It has been more than 19 months since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared war against the 7 million people of Tigray. While this war has been fought under the cover of a complete information blackout, the limited information that has emerged indicates the depth of the humanitarian catastrophe caused by the Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces during their ongoing genocidal campaign. According to reports, an estimated 500,000 people have died in the last 19 months, while tens of thousands more have been seriously injured, including at least 22,000 women and girls who have been subjected to weaponized Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV). Moreover, more than 2.2 million people are displaced, and over 900,000 people in Tigray live in famine, with millions more facing acute food shortages. The wholesale destruction of Tigray will have consequences for generations to come, including food insecurity caused by agricultural and environmental destruction.

Since June 2021, when the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) pushed invading forces out of most parts of Tigray, the Ethiopian government has enacted a deadly siege prohibiting the flow of humanitarian aid and supplies into Tigray. Only a tiny fraction of the aid required to avert the starvation and death of hundreds of thousands has made it into the region because of the Ethiopian government’s blockade. Moreover, for almost a year now, Tigrayans have been denied essential services such as electricity, telecommunication, and bank services. Further, transportation in and out of the region has been banned. While the Ethiopian government declared what is claimed to be a humanitarian truce in March 2022, to date, a minuscule percentage of the required aid has made it into Tigray. Unless the unhindered and consistent flow of aid into Tigray is immediately guaranteed, hundreds of thousands may perish from the man-made famine.

In May 2022, the Tigray regional government released 4,208 Prisoners of War (POWs). Among the released POWs are women, people with illnesses, and persons with disabilities. The Tigray government’s announcement and the release of POWs were greeted with indifference by the Ethiopian government, which has denied the very existence of the POWs. However, it is evident that the release of these POWs comes as great relief for the prisoners and their families and is a sign of goodwill on the part of the Tigray regional government.

Despite the evident lack of reciprocal goodwill by the Ethiopian government, which continues to imprison tens of thousands of Tigrayans who served faithfully as part of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, there have been attempts by some international actors to normalize relations with the Abiy regime and its supporters. In May 2022, the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia hosted a regime supporter who has repeatedly made genocidal calls against Tigrayans. At the same time, the European Union Human Rights Commission had an official meeting with a member of the Abiy regime who downplayed verified reports of weaponized SGBV committed in Tigray. Additionally, the World Bank announced a 300 million USD funding package for Ethiopia. While international actors must use all the tools at their disposal to pressure the Ethiopian government to lift its siege and restore basic services in Tigray, they must also identify and hold accountable those individuals who have fuelled and downplayed the genocidal war. The international community must make clear that those who have espoused genocidal calls, called for violence against millions of people, and worked to cover up egregious human rights violations must be held accountable for their crimes.