(By Makonnen Tesfaye, 11 February 2021)
Testimonies of War Crimes and Crime Against Humanity in Tigray Perpetrated by Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia and Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea
(i) The unfolding catastrophes in the War on Tigray: 52,000 civilians killed over 90 days; 4.5 million Tigrayans in need of urgent emergency aid to avert famine of the 1984/85 proportions; 2.2 million Tigrayans internally displaced; 100 refugees in Sudan; almost 100 % of crops in the fields in Tigray burnt; more than 75 % domestic animals in Tigray killed; and more than 75 % of health facilities, schools in Tigray looted, destroyed, or burnt”.
(ii) “In all my years as an aid worker, I have rarely seen a humanitarian response so impeded and unable to deliver in response for so long, to so many with such pressing needs. Millions of women, children and men, including refugees, are in a truly desperate situation, suffering alone without aid or protection. We must all act now and play our part to ensure aid reaches the millions of people suffering in Tigray.”
“Statement by Secretary General Jan Egeland: Norwegian Refugee Council: Aid still not reaching Tigray; 1st February 2021”
(iii) “Emaciated refugees to crops burned on the brink of harvest, starvation threatens….. Hundreds of thousands might starve to death and some already had ….I don’t know what more words in English to use – the population is dying every day as we speak,”
(Mari Carmen Vinoles, Head of the Emergency Unit for Doctors-without-Borders)
(iv) “The attacks violated the ‘laws of war’. Human Rights Watch has accused the Ethiopian military of indiscriminately shelling urban centres during the conflict in the northern region of Tigray. Homes, schools, hospitals and marketplaces were not spared when artillery was fired indiscriminately towards Tigray’s towns and cities. In one attack Eighty-three civilians, including children, were killed and more than 300 others were wounded.
(BBC News, 11 February 2021; Human Rights Watch, 11 February 2021)
(v) “Ethiopia must fulfil its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, as well as under the Rome Statute, which describes the targeting of civilians, including through deliberate starvation. Pressure must be exerted to ensure an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of Eritrean troops, the opening of humanitarian corridors to assist refugees and civilians, and the immediate, independent verification and investigation of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
(Mervyn Thomas, Founder of CSW, a non-for-profit Christian Humanitarian Group; 24 November 2020)
(vi)The head of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society said Wednesday that 80 percent of the country’s conflict-hit Tigray region was cut off from humanitarian assistance and warned that tens of thousands could starve to death.
(AFP; 8 January 2021)
- It is now over three months since the armies of the Ethiopian Federal Government, the Amahra Regional Government Special Forces and Militia, the Eritrean Regime, and the Somali Federal Government invasion and occupation of the Regional National State of Tigray, an autonomous and self-governing Region in the Federal Republic of Ethiopia. In addition, the War on Tigray has been supported by drones and war technologies provided by the United Arab Emirates and with the approval and active support of the former Trump Administration as well as the knowledge and tacit approval, or indifference of Western governments. The War on Tigray is not merely a conventional war between armies but is a total war of annihilation of the Tigrayan people and nationality. This is happening with the indifference of governments and most of the international agencies as shown by inactions of Western governments, the UN Secretary-General and Secretariat, and the UN Security Council, in particular the Permanent Members.[i]
“By remaining actively silent for three months, that is beyond the usual empty platitude and clichés of “concern”, “alarm”, “worry”; and worse by not taking concrete actions, Western governments, the UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council have become complicit in the War on Tigray, Crime Against Humanity and the Making of Genocide of an African people and nationality”
(M.T. – MKTUK; On UN failure to date to stand up against a genocidal war in Tigray, Ethiopia)
- The War on Tigray is utterly barbaric and total in character, design and operation. It is waged by five national armies of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Amhara Regional Government, Federal Republic of Somalia and the UAE, which constitute of several hundreds of thousands of soldiers armed to the teeth and employing heavy armouries, drones and war technologies, and US provided military intelligence. The war has been characterised by mass atrocities and killings, massacres and the wanton destruction and pillage of property. During three months of the war, over 52,000 Tigrayan civilians have been killed according to three Opposition Parties’ preliminary research in Tigray. The number is fast rising. The blanket bombing of civilian infrastructure, factories and industries, hospitals and schools is aimed at tearing down the social and economic fabric of the people and the Region. Similarly, the relentless ethnic targeting, demonising propaganda and physiological war to break Tigrayans’ moral and national will. The war on Tigray is also aimed at destroying Tigray’s cultural and religious heritages as shown by the bombing of churches, monasteries and mosques that are Tigray’s depositories of its cultural and religious artefacts. These include the magnificent world heritages in Tigray like the 13th Century rock-hewn Churches in Giraltta, the 7th Century AlNejashi Mosque and Debredamo Christian Monastery built in the 1st Millennium. The War on Tigray by the regimes of Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia and Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea committed war crimes as investigated and reported by Human Rights Watch:[ii]
“The US-based group said the attacks violated the ‘laws of war’ and urged the government to investigate. Human Rights Watch has accused the Ethiopian military of indiscriminately shelling urban centres during the conflict in the northern region of Tigray last November. Homes, schools, hospitals and marketplaces were not spared when artillery was fired indiscriminately towards Tigray’s towns and cities, according to the report. In one incident Eighty-three civilians, including children, were killed and more than 300 others were wounded, Human Rights Watch alleges”
(BBC News, 11 February 2021; Human Rights Watch, 11 February 2021)
In highlighting the commission of ‘Crime against Humanity’ in Tigray by the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies, Mervyn Thomas, the founder of a non-for-profit Christian human rights group, CSW, urged the world community and governments that:[iii]
“Ethiopia must be pressurised to ensure protection for refugees in accordance with international laws; fulfil its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, as well as under the Rome Statute, which describes the targeting of civilians, including through deliberate starvation.Bottom of Form We urge Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to take immediate steps to de-escalate the conflict, ensuring full respect for the right to life and the fundamental freedoms of all Ethiopian citizens, regardless of ethnicity. Pressure must be exerted to ensure an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of Eritrean troops, the opening of humanitarian corridors to assist refugees and civilians, and the immediate, independent verification and investigation of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
(Mervyn Thomas, Founder of CSW, a non-for profit Christian Humanitarian Group; 24 November 2020)
- In the War on Tigray, hunger and starvation is weaponized in order to completely subjugate the population, which in itself constitutes a war crime. This is strategically planned and executed by depriving the people access to water, food, medicine, electricity, phones, transport and banking services. It has been deliberately and insidiously implemented during the debilitating Covid-19 Pandemic, the onset of a devastating Locust Invasion and just prior to the harvesting of crops that are vital to existential livelihood of millions of farmers[iv]. The stark data provided below by international agencies including the UN, aptly summarised the horrors of the unfolding catastrophes in Tigray:
- Over 52,000 civilians killed in 90 days and the number is rising;
- Thousands of girls and women sexually abused and raped/gang raped;
- 5 million Tigrayans need urgent emergency food;
- 2 million Tigrayans internally displaced;
- 100,000 Tigrayan refugees in Sudan;
- Almost 100 % of Crops in the fields in Tigray burnt; food items and house utensils looted from households;
- More than 75 % Domestic animals in Tigray killed (so that Tigray’s traditional farmers would not have oxen to plough with for years to come); and
- More than 75 % of Health facilities, schools in Tigray looted, destroyed, burnt.
The Abiy Ahmed- Isaias Afewerki strategy of weaponising hunger and starvation to subdue the millions of Tigrayans and its horrifying effects to date is vividly described by Mari Carmen Vinoles, Head of the Emergency Unit of Doctors without Borders as:[v]
“Emaciated refugees to crops burned on the brink of harvest, starvation threatens the survivors of more than two months of fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The first humanitarian workers to arrive after pleading with the Ethiopian government for access describe weakened children dying from diarrhea after drinking from rivers. Shops were looted or depleted weeks ago. More than 4.5 million people, nearly the region’s entire population, need emergency food. Hundreds of thousands might starve to death and some already had, according to minutes obtained by The Associated Press. There is an extreme urgent need — I don’t know what more words in English to use — to rapidly scale up the humanitarian response because the population is dying every day as we speak,”
(Mari Carmen Vinoles, Head of the Emergency Unit for Doctors without Borders)
- The strategy of the weaponisation of hunger and starvation by the Abiy Ahmed-Isaias Afewerki regimes is accompanied by the deliberate and persistent refusal to allow humanitarian corridors for emergency relief to reach the victims of the War on Tigray. This is despite the repeated calls by international relief agencies since the start of the war on 4th November 2020[vi]. The horrendous aftermaths of the genocidal war in Tigray and the unfolding catastrophes is vividly expressed by Jan Egeland of the Norwegian Refugee Council”:[vii]
“In all my years as an aid worker, I have rarely seen a humanitarian response so impeded and unable to deliver in response for so long, to so many with such pressing needs. As an international community, we are clearly failing to deliver against the humanitarian imperative we are facing. Millions of women, children and men, including refugees, are in a truly desperate situation, suffering alone without aid or protection. The entire aid sector, NRC included, must also recognise our failure to define the scale of the crisis, to respond early, to coordinate and to speak out – all of which has crippled the collective response. We must all act now and play our part to ensure aid reaches the millions of people suffering in Tigray.”
“Statement by Secretary General Jan Egeland: Norwegian Refugee Council Aid still not reaching Tigray, 1st February 2021”
- In the War on Tigray sexual violence and rape is used as an instrument of war, where to date thousands of Tigrayan girls and women have been gang raped by the Ethiopian, Amhara and Eritrean soldiers[viii].
“We are horrified by the reports and allegations we have received of sexual violence during the conflict in Tigray. The survivors of these alleged attacks must not be seen as statistics but as individual women and girls whose lives have been profoundly altered by the violations committed against them”
(Gemma Connell; U.N. Humanitarian Chief for East and Southern Africa)
“I am greatly concerned by serious allegations of sexual violence in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, including a high number of alleged rapes in the capital, Mekelle. There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence. Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities, while medical centres have indicated an increase in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which is often an indicator of sexual violence in conflict. In addition, there are increasing reports of sexual violence against women and girls in a number of refugee camps.”
(Pramila Patten; The U.N. Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict)
- Peace and justice loving people should urge their governments and international agencies, in particular the UN, to urgently act in order to stop the unfolding catastrophes of the War on Tigray, Crime against Humanity and the Making of Genocide of an African people and nationality. They must insist the war to end and the invading and occupying Eritrean and Amhara armies to leave Tigray immediately and completely. The weaponisation of sexual violence and the use of hunger and starvation must be condemned and stopped. Moreover, governments and the UN must insist that unfettered humanitarian corridors are opened so that humanitarian and emergency relief is provided to the millions of victims of the on-going war. For over three months now the Tigrayan people have been denied access to water, food, medicine, electricity, phones, transport and banking services. The Derg, Mengistu’s Military Regime, man-made Ethiopian famine of 1984/85 is deliberately being repeated in Tigray. This is genocide in the making. The Western governments and the UN must act not hide behind diplomatic platitudes and clichéd press releases.
“No more whitewashing: Aid is still NOT reaching civilians in desperate need in Ethiopia’s Tigray. Hunger and malnutrition reach them faster. In 40 years as humanitarian, I’ve rarely seen an aid response so impeded. We are failing as an int’l community”
(Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council)
As Tigrayans’ national liberation struggle continues resolutely, it is contingent upon the world that Tigray should not and must not be another Rwanda or Darfur.