, has called on the UK government to suspend parts of its bilateral aid programme to the Ethiopian government
Helen Hayes raised the plight of millions affected by the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region in parliament last week, calling on the government to intervene after reports of ethnic massacres and mass rapes.
The Dulwich and West Norwood MP secured a House of Commons debate on the situation, which has escalated since last November when the conflict flared between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. A government retaliation left the entire region cut off as troops moved in.
It is now estimated that 10,000 women in the region have been raped by soldiers.
In the last five months, more than 60,000 people have fled the region into refugee camps in Sudan. At least a million are internally displaced and more than four million left without food security due to destruction of crops and livestock.
Around 70 per cent of health facilities are reported to have been looted or vandalised.
The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs has described the food security situation as ‘catastrophic’ and reported continuing human rights abuses and severe malnutrition among young children.
In her speech, Hayes said there was clear evidence civilians were being targeted because of their Tigrayan ethnicity, and said the violence towards Tigrayan women looked ‘genocidal’.
She told MPs: “What especially stands out are the ferocity of the attacks, which is evident from reports and photographs of injuries to women, including the mutilation of women’s genitals, and the targeting of women because they are Tigrayan.
“The rapists have talked of “Amharanising” the women and purifying their blood.
“The use of rape as a weapon of war is always abhorrent and heinous, but for soldiers to claim to be purifying or cleansing women by raping them makes this violence look genocidal.
“What also stands out is the impunity. There is no indication that either the Ethiopian or Eritrean Governments are taking any steps whatsoever to rein in their troops.
“Those responsible for the sexual violence inflict it with complete impunity.
“On Tuesday, the Ethiopian Government admitted there had been sexual assaults on women in Tigray, but sought to justify it as a consequence of the conflict.”
She called on the UK government to suspend parts of its bilateral aid programme to the Ethiopian government, and introduce targeted sanctions against those responsible in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and to push the UN Security Council to bring forward prosecutions for war crimes.
In response to her speech, Middle East and North Africa minister James Cleverly said “The United Kingdom will continue to engage comprehensively with Ethiopia and to lead co-ordination with international partners in pressing for a political solution to this conflict that brings about an end to the violence” but fell short of committing to her demands.