Over the course of the last week, reports from Ethiopia have identified several human rights abuses committed by Tigray rebels, also known as the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). For the past ten months, the country has been plagued by an internal conflict, concentrated in its northernmost Tigray region from which the rebel faction takes its name. Thousands of people have already been killed, and over 350,000 are suffering from famine-induced troubles, according to the BBC.
The conflict officially began with an attack against an Ethiopian military base, prompting a retaliatory offensive by the federal government. This has led to finger-pointing and accusations of crimes against humanity from both sides. Although fighting has mostly been in Tigray, violence has spilled into neighboring regions, with recent reports of a massacre in Amhara. According to Africanews, 125 civilians were massacred by Tigray rebels, and although the total tally has not been finalized, it could be as high as 200.
Amhara is the region bordering the south of Tigray. Despite promises by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of a short offensive, the conflict has now dragged into an almost year-long war. Even though the federal government had early success, Tigray rebels were able to make a comeback, even taking over the regional capital in June, according to Africanews. In the beginning, fighting was occurring mostly in Tigray. However, bordering regions have now been affected by the violence. The village in question, Chenna, was controlled by the TPLF until federal forces closed in and forced rebel troops to leave. It was during this retreat that the TPLF killed over 125 of the villagers. There are further allegations of executions and shelling of civilian buildings by rebel forces.
On the other hand, the federal government has also been criticized for committing human rights abuses. The TPLF has accused the government of blockading humanitarian assistance to civilian populations in Tigray. Even worse, people in the Tigray region have reported massacres and rapes committed by government forces. Given the advantageous position of the federal government, blockading civilian aid and permitting such human rights violations will only escalate the conflict and lead to retaliation that will mirror this recent massacre.
It is clear from reports coming from the regions affected by the conflict that both the federal government and Tigray forces are guilty of heinous crimes. While these recent killings are troubling, they are part of a pattern of violence that has led to thousands of deaths over an offensive that was meant to be short. Other nations must act to hold Ethiopia’s central government accountable in allowing aid to reach the hundreds of thousands of people who are at risk of dying from starvation. The actions of Tigray rebels must also be condemned, but negotiating a cease-fire and allowing the millions of people in Tigray and the surrounding regions to receive the help they need is paramount to avoid further deaths in the country.
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