- Weaponized destruction refers to the deliberate damage of critical infrastructures that has devastating implications on a region’s ability to sustain livable conditions.
- Ethiopia’s Tigray region has suffered immense devastation since the unelected Prime Minister ofEthiopia, Abiy Ahmed, started a genocidal war against Tigray inNovember 2020.
- Tigray’s critical infrastructures have been routinely and deliberately destroyed.
- There is an ongoing telecommunication blackout, road blockages, looting and asset stripping, and destruction of hospitals, schools, factories and private property.
- Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), in collaboration with Eritrean forces and Amhara militias, have caused significant damage to the region. They have destroyed its key institutions in an effort to exacerbate the already devastating consequences of war while also hindering the region’s ability to rebuild.
- Weaponized destruction is one of the tools the ENDF, Eritrean forces, and Amhara militias have employed systematically in an effort to erase the region and its people in this genocidal war.
Looting and Asset Stripping
- There has been widespread pillage and looting, often reaching systematic asset-stripping.
- There appears to be no part of Tigray left untouched. In many locations, communities have been left without so much as a sack of flour or packets of dried pasta.
- Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers have looted and/or destroyed schools and universities, government properties, health facilities, and more.
- These forces have looted individual and business properties, taken assets including luxury goods, machinery, and vehicles, as well as medication, furniture, household items, clothing, food, and drink.
- Ethiopian federal forces in the region have taken cash from banks, government offices, micro finance institutions, and agricultural and water offices, almost all of which belong to the Tigrayan regional government or people.
- Eritrean forces have looted everything and anything from personal belongings to businesses and heavy machinery. Some specific examples include household goods (e.g. mattresses),grain from stores, cars, ambulances and generators.
Disruption of Tigray’s EconomicInfrastructure
- The threat of violence, the disruption of trade, and the ransacking of commercial establishments have resulted in the rising price of food items and have left local markets at or near collapse, particularly in Central and Eastern Tigray. Several banks have been burnt, destroyed and/or looted. Food in markets is either extremely limited or not available in many areas.
- In January 2021, the EthiopianCommodity Exchange reported a disruption in the supply of oily seeds, such as sesame, produced in Tigray. In Western Tigray, Amhara militiamen have reportedly raided large repositories of sesame owned by Tigrayan agricultural investors.
- Tigray is the second largest regional producer of sesame, contributing nearly one third of the total production, or over $100 million worth of sesame exports.
Disruption of Tigray’s EconomicInfrastructure
Factories in Tigray once employed 45,000 people and produced a range of products, including garments, flour, pharmaceuticals, marble and consumer goods. According to the evidence in a WorldPeace Foundation report, every single one has been pillaged, and what could not be taken away has been burned.
An April 2021 piece by World Politics Review describes hotels that once thrived from a steady flow of tourists have been stripped bare. Even the kiosks used by shoeshine boys have been smashed, their brushes and polish stolen.
- The Ethiopian and Eritrean governments have utilized starvation as a weapon of war. Over 5.2 million Tigrayans are at risk of starvation as a result of the genocidal war in Tigray.
- The deliberate destruction of food access by burning crops and food stuffs, and depriving access to livestock and disrupting water supply, has resulted in man-made food scarcity. Farmers have also been prohibited from farming their lands.
- Access to clean water is a challenge:
- The Global Water, Hygiene and Sanitation Cluster reported that 250 motorized pumps were out of order by early March2021.
- All water office buildings in 36 assessed towns were looted or vandalized, including that of Adigrat, discovered to be fully destroyed by fire.
- UNHCR has reported a lack of clean water available in refugee camps in January, and no access to drinking water for more than 170,000residents in Shire, Tigray as of February 2021.
- Humanitarian workers who arrived in January 2021described weakened children dying from diarrhea after drinking from rivers.
- Prior to the conflict, Tigray had a functioning healthcare system with health posts in villages, health centers and hospitals in towns, and a referral system with ambulances transporting sick patients to better equipped hospitals.
- The Regional Health Bureau of Tigray confirmed that many hospitals have been struck by artillery or looted their equipment, medications, and other essential items.
- A March 2021 report by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)found that 70 percent of health facilities they visited inTigray had been vandalized and had their equipment looted. The extent of the vandalization led MSF to assert that these deliberate attacks were intended to make health facilities non-functional.
- The destruction of medical clinics, equipment and hospitals is all-occurring in the midst of a global health pandemic, making it even more difficult to manage the impacts of COVID-19, as well as treat the victims of warfare.
- Vulnerable people such as pregnant women and children have been prevented from accessing vital care; and others with chronic diseases have been unable to access life-saving medication.
Sexual Violence as Means of SocialDestruction
- Rape has been used not only as a tool of terror, oppression, collective humiliation, and ethnic cleansing against Tigrayans, but also as a means to destroy Tigray’s social fabric.
- Since November 4, 2020, there have been countless reports ofEthiopian and Eritrean forces, as well as Amhara militias raping and perpetrating sexual violence against Tigrayan women and girls. They have also forced family members to rape their loved ones. The use of weaponized SGBV has been confirmed by survivors, family members of survivors, aid workers, and doctors treating women both in Tigray and in refugee camps in Sudan.
- According to the Europe External Programme with Africa (EEPA)Special Briefing No.3 from March 8, 2021, the conservative estimated number of victims of rape in Tigray is 10,000.
- On April 1, 2021, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)Ethiopia reported that 22,500 individuals are expected to seek care for SGBV in Tigray. UNFPA Ethiopia also emphasized that there is a severe lack of healthcare services in Tigray. They reported that only 1 percent of the healthcare facilities inTigray are offering Clinical Management of Rape (CMR)services, and they estimated that 156 social workers are needed to provide support to these Safe Spaces and One Stop Centers.
Destruction of Cultural Heritage Sites
Eritrean and Ethiopian military forces have looted many sacred worship places in Tigray, targeting historical artifacts that document the roots of Tigrayan cultural and religious heritage. Many sacred worship places have faced attacks from Ethiopian and Eritrean military forces. Their goal to cleanse Tigray of its cultural heritage is evident. These are sites and artifacts not only significant to the heritage of the region but the entire continent and international community.
Al-Nejashi Mosque was looted and attacked byEthiopian and Eritrean forces; it was struck by heavy artillery, damaging its dome, the minaret and the tombs of 15 companions of ProphetMuhammad. Eighty Tigrayans were killed while protecting the sacred Mosque from invading forces.
Axum Mariam Tsion Church
The Axum Mariam Tsion church, which famouslyhouses the Ark of the Covenant, was attacked bythe Ethiopian military resulting in the execution ofover 700 civilians and 50 patrons who weredefending the church.
Further, historically significant rock-hewn churchessuch as the Debre-Damo Monastery have sustaineddrone attacks and have been destroyed in the war.