Why Are Ethiopians Fleeing Their Homes?

According to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), an estimated 7,000 asylum seekers are fleeing to Sudan for safety amidst ethnic violence in Western Ethiopia. According to Al Jazeera, Ethiopians are fleeing conflict in the “Metekel Zone of the Benishangul-Gumuz region.” Ethiopia’s northern region, Tigray, has also seen more than 61,000 people fleeing to Sudan as a result of military conflict. As stated by the UNHCR, Sudanese authorities are doing everything possible to obtain the necessary humanitarian need for those crossing the border to seek refuge in their country.

Babar Baloch, a spokesperson for the UNHCR said, “The situation [in Metekel] has rapidly escalated in the past three months.” He further states that these individuals are escaping attacks from their opponents. Amnesty International reported that members of the Gumuz community have set homes on fire and have stabbed and shot members of the Amhara, Oromo, and Sinasha groups in Ethiopia.

Ethnic violence is a challenge for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, as there are more than “80 ethnic groups” in the country. For years, confrontations between these groups have been a major issue to the Ethiopian government. Amnesty International says the Gumez community views other ethnic groups as “settlers,” this being the main trigger for the conflict, which has resulted in the displacement of almost 7,000 Ethiopians.

Amharas, the second largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, have been the target of numerous attacks over the last year. Sources have also linked Amharas to hostilities carried out against Ethiopian and Eritrean groups amidst the Tigray conflict in northern Ethiopia. This widespread violence and conflict have resulted in a crisis amongst citizens of this region. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPFL), has now been in conflict with the government for months in what the government calls an “unexpected war.” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, elected in 2018, is held responsible for controlling ethnic violence as well as the fighting against the TPFL. This has made it difficult to provide aid and assistance to those in need and, as a result, numerous Ethiopians have fled to neighbouring countries.

Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, who met with Prime Minister Ahmed, stated, “We are seeing the beginning of one more potentially big refugee crisis in the world.” The aforementioned hostilities have resulted in thousands of vulnerable Ethiopians having to flee in the last few months, many of them losing their lives in the process.

Human rights groups in Ethiopia and around the world are calling for the government to grant access to control over Tigray areas in an attempt to control the situation. The UN has reported that 80 percent of the population has no access to humanitarian needs. Provided that the government does not work to control the violence and conflict enduring throughout numerous regions and groups, this crisis will continue to persist and worsen, displacing and killing thousands of Ethiopians.