The Guardian view on war in Ethiopia: time is short
Note: The Ethiopian Defense Force is losing ground in Tigray and Oromia. The downfall of the 7th king is fast approaching no matter the outcome of the war.
Source: The Guardian Editorial
Hundreds have already died. The dangers are multiplying for the country and the region
On Tuesday, two weeks after launching military action, the Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, announced a “final and conclusive” push against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Few expect it to be so easy. The TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for years but has been sidelined since Mr Abiy rose to power, has a long history of guerrilla warfare and heavily armed forces.
While each side blames the other for the conflict, civilians are bearing the brunt. Tens of thousands of people have fled from Tigray to Sudan. Hundreds are reported dead, though the severing of communications with the north-west region means that news from there is sporadic and unreliable. Refugees have described both sides committing atrocities against civilians. Aid workers leaving the region report a chaotic and rapidly shifting situation; their departure from an area where many already went hungry will deepen suffering.
Power has long been leveraged along ethnic lines in Ethiopia, and there are tensions not only between ethnic groups but within them – including Mr Abiy’s own Oromo community. People have mooted the risk of the state collapsing as Yugoslavia did since Mr Abiy, a Nobel peace prize winner, began the political reforms that won him widespread applause. Those concerns now look increasingly pressing. The UN special advisers on the prevention of genocide and responsibility to protect have warned that ethnic violence has reached alarming levels in Ethiopia over the last two years, adding that such attacks and reported ethnic profiling of citizens constitute “a dangerous trajectory that heightens the risk of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”.
Conflicts are not easily containable, whatever Mr Abiy may believe. The TPLF has already carried out strikes on the airport of the Eritrean capital, Asmara, which it says has been used by Ethiopian federal forces; it has also accused Eritrea of sending its own troops into Tigray. Analysts wonder if Egypt, angered by Ethiopia’s colossal new dam on the Nile, might be tempted to take advantage of the government’s distraction. Ethiopia says it has disarmed hundreds of Tigrayan peacekeepers serving in Somalia over a security issue; with feelings there running high as elections loom, any further weakening of forces could prove destabilising.
The Horn of Africa’s strategic importance has seen Gulf countries as well as China, the US and others jockeying for influence in recent years. Plenty of players have a stake in maintaining security in the region. The UN, the African Union, the EU and others must up the pressure on both sides to come to the table, something that Mr Abiy so far spurns. Each side has regarded the other as illegitimate since the prime minister postponed elections, citing the pandemic, while Tigray went ahead. But though the TPLF has been increasingly provocative, Mr Abiy has made not a targeted response but an all-out push to remove it from power. The reality is that this is a crisis that can only be solved politically. The alternative will simply bring more suffering.
U.S. government has no evidence WHO director general Tedros Adhnom Ghebreyesus is backing Tigray rebels
By Simon Ateba, November 19, 2020
(Today News Africa) — The United States government on Thursday indicated that it did not have any evidence the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhnom Ghebreyesus is supporting Tigray’s rebels.
Asked by reporters via teleconference on Thursday from Washington DC whether he had seen any evidence the WHO chief was either lobbying or trying to purchase weapons for the TPLF, the U.S. Department of State Bureau of African Affairs Assistant Secretary Tibor P. Nagy said the allegations did not come from the US government.
Pressed further to say whether the US government had seen any evidence the WHO boss was actively engaged with the rebels, Tibor P. Nagy referred reporters to seek answers from the Ethiopian government.
Also on the call with reporters was U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia Michael A. Raynor.
Ethiopia’s military on Thursday baselessly accused Tedros of backing the rebels.
The military claimed without providing any evidence that the WHO chief was trying to procure arms for Tigray state’s main political party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which is fighting the federal government.
Ethiopia’s army chief of staff General Birhanu Jula said in a televised address that Dr. Tedros Adhnom Ghebreyesus should be removed from office because he is “a criminal” and “a member of that group.”
Birhanu claimed that Tedros was using his international platform to get diplomatic support and weapons for the TPLF.
“He has been doing everything to support them, he has campaigned to get the neighboring countries to condemn the war,” Birhanu said in his televised address, without providing any evidence.
“He has worked to facilitate weapons for them. He tried to lobby people by using his international profile and mission to get support for the TPLF junta,” he added.
Tedros is an Ethiopian of Tigrayan origin but the military did not provide any evidence to back up its incendiary claims.
As he fights the deadly coronavirus, Dr. Tedros, who was Ethiopia’s health minister and foreign minister in a ruling coalition led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has often come under attack from people in his own country, and from the outgoing American President, Donald John Trump, who also baselessly accused him and the WHO of being “China-centric” and of not providing the US early warnings about COVID-19.
Heartbreaking stories from refugees fleeing Ethiopia violence
November 19, 2020
(Relief Web) — In a briefing to journalists on Thursday, a senior UN humanitarian official in Sudan recounted moving testimony from refugees who are crossing the border from Ethiopia in their thousands, fleeing fighting in Tigray province.
“Many of the refugees left behind children, and parents. They did not have time to assemble their families and leave together”, said Babacar Cissé, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan. “They arrived at the camps after having walked for several days, exhausted and with nothing. Seeing families and children sleeping in the open was heartbreaking”.
Many of the refugees are young men, who told UN staff that they had been targeted by armed fighters. One man told Mr. Cissé that he had walked for two days, and had seen two family members killed. Another, a medical doctor, said that he had been forced to leave his family behind: he is now treating other refugees in the camp.
Response plan by the weekend
With the influx of refugees higher than expected, the UN in the region is planning for the arrival of some 200,000 over the next six months, said Mr. Cissé.
The UN, donors, and local authorities, are working closely on a response plan, which should be finalized by this weekend, he added. In the meantime, enough food to support 60,000 people for one month is being prepared for delivery from Kassala in the coming days.
“This crisis started on 7 November. After a week, we had about 20,000 and now over 30,000 refugees”, Mr. Cisse explained. “People were in reception centres for registration before being relocated in refugee camps. They are not supposed to stay there for more than two days and we are committed to immediately addressing this urgent challenge.”
Mr. Cissé was speaking following his return from a two day mission – along with the country representatives of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), World Food Programme (WFP), UN Childrens’ Fund (UNICEF) and UN Population Fund (UNFPA) – to assess the situation in refugee camps in the southeastern region of Sudan.
So far, the largest number of refugees are entering Sudan at the small town of Hamdayet. During the two-day mission, the UN officials, and Sudanese authorities, visited the Hamdayet Reception Centre, where an emergency response has been set up to register and provide assistance to thousands of women, children and men crossing into the country.
Urgent health needs
The main concern centres around hygiene, as more and more people arrive. At their arrival in the camp, refugees can access clean water and soap, and receive hot meals and high-energy food supplies. More latrines are being built, and WFP has delivered supplies such as cooking pots, tank loads of water, and a mobile storage unit.
Tigray is Ethiopia’s third most-affected region in terms of COVID-19, and there is concern surrounding the movement of people and the risk this entails for the spread of pandemic.
Mr. Cissé warned that refugees are arriving at the camps without any masks or other forms of protection against the virus. Masks are being distributed in the camps but, as of now, there is no capacity for testing.
The most urgent needs are food, clean water, and shelter. The UN and partners are providing health and nutrition services, as well as hygiene and other non-food kits, and are working non-stop to address the needs of the population.
This includes supporting pregnant women, those who are breastfeeding, traumatized children and others who immediately need psychosocial assistance.