(By: SECURITY AND JUSTICE FOR TIGREANS IN ETHIOPIA(SJTE), 18 January 2021) –
1.Background to the Current Situation and War Against the People of Tigray
Since November 4, 2020, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia aided and abetted by President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea, has waged an all-out war against the people of Tigray on the southern, western, and northern fronts. In doing so, the government alleged that its purpose was to enforce “law and order.” Yet, its cruel actions amount to what is clearly becoming an extermination of the people of Tigray by committing genocide, starvation and other war crimes of looting and destroying civilian infrastructures, burning crops in the field, killing livestock, completely destroying hospitals and clinics including looting all medical equipment, beds, destroying churches, mosques and cultural and historical heritages such as the Aksum Church of Zion and the Al-Nejashi mosque which both are UNESCO registered world heritages using the fire power of about 600,000 to 700,000 troops (including mechanized and commandos) from its armed forces and inviting foreign actors such as the Eritrean army (42 divisions) as well as drone warfare from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Can you imagine for a second a scenario wherein your government colluding with foreign dictators from far and near neighbouring countries could attack one of its provinces or states? The answer, with high certainty, is “no that won’t happen in my country by any standard.” However, to our dismay, this is exactly what is happening in the Regional State of Tigray in Northern Ethiopia where the Ethiopian Prime Minister (PM) Abiy Ahmed conspired with President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea to ignite war and commit war crimes with the support of the UAE’s drones on the people of Tigray.
To date, as the bloody war rages on, innocent and defenceless civilians, children, women, the elderly are being exterminated with the support of several foreign forces (Eritrean army, UAE unmanned vehicles or drones, Amhara militia called Fano and other special forces from the Amhara Regional State. As a result, the towns, rural villages, and hamlets of Tigray continue to be subjected to nonstop and daily aerial and heavy artillery bombardments. Reports coming from Tigray show that all towns except the southern most county of Raya are under direct intermittent Eritrean administration (military command posts). There is an order from higher military ranks to shoot anyone including children above the age of five. The Eritrean army forces people to carry Eritrean ID Cards where failure to accept or question the issuance of the new ID cards can result in death by killing squads. No funeral services are held or allowed to bury the dead. The bodies are strewn everywhere and left to decompose in open air posing high health risk to the public and even eaten by hyenas and other wild animals at night.
Thus far, over half a million residents of Mekelle, the regional capital of Tigray alone have been subjected to frequent aerial and artillery bombardments. In addition, the towns of Adigrat, Edagahamus, Zalambessa, Aksum, Sheraro, Humera, Wukro, Sebeya, Dowhan, Abi-Adi, Abergele, Adwa, Yechila and many other villages have also been under intensive artillery and aerial bombardments causing thousands of civilian casualties and the displacement of more than 2.3 million people internally. Many have fled to neighbouring Sudan and are now sheltered in refugee camps. It is estimated by UN agencies that at least 500 refugees flee Ethiopia per day and cross the border with Sudan and the number of Tigrayan refugees sheltered in the Sudan are estimated at more than 70,000. These refugees are facing a security risk from the Ethiopian Defense Forces, Eritrean troops and Amhara Fano Militia as reported by many credible media and humanitarian agencies. We highlight some of the widely reported atrocities and war crimes committed by the invading forces in Tigray that put its people under siege and risk of extermination.
- Reports of the Atrocities and War Crimes as of January 2, 2021, for instance:
- The City of Adigrat, the seat of the Eastern Zone Administration with more than 100,000 residents, has been occupied by Eritrean forces starting Mid-November. On 24 November, Eritrean soldiers drove a pick-up truck with machine guns through the central street of Adigrat and shot indiscriminately at shops, private residences, and passers-by. Several civilians were reportedly killed and wounded, including women and children. As a result, at least 85 civilians, including many youths have been killed by Eritrean forces—and many have been reported missing.
- Addis Pharmaceuticals, a publicly owned pharmaceutical company and one of the biggest employers in the City of Adigrat, employing over 2,000 employees, has been destroyed and all equipment and machinery uprooted to Eritrea. On November 25, 2020, a group of 8 – 15 citizens (according to eyewitnesses) stood guard at the Addis Pharmaceutical Factory in Adigrat when they were handcuffed and executed by Eritrean soldiers.
- Adigrat University, one of the four universities in Tigray, with over 15,000 students and 3,000 academic and support staff, is also under siege. As a result, the staff is not being paid as the Federal Government of Ethiopia has frozen the budget for Tigray and students are not taking classes. Now the university is under siege and serving as a military camp for Eritrean soldiers; all students have been sent home or transferred to Mekelle University in Mekele.
- In Adwa, a historic town in central Tigray known for the victorious battle against Italian forces in 1896 that thwarted European Colonialism, there has been horrors of civilian massacre similar to other towns (about 458 people fatally shot as of December 30, 2020). The ALTEX Textile and Saba Marble Factories including the only shoes factory in the town of Adwa were all looted and all equipment and machinery transported in trucks to Eritrea before the building structures were demolished by dynamites.
- In Bora Selewa, a town in Southern Tigray near Maichew, 154 innocent civilians were killed around January 08 -10, 2021 by the Ethiopian Army after heavy fighting between the two armies in the locality.
Civilians Massacred by Eritrean Invading Army Abetted by Ethiopian Armed Forces as well as UAE Drone Attacks – Civilians under siege all over Tigray. A few examples of war crimes in Eastern Tigray and other towns and villages include:
- In Zalambessa, about 20 miles north of Adigrat, on November 18, 2020, Eritrean soldiers killed 59 civilians inside their homes in front of their parents and families.
- In Sebeya and Erob, about 25 to 30 miles northeast of the town of Adigrat, 42 civilians were shot in their homes by Eritrean forces. Others, it is reported, have been killed and thrown into ravines and gorges in order to avoid accountability.
- In Edaga Hamus, about 12 miles south of Adigrat, over half of the residents’ homes have been shelled with heavy artillery and half of the households have lost at least one or two family members.
- In Denglat, a small hamlet south west of Edaga Hamus, on November 30 more than 80 people who were attending a church mass in the Church compound of Maryam Dengelat, were slaughtered by Eritrean forces. Among those killed included a prominent businessman Isaias Asgedom, who was also murdered together with his family.
- In Tokot, a village near IdgaHamus, around December 2-12, 2020, thirteen boys aged 12 – 15 years were ordered by Eritrean troops to load looted materials onto a truck. When they had finished loading the truck, the 13 boys were shot dead by the Eritrean soldiers.
- At Abraha Atsebaha, a village north west of Wukro, on December 24, 2020 men in the village were ordered by Eritrean troops to dig graves for fallen soldiers. When the men had finished digging, they were executed by the Eritrean soldiers.
- At Negash, a village about 6 miles north of Wukro, around December 12 – 14, 2020, Eritrean troops looted the Negash mosque, the most ancient center of Islam outside Arabia, which has also been shelled. Eighty one civilians (mostly Orthodox Christian) villagers were also killed while trying to protect the holy site from looting. The historic mosque was also damaged by artillery fire by the Eritrean and Ethiopian military forces.
- In Wukro, about 40 miles south of Adigrat, has been heavily damaged mainly by organized looting, including St Mary College and the Catholic mission; the Sheba Leather Factory has been destroyed and local youth protecting the place were killed in big numbers. More than 200 civilians, mostly youth, are believed to have been massacred, by the Eritrean forces.
Vehicles and equipment of the college all looted. Adigrat Dioces head priest was taken by Eritrean soldiers and his whereabouts unknown.
- In Axum, the cradle of Ethiopian civilization of more than 2,400 years old city, around 17 – 20 December, 750 inhabitants of the town of Aksum were killed by Eritrean troops when they tried to prevent them from looting the Maryam Tsion Church in the town where the Ark of Covenant is believed to be located.
- In Mai Kadra, a town in Western Zone of Tigray, more than 1,100 civilians (initially reported at more than 600 by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission) were brutally massacred and dumped in one grave.
2. Requests of International Human Rights Organization to Verify the Situation
Thus far, all requests of international human rights groups to investigate the massacres have been denied by the Ethiopian Government. In fact, the Ethiopian government spokesman said, “the Ethiopian government doesn’t not need a baby-sitter,” implying that it had the capacity and the institutions to do the investigation on the alleged war crimes and genocide committed in Tigray. However, in reality, what we saw was a government affiliated Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Commissioner issuing a one-sided report filled with false and biased information that was collected from interviewees/witnesses that were predominantly from the Amhara ethnic group (the alleged victims) to conceal the war crimes and genocide committed against the people of Tigray so as to justify the war of aggression in Tigray. It is not a surprise that the report is highly biased since Dr. Daniel Bekelle who was hand-picked by Abiy Ahmed to be the director of EHRC has used his brother in-law, Mr. Netsanet Belay of Amnesty International to corroborate his findings and publish it for media consumption. As repeatedly stated by the UNHRC, HRW and the US State Department, this war crime needs to be investigated by an independent international commission.
3. SJTE’s Appeal for Urgent UN and the International Community’s Action to Stop the Genocide
On behalf of the innocent people of Tigray, the SJTE herein requests the United Nations and its bodies in general and the Security Council in particular to prioritize addressing the urgent human rights crisis and the eminent risk of extermination by starvation in Tigray by considering the following recommendations of action:
- Immediate cessation of hostilities and commitment to peaceful resolution of the crisis.
- Unconditional and immediate withdrawal of the Eritrean army from Tigray villages, towns and cities hindering the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people of Tigray.
- Immediate and unfettered access to international humanitarian aid (to avoid humanitarian catastrophe of 4.3 million people who are on the brink of starvation), media, and human rights organizations.
- Immediate restoration of communications and transport in Tigray as part of the human rights monitoring tools by lifting the blackout throughout Tigray.
- Urgent dispatch of a UN mandated independent team to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide, committed by the combined Ethiopian and Eritrean armies and the UAE drones on Tigrayan civilians and the massacre and forced repatriation and conscription of Eritrean refugees (estimated at 100,000) residing in four camps in Tigray.
- Deployment of UN Peacekeepers at the Eritrea-Ethiopia border to monitor Eritrean Army withdrawal, enforce peace and security of the people of Tigray, stop looting of Tigray livestock, industrial machinery, equipment, universities, and other war crimes at the border area.
- Immediate cessation of hostilities and redeployment of the Ethiopian army troops from civilian centers in Tigray to stop massacre, looting, and rape of children and women; the immediate removal of government affiliated Amhara militias estimated at 120,000 from hostile Amhara ethnic group who are the prime suspects of the genocide at Mai Kadar, who are also engaged in looting businesses, farmlands, crops, livestock estimated at three million, raping children and women as well as ethnic cleansing by uprooting them from their ancestral lands and damping them across the Tekeze river and preventing the free passage or flow of refugees to the Sudan in order to hide genocide and other crimes committed by the Amhara militia from the media when they arrive in the Sudan.
- Immediate release of all political prisoners, as well as military personnel and civilians of Tigray origin who are victims of ethnic profiling, imprisoned or thrown in jails and barracks throughout the country without the due process of law after they were fired from their jobs (estimated in thousands).
- Support UN Resolution for the establishment of a Claims or Compensation Commission to investigate human rights and economic war crimes committed against the State of Tigray and its people by the State of Eritrea, Federal Republic of Ethiopia and the UAE.
4. Summary/Conclusion on the Tigray-Ethiopia Conflict and the Way Forward
The war on Tigray that started on November 04, 20220 was very tragic not only to the people of Tigray but to people of the Horn of Africa. Millions of people are under an immediate risk of extermination by genocide, starvation and war crimes. Many failed states will emerge in the Horn of Africa similar to the fate of Yemen, Somalia and Syria, if the conflict is not resolved peacefully and the perpetrators are not held accountable to the war crime and genocide they committed in Tigray, Ethiopia. The genocidal war in Tigray is not in the best interest of the Horn of Africa in particular, the Middle East or the international community at large. Neither would such genocide act be acceptable to anyone in the 21st century.
SJTE believes this war, even though inherently was borne out of the dictatorship in Ethiopia and masterminded by the Eritrean dictator, Isaias Afwerki in collusion with dictator Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, it could have been avoided if the Trump administration or other multilateral institutions intervened to allow for a comprehensive dialog among all the political parties in Ethiopia. As described by the Horn of Africa analysts and our own understanding, the grave mistake of the Trump administration was that it outsourced the Horn of Africa foreign policy to the Gulf States of the UAE and Saudi Arabia which were more interested in controlling the geopolitics of the Red Sea region and that of the Horn of Africa with “Strong man mentality” than allowing for a peaceful settlement of political differences and the democratization of the region. The two gulf states brought on board the Eritrean dictator, Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian dictator, Abiy Ahmed Ali, to conspire against the duly elected government of Tigray by signing a fake Ethiopia-Eritrea peace deal. This peace accord is believed to be an agreement orchestrated by the two Gulf States to cover-up for the planned war on Tigray.
The SJTE believes that the speed at which the war crime, crime against humanity and genocide that is being committed on the people of Tigray is very alarming and hence needs an immediate attention and action to stop it. Thus, we respectfully ask the international community to take immediate action to stop the horrors of war, starvation and genocide in Tigray based on the recommendations listed in section 4 of this document.
- SOMALIA/ETHIOPIA/KENYA : Kenyatta aims to get the Horn of Africa on to Security Council agenda (africaintelligence.com)
- Tigray: Hundreds of civilians reported killed in artillery strikes, warns UN rights chief | |
- Report: Hospitals in Ethiopia’s Tigray Struck by Artillery | World News | US News
- ETHIOPIA : IGAD summit: Abiy issues flat refusal to African Union – 22/12/2020 – Africa Intelligence
- Op-Ed: The true picture of the war in Tigray – Africa Briefing
- Satellite Images Show Ethiopia Carnage as Conflict Continues – Bloomberg
- UN fears ‘massive’ COVID transmission in Ethiopia’s Tigray (apnews.com)
- ETHIOPIA : Abiy locks down Tigray and keeps Europe and the US in the dark – 02/12/2020 – Africa Intelligence
- ETHIOPIA : Besieged by Ethiopian army, Tigray leader asks AU to arbitrate – 09/11/2020 – Africa Intelligence
- ETHIOPIA/KENYA : Tigray crisis: Kenyatta struggles to convince Abiy to accept regional support – 30/11/2020 – Africa Intelligence
- ERITREA/ETHIOPIA : The triggers of Tigray’s crisis – 10/11/2020 – Africa Intelligence
- ETHIOPIA/EGYPT : Amid standoff with Addis over GERD mega-dam, Cairo denies allegations of supporting Oromo guerillas – 08/10/2020 – Africa Intelligence