Ethiopian authorities have launched reprisals against ethnic Tigrayans across the country, arresting hundreds and accusing members of the minority group of supporting rebels who have been locked in a bloody war with the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Mr. Ahmed declared war on Tigray, a mountainous region that borders Sudan and Eritrea, in November, after his government said the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF, had attacked an Ethiopian military base. The fighting followed months of rising tensions between the central government and the TPLF, which had dominated Ethiopia’s ruling party until Mr. Ahmed’s rise to power in 2018.
In recent weeks, the government has arbitrarily arrested hundreds of ethnic Tigrayans outside the dissident northern region, keeping some in military detention camps, rights groups and former detainees say.
“There’s famine now in Tigray.” That 10 June 2021 declaration by the UN’s most senior humanitarian official was the clearest indication yet that embattled Tigray faced a severe food emergency. Close to five million Tigrayans were subsequently placed under watch for what constitutes emergency level conditions.
The affected population now falls under emergency (phase four) and famine (phase five) of the Famine Early Warning System Network classification. A famine is declared when households have an extreme lack of food even after they’ve used all available coping strategies. It’s when starvation, death, destitution, and extremely critical acute malnutrition levels are evident.
The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said on Wednesday during a visit to Ethiopia that she had raised her concerns about “dehumanising rhetoric” with authorities, amid war in the country’s northern Tigray region.
Samantha Power’s visit to the country, and to neighbouring Sudan, this week follows warnings from U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration of punitive measures against the Ethiopian government if aid is unable to reach the Tigray region.
The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development expressed concern Wednesday about the “dehumanizing rhetoric” used by Ethiopia’s leaders amid the nine-month conflict in the Tigray region, whose forces last month were described as “weeds” and “cancer” by the country’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister, Abiy Ahmed.
The head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said she had raised concerns about “dehumanising rhetoric” with Ethiopian authorities and also called on rebel forces to “immediately” withdraw from two regions bordering the country’s war-hit Tigray.
Wednesday’s call by Samantha Power came as the conflict threatens to envelop other parts of the country and humanitarian groups struggle to reach cut-off populations.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has suspended its humanitarian programmes in Ethiopia following a directive from the Government of Ethiopia.
On 30 July, the Ethiopian authorities ordered the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) to suspend all operations in the country for three months, citing concerns about some of NRC’s public messaging and compliance with certain rules and regulations.
“We have enjoyed respectful and collaborative relations with all branches of the Ethiopian Federal Government since we started working in Ethiopia in 2011,” said Ole Solvang, partnerships and policy director at NRC. “We are in dialogue with the relevant authorities to clarify and follow up on any concrete concerns they may have so that we can resume our much-needed humanitarian work.”
NRC has provided education, clean water and sanitation facilities, shelter, food and legal identify in Ethiopia since 2011. In 2020, NRC assisted 585,000 people in six regions of Tigray, Oromia, SNNP, Benishangual Gumuz, Gambella and Somali region, and in Addis Ababa city.
An Ethiopian national working for an Italian charity was killed in the war-hit Tigray region on Saturday after he was “hit by a stray bullet”, according to his employer.
Negasi Kidane, from the Tigrayan city of Adigrat, had been employed by the International Committee for the Development of Peoples since 2016. The group is known by its Italian initials, CISP.
He is the ninth aid worker reported killed in Tigray since fighting broke out there nearly seven months ago.
According to UN estimates, the fighting has displaced nearly 2 million people. The death toll remains unknown, as the area has been cut off from communication with the outside world. About 4.5 million people need immediate assistance, especially food, as fighting destroyed crops and interrupted last fall’s harvest.
OCHA warned of alarming malnutrition rates in Tigray. Out of +69,000 children screened, +1,900 cases of severe acute malnutrition and +17,700 cases of moderate malnutrition have been identified. Malnutrition has also been found amongst pregnant women. WFP is targeting around 867,000 children and 415,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women with their feeding programmes.
Khartoum visit by Eritrean president comes amid strained relations between government of Ethiopia, a close ally, and Sudan.
Isaia’s visit also comes as he faces growing pressure from the international community to withdraw Eritrean troops from Tigray. Soldiers from Eritrea, long an enemy of Tigray’s now-fugitive leaders, have also been blamed for some of the worst human rights abuses in the Tigray conflict, including massacres of civilians and systematic rape.