2021-02-27 01:35:21 | Ethiopia’s War Leads to Ethnic Cleansing in Tigray Region, U.S. Report Says


Story by: Declan Walsh The New York Times World News

NAIROBI, Kenya — Ethiopian officials and allied militia fighters are leading a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in Tigray, the war-torn region in northern Ethiopia, according to a confidential United States government report obtained by The New York Times.

The report, written earlier this month, documents in stark terms a land of looted houses and deserted villages where tens of thousands of people are unaccounted for.

Fighters and officials from the neighboring Amhara region of Ethiopia, who entered Tigray in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, are “deliberately and efficiently rendering Western Tigray ethnically homogeneous through the organized use of force and intimidation,” the report says.

“Whole villages were severely damaged or completely erased,” the report said.

In a second report, published Friday, Amnesty International said that soldiers from Eritrea had systematically killed hundreds of Tigrayan civilians in the ancient city of Axum over a 10-day period in November, shooting some of them in the streets.

See also  2021-02-04 00:25:26 | Harry Dunn suspect was employed by US intelligence agency at time of crash, court told

On Tuesday a European Union envoy, Finland’s foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto, told reporters the situation in Tigray was “very out of control,” after returning from a fact-finding trip to Ethiopia and Sudan. The bloc suspended $110 million in aid to Ethiopia at the start of the conflict, and last month the E.U.’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, warned of possible war crimes in Tigray and said that the crisis was “unsettling” the entire region.

Ethiopia routinely dismisses critics of its campaign in Tigray as stooges of its foes in Tigray. But on Friday afternoon, in response to the Amnesty International report, Mr. Abiy’s office said it was ready to collaborate in an international investigation into atrocities in Tigray. The government “reiterates its commitment to enabling a stable and peaceful region,” it said in a statement.

Mr. Abiy’s office also claimed that Ethiopia has given “unfettered” access to international aid groups in Tigray — in contrast with U.N. officials who estimate that just 20 percent of the region can be reached by aid groups because of government-imposed restrictions.

The new U.S. Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, spoke with Mr. Ahmed by phone on Feb. 4 and urged him to allow humanitarian access to Tigray, the State Department said.

Alex de Waal, an expert on the Horn of Africa at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said it is time for the United States to urgently focus on the crisis in Tigray, before more atrocities are committed and the humanitarian crisis lurches toward a famine.

“What is needed is political leadership at the highest level, and that means the U.S.,” he said.

When the United States assumes the chair of the United Nations Security Council in March, Mr. de Waal said, it should use that position to bring international pressure to bear on the belligerents to step back from a ruinous conflict.

Mr. Abiy launched the Tigray campaign on Nov. 4 following months of tension with the regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which ruled Ethiopia with a tight grip for almost three decades until Mr. Abiy came to power in 2018.

See also  2020-10-21 18:14:21 | live score and latest updates

In contrast, towns with a majority Amharan population were thriving, with bustling shops, bars and restaurants, the report said.

The American report is not the first accusation of ethnic cleansing since the Tigray crisis erupted. But it does highlight how U.S. officials are quietly documenting those abuses, and reporting them to superiors in Washington.

See also  2020-10-09 21:04:23 | Why Covid could remove barriers for women in the car industry

The looming specter of mass hunger is also driving the sense of urgency over Tigray. At least 4.5 million people in the region urgently need food aid, according to the Tigray Emergency Coordination Center, which is run by Ethiopia’s federal government. Ethiopian officials say that some people have already died.

A document from Tigray’s regional government dated Feb. 2 and obtained by The Times notes that 21 people starved to death in the eastern Tigray district of Gulomokeda. Such numbers could be just the tip of the iceberg, aid officials warned.

“Today it could be one, two or three, but you know after a month it means thousands,” Abera Tola, the president of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, told reporters earlier this month. “After two months it will be tens of thousands.”

The political outrage over Tigray, though, especially among European lawmakers, is being fueled by the growing tide of accounts of human rights abuses.

The Amnesty International report published Friday asserts that Eritrean soldiers conducted house-to-house searches in Axum in November, shooting civilians in the street and conducting extrajudicial executions of men and boys. When the shooting stopped, residents who tried to remove the bodies from the street were fired upon, the report says.

Amnesty said the massacre was likely a crime against humanity. Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane G. Meskel, rejected the report, calling it “transparently unprofessional.”

Axum, a city of ancient ruins and churches, holds great significance to followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith. When the Eritrean soldiers relented and allowed the bodies to be collected, hundreds were piled up in churches, including the Church of St. Mary of Zion, where many Ethiopians believe that the ark of the covenant — said to hold the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments — is housed.

Simon Marks contributed reporting from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


Story continues…

Source References: The New York Times World News

Leave a Reply