Why Did Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Rebuff Samantha Power?

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last week rebuffed a request to meet face to face with a top Biden administration official to address the country’s civil war and worsening humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region, dealing a blow to U.S. efforts to tamp down a conflict that threatens to fuel famine and destabilize the wider Horn of Africa.

When Samantha Power, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), visited Ethiopia last week to seek greater access for humanitarian aid workers in Tigray, she was asked in a press conference why she hadn’t met with the Ethiopian prime minister.

“He was not in the capital today on my day here,” she said.

Hunger Stalks Millions as Abiy Asks Ethiopians to Join Army

Fighting in northern Ethiopia may intensify further after the nation’s Nobel-laureate leader urged citizens to join the army and militias, which may add to the misery caused by nine months of civil war between the federal government and dissidents in the Tigray region.

About 300,000 people are facing “emergency levels of hunger” in Ethiopia’s Amhara and Afar states, where Tigrayan forces began an offensive after regaining most of their territory from government troops in June, the World Food Programme said on Monday. That’s in addition to about 5.2 million people in Tigray who’ve been impacted by the conflict and desperately need food aid.

At river where Tigrayan bodies floated, fears of ‘many more’

From time to time, a body floating down the river separating Ethiopia’s troubled Tigray region from Sudan was a silent reminder of a war conducted in the shadows. But recently, the corpses became a flow.

Bloated, drained of color from their journey, the bodies were often mutilated: genitals severed, eyes gouged, a missing limb. The Sudanese fishermen who spotted them, and the refugees from Tigray who helped pull them to shore, found many corpses’ hands bound. Some of them had been shot.

The Associated Press reported dozens of bodies floating down the Tekeze River last week and saw six of the graves on Wednesday, marking the first time any reporters could reach the scene. Doctors who saw the bodies said one was tattooed with a common name in the Tigrinya language and others had the facial markings common among Tigrayans, raising fresh alarm about atrocities in the least-known area of the Tigray war.

Main road for aid to embattled Ethiopian region ‘impassible’

During a visit this week to Ethiopia, the Administrator of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) visited food warehouses outside the capital Addis Ababa run by the Catholic Relief Services, with the help of USAID.

Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, denounced the “dehumanizing rhetoric” surrounding Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict, which has devastated the area.

Wednesday’s visit to Ethiopia has been welcomed by CRS’s Ethiopia country representative, Lane Bunkers.

“The compound in Adama [about 60 miles southeast of the capital] has a long history and has been in use for four decades for the purpose of storing and staging food aid, including humanitarian distributions,” he told Crux.

WFP delivers food to another 1 million people in Tigray during June and July but is only reaching half of those it should be

WFP aims to reach 2.1 million people with emergency food assistance from August onwards and needs at least 6,000 metric tons of food each week to do so. Due to insecurity and operational constraints, it has been unable to bring these quantities into Tigray in recent weeks.

More than 175 trucks arrived in the Tigray region, via the Abala corridor, during the first week of August. This included 90 trucks loaded with over 5,000 metric tons of life-saving food. An additional 90 trucks are expected to arrive in the coming days to further replenish stocks of food, fuel, nutrition, health, WASH and shelter items in the region.

But with 5.2 million people in the region (90% of the Tigray population) in need of humanitarian food assistance – WFP and partners require at least 100 trucks to be arriving daily to meet the vast needs.

“People in Tigray are suffering due to lack of humanitarian support over the past month – we need to reach them now before they fall into famine. WFP is calling for all parties to agree to a ceasefire and guarantee an unimpeded flow of humanitarian supplies into Tigray, so that we can deliver lifesaving food and other emergency supplies safely before it’s too late,” said Michael Dunford, WFP’s Corporate Response Director for Tigray. 

Sudan recalls ambassador from Ethiopia after ‘unsubstantiated allegations’

Sudan summoned its ambassador to Ethiopia for consultations after statements issued by senior Ethiopian officials rejected Khartoum’s mediation in the conflict raging in the Tigray region on the grounds of “non-neutrality and the occupation of Ethiopian lands”.

Diplomatic sources said that the Sudanese Ambassador to Addis Ababa, Jamal Al-Sheikh, will meet with Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok to discuss these developments in Sudanese Ethiopian relations.

In a statement, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out that “the suggestion that Sudan played a role in the conflict, and the claim of occupation, is a continuation of Ethiopia’s practice of overriding facts in its relationship with Sudan and promoting allegations that it has no basis for based only on the ambitions of circles in the Ethiopian government.”

Refugees find more bodies in river separating Tigray, Sudan

Six more bodies have been found floating down the river separating Ethiopia’s troubled Tigray region from Sudan, refugees and a physician said on Saturday. They urged Sudanese authorities and the U.N. to help in search efforts.

Around 50 bodies have been discovered over the last two weeks in the Setit River, which flows through some of the most troubled areas of the nine-month conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, according to Tigray refugees.

Ceasefire in Tigray more urgent than ever: UN relief chief

Speaking in Geneva, Martin Griffiths highlighted the urgency of the situation for all those affected in the northern Ethiopian region, after eight months of fighting between Government forces and those loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Earlier this week, the UN senior official warned that 200,000 people had been displaced by fighting in neighbouring Amhara region, along with more than 50,000 in Afar.

“This war has to stop, this war has to end; we will all of us continue to try to make sure that those 100 trucks a day reach Mekelle, reach the beneficiaries”, Mr. Griffiths insisted. “We will do everything we can to help the people affected in Amhara and Afar, while continuing the work in other parts of Ethiopia.”

The war in Tigray: the makings of a man-made famine, and what can be done

“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  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.

Reuters: USAID chief concerned by ‘dehumanising rhetoric’ in Ethiopia amid war in Tigray region

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.