OMNA TIGRAY – FEBRUARY 2023 SITUATION REPORT
It has been 27 months since the deadliest war of the 21st century broke out in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia. Officially declared on November 4, 2020, this war in which Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), Eritrean forces, and Amhara forces launched an all-out attack against the 7+ million people of Tigray, has killed an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 people. A key strategy of the Ethiopian government’s war has been a complete telecommunication and reporting blackout, which has served to conceal the extent of the devastation in Tigray. However, the limited information available provides a glimpse into the scale of the catastrophe. Tens of thousands of people, including children, have sustained serious injuries from indiscriminate shelling, bombing, and landmines planted by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces. Tens of thousands more have been subjected to heinous systematic and widespread Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV), including rape, gang rape, and sexual slavery. Millions of people have been displaced from their homes in an organized campaign of ethnic cleansing and have sought refuge in neighboring countries as well as makeshift shelters in cities across Tigray, where they are unable to access humanitarian and medical aid. The Ethiopian government’s siege and blockade have halted the flow of humanitarian supplies, goods and services, and money into Tigray for over two years, leaving seven million people without a way to sustain life.
In November 2022, representatives of the Ethiopian and Tigrayan governments signed a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) in South Africa. This agreement promised to alleviate the human suffering in Tigray and build a path toward sustainable peace and justice. However, since the CoHA, there has been very little improvement in the conditions of life in Tigray. While the CoHA was supposed to expedite the unfettered flow of humanitarian supplies into Tigray, the aid that has been entering the region is extremely limited in comparison to the scale of the need. This is especially the case for much-needed medical supplies, which have been trickling into the region at an extremely slow pace. Health professionals in Tigray share that the supplies they have received are nowhere near enough to address the healthcare catastrophe they are attempting to manage.
The CoHa additionally promised to facilitate the removal of non-ENDF forces from Tigray. Eritrean and Amhara forces occupying large swaths of Tigray have been accused of the most heinous crimes against civilians, and their immediate removal is vital for ending the atrocities. In January 2023, Eritrean forces made a show of leaving some parts of Tigray, waving their flag and displaying grotesque messages celebrating the atrocities they committed against men, women, and children in Tigray. Some of these messages gloated over the war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide the Eritrean army committed in Tigray, while others declared, “We are savages to our enemies.” Despite the Ethiopian government’s January 2023 statement that non-ENDF forces have left Tigray, eyewitness accounts, photographic evidence, and a statement by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Linda Thomas-Greenfield all confirm their continued presence in Tigray. It is also to be remembered that the Ethiopian government repeatedly denied the presence of Eritrean forces in Tigray throughout 2020 and 2021. The continued presence of these invading forces in Tigray not only jeopardizes the well-being of Tigrayan civilians but poses a direct threat to the nascent peace process. As such, the international community must call for the immediate and verified withdrawal of all invading forces from all parts of Tigray.