Ethiopia, Horn of Africa
The “Law Enforcement” operation in Tigray by the Ethiopian government aimed at “restoring law and order” by expelling “treasonous” elements of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has resulted in a humanitarian crisis. The military-led operation, which began on 4 November 2020, marked the height of rising tensions between the TPLF and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration. The TPLF had been at odds with PM Abiy since coming to power in 2018. Upon his accession to power, the PM not only removed TPLF “old guards” from top government positions but also dismantled the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The EPRDF, which came to power in 1991 following the Ethiopian civil war, is a coalition of four major ethnicity-driven political parties which TPLF dominated during their 29 years in power. The rise of PM Abiy, which is a result of frustration from the public due to the political and economic marginalisation of other ethnic groups, meant the decline of TPLF dominance in politics. The EPRDF was also associated with gross human rights violations, including the mass detention of critics of the government and extrajudicial killings.
The trigger that set off a domino effect was the 9 September Tigray elections which were held in defiance to the national government. The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) temporarily postponed the national and regional elections as a precautionary step to curb the spread of COVID-19. The TPLF objected to the move, stating that the NEBE was enabling PM Abiy to centralise power. The national elections were supposed to take place in August 2020. The 9 September 2020 elections in Tigray, which resulted in a landslide victory for the TPLF, was deemed “unconstitutional and illegal” by the Ethiopian government.
The two sides engaged in tit-for-tat exchanges between September and the beginning of the Law Enforcement operation in November 2020. In October, tensions escalated further when Ethiopia’s Upper House of Parliament voted to cut off budget subsidies to the Tigray region. The TPLF announced that the sanctions of Tigray mounted a “declaration of war” by the Ethiopian government. The Ethiopian military accused the TPLF of staging an attack on an army base, killing several soldiers.
After months of rising tension between the TPLF and Ethiopian government, Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy announced the “law enforcement operation” on 4 November 2020. The Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) conducted airstrikes throughout the Tigray region. Simultaneously, its ground forces allegedly captured towns and villages from TPLF as they marched towards Mekelle, the regional capital city. TPLF engaged with the ENDF both through conventional warfare and hit and run tactics to slow down their progression to Mekelle. The rebel group also fired rockets into Eritrea’s capital, Asmara.
Less than a month after the Law Enforcement operation began in Tigray, PM Abiy took to the media to announce that the government forces were in “full control” over Mekelle and that the conflict had officially ended. This was far from the truth. By the end of March 2021, PM Abiy admitted that the ENDF was engaging in eight different fronts against the TPLF and allied militias. The armed resistance arm of the TPLF, Tigray Defence Forces (TDF), is conducting a guerrilla war – similar to what they engaged in before coming to power in 1991 – out in the countryside and the mountains.
The presence of Eritrean troops in Ethiopia has become a controversial issue. Both countries denied credible reports of Eritrean troops. By March 2021, PM Abiy, facing pressure from the international community and possible sanctions, delayed aid money and investigation into war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, admitted that the Eritreans had crossed the border. He assured the international community that the Eritreans had begun the withdrawal of troops. The withdrawal of troops comes at the backdrop of overwhelming evidence of human rights violations collected by news agencies and human rights and aid organisations.
Aid agencies have raised the alarm over the worsening humanitarian situation in Tigray. By March 2021, Ethiopian Red Cross noted that 80% of the region was inaccessible. With many areas classified as hard-to-reach, either due to the security situation, and bureaucracy of the Ethiopian government, approximately 3.2 million people are unable to get any aid. Some aid organisations have reported deaths due to starvation. The worsening humanitarian situation has forced many Ethiopians to cross the border into Sudan. Sudan has received hundreds of thousands of refugees in a short six months. The increased tension between Sudan and Ethiopia over disputed land, which has resulted in clashes between the two armies, and the disagreement over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with Egypt and Sudan, could add a new dimension to the refugee and asylum-seeking programs.
600 - 1,200
Where: Tigray Region, Ethiopia
Population: 6 Million (Tigray region),
Tigray militia force: 250,000 (International Crisis Group)
Dates of conflict: 4 November – Present
Deaths: 52,000 (Estimates by local organisations)
Refugees/Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs): 200,000 Refugees in Sudan (Estimates by UNHCR), 1 million IDPs (Estimates by aid organisations)
Human rights violations and abuses: 151 massacres reported (March estimates), executions, extrajudicial killings,
Number of people who need aid: 4.5 million require food assistance (UN estimation)
Attacks on refugee camps in Tigray: Reports of attacks on refugee camps, with predominantly Eritrean refugees, have been reported. Cases of death and abductions have also been reported. The attacks have resulted in the closure of two camps after armed men destroyed most of the structure in the camps.
The Key Actors
Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy came to power in 2018 after his predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn, resigned in February 2018. His accession of PM Abiy to power, the first ethnically Oromo PM, signalled that Ethiopia was moving towards a more democratic country. He freed thousands of political prisoners, and self-exiled personalities returned to the country. Ethiopians had more space to express their thoughts and opinions without fear of prosecution. The PM quickly gained international notoriety, getting a Nobel Peace Prize for re-establishing a relationship with Eritrea following a two-decade stalemate.
Ethiopia began receding to its prior authoritarian tendencies. Critics of his government were quickly detained, arrested, and charged with terrorism, similar to what previous governments had done. The increasingly authoritarian nature of his government led to mass protests throughout the regions, with Ethiopians dissatisfied with the fact that some major issues were not addressed such as the expansion of the capital city of Addis Ababa into traditionally Amhara territory. Moreover, the use of excessive force by the police while quelling protests, including those after the assassination of a famous government critic Hachalu Hundiessa, who is also Oromo, did not help PM Abiy’s image.
The most recent crisis came as a tag-of-war between his government and the Tigray region over the postponement of the regional and national elections in March and the subsequent defiant regional elections in September. His decision to employ the military, known for its oppression, to deal with the Tigray conflict has called into question his earlier moves for the democratisation of Ethiopia. Many are also questioning whether he should be allowed to retain his Nobel Peace Prize.
Classification: Ongoing conflict, humanitarian crisis, possible ethnic cleansing
Advisor Comments: The military victories by the Tigrayan Defence Forces (TDF) over the first two weeks in July has shifted the conflict. The Ethiopian government is scrambling to change the narrative that they are losing the conflict in Tigray by using humanitarian grounds. Though the tides have changed in favour of TDF, another conflict is brewing in Tigray. With TDF planning to retake disputed territories that Amhara forces are currently occupying, Amhara nationalists have urged all its citizens to take up arms. Other reports indicate that the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) are also arming themselves with the intent to enter the war in Tigray. If these claims are true, the Tigray war is only going to be prolonged.
Events that led to “Operation law enforcement”
The fall of the Derg dictatorship (1974-1987) and People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia government (1987-1991) under the coalition forces under Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), signalled a new era for Ethiopia. The 1994 constitution created the federalist system in Ethiopia. The constitution states that Ethiopia would be divided into ten ethnolinguistic regions as a way to address past injustices of ethnic marginalisation and national identity issues. Additionally, ethnic groups have the right to self-determination. Theoretically, the ethno-federalist system aimed to strengthen regional states so that they could serve as a check and balance to the central government.
In the beginning, the EPRDF, a coalition government composed of ethnic-affiliated political parties, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Amhara Democratic Party (ADP), Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), and Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM), made significant progress. Ethiopia became more democratic, modernised the economy, reduced poverty rates, and regularised the elections.
As time progressed, the EPRDF slowly shifted towards becoming an illiberal democracy, and later, an authoritarian government. TPLF dominated the political scene with Tigray region benefiting the most from the 29 years in which EPRDF maintained power. The theory that the regional government would act as a check and balance to the central government proved to be inaccurate. The regional governments remain weak, ineffective and utterly dependent on the central government. Essentially, Ethiopia was only a multiparty government on paper. The federalist system also did not solve the ethnic tension between the major groups – Omoro, Amhara, and Tigray. The tension between Islam and Christianity also complicated the federalist system.
The growing frustration with the government led to mass protests in 2005, 2014 and 2016 -18. In addition to protesting the political and economic marginalisation, they disapproved of the endemic corruption and entitlement. The protests were dealt with in brutal force by the Ethiopian police and military. Human rights organisations have documented instances of security forces using grenades and live bullets. Critics of the government were detained, arrested, and charged with various offences including terrorism, and sedition. Extrajudicial killings of opposition leaders and critics increased with many of their cases not solved.
The election of PM Ahmed Abiy to power in June 2018 hailed a new era for Ethiopia, similar to EPRDF in 1991. Like EPRDF, PM Abiy started the democratisation process with the release of thousands of political prisoners, created a joint consultative body made up of representatives of all political groups, and normalised relations with Eritrea, which led to his Nobel Peace Prize. PM Abiy disbanded the EPRDF and created the Prosperity Party. This coalition party included the three out of the four founding political parties and also added smaller ethno-affiliated political parties. He noted that the new political party is a “crucial step in harnessing our energy to work towards a shared vision.” Moreover, he stated that the appointment to any government position would be based on merit rather than based on balancing ethnic groups as the EPRDF had done.
The changes by PM Abiy threatened the status quo that the TPLF had created over the last two and a half decades. The TPLF refused to join the Prosperity Party, saying that the party will bring back the authoritarian one-party system that they had fought to bring down. Additionally, they objected to moves by PM Abiy to remove TPLF “old guard” from high ranking government positions. The tensions between PM Abiy and TPLF remained at minimal levels until March 2020 when the parliamentary and presidential elections were postponed due to COVID-19.
The National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), temporarily postponed the national and regional elections scheduled for August. The national body cited COVID-19 concerns as the reason for the postponement of the election.
The Tigrayan regional government did not approve the NEBE decision to postpone the election. Legislators from Tigray, including the Speaker of the Upper House, withdrew from the national parliament in protest.
In defiance, the Tigrayans held an election for regional government. The elections saw the TPLF win 98% of the votes. Following the election, which had no election observers, the regional legislators declared that the Addis Ababa government lacked the legitimacy to govern the country, therefore, they do not recognise it.
In March, the national election board postponed all regional and national elections due to COVID-19 pandemic. The Ethiopian government deemed the election “illegal” and “unconstitutional.”
The House of Federation (HoF), which is Ethiopia’s Upper House of Parliament, voted to withhold budget subsidies to the Tigray regional government. The move was unsurprising as the HoF is filled with PM Abiy’s allies.
This is the latest in an increasingly tense situation between PM Abiy and the Tigray regional government. Last month, the Tigray people held an election for local government, a move that was viewed as “illegal” and “unconstitutional” by the prime minister. The election came after the central government announced their decision to postpone national and regional elections, citing COVID-19 precaution, an excuse that TPLF rejected. TPLF leadership viewed the move as a way for PM Abiy of re-centralising the government.
The effects of the budget cuts on the Tigray region has been questioned. Previously, the Ethiopian government said that would by-pass the executive and regional government and would channel the budget to lower government. One analyst says that the buts will affect both sides. “Tigray has a big tax base and relatively robust manufacturing base…An economic siege by the federal government would likely backfire, as it would create solidarity between the people and the government in the face of a perceived threat by the central government.”
In an escalation of events, PM Abiy appointed Brigadier General Jamal Mohamed, as the new leader of the Tigray region. As expected, the TPLF has rejected the move, going a step further by blocking him from taking office in the region. The Brig-Gen travelled to the region on 29 November and was forced to fly back to Addis Ababa. The government nor the military have commented on the incident.
In a televised statement, the President of Tigray region, Debretsion Gebremichael, assured its people that their military is prepared to address any situation that might arise. He added that the Ethiopian government stopped support to the region to avenge the region’s decision to hold elections. The president noted that the Ethiopian forces have a standby military order to attack the region.
Prime Minister Abiy announces the “law enforcement’ operation, as well as a state of emergency, in the Tigray region. In a statement, the Ethiopian government said that the “situation has reached a level where it cannot be prevented and controlled through a regular law enforcement mechanism.” The operation aims to attack Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) safe havens through airstrikes and ground operation. PM Abiy noted that the operation is a response to the attack by TPLF on a military base, which killed soldiers.
A day after the Ethiopian military began its offensive operations in Tigray, the US has called for the de-escalation of events. Ethiopia’s ally has strongly encouraged “all parties to prioritise civilian safety and security.”
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) expressed their concern over the ongoing conflict in Tigray. The regional institution called for both sides to show restraint and work together to deescalate the tensions.
Prime Minister Abiy has fired the army chief, head of intelligence and foreign affairs minister. The announcement was made on Twitter with no explanation for the sacking of the officials. The Deputy Prime Minister, Demeke Mekonnen, has been appointed as the foreign minister, Dirhau Jula promoted to army chief of staff from Deputy Army Chief and Temesgen Tiruneh, who served as the president of the Amhara region, is the new intelligence chief.
The new changes come as the country engages in a military battle with the Tigray region. The Ethiopian military has conducted airstrikes on the Tigray region capital, Mekele. As the troops move towards the capital, the government has shut down all communication masks, making it very difficult to get accurate information on the humanitarian crisis.
Amnesty International says photo and video evidence shows scores killed and wounded in knife and machete attacks in Mai-Kadra town, western Tigray state. The evidence shows bodies being carried away by civilians on stretchers. Witnesses have claimed that the perpetrators are forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
In a statement, the AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, appealed for the immediate cessation of conflict in the Tigray region. He called for both parties to “respect human rights and ensure the protection of civilians.”
The statement comes a week after Ethiopia announced the military-led “operation law enforcement” which aims to deal with the elements of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that the government believes are sowing seeds of sedition.
PM Abiy has appointed Dr Mulu Nega as the new Chief Executive of the Tigray Regional State. In a tweet, the PM said, “On the basis of the decision of the House of Federation and the Council of Ministers Regulation Concerning the Provision Administration of the Tigray National Regional State, Dr Mulu Nega has been appointed as the Chief Executive of the Tigray Regional State.”
On 30 October, the president had attempted to do the same thing, but TPFL sent the military general back to Addis Ababa. The election of Dr Mulu challenges the presidency of Debretsion Gebremichael who was elected in the September regional elections that the federal government termed “illegal.” The government has issued an arrest warrant against Debretsion and other TPLF leaders for “endangering the country’s existence” and “trying to erode the constitution.”
In an escalation of events, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) launched at least two rockets into Eritrea’s capital of Asmara, and Gondar. Local reports indicate that the TPLF is targeting two airports in Asmara which partially damaged the airport in Gondar. A doctor in Eritrea told AFP that the attack resulted in the death of 2 military personnel and another 15 were injured in Gondar. The TPLF claimed that Eritrea, a once bitter rival of Ethiopia, was helping PM Abiy in suppressing their liberation movement.
Eritrea and TPLF have had a strenuous relationship as they share a border. A dispute over territory along the border caused a war between Ethiopia and Eritrea from 1998 and 2000, with the town of Badme as the primary source of contention. Ethiopia’s normalisation of relations with Eritrea was a slap on the face for the TPLF. The leadership called the PM’s friendship with the Eritrean president as “unprincipled.” PM has accused the TPLF of instigating problems by wearing similar military uniforms to Eritrea and implicating the government of “false claims of aggression against the people of Tigray.
Various Eastern and Horn of African presidents, as well as the AU, have called for peace in Ethiopia. Kenyan president urged the fighting parties to find a “peaceful means to end the crisis.” He added that the conflict within the country could impact the region since Ethiopia and Kenya have long served as “anchor states for regional peace and stability.” Uganda has offered to mediate the conflict; a role it frequently plays in regional conflicts. Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister met with the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni.
The Ethiopian government conducted airstrikes on Mekele, the capital city of the Tigray region. Redwan Hussain, the spokesperson of the newly formed emergency task force on Tigray, said they hit military targets while the army engaged in an armed confrontation with the rebels. As the crisis worsens, the military intensified precision airstrikes in the region in an attempted to squash the TPFL rebels
Responding to rumblings on social media, the AU confirmed the contract of the AU security chief, Gen Gebre Egziabher Mabratu Melese, was terminated a week prior. The statement further states that Ethiopia’s request influenced the decision. The AU maintained that they could not keep the General with the knowledge that his government no longer trusted the officer. “The commission is responsible for the safety and security of the personnel. It is clear that this role cannot be entrusted to an individual, who remains a serving national military officer, and in whom his national hierarchy withdrew its full trust and support.” Mahamat Zene Moussa has been appointed as the acting security chief.
The security chief was supposed to retire in June 2020, but his contract was extended as the AU found his replacement. The Ethiopian government also issued an arrest warrant for him and other top TPLF leadership including the Tigray president Debrestion Gebremicheal, and Ethiopian military chiefs Tadesse Werede Tesfaye and Yohannes Goldegiorgis.
As the deadline for Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to surrender expires, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed warned the “final and crucial” military operation would soon be launched. He announced the military plans through a Facebook post. A few days earlier, the Ethiopian Minister in charge of democratisation, Zadig Abraha, justified the airstrikes, adding that the TPLF “raided our Northern Command, it looted our artillery…surrounded our soldiers and took hostages with them.” He said that for the war to end, the rebels must adhere to the conditions spelt out by the government, including handing over the top leadership.
For the last two weeks, the Ethiopian military has been conducting devastating airstrikes on TPLF bases in their region. Foreigners, mostly from international organisations working in Mekele, have fled to Addis Ababa for safety. Though the government has denied reports, hundreds of civilians are reportedly killed based on estimates by news organisations and NGOs. Amnesty International stated that “scores and likely hundreds of people were stabbed or hacked to death” in the town of Mai-kadra on Monday alone. The constant airstrikes have led thousands of Ethiopians to flee to Sudan for safety. So far, the Ethiopian government/military taskforce for Tigray have claimed to have liberated several towns from the TPLF. The current situation in Tigray is that there is no electricity, telecommunication has been blocked, while lack of access to fuel and cash have hampered humanitarian efforts. To make matters worse, the internet services in the region have been shut down.
As the crisis intensifies, the UNHCR warms of a looming “full-scale humanitarian crisis” in Ethiopia. Approximately 27,000 people have fled the heavy fighting to seek refuge in Sudan. UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch stated that the agency is “on standby to provide assistance in Tigray when access and security allow.” OCHA, another UN Agency, through its spokesperson, stated that the organisation and its partners are “supporting the Sudanese government in its response, ramping up humanitarian assistance at the borders as the needs continue to grow.” He also noted that they would “try to prepare the best way possible.”
The now-refugees are sharing their stories of atrocities committed towards them by the military. One refugee said that military officers attacked his town with their tanks and the civilians only had knives and sticks to defend themselves with.
PM Abiy has appealed to the refugees to return home as the war is about to end. Analysts disagree with the PM statement. The TPLF have a sophisticated arsenal and a massive militia, therefore the conflict can drag on for some time.
An Ethiopian official claims that the WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom, has been “fully engaged in soliciting diplomatic and military support” for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Previously, Tedros, who had served as Ethiopia’s Health Minister (2005 – 2012) and Foreign Affairs Minister (2012-2016), was allegedly a member of the powerful Executive Committee. The official, who chose to speak as long as his identity remains secret, told the Turkish newspaper, Anadolu Agency, that the Ethiopian military has been aware of Tedros’ activities, especially his lobbying efforts in the UN to “exert pressure on the Ethiopian government to unconditionally stop its military action against TPLF.” The official further stated that Mr Tedros has been soliciting military support in Egypt. “To ally with Egypt, which had been bent on destabilising Ethiopia for decades and aborting construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), is tantamount to treason,” he added.
Ethiopia has confirmed reports that Tigrayan peacekeepers part of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) were disarmed. The government claimed the exercise was done purely based on security issues, rather than ethnicity. Local reports indicate between 200 and 300 Tigrayans were disarmed.
The disarmament of the soldiers puts more pressure on AMISOM who are battling the insurgent group Al-Shabaab in Somalia. The group has been increasing the number of attacks, especially planting of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on roads frequently used by AMISOM and Somali security forces. Analysts question whether the disarmament will impact the ongoing operations by AMISOM.
Both sides are claiming “military gains” as Ethiopian troops proceed towards Tigray’s capital of Mekele. The Ethiopian military has continued with air raids as the troops march towards the regional capital. Ethiopia’s army chief said that they are “winning on all fronts” and TPLF troops were “in a state of desperation.
TPLF remained determined to keep fighting, with their leaders refusing to listen to the government’s command to surrender. A local official is quoted saying “Tigray is now hell to its enemies.” Tigrayan president, Debretsion Gebremichael, announced that TPLF is “inflicting heavy defeats on all fronts against the forces that came to attack us.”
The international community is calling for calm in Ethiopia. The UN has offered to mediate the recent tensions, but the Ethiopian government has rejected the move. The international body warns that a “humanitarian disaster is unfolding.” Some organisations claim that the roads are blocked, and the airport is closed, making it difficult for aid groups to bring humanitarian assistance to the Tigray region.
Local reports indicate that suspected Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) PLF rockets were fired on Bahir Dir town in Amhara region at approximately 1:40 AM. The Amhara regional government communication office announced on Facebook that no casualties or damage was reported.
The African Union (AU) dispatched a high-level delegation to Ethiopia to meet with PM Abiy to find a resolution to the Tigray crisis. The delegation consists of three former presidents of Liberia, Mozambique and South Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Joaquim Chissano, Kgalema Motlanthe, respectively. In a tweet, the AU stated: “the primary task of the special envoy is to engage all sides of the conflict with a view to ending hostilities, creating conditions for an inclusive national dialogue to resolve all issues that led to the conflict, and restoring peace and stability to Ethiopia.”
Ethiopian forces announced that they had captured two towns of Axum and Adwa from Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the Northern Tigray region. The government also claims that an unspecified number of TFPL fighters have surrendered to the military. The military is suspected to be advancing towards the town of Adigrat, 120KM from the capital.
In televised response, the Tigray president’s spokesperson, Getachew Reda, did not directly respond to the capture of Axum and Adwa. Instead, he announced the apparent successes by TPLF troops on the battlefield. He said they have inflicted “increasing casualties” to government troops at Raya, which is south of the capital. He also claimed responsibility for a rocket attack in the neighbouring Amhara region, on Bahir Dar town.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres commended the AU’s decision to send three high-level envoys to support the peaceful resolution of the Tigray region in Ethiopia. In the statement, he noted that the UN extends the full support for the initiative. He reiterates the commitment of the UN to support efforts towards ensuring a peaceful, stable and prosperous Ethiopia.
The fighting in Tigray region, which officially began on 4 November, has resulted in a humanitarian crisis with thousands displaced and thousands more fleeing to Sudan for safety. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres continued to urge both sides to restrain themselves. He added that a humanitarian corridor is needed to assist civilians caught in the fighting. UNHRC announced that 31,000 Ethiopians had crossed the border into Sudan over the last two and half weeks. The agency added that they are preparing for 200,000 Ethiopians to flee to Sudan.
In response to the humanitarian crisis, the Prime Minister said that his government, “with the rest of Ethiopia would work to ensure that all humanitarian needs [are] addressed. “The overall safety and well-being of the people of Tigray is of paramount importance to the federal government, and we will do all that is necessary to ensure stability prevails in the Tigray region and that our citizens are free from harm and want,” he added.
After the meeting with the AU high-level delegation sent to assist with quelling the tensions in Tigray, Prime Minister Abiy issues a statement detailing the country’s response to the AU. The Prime Minister began with defending the operations, stating that the failure to enforce would create a “culture of impunity with devastating cost to the survival of the country.” In terms of dialogue, he maintained that his government would only speak to representatives “operating legally” in the Tigray region. Finally, he finally quoted the UN charter that calls for the non-interference policy of internal affairs of a sovereign nation. He concluded by appreciating what he termed as “elderly concern” of the African Union and its commitment to the principle of African solutions to African problems.”
Note. Though the PM used the UN charter to say that the AU should adhere to the non-interference principle, the AU can intervene in internal issues through the AU Constitutive Act, Article 4(g). The article states that the AU has the right “to intervene in a member state…in respect of grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.” International human rights organisation has accused the Ethiopian military of war crimes, though the allegations are hard to verify due to the communication shutdown in the Tigray region.
As Ethiopian forces advance to Tigray’s capital of Mekelle, they claim to have seized the Tigrayan town of Adigrat. The announcement comes just a day after they claimed to have captured Axum and Adwa. Adigrat is the second-largest city in the Tigray region, about 116 KM from the capital. TPLF confirmed that the Ethiopian military bombarded the city of Adigrat but did not respond to the claims that the army controls the city.
Prime Minister Abiy has given Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) a 72-hour ultimatum to surrender. In a tweet, PM Abiy tweeted “We urge you to surrender peacefully within 72 hours, recognising that you are at the point of no return.” The call comes as the Ethiopian troops approach the regional capital of Mekele. It is reported that the soldiers are only 60KM from Mekele, where half a million people are still living. The army warned the residents of Mekele that “anything can happen” as the troops advanced to the capital. The spokesperson of the military also urged the civilians to “save themselves.”
TPLF regional president, Debretsion Gebremichael, told the media that the halt of operations was a way for the military to regroup after apparent defeats in all three fronts in the battleground.
The Ethiopian military has claimed to have captured Axum, Adwa, Adigrat and Idaga Hamus.
Michelle Bachelte, the UNHCR boss, voiced concern over the protection of civilians during the ongoing battle in Tigray. She said she is concerned over the rhetoric both sides are using, as it is “dangerously provocative and risks placing already vulnerable and frightened civilians in grave danger.”
UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres issued a statement also voicing his concern over the situation in Tigray. He called on “leaders of Ethiopia to do everything possible to protect civilians.” He urged both sides to uphold human rights and ensure humanitarian access to those who need assistance.
Prime Minister Abiy announced the end of the “operation law enforcement” in Tigray region after its troops allegedly took “full control” of the regional capital of Mekele. In a tweet, the PM noted, “We now have ahead of us the critical task of rebuilding what has been destroyed; repairing what is damaged; returning those who have fled, with the utmost priority of returning normalcy to the people of the Tigray region.” In response to the Prime Minister’s announcement, TPLF leader, Debretsion Gebremichael affirmed that his forces would keep fighting. He added, “Their brutality can only add (to) our resolve to fight these invaders to the last…. this is about defending our rights to self-determination.”
Red Cross, one of the international NGOs operating from Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region, stated that 80% of the people in hospital have trauma injuries. An increase of such injuries, the aid organisation said, means that the hospital would “suspend many other medical services so that the limited staff and resources could be devoted to emergency medical care.” The increase in patients has resulted in a shortage of medical supplies and body bags
The reality on the ground is hard to ascertain since the government still has closed the communication channels in the Tigray region. Analysts and organisations operating in the area suspect thousands of civilians have been killed in the three-week conflict. Conservative findings from the National Human Rights Council indicate that at least 600 civilians have been killed in one attack which they attribute to militias linked to the TPLF. The fighting has forced over 1 million people from their homes, and another 43,000 have fled to Sudan for safety.
At approximately 10 PM, Eritreans reported six loud explosions in the capital of Eritrea, Asmara. Preliminary reports indicate that the rockets fell near the airport and military installations. The country has provided no information to support the social media reports or whether any sustained damages. This is the third attack on Asmara since the conflict ensued on 4 November.
The attack comes just hours after Prime Minister Abiy claims victory against the Tigray region, adding that they have successfully taken over the capital city of Mekelle.
Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary force operated by the government, announced the seizure of a weapon cache, ammunition and military equipment on its eastern border with Ethiopia. It’s unclear whom the weapons belong to and whether it is related to the current conflict in the Tigray region.
While addressing the parliament, Prime Minister Abiy stated that the Ethiopian military had not killed a single civilian during the three-week conflict in Tigray region. The PM further noted that all military action was approved by “a signature of authority.” “99% of them hit their targets and 99% of them didn’t have collateral damage. No country’s army can show this level of performance. Our army is disciplined and victorious” he maintained. He added that the military will not destroy the capital city of Mekele, now that they are in control of the city.
In a telephone interview with Associated Press (AP), Tigrayan President Debretsion Gebremichael maintained that Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) would win the conflict. He added that the conflict “will continue until the invaders are out.”
In another interview with Reuters, Tigrayan president claimed to have captured prisoners of war from Eritrea who allegedly were fighting alongside the Ethiopian military. The Eritrean military has yet commented on the allegations. In the interview, President Gebremichael claimed that TPLF has recaptured the city of Axum and has shot down a military plane in the process. He claims that the pilot of the aircraft was captured. The Ethiopian government is yet to comment on the allegations.
The conflict between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian government has caused food shortages in Eritrean refugee camps in the Tigray region. The UN is concerned with the trend, requesting “urgent access” to the region to deliver the needed aid. Spokesperson of UNHCR, Babar Baloch stated, “We, as humanitarians, have lost access and contact with the refugees since the last month that this fighting has been ongoing, and now there are worrying reports of attacks, of abductions and also of recruitments in and around these refugee camps.” He added that there are reports that some of the refugees have fled the camps seeking refuge in other parts of the region. One hundred thousand Eritrean refugees are living in Ethiopia near the border, 60,000 of whom depend on monthly food rations and have not received this month’s quota. The international institution is still attempting to convince the Ethiopian government for access to the Tigrayan region, with little success.
Ethiopia announced that the government and the UN have agreed to coordinate the distribution of essential supplies in Tigray. The spokesperson of Prime Minister Abiy said that the two sides have “signed an agreement for an enhanced coordination mechanism for humanitarian access in Ethiopia’s Tigray-region which complements the humanitarian assistance efforts the federal government has begun.”
A week after the Ethiopian government claimed to have taken full control over Tigray’s capital city of Mekelle, both sides are trying to tell the narrative of what is happening on the ground. In a statement, Prime Minister Abiy said, “The criminal clique [TPLF] pushed a patently false narrative that its fighters and supporters are battle-hardened and well-armed, posing the risk of protracted insurgency in the rugged mountains of Tigray. It also claimed that it has managed to undertake a strategic retreat with all its capability and regional government apparatus intact. The reality is the criminal clique is thoroughly defeated and in disarray, with the insignificant capability to mount a protracted insurgency.” On the other hand, Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s (TPLF) spokesperson, Gebre Gebresadkan, told Tigrayans in a televised interview that “the war is a people’s war and will not end easily.” He added that the fighting is still continuing in the outskirts of the capital city of Mekelle.
The communication and travel block in Tigray region has made it challenging to verify statements from either side. Though communication has been blocked in the region, some aid organisations have been able to share some information about what is happening in Tigray. One aid worker confirmed TPLF accounts that fighting is continuing in the outskirts of Mekele. Ethiopian refugees in Sudan is another source of information. Many have said that they ran past dead people as they fled the country. Some of them witnessed armed attackers with machetes, sticks and other rudimentary weapons, killing civilians.
With thousands fleeing the Tigrayan region into Sudan, the country’s Red Cross has started the “family reunification” programme. The programme has proved vital since many have lost contact with their families as they fled the violence in the northern region of Ethiopia. A Red Cross official noted that they have started with free phone calls to family members to attempt to find them. If this option does not work, the Red Cross alerts other organisations working with Ethiopian refugees. The official adds that out of 2500 phone calls that they have made, 70% of them have been able to find their relatives.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy assures the country that efforts are underway to restore order in the Tigray region. He added that now that the fighting is over, protection and security of civilians “remain an essential priority.” In addition to helping the affected population, he stated that other priorities include bringing fugitives to justice, restoring law and order, and granting unfettered access to humanitarian aid.
The statement from the PM comes as aid organisations and the UN call for the reopening of roads and end of the communication blackout in the Tigray region so that aid can be delivered to the Tigrayans.
UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, expressed his concern over the Ethiopian crisis in the Tigray region. Through his spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, he stated that it is “essential to quickly restore the rule of law, in full respect of human rights, promote social cohesion, an inclusive reconciliation, as well as to re-establish the delivery of services and guarantee unfettered humanitarian access.”
The police headquarters announced that they had issued arrest warrants for ten police officers who allegedly left their duty station in Addis Ababa to defect to TPLF. The statement accused the officers of treason and human rights abuses.
The Ethiopian government confirmed security forces shot at and detained UN workers in Tigray region. According to a senior government official and head of the emergency task force for Tigray, Redwan Hussein, the UN staffers allegedly “broke” past two checkpoints to go to areas where “they were not supposed to go.” He added that they had been released. Redwan said that it would invite the international community to assist with the investigation only if they feel “it failed to investigate.” He said that assuming that Ethiopia cannot conduct such an investigation is “belittling the government.”
In response to the attack, Secretary-General’s spokesperson, Stephanie Dujarric, called the reports “alarming.” He added that the UN is “engaging at the highest level with the federal government [of Ethiopia] to express our concern and avoid any such incidents in the future.” According to the UN, the staffers were assessing roads, an essential step before an aid convoy passes through an area. State-owned news claimed that the UN Resident Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs, Catherine Sozy, apologised for the behaviour of the UN staffers.
UNHCR chief, Michelle Bachelet called the ongoing conflict in Tigray as “exceedingly worrying and volatile.” She said that corroborated information shows gross human rights violation and abuses, including indiscriminate attacks against civilians, looting, abductions and sexual violence against women and girls. She did not say who the perpetrators of violations and abuses. Michelle added that Tigrayan youth had been forcibly recruited to fight for Tigray.
Contrary to the government’s claims that all fighting is done, the UNHCR boss noted that fighting is still ongoing in the outskirts of Mekelle, the capital of Tigray.
Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and International Rescue Committee (IRC) have confirmed that at least four aid workers from their respective organisations in total were killed in two separate incidents. For DRC, three of their staffers working as guards at a project site were killed in November. The organisation said that due to lack of communication and ongoing insecurity, they had not informed the next of kin. For IRC, one of their staffers was killed in Hitsats refugee camp in Shire. The organisation is still working on gathering information that led to the death of the colleague, but the lack of communication is contributing to the slow investigation.
Locals report that Ethiopia rounded up thousands of refugees, who had fled from camps to seek refuge, and drove them to the Eritrean border.
The UN responded to the allegations, saying that the reports were “disturbing.” Filippo Grandi, the UN refugee chief, added that they have been receiving reports of killing, abduction and forced repatriation of Eritrean refugees over the past month. He said that they are still trying to verify the allegations. If true, he added, Ethiopia would be violating international law.
Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), supported by the police, claimed to have rescued at least 1000 military officers who had been captured by Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). One of the rescued officers is Brigadier General Admeh Mengiste, the deputy commander of the North Command of the ENDF.
Amnesty International implicates Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)-affiliated militia as perpetrators of a massacre in a small town of Mai Kadra in Tigray. The town is the home of Tigrayan, Amhara, and other smaller ethnic groups. The attack, which took place on 12 November, resulted in a “very large number of civilian deaths.” According to one survivor, the police in the region, supported by TPLF youth militia, known locally as Samri, went killing non-Tigrayans. He said one of his friends was killed while another was let go after pleading for his life in Tigrayan. Other survivors said that the bandits had asked people to produce their identification cards to tell people’s ethnicity.
The government, since the beginning of the conflict, blocked most communication lines in Tigray. As a result, it has been challenging to get information or verify stories from survivors of attacks in Tigray. In Mai Kadra, the government restored communication a week ago, making it easier to get information about the attack.
In an interview with an Indian newspaper, Ethiopian Ambassador to India, Tizita Mulugeta, said the Tigray situation “is now under control.” She added that the objectives of “operation law enforcement” were successfully achieved. She affirmed that the government is hunting the “few number of criminals [who] are in hiding.” Addressing the refugee and humanitarian crisis as a result of the operation, she stated that Ethiopia is now “in a position to start the rehabilitation programme.” She noted that the government had identified four sites to house the internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met with the Sudan counterpart where they discussed bilateral cooperation between the two neighbouring nations. In relation to the ongoing conflict in Tigray, PM Abiy’s office tweeted that the Sudanese government fully supports Ethiopia. “The Sudanese side reiterated their solidarity with the government of Ethiopia in the law enforcement operations it has been undertaking.” TPLF and Ethiopian military confrontations have led to thousands of Ethiopians to flee to Sudan for safety.
IGAD will call for an emergency meeting to discuss the ongoing Tigray conflict, Sudan Prime Minister tells the media. This came after the meeting between Sudanese and Ethiopian prime ministers, Abdalla Hamdok and Ahmed Abiy respectively. Ethiopia is yet to comment on the announcement by Sudan’s Prime Minister about the IGAD emergency meeting.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy made a working visit to Mekelle, capital of Tigray region. In a tweet, he said, “went to Mekelle and met with commanders of the ENDF, as well as the PRovisional Administration of Tigray.” He claimed that telecom and electricity had been restored in the area. He alleged that they were not working due to repairs. PM also said that infrastructure projects have commenced repairing the damages from the conflict.
The attack occured in the Al-Fashqa region.
The European Union (EU) announced the suspension of $109 million aid to Ethiopia over lack of humanitarian aid to the Tigray region. The EU Head of Delegation to Ethiopia, Ambassador Johan Borgstam, said that the aid money was postponed until the EU sees the “Granting of full humanitarian access to Tigray for relief actors so that people in need can be reached and there is an end to the ethnic-based targeting.” The EU also called for the government to give access to the media and restore all communications in Tigray.
The Ethiopian government is offering a reward of 10 million birr, which is equivalent to $260,000, to anyone who provides information on the location of TPLF leaders. Lieutenant General Asrat Denero, the head of the military community information department, announced the details of the rewards on state-run media.
Demarcation talks over the boundary between Ethiopia and Sudan failed to yield results or a consensus.
Gumuz gunmen kill at least 207 Amhara and Shinasha civilians.
Ethiopia’s National Electoral Board (NEC) announced that the parliamentary election would take place on 5 June 2021. The NEC had postponed the elections scheduled to take place in August this year due to COVID-19 pandemic.
The election is expected to take place as the country rustles with many crises. In Tigray, despite claiming victory, the military is still fighting against the TPLF. Also in Tigray, battles between armed Amhara groups and Tigrayans have been reported, with Amhara groups claiming they are reclaiming their land. In other parts of the country, the Oromo and Somalis, the Somalis and Afar, Oromo and Amhara have had sporadic clashes,
Banks in Mekelle, Tigray’s capital, opened for the first time since the conflict started in November. The state-run Fana TV reported that the government was restoring normality. A week earlier, the government sent civil servants back to work, reopened the air space, and restored some power and telecom links.
Reuters reported that their cameraman had been arrested in his home in Addis Ababa last week and has since been in custody without charge. The cameraman, identified as Kumerra Gumeechu, was arrested in front of his family by at least ten armed federal police officers. The day after the arrest, he appeared before a judge, with no lawyer present, and was ordered to remain in detention for an additional 14 days to give police time to investigate. The police confiscated his electronics, including his phone and laptop, according to his family.
A week and a half prior to this incident, another Reuters staff, photographer Tiksa Negeri, was allegedly beaten by two Ethiopian federal police officers. Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority had accused international media houses of falsely reporting and unbalanced coverage of the fighting in Tigray at the end of November.
Sudan claims that from the 23rd to 31st December, the military made further territorial gains in Al-Fashqa and Al-Quraisha border regions.
Churches in the northern region have claimed to be attacked and looted. The perpetrators are unknown.
Ethiopia announced that its forces had killed three Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) leaders. The government alleges they were killed after they refused to surrender to the military. The three leaders were identified as Seyoum Mesfin, former Foreign Affairs Minister (1991-2010), Aba Tsehaye, former Federal Affairs Minister, Asmelash Woldesellassie, the ex-parliamentary chief whip,
The latest attack is part of the ongoing operations by the Ethiopian government to apprehend TPLF leaders. Last week, they arrested Sebhat Nega, a founding member of the group. State-run media reported that they killed 15 members and captured eight others.
The UN Special Representative on Sexual violence, Pramila Patten, said she is concerned about the serious allegations of sexual violence in Tigray. She said that the UN had received reports on a “high number of alleged rapes.” “There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence,” Patten said in a statement. She added that the increased number of cases of medical centres prescribing “emergency contraception” and “increased testing of sexually transmitted infections” is additional information that supports the allegations.
The US has called for the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean troops out of the Tigray region. In the State Department statement, the US says that “credible reports of looting, sexual violence, assaults in refugee camps and other human rights abuses” had been reported. “There is also evidence of Eritrean soldiers forcibly returning Eritrean refugees from Tigray to Eritrea,” the statement read in part. The statement said that it is still unclear the precise number of troops of the groups and where they are operating. On the humanitarian front, the US urged both sides to stop fighting so that aid organisations and groups could access those in need.
Ethiopia and Eritrea have been adamant that the Eritrean troops had not crossed the border into the country. Despite their denial, survivors who have fled the Tigray region have claimed that Eritrean troops had gone house to house killing young men while looting.
An audio statement from the defacto Tigray leader, Debretison Gebremichael, was released on Saturday night. The statement was released on Facebook by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)- affiliated media group, Tigrai Media House, based in the US. Gebremichael admitted that the federal government had military dominance, though temporary, he added. He alleged abuses by the Ethiopian forces on Tigrayans. He affirmed that the TPLF “is engaged in extended resistance.” He called on his supporters to “organise and fight and to strive to make all who have reached fighting age take up the fight.”
International media could not independently verify the authenticity of the recording. This is the first communication in two months.
Responding to the audio statement, the spokesperson of PM Abiy said she “cannot speak to the delusions of a criminal clique’s Facebook page.” She added the TPLF had been making unfounded genocide claims since November to cover up their own horrendous crimes.
The UN reported that as many as 20,000 refugees are missing after armed men targeted two camps. The refugees, mainly from Eritrea, fled after the two camps, Hitsats and Shimelba, were attacked by unknown gunmen. Three thousand refugees managed to reach another nearby camp, Mai-Aini. The UN fears that some of the refugees were abducted or killed in other locations.
The World Food Programme met to re-open humanitarian aid to Tigray, something that the government has prohibited for months.
After lobbying with the Ethiopian government, the UN announced that the two sides had reached an agreement to expand the access for aid workers in Tigray. Due to the limited communication and access to villages and towns in Tigray, it is hard for aid organisations to have an accurate image of those who need help. The Ethiopian government allowed the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide emergency food aid to one million people in Tigray. The government would also provide transport to hard to reach rural areas.
The new agreement builds on an existing agreement signed in December. The flawed agreement did not provide UN access to areas that were under government control. The situation between the two sides worsened when security forces fired shots at a UN team travelling to Mekelle after they refused to stop at two checkpoints.
UN agencies received approval from the Ethiopian Government for 25 international staff to provide humanitarian assistance inside the country’s conflict-torn Tigray region, (UN Spokesperson).
The Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS) raised the alarm over the worsening humanitarian crisis in Tigray, adding that at least 80% of Tigray is “unreachable at this particular time.” ERCS called for attention to address the dire situation where some starvation deaths have been reported. They explained that many areas are still inaccessible due to the closure or restriction on main roads north and south of the capital Mekelle. The organisation estimated that nearly 3.8 million out of the 6 million population is in dire need of aid.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Ethiopian forces shelled heavily populated areas during the first weeks of the conflict in the Tigray region. The rights group estimates at least 83 civilians were killed during those instances and displaced thousands. The artillery attacks targeted homes, hospitals, schools and markets in Mekelle, the capital, and towns of Shire and Humera. Just in Humera, the doctors noted at least 46 civilians were killed and another 2000 injured in a single day from an attack by the Ethiopian forces.
The findings by HRW contradict PM Abiy’s previous statements that the military acted with special care for civilian lives. In November, the PM told the parliament that no civilian was killed since the operation began on 4 November.
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) relocated Eritrean refugees from two camps after they were destroyed following an attack by armed militias. Armed men attacked the Shimelba and Hitsats camps, killing and abducting refugees. The Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the NGOs actively working in those two camps, condemned the attack on refugees.
To make the refugees’ plight worse, some camp residents reported that Eritrean soldiers had forced some of them back to Eritrea.
Local and international journalists investigating and reporting on the Tigray crisis have reported instances of threats and intimidation by armed actors. These journalists are investigating artillery attacks, massacres, extrajudicial killings, widespread looting, and sexual-based violence, including rape. Local newspapers, including Adds Standard, have had their journalist arrested or detained on trumped-up charges. One journalist was charged with “attempts to dismantle the Constitution through violence” and “outrage against the Constitution.”
To silence the journalists, some have had their homes raided with property destroyed or taken while others have ultimately lost their lives. These armed men that have attacked the journalists allegedly claim their attacks are on those who are “spreading lies.” or supporting the “Tigray junta.”
The government imposed lockdown in Tigray, which only allows limited communication to come out of the region, has made matters worse. At the beginning of the conflict, the government had shut down all forms of communication, including the internet, mobile phones, and landlines.
Fires alleged to have been deliberately set destroyed more than 500 structures around the town of Gijet.
Following an investigation by Amnesty International, killings of hundreds of civilians by Eritrean troops in Axum amounted to “human rights and humanitarian law violations.” On 28 and 29 November, Eritrean troops killed hundreds of civilians in a “coordinated and systematic” manner. The human rights group claims that the massacre aimed to “terrorise the population into submission.” A total of 41 survivors were interviewed. According to the witnesses, the Ethiopian and Eritrean military entered the town of Axum on 19 November, where they also indiscriminately fired at anyone who tried to escape. They said they could identify that the troops were Eritrean due to their uniform. Some said that some of the troops wore Ethiopian military uniforms but could identify them as Eritreans by their shoes or by the three scars near the eye, markings that identify them as Beni Amir, an ethnic group in Eritrea and Sudan, not Ethiopia. Moreover, though Eritrea has ethnically Tigrayans, the survivors noted the troops were not speaking Ethiopia’s Tigranya dialect.
Ethiopian Ambassador to Qatar called the report by Amnesty “cooked” after he was asked to respond by Al-Jazeera. He added that, “ This kind of report based on unreliable sources is known to have the risk of further reinforcing the misinformation and propaganda by TPLF criminal clique.” The Ethiopian government is yet to comment on the allegations.
Ethiopian authorities released four media workers after spending several days in jail. The arrested were two translators for the AFP and Financial Times, Fitsum Berhane and Alula Akalu, respectively, BBC journalist Girmay Gerbu and local journalist Temrat Yemane.
To limit the flow of information about what is happening in Tigray, the Ethiopian government granted accreditation to seven international media organisations to report from Tigray. According to Al Jazeera, the journalists were warned that they could face unspecified “corrective measures” if they do not meet local standards.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, stated that her office collaborated the allegations of grave violations by the Eritrean forces. She added that the violations could amount to “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” She called on further investigations into the situation in Tigray. She added that Eritrean forces are not the only perpetrators but also Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF), Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPFL) and Amhara regional forces with allied militias.
Human Rights Watch (HWR) say Eritrean forces shot dead more than a hundred civilians, including children, in Tigray in November 2020. The massacre occurred after an armed Tigrayan militia attacked Eritrean soldiers in the area. The report says the army responded by indiscriminately firing on civilians. Survivors of the massacre say that the troops went home to home, killing the men and boys.
Both Ethiopia and Eritrea deny Eritrea’s active role in the conflict in Tigray.
The Deputy chief of mission at the Ethiopian Embassy in the US, Kidanemariam, resigned from his post. He accused PM Abiy of leading the country “down a dark path towards destruction and disintegration.” He termed Ethiopia’s campaign as a “genocidal war.” He added that the Abiy government has been “misrepresenting conditions on the ground and failing to come clean about the presence of foreign powers.”
While testifying before Congress, the US Secretary of State, Antony Bilnken, that acts of “ethnic cleansing” were being committed in Tigray region. He called for all Eritrean troops to be withdrawn from Tigray and replaced by security forces that will respect human rights. He added the allegations are based on credible reports by an “independent investigation into what took place there,” citing human rights abuses and atrocities.
The Ethiopian government has rejected the US’s allegations, calling them “completely unfounded and spurious verdict.” ”Nothing during or after the end of the main law enforcement operation in Tigray can be identified or defined by any standards as a targeted, international ethnic cleansing against anyone in the region,” the statement read in part.
The Amhara region also rejected the allegations of “ethnic cleansing” by its forces who have been fighting in Tigray alongside the federal troops, as well as armed militias fighting to retake what they claim as historical Amhara land. The spokesperson of the region said that allegations are “propaganda.”
The Biden administration has sent Senator Chris Coons to meet with PM Abiy Ahmed in Ethiopia. The Senator expressed the president’s concerns over the humanitarian situation in the Tigray region. US Secretary of State, Blinken, had stated that the US would provide $52 million in aid to address the situation. He added that the deteriorating situation could threaten the peace and stability of the region.
During his trip to Ethiopia, Senator Coons is expected to meet with key leaders of the African Union based in Ethiopia.
The European Union announced sanctions on Eritrea’s National Security Agency for their role in the Tigray conflict, including serious human rights violations. They froze assets abroad and banned them from travelling to any European Union country.
The Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to the new sanctions, saying that the accusations are “baseless and offensive.” They asserted that the EU is supporting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). “The EU has been doggedly working to save and bring back to power the defunct TPLF clique and to undermine the region’s own efforts to address challenges and advance comprehensive and durable cooperation,” the statement said in part.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed admitted that Eritrean troops had been fighting in the Tigray region for the first time. The admission comes after months of denial from both countries despite credible accusations from human rights groups and locals. While addressing the parliament, PM Abiy affirmed that the troops had crossed into Tigray due to concerns that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) would continue attacks against Asmara. PM Abiy noted that the Eritreans had promised to leave Tigray once the Ethiopian military was in control of the border. He added that the “Eritrean people and government did a lasting favour to our soldiers during the conflict” without explaining the details.
PM Abiy attempted to address the allegations from human rights groups that the Eritreans have committed mass atrocities. He said, if the Eritreans had committed any atrocities, it was unacceptable. “We don’t accept it because it was the Eritrean army, and we would not accept it if it were our soldiers.” He added that the target of the campaign was pre-discussed. In the same light, he affirmed that any Ethiopian soldier who is found to have raped women or committed other war crimes would be held responsible. This comes after human rights groups documented details from refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) who narrated the horrific crimes. PM Abiy said that though the government is investigating the crimes, he believed that the allegations are “propaganda of exaggeration,” propelled by TPLF.
Issues between Asmara, led by President Isaias Afwerki, and the TPLF stem from the Ethiopia-Eritrea war of 1998, where Eritrea was defeated. Many analysts view the involvement in the Tigray as a way for Afwerki to exact revenge on the TPLF.
Doctors without Borders say that their staff members witnessed the killing of at least four civilians. The three staff members witnessed the killing while travelling from the regional capital of Mekelle to Adigrat ahead of two public minibuses when soldiers stopped them. The statement said that the Ethiopian military seems to have survived an ambush from an armed group since one of their vehicles ws on fire. According to their accounts, the soldiers forced the civilians out of the bus and separated the men from the women. Some of the men were shot. The MSF staff were allowed to continue with the travels while the women were told to walk on foot. A few minutes later, the troops stopped the vehicle belonging to Doctors without Borders then proceeded to assault the driver of the vehicle.
The Ethiopian government responded to the allegations, noting that PM Abiy is aware of the allegations and looking into it.
A week before the attack, Borders Without Borders condemned the attack on clinics in the Tigray region. They termed the attacks as “deliberate and generalised.” The statement noted that clinics were looted, vandalised and destroyed. Between mid-December and March, a total of 106 clinics were attacked. The health organisation said that the Ethiopian troops had forced doctors in one hospital to treat their wounded before treating anyone, while Eritrean soldiers did the same thing in a different town.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said that Eritrean troops killed more than 100 civilians in a massacre in November in Tigray. The findings, which Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch collaborated previously, were published by the government-affiliated commission. The massacre took place in the Axum on 28-29 November. The report said that the finds show “grave human rights violations that may amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes.”
The UN and EHRC announced they would carry out a joint investigation into the allegations of abuse in Tigray. .The EHRC said the probe is part of the “much-needed accountability process.”
The UN office in Ethiopia has documented at least 500 cases of rape in Tigray region. The Deputy aid coordinator, Wafaa Said, that five clinics provide the information. The brave women who reported the assaults stated that they were perpetrated by armed actors who sometimes went as far as forming members of the same family to rape their own family members. Wafaa adds that the numbers of sexual-based violence are probably higher than what is being reported.
- Armed Ahmara militias have continued their attacks on neighbouring states of Tigray and Oromia. They have crossed into western Tigray to claim disputed land between the two regions. Amhara officials say that disputed lands, which equates to a quarter of the Tigrayan land, was taken during the 30 years TPLF dominated government after 1991. The armed groups had crossed as soon as the government began their campaign in November 2020. The fresh fighting has resulted in a mass exodus from western Tigray, which adds additional pressure to an area facing a humanitarian crisis. The head of the Tigray’s government-appointed administration told the media that the western Tigray is still occupied by armed Amhara militias forcing people out of their homes. The administrator of the disputed zone disputes the local administration’s view of the conflict. Yabsira Eshetie said no one had been forced out of their home while no home has been destroyed. “There is federal police here. There is Amhara special police here.”
- In Oromia, armed Amhara militants attacked a village in the West Wollega Zone, killing at least 30 civilians. The villagers ran to a nearby government office to seek protection from the federal troops. Local administration blames a splinter group of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) known as OLF Shane. The OLF Shane spokesperson denied responsibility for the attack, adding that the allegations are part of a government strategy to frame them as lawless.
Prime Minister Abiy says Eritrean forces have begun withdrawing from the Tigray region in Ethiopia. Months after delaying the allegation, Ethiopia finally admitted that Eritrean troops were assisting the government troops against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). This comes after G7 countries unequivocally called for the withdrawal of the Eritrean troops. G7 Foreign Minister welcomed the announcement that Eritrea is withdrawing troops, adding that the process must be “swift, unconditional and verifiable.” Eritrea maintains that they crossed the border when provoked by the TPLF. The claim is based on the rocket attacks into Asmara from the Tigray region.
UNICEF spokesperson, James Elder, said that there is “no clear end in sight” to the conflict in Tigray. The involvement of the Amhara region militias in the conflict has added new dimensions to the conflict, he added. On the humanitarian front, more than one million people, most of whom are children, have been displaced due to fighting, with the numbers expected to rise as the fighting is still ongoing. The spokesperson relayed the accounts from children who had walked hundreds of kilometres to safety with minimal food and water.
The US State Department says there is no evidence that Eritrean troops are withdrawing from Ethiopia. The spokesperson, Ned Price, reiterated the Biden administration’s call for the immediate departure of troops.
Days later, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, uttered similar remarks as the spokesperson of the State Department, adding that the Eritrean forces and Amhara regional forces are contributing to the growing humanitarian disaster while committing human rights abuses.
The US has voiced fresh concern over the atrocities being reported in the Tigray region and the challenges for aid organisations working to alleviate the situation. USAID officials say they still require greater and sustained access to civilians in order to deliver aid., $305 million in total is providing emergency food aid, medical care, temporary shelters and “extremely important” support for victims of violence.
For the first time since the beginning of the conflict, the UN Security Council has voiced concerns about the atrocities being reported in Tigray. The statement called for an investigation into “human rights violations and abuses, including reports of sexual violence against women and girls in the Tigray region.” This is a major shift in policy following the recent internationalisation of the conflict and points to increased future involvement by powerful global actors.
In a joint letter to the UN Security Council (UNSC), three opposition parties called on the international community to pressure the Eritrean government to withdraw all its troops from Ethiopia. The three political parties, the National Political Parties Forum (Salsay Weyane Tigray (SaWeT)), the National Congress of great Tigray (Baytona) and the Tigray Independence Party (TIP) noted that the reconstruction process cannot take place while foreign troops are still in the region. They also asked the UNSC to hold Eritrea accountable for the war crimes and human rights abuses committed over the past six months. The political parties stated that the response for the larger international community “was not strong enough to persuade the invaders to abide by the long standing covenant of the UN.
Ethiopian government asserted claims from Oxfam that at least 5 million people in Tigray face extreme hunger as “falsified information.” The remarks come after Oxfam, in a statement, claimed that 5 million people are facing extreme levels of hunger as a result of the six months war, inability of thousands of farmers to plan ahead of the rainy season and locusts.
According to Debebe Zewde, the director of public relations with the Disaster Risk Management Commission, there is a widespread campaign by international organisations and media outlets to tarnish the image of Ethiopia. To counter the narrative, he said that the Ethiopian government stated that they had been delivering humanitarian assistance to the 4.5 million people in need. He added that the government has set up 92 food distribution sites across Tigray and so far they have spent $50.5 million on the food distribution program.
The federal government-appointed head of the Tigray region, Mulu Nega has resigned, according to his deputy. The deputy, Abebe Gebrehiwot Yihdego told the media that Mulu designed without giving details for the reasoning or whether he is now the new interim head of Tigray. Prime Minister Abiy’s office also failed to comment on the recent developments.
The UN announced on Thursday that it was releasing $65 million in aid to Ethiopia, of which $40 million would be sent to Tigray. The rest of the $25 million would be used to fund operations in other parts of the country, including drought relief in the Somali and Oromia regions. The $40 million sent to Tigray will be used to fund the emergency shelter, clean water, health care, prevention efforts and response to sexual and gender-based violence, and emergency telecommunications to support the humanitarian response.
The UN has cautioned that severe malnutrition among children and pregnant women is on the rise in the Tigray region after prolonged conflict and disruption to humanitarian aid. Moreover, aid convoys are being blocked and this has delayed the provision of aid to those who need it most. According to humanitarian organisations reporting to the UN, 431 out of the 19,000 children screened were found to be severely malnourished. Likewise, 2,721 women out of 4,447 screened were found to be acutely malnourished.
Abune Mathias, the head of Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church said the atrocities being committed in Tigray amounted to genocide, his first comments since the outbreak of the war. In a video, which was shot on a mobile phone then smuggled out of Ethiopia, Abune, who is ethnically Tigrayan, said he wanted the world to know what was happening in the region. He also said that he was prevented from speaking about the atrocities, without specifying who prevented him from doing so.
The head of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus, described the situation in Tigray as ‘horrific’. Dr Tedros, who is himself from Tigray, said that people were dying due to hunger and decried the sexual abuse taking place in the region. “The situation in Tigray, Ethiopia is, maybe if I use one word, horrific, very horrific – 4.5, almost five million people need humanitarian aid, 91% need food aid, and many people have started dying actually because of hunger, and severe and acute malnutrition is becoming rampant,” he said at a news conference in Geneva. According to the WHO, the destruction of healthcare services in the region added further strain to the conflict. Aid agencies have often called for full humanitarian access and an end to the aid blockade.
‘Foreign Policy’ reports that the Biden Administration is planning visa sanctions on Ethiopian and Tigrayan officials over the atrocities committed in the Tigray region. These restrictions point to a shift in US foreign policy and could represent a turning point in US-Ethiopia relations. The Biden Administration has been frustrated with the response of the Abiy Ahmed-led government, and the Ethiopian government, on the other hand, has refuted criticism over its handling of the crisis. Officials familiar with the matter have said that the US is planning to add further pressure on the Ethiopian government by withholding security assistance funding and targeting the country’s IMF and World Bank programmes. There are also talks of targeted sanctions against Ethiopian government officials complicit in the atrocities, although no final decision has been made. US Secretary of state
In response to the visa restriction by the US, the Ethiopian government accused Washington of meddling in its internal affairs. The Foreign Affairs ministry asserted that the actions by the US were “inappropriate but also completely unacceptable.” said that if the visa restriction is upheld, Addis Ababa “will be forced to reassess its relations with the United States, which might have implications beyond our bilateral relationship.”
The Ethiopian government expelled a New York Times reporter after his licence was revoked over ‘unbalanced’ reporting. Simon Mark has been at the forefront of reporting what has been happening in Tigray, including the alleged human rights violations committed by the Ethiopian troops. According to the New York Times, Simon was summoned by government officials and held at the airport for eight hours before being put on a flight. The assistant managing editor said that the reporter was not given time to go to his house in Ethiopia to collect his belongings before being expelled. Through his Twitter page, Simon Marks said that the immigration officers also denied him the opportunity to fully say goodbye to his family, including his two-year-old daughter.
Ethiopia’s Media Authority told AFP that Simon Marks had no business staying in the country, especially after the government revoked his license. once
The expulsion of Simon Mark drew condemnation for media personalities and Reporters without Borders (RWB). According to RWB, he was the first foreign reporter to be expelled from the country.
According to the Ethiopian government, 22 officials from the interim administration in Tigray have been killed by forces loyal to its former ruling party, 20 others have been kidnapped, and four had been wounded. It was the first time the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had disclosed the toll of attacks by Tigrayan forces, which federal officials have long claimed would be unable to mount an effective insurgency. The attacks on interim administration officials were perpetrated “by TPLF fighters that claim to be fighting for the people of Tigray but have rather been actively engaged in the destruction of property, killing and kidnapping” of those “tasked with bringing stability to the region,” the government statement said.
An Ethiopian national aid worker was killed by a “stray bullet” in Tigray. The aid worker, identified as Negasi Kadane, succumbed to the injuries on Saturday after being rushed to the hospital on Friday evening, according to the employer, the Italian charity, International Committee for the Development of Peoples (CISP).
Negasi is the 9th aid worker reportedly killed in Tigray since the fighting began in November 2020. Last week, USAID chief, Samantha Power, said that a national staff was killed in Tigray “reportedly by Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers.” The killing of the USAID staff led to the US warning the warring parties of deliberately targeting aid workers. In December, Danish Refugee Council and International Rescue Committee lost three and one of its staff members, respectively.
In a recently released report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented attacks on schools after conducting more than a dozen interviews with residents, teachers, parents and former students. “All warring parties have been implicated in attacking, pillaging and occupying schools across the Tigray region,” Laetitia Bader, HRW’s Horn of Africa Director and one of the report’s authors, said. “This has an impact not only on children’s ability to receive an education now, but it also has a much longer impact on schoolchildren’s ability to receive the education they have been missing for the past six months,” said Bader. According to Bader, troops occupied and fortified a primary school to be used as a watchtower in one instance. After Ethiopian troops left the school, Mekelle residents found widespread damage to classrooms and offices, as well as the destruction of electrical installations and water pipes.
Tigrayans have accused Eritrean troops of massacring civilians at the slopes of the Church of Abuna Yemata in Tigray, according to testimonies gathered by the Guardian. On 8 May, Eritrea soldiers killed at least 19 civilians, mainly from three families, in a village near the church. However, the Guardian cautioned that they are still verifying the accounts of the survivors.
The Ethiopian government has stated that Operation ‘Law Enforcement” is about to come to an end, despite calling victory in November 2020. The government, through its spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, said that the forces are close to “finalising operations,” adding that the fighting is localised to two areas. They added that all armed opposition will soon be eliminated.
Responding to the allegations of indiscriminate killing of civilians, rape and other sexual-based violence, the spokesperson said that the military police and prosecutors had begun prosecuting those responsible for such crimes. A total of 53 soldiers are facing trial. She added that such violations were not endemic to the entire military but rather “bad apples who violated their rules of engagement.”
Billene Seyoum, the spokeswoman for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said reports from the defence ministry indicate that troops from neighbouring Eritrea had begun withdrawing from Tigray. Ethiopia had previously denied that Eritrean forces were in the country, but in March Mr Abiy admitted they were there and said they would start leaving. Talking to journalists, Ms Billene denied allegations that people were being deliberately starved of food. She said the government was working to provide emergency food aid with several agencies, including the UN’s World Food Programme.
Ethiopia’s international community has continued its plea for assistance as the famine in Tigray becomes a reality.
The UN humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, also has raised the alarm over the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Tigray region. He said if no immediate action takes place, the 1984 famine that killed at least 1 million Ethiopians could occur again. He asserted that famine is already taking place in Tigray. Lowcock said that the situation is set to get worse if humanitarian access is not permitted. He added that Amhara and Afar regions are also going to be affected. “We are hearing of starvation-related deaths already,” he said in a statement released on Friday. “People need to wake up. The international community needs to really step up, including through the provision of money. He also added that Eritrea was using starvation as a weapon of war in contravention of humanitarian law. “The access for aid workers is not there because of what men with guns and bombs are doing and what their political masters are telling them to do,” he said.
The United Kingdom is the latest country to ask for more assistance for the north region. UK Ambassador Barbara Woodward told reporters that immediate aid is needed, and the delay could result in the possible deaths of hundreds of people. The destruction of the farmlands during the conflict has added to the food insecurity. Amb Woodward asserted that there could be “a man-made famine without a ceasefire and humanitarian access.” She concluded her media briefing by noting that the UK has pledged another 23.6 million to aid the current crisis.
As the Tigray conflict rages on, children have not been spared by the effects of the conflict. Children currently receiving treatment in various hospitals in Tigray have begun sharing their stories. The accounts show that the children have been shot, knifed, hit by shrapnel from heavy artillery, and maimed by landmines. According to official records, in one Ayder hospital in the capital city of Mekelle, 32 children have been admitted, 13 children have had their limbs amputated.
Beriha, a fifteen-year-old, lost one eye in the war and the other permanently blinded while she ran for her life as the security forces were firing on civilians. To make matters worse, the family had to travel from town to town searching for a hospital to treat Beriha since the hospitals, and health centres are either full or not functioning. In a report by Doctors without Borders, less than 15% of health care centres in Tigray are operating normally.
Eritrea’s Foreign Affairs Minister has blamed the US for the Tigray conflict by supporting the Tigray People’s Liberation Movement (TPLF). In a letter sent to the UN Security Council, the Minister said that the current Biden administration is “stoking further conflict and destabilisation” by interfering and intimidating the region. Furthermore, the letter accuses the US government of attempting to “resuscitate the remnants of the TPLF regime.”
The TPLF dominated government that ruled Ethiopia for more than 27 years until Prime Minister Abiy come to power in 2018 was considered Eritrea’s biggest enemy. The animosity grew worse and worse following the defeat of Eritrea during the war with Ethiopia (1998-2000). Regional analysts have maintained that Eritrea joined the conflict to punish the TPLF and its supporters in Tigray.
The African Union (AU) announced that they will investigate the allegations of human rights abuses committed in Tigray region of Ethiopia. In a statement, the investigation will be conducted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights stationed in the Gambia. The investigation team will conduct their research in Ethiopia and in the neighbouring countries over a three-month period, with the possibility of extension.
As expected, the Ethiopian government deemed the investigation as unnecessary. The Foreign Affairs Ministry criticised the inquiry, adding that it was “misguided” and lacked a legal basis. The ministry offered to do a joint investigation with the AU.
In response to the comments from the Ethiopian government, the vice-chair of the human rights commission, Remy Ngoy Lumbu, noted that the investigation could not be stopped. He affirmed that the findings “definitely will not be hidden in the drawer.” VC Limbu confirmed that the Ethiopian government had given authorisation for the commission to visit the Tigray region, but no exact date has been set.
After two postponements, Ethiopians took to the polling stations to cast their vote. This will be the first electoral test for Prime Minister Abiy, who came to power in 2018 with a wide support base. Many opposition candidates boycotted the election, stating that the elections would not be free and fair. On election day, opposition party members in Amhara claimed high levels of intimidation from government forces. Based on the data of civil society election monitors, 118 incidents, 93 of whom were verified, of intimidation were reported in Amhara and in the southern region. Interviewed voters said that peace – As the elections take place, the conflict continues to rage on in Tigray. The polls did not take place in all places in Ethiopia, accounting for a fifth of the 547 constituencies. Tigray specifically accounts for 38 seats in Parliament. According to the election commission, the election in those areas deemed to be insecure would vote on 6 September.
Ethiopia’s military has rejected accounts that dozens of civilians were killed in an air raid in the country’s embattled Tigray region, saying its forces had only struck rebels. Speaking to journalists on Thursday, army spokesman Colonel Getnet Adane said the operation “dismantled” armed forces loyal to the northern region’s former governing party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). “We do not accept that this operation targeted civilians,” he said, cautioning that the rebels were known to wear civilian clothes.
Survivors and health workers, however, described aerial explosions striking the marketplace at the peak of trading, killing and wounding dozens, including children. A local health official cited by AFP news agency put the death toll to at least 64, with 180 wounded, while medics told news agencies that the Ethiopian military was blocking ambulances from reaching the scene.
Unknown assailants killed 3 Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without borders) employees in Tigray. In a statement, the UN chief described the murders as “totally unacceptable and an appalling violation of International Humanitarian Law. The perpetrators must be found and severely punished. “I stand in solidarity with our humanitarian partners who are risking their lives to provide protection and relief to people in Tigray”, Mr Guterres added.
Two weeks after the killing of the three humanitarian workers, MSF is calling for the government to investigate their deaths. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and the circumstances that led to their deaths is still unclear, the organisation says. The aid organisation was forced to suspend operations in Abi Adi, Adigrat and Axum, citing security concerns.
Videos of Tigray Defence Forces marching into Mekelle with cheering crowds swept the social media space. The troops received a hero’s welcome, with Tigrayans waving their flags and singing battle songs, thanking them for their efforts. The TDF has been on the offensive over the last two weeks, slowly pushing out Eritrean and Ethiopian forces from the countryside.
With news that Mekelle is under the control of TDF, the Ethiopian government was quick to refute the narrative that the troops fled the town. In an address, PM Abiy said that Mekelle is no longer “the centre of gravity for conflict.” He added that the troops could return in weeks if needed.
The Ethiopian government declared an immediate and unilateral ceasefire in Tigray as government soldiers began retreating from the region. Along with this, rebel forces took the regional capital of Mekele. The statement was broadcast by Ethiopian state media after the interim administration, appointed by Addis Ababa, fled the region and called for a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds so that aid could be delivered to those in need. Adding to PM Abiy’s sentiments, the Abiy-appointed Tigray leader, Abraham Belay, said the objective of the ceasefire is “to facilitate aid deliveries and permit farmers to cultivate their crops in peace.”
The UN Secretary-General welcomed the ceasefire call. In a telephone call with the Ethiopian Prime Minister, he hoped that this step would be a harbinger of peace. This ceasefire will last until September when the planting season ends.
The UK has also called all parties to pull back from violence in Tigray and allow humanitarian workers access to the region. The government welcomed the announcement of a humanitarian ceasefire and urged all parties to make a similar announcement.
Through its Foreign Affairs minister Demeke Mekonnen, the Ethiopian government categorically denied accusations that the government is intentionally trying to “suffocate” the people of Tigray by denying them access to immediate aid. “The insinuation that we are trying to suffocate the Tigrayan people by denying humanitarian access and using hunger as a weapon of war is beyond the pale. There is absolutely no reason for us to do so. These are our people,” Demeke said. Though credible intelligence shows that Amhara forces destroyed the bridge, the Ethiopian government is insistent on placing the blame on Tigray forces.
The UN continues to call for full access to humanitarian aid into Tigray. The latest reports indicate 400 000 people are suffering from famine while another 1.8 million are on the brink of famine. UNHCR notes that the humanitarian conditions have “worsened drastically” in the recent weeks, with at least 50 000 more people facing famine and 33 000 children severely malnourished. The conflict has displaced two million people, and close to 5.2 million people require various degrees of humanitarian assistance.
Responding to the Ethiopian government’s call for a ceasefire after its troops withdrew from Mekele, the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) have asserted that certain conditions must be met for them to agree to the ceasefire. Firstly, all Eritrean and Amhara forces must withdraw from Tigray and return to their pre-war territories. Secondly, PM Abiy and Eritrean President Afeworki must be held accountable for all the crimes committed in Tigray by their troops following an UN-led investigation. Thirdly, all humanitarian aid should be allowed into Tigray to assist the civilians who are suffering. Fourthly, full access to services such as electricity, telecommunication, banking, air travel, healthcare, transportation and commerce. Fifthly, all negotiations going forward should be based on the current constitution and through the democratically elected government of Tigray that the Abiy government does not recognise.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s ruling Prosperity Party (PP) overwhelmingly won general elections Saturday, meaning he will stay in power another term. Abiy’s party is expected to take more than 410 of the 546 parliamentary seats in the first round of the contest, Ethiopia’s sixth national election. Abiy, 44, took office in April 2018 following the resignation of his predecessor, becoming the first Oromo person to lead the country.
The humanitarian crisis in Tigray continues to worsen as government and regional forces restrict access to aid. The flow of aid has been made worse by the destruction of the Tekeze bridge allegedly by Amhara militia as they fled from Mekele and the closure of the airports in Shire and Mekelle. Succumbing to international pressure, the Ethiopian government allowed humanitarian flights to Tigray a week ago. Despite the government claims, no flight has taken off from Addis Ababa, according to the director-general of the Ethiopian civil aviation authority, Wesenyeleh Hunegnaw. He claimed that the foreign affairs ministry is the authority providing clearance of flights which is then sent to them,
The World Food Programme (WFP) has documented the four-day journey from Semera to Mekelle, consisting of a convoy of 50 trucks delivering 900 tonnes of food and other emergency supplies. The UN agency said that this is the first convoy passed through ten different checkpoints to reach Tigray since 2 July.
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution calling for the swift pullout of Eritrean troops from Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The council asserted that the presence of Eritrean troops is “exacerbating the conflict.” The resolution also called for the immediate halt of all humanitarian rights violations and abuses. Out of the 47 councils, 20 voted for the resolution, 14 opposed, and 13 abstained. As expected, Eritrea voted against the UN resolution.
In a statement, the UNHRC chief, Filippo Grandi, said that the various forces in Tigray must stop the “violence and intimidation of Eritrean refugees.” The UNHCR boss’ comments come as reports stream in that fighting in a refugee camp outside Alamata, a recently liberated town. Previously, two refugee camps – Shimelba and Hitsats – housing Eritrean refugees were set ablaze, forcing tens of thousands of refugees to flee to other parts of Tigray. To make matters worse, some credible reports indicate that some refugees have been abducted or arrested in several towns in Tigray, the most recent in Shire, a recently liberated town.
A spokesperson for the State Department said that the US strongly condemns all retaliatory attacks on civilians, either by the rebels or by government forces, and called for a full ceasefire. This development comes on the back of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken ordering a probe into whether the crimes in Tigray accounted to genocide or crimes against humanity.
The Tigray Defence Forces (TDF), the military wing of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), continue their pursuit to recover lost territory from Ethiopian forces and Amhara militias. TDF claimed to have taken control of Mai Tsebri, near Tekeze River, and Alamata, in southern Tigray from Amhara militias. Getachew Reda, the spokesperson for the Tigrayan forces, told the media that they will “liberate every square inch of Tigray.”
The new advances have placed pressure on the Amhara region who moved its forces into historically disputed lands but had been under Tigray administration. The National Movement of Amhara (NMA), a regional party, released a statement calling for “quick preparations to mobilise to the fronts.” District officials made similar statements.
The brewing tension between Amhara and Tigray is the next front that the world should be paying attention to. The Amhara wing of the prosperity party, PM Abiy’s coalition political party, is one of the powerful regional branches. PM Abiy will likely turn a blind eye to the conflict between the two states to ensure his coalition remains. A regional analyst notes that the Abiy government would be willing to ignore atrocities by Amhara militias since the disputed area shares a border with Sudan, which would cut off the supply of arms and other goods to the TDF from Sudan.
A convoy ferrying lifesaving food and non-food stuffs to Tigray was attacked, the UN said. The ten-vehicle World Food Programme (WFP) convoy was attacked about 115 kilometres from Semera town. WFP is working with local officials to determine who is behind the attack. Due to the attack, WFP announced they had suspended movement of all convoys from Semera until “security of the area can be assured, and drives can proceed safely.”
WFP said that after getting approval from the ministry, 30 aid workers and urgently needed relief supplies were flown to Mekele. The spokesperson said that the UN humanitarian air services are expected to operate twice weekly. So far, WFP has delivered aid to more than 730,000 people in the south and northwest Tigray over the past month.
At least 20 civilians have been killed and thousands more displaced in fighting in Afar between rebels and pro-government forces. The spokesperson of the TDF said their forces had “very limited action” in Afar targeting special forces militia fighters from the Oromia region. He dismissed the allegations that TDF killed civilians, calling them “Flat out lies.”
For the first time since the conflict began eight months ago, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has entered another region in Ethiopia. Fighting began on July 17th, and forces were still fighting on Monday. The spokesman for the Tigrayan forces, Getachew Reda, has stated that the TPLF is more interested in degrading the enemy’s ability to fight, rather than capturing territory. This move came a few days after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that other regions would send troops to support the army already fighting the rebels. The conflict initially began in November, when Abiy sent troops into the Tigray region because of attacks on army caps by the TPLF. Victory was declared in November, yet the TPLF retook the Tigray capital Mekelle in June. While Abiy declared a unilateral ceasefire, the Tigray forces have pushed forward into new offensives. This last offensive on the Afar region is particularly important since the region links Addis Ababa to the seaport of Djibouti. So far, two million people have been displaced, five million are relying on emergency food aid, and tens of thousands have died.
Although Abiy has claimed that the situation is all but settled several times, these events throw doubt on that claim more than ever. Having received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, Abiy has overseen a conflict characterized by rampant sexual violence and bloody massacres. Abiy’s end-game seems questionable. Whether it is for optics or Abiy genuinely underestimating the determination and strength of the TPLF, the government consistently portrays itself as more confident than the situation should allow. Relations on the international stage have been harmed now, and domestic legitimacy has been lost. To prevent further suffering, the answer to what must be done is obvious: both sides must come together with the sole aim of protecting Ethiopians from further harm. Yet, it seems Abiy is pursuing the route of the Machiavellian strong-man while the TPLF are fighting for, what in their eyes, is a liberation struggle, as evidenced by their rebranding into the Tigray Defence Forces. The longer this conflict stretches, the greater the humanitarian crisis will become, and the more difficult it will be to find peace. It is difficult to imagine the aisle being crossed by either party when both are fighting for what they believe is a “just” cause. With the atrocities already committed, bad blood is bound to extend over generations, and yet the conflict seems far from over. Abiy will not find a strong Ethiopia if he continues down the path of attempting to subjugate the Tigray region. Conversely, the TPLF will find themselves the liberators of a decimated land. At the moment, both are the enemy of those caught in the crossfire.
The parents of thousands of Ethiopian students stranded in Tigray has appeal to the UN to evacuate them and bring them to safety. The parents’ association went to the UN offices in Addis Ababa with a request letter at hand. Some parents say that they had not been able to speak to their children since the end of June.
The appeal comes as Mekelle University, the main university in the area and is federally funded, issued a statement through Facebook that the federal government has blocked its bank accounts. The statement added that the school had not received the funding for the upcoming academic year. Due to the constraints, the university added that it will not be able to take care of the students left behind on campus from 27 July.
UNHRC voices its concern over the fate of thousands of Eritrean refugees currently trapped in two Ethiopian camps in Tigray. They estimate that 24000 refugees are distributed between the two camps, Mai Alni and Adi Harush. The refugees face intimidation, harassment and have been cut off from humanitarian assistance. UNHRC said that they had lost all access to the refugee camps at the beginning of July.
The US is also deeply concerned with the reports of attacks against Eritrean refugees in Tigray. In a statement, the US State Department blamed the attacks on military forces allied to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Tigrayan militias. The US called on all armed actors to stop the attacks on Eritrean refugees, asylum seekers and other displaced persons.
As attacks against Eritrean refugees increase, Eritrean refugees protested in front of UNHRC offices in Addis Ababa. They demanded the UN office relocate the thousands of refugees stuck in Tigray. Most protesters were from Hitsats and Shamballa refugee camps in Tigray, which were closed in February after being attacked and set on fire. They interviewed refugees also verified the claims that Tigray militias are responsible for the attacks on the refugee camps.
The Ethiopian government paraded the thousands of new recruits expected to travel to the frontline from Addis Ababa in the upcoming days. The Mayor of Addis Ababa’s office said at least 3000 young recruits, both men and women, joined the military ranks.
When interviewed by the media about their intentions of joining the military, some said it’s for economic reasons as they were jobless, others said that they would like to follow in the family’s footsteps who ‘bravely’ defended the country
In a territorial expansion of the violent conflict between the regional Tigrayan government and the official government of Ethiopia, the forces of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) party have initiated attacks in the neighbouring Afar region. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government issued a one-sided ceasefire and exited Tigray’s capital in late June, however, the TPLF’s offensive in Afar forecasts a lack of cooperation efforts needed to alleviate the growing humanitarian crisis in Tigray. The food insecurity and risk of famine caused by the conflict threatens to engulf the rest of Ethiopia as it touches Tigray, Amhara and now Afar. Since the outset of violence in Afar, the TPLF has asserted its attacks are in response to the enemy presence in the region, especially forces and militias deployed from Ethiopia’s largest region Oromia. Spokesman Getachew Reda told Reuters, “We are not interested in any territorial gains in Afar, we are more interested in degrading enemy fighting capabilities.”
Afar’s regional president, Awol Arba, argued, “some people think they invaded us because we hosted the Oromo forces, but that’s far from the truth, as they had the intention to separate and isolate us from Ethiopia by force.” He also urged civilians to fight back against Tigrayan forces, “with any means available, whether by guns, sticks or stones.” Afar could present a strategic territorial gain for Tigrayan fighters as the region’s highways connect the land-locked state to ports in Djibouti. Disruptions to the flow of resources and aid into Ethiopia through Djibouti would be catastrophic for a country facing famine, a powerful threat to be leveraged by the TPLF if it seizes control of the region. Regardless of whether this is a primary goal of the TPLF, fighting in Afar has already displaced over 54,000 people and caused at least 20 civilian deaths. A resolution needs to be reached to protect the lives and rights of civilians in Afar. Clashes between Tigray forces and the Ethiopian military in a new location may also contribute to the spread of Tigray’s extremely dire hunger situation into other parts of the country. Preventing an exacerbation of famine conditions and starvation should unequivocally be the goal of Tigray and all of Ethiopia, necessitating national dialogue and bilateral ceasefire agreements. An authoritative assessment of food security conducted through the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) stated that roughly 400,000 Tigrayans are experiencing acute food insecurity in the “Catastrophe” phase, and four million across Tigray, Amhara and Afar are classified in emergency or crisis phases of food insecurity. The famine is man-made, caused by soldiers blocking or stealing food aid and preventing farmers from harvesting and cultivating their fields, not by drought or other environmental factors. It has been reported that the Ethiopian military and forces deployed from Eritrea, a neighbouring country, have obstructed humanitarian aid from entering Tigray. The forces have been accused of destroying crops and health care facilities in the region as well.
Ethiopia seemed to be on a promising path when Abiy Ahmed first came to power in 2018. Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for easing tensions with Eritrea and instituted a number of reforms in Ethiopia. Relations with the TPLF, which had ruled Ethiopia for 30 years prior to Abiy becoming prime minister, deteriorated, and the situation devolved into military conflict in November of 2020. That was when Abiy’s promising new government made a surprisingly sharp turn away from peace. Since then, Ethiopian and Eritrean forces have reportedly enacted severe human rights abuses against Tigrayan civilians, including mass killings, sexual violence, and the pillaging of communities. Both the TPLF and the Ethiopian government have been the cause of tragedy and death for the citizens of Ethiopia. It is clear that a bilateral ceasefire must be negotiated to put an end to the conflict that has permitted abuse and gave rise to widespread hunger. For the international community watching this crisis unfold, the question is how to encourage Ethiopia toward this resolution.
In response to the crisis, the United States, one of Ethiopia’s largest donors, restricted economic and security assistance to the country. The Ethiopian government decried the restrictions, claiming the U.S. is inappropriately meddling in its affairs. In a UN Security Council meeting, representatives for Ethiopia and the Russian Federation expressed a similar concern that the council’s interference would be an invasion into internal matters that would lack the needed delicacy and contextual understanding. However, as of the current moment, it seems unlikely that Ethiopia will achieve peace without outside pressure. The rhetoric of the Ethiopian government about the TPLF is entirely hostile, as they have not only been designated as terrorists but have also been called a “cancer” by Prime Minister Abiy. Abiy’s government has continually obfuscated the realities of the situation in Ethiopia, denying international concerns about famine and abuse. Many Ethiopians outside Tigray are vocally supportive of their army and Abiy in spite of these abuses. On the other side, Tigray continues to push into new territory despite their opponent’s attempts toward a ceasefire. The hostility demonstrated suggests that peace will not come easily, even when an increasingly dire humanitarian crisis is faced across Ethiopia. International actors must use the leverage they have to encourage a resolution, yet it is necessary to understand the situation in Ethiopia as complex and fragile. The narrative of Prime Minister Abiy as a champion of peace failed to capture the eventual reality of his governance. This should serve as a lesson for the current situation, that the careful monitoring and input of those directly impacted by Ethiopia’s crisis should be prioritized. One thing is certain: cooperative efforts in Ethiopia will be critical toward diverting a catastrophic famine that will endanger the country and all its citizens.
French President Emmanuel Macron has called for direct dialogue between stakeholders to end hostiles in Tigray. He called on all parties to respect of engagement that allows the safe delivery of humanitarian aid materials to desperate civilians who have been displaced by the conflict.
Bodies with gunshot wounds and hands tied behind their backs have washed up in a river in Sudan that borders Ethiopia. Dr Tewodros Tefera and other witnesses believe the victims are from Tigray region. So far, Sudanese authorities have retrieved 28 bodies. The doctor said that the bodies were badly decomposed, making it difficult to identify the victims.
In response, the Ethiopian government denies that there was any massacre in the border town city of Humera.
In Ethiopia, the rising tensions between the Ethiopian central government and Tigrayan rebel force has posed a substantial threat of mass starvation among the civilian population in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia. The United Nations has warned that the country of Ethiopia is on the path to a worsening humanitarian catastrophe. UNICEF has confirmed that in the next year, upwards of 100,000 children could face extreme hunger in response to the continued fighting in Tigray. The humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region continues to worsen as the Ethiopian government enforces a blockade on the lone road into the conflict-torn region of Tigray. This blockade has made it tremendously difficult for aid workers and relief convoys to distribute humanitarian supplies into Tigray. Many humanitarian aid workers have been under attack for travelling on the road to provide Tigrayan citizens with important supplies to combat the food and medical shortages. The United Nations has explained that there needs to be more daily trucks carrying humanitarian supplies to the civilians facing famine-like conditions. However, these trucks are not being permitted to travel to the Tigray region, preventing more than 4.8 million people with important humanitarian aid and relief.
A letter sent to the Ethiopian government explaining the inhumane conditions and situations of the civilians in May K’inet’al, points to the larger devastation of the conflict. As explained by the district leader of May K’inet’al, Berhe Desta Gebremariam, in the letter sent to the Ethiopian government, “There is no access to clean water; electricity, phone communication, banking, health care, and access to humanitarian aid are blocked… People are unable to move around to save their lives because Eritrean troops completely put us under siege with no transportation, and people are condemned to suffer and die.” Death by starvation is now becoming much more common, especially where humanitarian aid is harder to access. According to Human Rights Watch, the reactions from the United Nations and influential governments have been slow-moving and mixed. Within the last few months, the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom have made a more coordinated response to the conflict by calling for more clear access to aid and an investigation into the human rights abuses. There has been an established commission of inquiry by The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights which needs financial, technical, and political support from the African Union. There has been a much slower response from the UN Human Rights Council, who only began to consider the situation of Tigray in mid-July. The UN Security Council was stagnant in its decisions to discuss the matter of Ethiopia with some members, citing that the conflict was an “internal matter.” The current conflict within Ethiopia has reached a dangerous peak. However, the conflict does not seem to be slowing down despite a unilateral ceasefire declaration. The inability to achieve peace within the Ethiopian conflict points to the larger difficulties surrounding conflict termination. In this case, the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire by the Ethiopian government was not recognized by the Tigrayan rebel forces. Instead, both actors of the conflict have continued their fighting and increased their military forces. However, this continued conflict has taken a tremendous toll on the unarmed Tigrayan civilians who are facing increased humanitarian crises.
Ethiopia’s government’s decision to block humanitarian aid to Tigray points to the larger issue of how hunger and starvation is being used as a weapon of war. Despite the Ethiopian government denying these allegations, it is evident that the block of food and medical aid is very much intentional. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed explained in his remarks that the Tigrayan civilians need to decide who they want as their leaders. This was greatly emphasized in his remarks stating, “If they are cheering after we left — while we were the ones who had been giving them wheat — they need a time of silence.” There are over four million people in need of food aid in Tigray. Many of them lost their farms and business through the burning of crops and looting by Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara troops, which has forced many to flee to Sudan or suffer from intense starvation. The fighting is continuing without any consideration of the civilians in the region. The Ethiopian government has been claiming that it is not responsible for this crisis. However, it is playing a direct role in the deterioration of the safety of civilians and the region at large by blocking humanitarian aid.
It is clear that the conflict between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan rebel forces will not end anytime in the near future. However, what is clear is that there is a big humanitarian crisis facing the civilians in Tigray. Many are experiencing intense famine-like conditions with no supplies or support providing emergency aid. Not only has there been a blockade preventing the ability of humanitarian relief groups to provide the civilians with food and medical materials, but there have also been numerous atrocities committed by both sides of the conflict directly against civilians. It is crucial that unbiased international intervention be considered to help end this conflict between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan rebel forces. Since the unilateral ceasefire proved to not be effective in ending the violent conflict, the next step needs to look at how unbiased intervention can help to alleviate the turmoil in the region. By introducing a third party as a mediator between the two actors in the conflict, there may be a better chance of reaching an agreed-upon settlement. As explained by David Cunningham in his article “Veto Players and Civil War Duration,” external actors’ roles in a conflict have a profound effect on the ability to end it by “intervening to enforce an agreement to end the war or providing support to one side in an attempt to win the conflict” (Cunningham 878). The strong commitment from external actors can provide the country with a better chance of reaching negotiations which can establish the most durable peace possible. As of right now, the international community needs to make a commitment towards helping these civilians who are facing dire humanitarian crises. There needs to be a clear reprimand from the international community towards the Ethiopian government that should outline the consequences if this type of injustice is continued. Also, the humanitarian aid workers need to have uninterrupted access to Tigray to help prevent famine and human rights abuses against the civilians. This can only happen if there is a dialogue between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan rebel forces, which can lead to the end of the conflict and atrocities.
The Ethiopian government announced that three aid agencies had been suspended over “disseminating misinformation on social media and other platforms. The three aid agencies, the Dutch section of Doctors without Borders (Medicine San Frontières MSF), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and Maktoume Foundation, were further accused of operating outside their mandate and “purpose for which the organizations were permitted to operate.” Giving specifics, the government said that MFS was illegally importing and using satellite radio communication equipment which is not authorized by authorities. Maktoume foundation was accused of failing to comply with COVID-19 protocols, budget mismanagement and problems with staff management. All three organizations were accused of allowing their foreign staff of working without valid work permits.
The move by the Ethiopian government was widely condemned
The Head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Samantha Power, has called on the Tigray forces to “immediately” withdraw from the two neighbouring regions. Currently, the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) is occupying towns and villages in historically Afar and Amhara regions. USAID head added that there is no military solution to address the internal issues affecting Ethiopia. She urged all sides to end all hostilities, call for a ceasefire and start dialogue.
The Ethiopian government warned it would respond militarily to stop Tigray forces’ advances in neighbouring regions. In a statement released on social media by the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the government stated that the actions of the Tigray forces “is testing the federal government patience and pushing it to change its defensive mood which has been taken for the sake of the unilateral humanitarian ceasefire.” The government also claimed that the offensives by the Tigrayan forces has led to 300 000 people to be displaced and has left “thousands dead.”
Tigray forces announced they had marched into Lalibela, a UNESCO site, in the Amhara region. Thousands of residents fled as the Tigrayan troops entered the town. The UNESCO site, Lalibela, is the home of 11 medieval monolithic churches carved out of rock. Some fear that the historical sites are in danger of being destroyed. The US State Department called on the rebels to “protect this cultural heritage.”
The new advances by the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) caused the Amhara regional government to respond. The regional head of peace and security, Sema Tiruneh, said “this is the time for the Amhara people to crush the terrorist group. He added that the state is preparing to call up army reservists for a fresh offensive.
The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, issued a call to Ethiopians to join the armed forces to fight in Tigray and the neighbouring states. In a statement from the Prime Minister’s office, he said, “now it’s the right time for all capable Ethiopians who are of age to join the defence forces, special forces and militias and show your patriotism.”
A few weeks earlier, the military paraded 3000 new recruits of young men and women in Addis Ababa. The recruits were expected to go to the frontline days after the parade.
A new report by Amnesty International asserts that the Ethiopian military and its allies, including Eritrean forces, are responsible for widespread sexual violence against women in Tigray. The forces are using rape as a strategy of war during the nine-month conflict. The basis of the allegations comes from detailed interviews by survivors who recount the horrific experiences in the hands of soldiers.
In response, the Foreign Affairs ministry accused Amnesty of waging “sensationalised attacks and smear campaigns” against Ethiopia. They added that the country condemns all sexual violence in all circumstances.
The head of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, Debrestion Gebremicheal, told Reuters that the group is in talks with the Oromo Liberation Army OLA), with the hopes to create an alliance against the Abiy administration. Gebremicheal declined to give more details to the potential alliance. However, the spokesperson for the TPLF, Getachew Reda, told Reuters that a “sort of agreement” is in the works. On the side of the Ola, the spokesperson, Odaa Tarbii, said that the two sides are sharing intelligence and coordinating strategies. In an interview with BBC, the OLA leader, Kumisa Diriba, uttered similar sentiments as the spokesperson, adding that both sides are looking for “freedom and space.”
The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) is a splinter group of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). OLF was operating in exile until when PM Abiy took office in 2018. Both the TPLF and OLA were designated as terrorist groups by the parliament earlier in the year.
– The Ethiopian forces claimed to have taken control of two strategic towns in the Southern Tigray region. The Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) took control of Maychew and Ambalagie towns in a counteroffensive. Reports say that the capture of the two towns in Southern Tigray has caused several towns like Korem, Alamata, and Kobo to be cut off from their command centre in Mekelle, the regional capital. The Ethiopian military claimed to have inflicted heavy losses on the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF).
After 29 bodies floated in the banks of a river from Ethiopia, Sudan Foreign Affairs Minister summoned Ethiopia’s envoy. The Foreign Affairs ministry said that the bodies had been identified as ethnically Tigrayans. The bodies were discovered between 26 July ad 8 August on the Sudanese Setit River.
Adhering to the call from government officials, Amhara youths have taken up arms to “defend” the regional state from Tigray rebels. The officials called for armed militias to protect the Amhara after reports of Tigrayan forces were moving to retake disputed land long the regional border. Various Amhara militias, including FANO, occupied land in Western Tigray and are implicated in committing mass human rights abuses, including executions.
One of the schools in Gondar in the region has been turned into a training centre for the hundreds of youth volunteers. The training teaches the art of camouflage and basic infantry skills, including weapons training. Upon completion of the short training, the hundreds of youth are taken to the front line to fight alongside the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF).
The Sudanese authorities seized 72 boxes of Russian-made that arrived in the country’s capital, Khartoum. The shipment came from Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa. The weapons were stuck in Ethiopia since May 2019 and were finally released to the owner, who is Sudanese. The boxes contained weapons and night vision goggles. Sudanese state officials said the weapons were “destined to be used in crimes against the state, impeding the democratic change and preventing the transitions to the civil state.”
The UN vehemently denied claims that the refugee camp in Sudan is being used by the Tigrayan rebels. The statement came after an Ethiopian official claimed that several Tigray rebels were allegedly caught with refugee identification cards issued by UNHCR. Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs Minister said, “the TPLF has tried to expand the conflict by entering Benishungul Gumuz and Amhara regions crossing the long Sudanese border.” In response to the allegations, the UN official told AFP that UNHCR is “not in a position to verify” the allegation. However, they added that the UN had made precautionary efforts to disarm those refugees coming into the camps and separating them from the civilian population.
Tigrayan forces have strongly denied reports by Reuters of mass killings in the Amhara region. The Reuters report claimed that on 1 and 2 September, Tigrayan rebels killed at least 120 civilians in a village outside Dabat town.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) called the report “a fabricated allegation.” The statement further called for an independent investigation into all atrocities. They also said they would grant access to independent media to areas they control for them to conduct investigations or verify allegations. Reuters asserted that they had verified the findings of their report that Tigrayan rebels massacred civilians in the Amhara region.
The United Nations Human Rights head, Michelle Bachelet, stated that the joint report with Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission did not reach Axum, one of the sites of the deadliest massacres. She added that the investigation team could not travel to eastern and central Tigray. Michelle said the reason for not reaching those areas was the changing security situation in the area, though she didn’t mention specifics. The joint report is expected to be published on 1 November, almost a year to the date the Ethiopian military began ‘Operation Law and Order’. So far, the UNHCR head said the investigation has unearthed “multiple allegations of human rights violations, including attacks on civilians, extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearance among other grave abuses.” The report will implicate both Ethiopian forces and Tigray Defence Forces (TDF), who have targeted civilians. Bachelet noted that both sides and their affiliated militias had recruited children to fight amongst its ranks
The United States (US) President, Joe Biden, signed an executive order allowing the US government to impose sanctions against those responsible for a range of serious human rights abuses in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. The sanctions allow the US government to deny visas and freeze assets of individuals and entities responsible for or complicit in serious abuses and obstructing access to humanitarian aid.
The United Nations announced that hundreds of trucks dispatched to Tigray with lifesaving materials have not returned. According to the World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson, only 38 trucks out of the 445 non-WFP contracted trucks have returned from the Tigray region since 12 July. Gemma Snowdon said that “at this moment, this is the primary impediment to moving humanitarian aid into Tigray. We are unable to assemble convoys of significant size due to lack of trucks.”
Partial elections are expected to begin in three regional states in Ethiopia. The three regions are the Somali region, the eastern city of Harar and Southwest Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ region (SNNPR). However, logistical challenges and insecurity have forced at least 26 constituencies, 18 in Amhara and eight in Oromia, not to hold elections during the new round of elections. The spokesperson did not specify how many constituencies in Afar and Benishungul Gumuz regions would not partake in the election exercise. The elections aim to elect 47 federal parliamentarians and 105 regional parliamentarians, said the election board spokesperson, Solyana Shimeles. The election must take place before the new Abiy government takes form on 4 October 2021.
Opposition groups in the Somali region boycotted the elections. Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (EZEMA), Freedom and Equality Party (FEP) and Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) withdrew from the election, stating that the current environment is not concussive for elections. In a joint statement, EZEMA and FEP claimed that previously stolen ballots were never recovered and are being used in the current election.
The US House of Representatives passed legislation that would force the Biden administration to classify the actions by Ethiopia and Eritrea actions in the Tigray as genocide. The provision in the Defence Authorisation bill, which was introduced by Democrat Tom Malinowski, passed 316-113. The Senate is yet to vote on its own version of the bill
While addressing the United Nations Security Council, Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen urged the international community not to meddle in the country’s internal affairs. He called on them to employ a “constructive approach, cultivate trust and ensure understanding.” He alluded that some individuals are using the ploy of humanitarian work to advance “political considerations.” Therefore, he advised the international community to “adhere to the principles of neutrality, independence, humanity and laws of the country.” Finally, DPM Mekonnen said Ethiopia would welcome an African Union-led process to deal with its internal issues. In response to the executive order by President Biden allowing the US to place sanctions on entities or individuals involved in the Tigray war, “Prescription and punitive measures never helped improve the situation or relations,” the DPM told the council.
Ethiopia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry announced the closure of several of its embassies abroad. The government had announced their intention to close embassies earlier in the year as a cost-saving measure. They had said that an embassy could easily be used to support efforts in several countries rather than operating in every country. The first embassy to be closed is Algeria, with the foreign affairs ministry saying the “decision could be reconsidered at any time in the future.” Later, the Foreign Affairs ministry said the embassies in Egypt and Ireland will be closed “in the next three to six months.”
Unsurprisingly, analysts have said the closure of the embassies in Egypt and Ireland are more political in nature. With the Resistance dam issue unresolved and the talks stagnant, it makes sense that Ethiopia would shut down its embassy. However, the Ambassador to Egypt, Markos Tekle, noted that the closure had nothing to do with the Grad Ethiopian Resistance Dam (GERD). Meanwhile, Ireland and Ethiopia’s relations have been deteriorating as of late due to the Irish support of sanctions against Ethiopia in the UNSC. In response to the embassy’s closure in Dublin, the Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement regretting the decision to close the embassy by Ethiopia. The statement further said that Ireland has been at the forefront of raising the issue of the Tigray crisis at the UNSC and EU and will continue to do so while calling for “unimpeded humanitarian access, ceasefire and dialogue.”
The Ethiopian government expelled seven senior UN officials, accusing them of “meddling in internal affairs.” The UN staff members from UNHCR, OCHA, and UNICEF were given 72 hours to leave the country. The government accused the UN officials of diverting aid and communication equipment to the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF), violating security arrangements, failing to demand the return of aid trucks deployed to Tigray, and spreading information. Therefore, the seven UN staff members have been declared persona non grata.
The expulsion of the UN staff was condemned internationally. In response, UN Secretary-General said he “was shocked by the news,” adding that he was confident that UN staff in Ethiopia are doing the work they are supposed to be doing. The spokesperson of the UN, Farhan Haq, said that the doctrine could not be applied to the UN staff, adding that the officials remain in Ethiopia. The US strongly condemned the act, calling on the Ethiopians to reverse the decision. UNICEF called the decision by Ethiopia to expel its staff as “regrettable and alarming.” The UN agency assured the Ethiopian government that it operates in the principles of impartiality, humanity, neutrality and independence.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “the explosion is counterproductive to international efforts to keep civilians safe and deliver lifesaving humanitarian assistance to the millions in dire needed.”
The UN staff’s expulsion came just a few days after the UN humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, said that the de facto blockade imposed by the government has ‘imposed famine on hundreds of thousands of people” in Tigray region.
A former senior official from the interim Tigray government appeared in court over allegations of inciting conflict between the Tigrayan people and the central government. Abraha Desta, who served as the head of the Bureau of Social Affairs, was also charged with possessing an illegal gun. Local reports claim that the official was arrested after he wrote an open letter to the Mayor of Addis Ababa about the mass arrests of ethnically Tigrayan in the capital city and mounting discrimination.
Desta was a member of the opposing party group, Arena, which opposed TPLF. In fact, he had spent three years in jail under the former TPLF-led government. He was part of the interim Tigray government until the Tigrayan Defence Forces (TDF) retook Mekelle from Ethiopian troops
The Ethiopian military has launched a new ground offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). While addressing the new offensive, Ahmed Abiy’s spokesperson Billeni Seyoum, said that the government will continue to “counter the TPLF’s destruction, violence, and killings in the Amhara region and elsewhere. “The TPLF spokesperson, Getachew Reda, confirmed the reports, adding that the Ethiopian soldiers, alongside the Amhara militias, are attempting to push the Tigray forces out of the northern Amhara region. He added that the forces had begun the offensives on three fronts, in Amhara region’s Wegelten, Wurgessa and Haro towns. The Tigray external affairs office noted that airstrikes, drone strikes and heavy artillery bombardments are underway. The northern region of Amhara, including North Gondar and North Wollo zones, has been bombarded by several airstrikes attempting to remove Tigray forces from the area. In response to the airstrikes, spokesperson Reda said that he is confident that the Tigray forces will “thwart the offensive in all fronts and more.”
A regional analyst, Samuel Getachew, said that the government has been mobilising for some time now. He claimed that the British government asked its citizens to avoid the Tigray region earlier in the week, signalling an offensive was about to commence.
Over the past four days, Tigrayans have suffered heavy military bombardments in the capital city of Mekelle and its surroundings in the hands of the Ethiopian military. The government spokesperson, Legesse Tulu, told the media that the new round of airstrikes are targeting “facilities that Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have turned into arms construction and repair armaments sites.”
In response to the airstrikes, the TPLF spokesperson, Getachew Reda, told Reuters that one of the airstrikes had caused damage to the Mekelle University. The government denied the allegations from the TPLF, maintaining that they are targeting military posts. The UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said one of the airstrikes has killed three children and wounded an unspecified number of civilians. The Ayder Referral Hospital is treating nine civilians, including a five-year-old child. The government is yet to comment on civilian deaths. Interviewed witnesses and a humanitarian source said one of the airstrikes hit the Mesfin Industrial engineering PLC, a factory the government believes supports the TPLF. Spokesperson Reda said that the airstrike hit a private company compound instead of the engineering complex, though he did not provide further details.
The airstrikes have caused more displacement, with many Tigrayans fleeing to neighbouring regions, mainly Amhara. Speaking to the media, a resident of Mekelle said that the city is panicking. He added that bus fare to Addis Ababa had increased six-fold due to the security risk. Amhara has borne most of the internally displaced Tigrayans, with more than 500,000 people crossing into the region. A local official told the media that the airstrikes had led 900 Tigrayans to flee to Amhara. In addition, the influx of IDPs has added pressure to the organisation that is feeding the displaced persons.
The international community has voiced their concerns over the new rounds of airstrikes. The US has condemned the airstrikes, adding that they are against any “continuing escalation of violence putting civilians in harm’s way.” The UN spokesperson said Secretary-General Gutters is “deeply concerned” over the escalation of the conflict in Tigray. He added that the organisation is trying to verify the details and assess the impact of the airstrikes. Finally, he stressed that all parties in the conflict should “prioritise the welfare of the people and provide the necessary support for critical humanitarian assistance flow” into the country.
The UN announced they had suspended all flights to the embattled region of Tigray in Ethiopia following four days of heavy airstrikes. While travelling to Mekelle, a UN flight with 11 passengers was forced to abort the landing and return to Addis Ababa. The UN official told the media that the Ethiopian government was aware that the UN humanitarian flight was scheduled to travel to the region, which the government has confirmed. The government spokesperson added that though they were aware of the flight, the UN and military flights have “different times and directions,” surmising that it would not have affected the UN flight. The UN humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, said that the humanitarian agency was not given prior warning or information about the airstrikes.
The Ethiopian government has maintained that the airstrikes target the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) military training facilities in the region’s capital city of Mekelle.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) paraded recently captured government forces in Mekele. The TPLF ferried about 400 soldiers and allied militiamen on a large truck to the capital city
Amidst ongoing political and humanitarian crises in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the United States has imposed new sanctions this Monday on the chief of staff of
In Ethiopia, the rising tensions between the Ethiopian central government and Tigrayan rebel force has posed a substantial threat of mass starvation among the civilian
On Monday, 21 June Ethiopia held its first election since the 2015 House of People’s Representatives election. It was also Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s first
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