the situation in Tigray says the "humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate" as fighting intensifies across the northern region.

“Aid workers on the ground have reported hearing gunshots from the main cities, including in Mekelle and Shire,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on Sunday. “Residents and aid workers on the ground continue reporting incidents of house searches and indiscriminate looting, including of household items, farming equipment, ambulances and office vehicles, allegedly by various armed actors.”

No one knows how many thousands of civilians have been killed. Humanitarian officials have warned that a growing number of people might be starving to death in Tigray.

Accounts of atrocities by Ethiopian and allied forces against residents of Tigray were detailed in reports by The Associated Press and by Amnesty International. Ethiopia’s federal government and regional officials in Tigray both believe that each other’s governments are illegitimate after the pandemic disrupted elections.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Source=Ethiopia rebuffs US call to pull outside forces from Tigray (baynews9.com)