Under the thumb of the military mass starvation returns to Ethiopia


Adrian Goldberg reports on the intimidation and censorship that is hiding an unfolding crisis for the Tigray population

More than three decades after Bob Geldof and Band Aid, mass starvation has returned to haunt Ethiopia once again – this time as part of a deliberate policy of intimidation against the minority Tigray population in the north of the country.

According to the Government’s own estimates, around 4.5 million people in the region are in need of food as the result of a conflict which erupted last November and has continued sporadically ever since.

Along with reports of massacres, destruction of healthcare facilities and horrific gang rapes it has been claimed that the army is preventing local people from feeding themselves.

Leandra, who came to the UK after fleeing persecution in Ethiopia at the age of five, told the Byline Times Podcast that her relatives who live in an agricultural community in Tigray are among those who’ve been warned against harvesting their crops.

She said, “In the UK, people gave loads of money to Band Aid when Ethiopians were starving, and right now starvation is being used as a weapon. Farmers are being told they’ll be shot if they do any farming and all of the food they have is being burnt rather than given to the people.”

She also fears for the fate of her younger relatives and wonders about the trauma they will suffer, if they manage to survive.  

“My three- and five-year-old cousins have actually seen soldiers kill people in front of them. And I think that’s going to live with them a long time” she said.

An Information Desert

Leandra’s claims are difficult to independently verify, although last month the UN Human Rights Commission announced that it was launching an investigation into alleged abuses.

International media have found the conflict difficult to report, not least because of frequent power cuts in Tigray which restrict communications. Leandra believes this is part of a deliberate strategy by the Government to censor information coming out of the area.

Alex De Waal, Director of the World Peace Foundation, a human rights organisation based at Tufts University in Massachusetts agrees, saying: “There is a concerted attempt to stop information reaching the outside world. The internet is shut down, cell phones are shut down, even international aid workers are prohibited from using two way radios. I’ve never in my 30 year career seen such an effective way of shutting down information.”

As a result, he said, “this is the worst crisis about which we know the least,” whilst adding that his sources in the region confirm the thrust of Leandra’s allegations.

“There is overwhelming evidence of campaigns – which are systematic, widespread and co-ordinated – of mass atrocities including starvation, rape and killing,” De Waal said.

Continued fighting in the region has seen an estimated 2 million people displaced and has hindered the delivery of a $305 million US aid package sanctioned by Joe Biden’s administration, which has also voiced its concern about human rights violations.

Violence erupted in Tigray last November after an attack on an army base which the Government in Addis Ababa blamed on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

The TPLF had been the dominating force in the Ethiopia’s federal government until years of protest finally ushered in a new era of liberalisation in 2018, led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who won a Nobel Peace Prize for brokering peace with neighbouring Eritrea.  

Ironically, some of the worst atrocities in Tigray have been blamed on the Eritreans, but although Ahmed acknowledged last month that they may have committed crimes, he also said they had “done a lasting favour to our soldiers.”

That’s disputed by De Waal, however, who said there is “no moral of ethical justification” for the assault on Tigray.

“Whatever the political origins of this war, the reality today is that there is this ongoing campaign against the Tigrayan people and there is absolutely nothing that could justify that under international humanitarian law,” he added.


1 thought on “Under the thumb of the military mass starvation returns to Ethiopia

  1. ራሱን የፖለቲካ ተንታኝ ብሎ የሚያንቆለጳጵሰዉ ሰው እንዲህ አለ ፥ነጮቹ አመረሩ፥እንደተነቃባቸዉ ተገነዘቡ በትግራይ ዉሥጥ ባልታጠቁ ንጹሓን ወገናች ላይ እየተፈፀመ ያለውን አሰቃቂ ግድያ ያሳስበናል ፥፥ኤርትራን ለወረራዉ ያነሳሳትንና እንድትገባ የፈቀደላትን ከዚህ ጉዳይ ጋር ተያያዥነት ያላቸውን ሚሥጥራዊ ሰነዶች ለሕዝብ ይፋ የምናደርግበት ጊዜ ገና በመሆኑ ምናልባትም ሁለት አሥርት አመታት ሊፈጅ ስለሚችል ይጠብቁን፥፥ በሕዝባችን እልቂት እየተቀባበሉ የፖለቲካ ና ጅርጅታዊ አጀንደ እየፈበረኩ መግለጫ ሲያወጡ ፮ ወራት ተቆጠሩ፥፥ዩኒሴፍ የሕፃናት እንግልት ረሀብ ያሳስበኛል ሲል የሴቶችና የእናቶች መብት ተሟጋቾችም ለነርሱ የሚመች አጀንዳ ፈልቅቆ በማዉጣት በሕዝባችን እልቂት የድርጅታዊ ፖለቲካ መጠቀሚያ ማድረጋዉን ሲገፉበት ተመልክተናል፥፥ወገኖቻችን ሌት ተቀን በጥይት ሲያልቁ ከጥይት የተረፉት ከቤታቸዉ በረሀብ እየተሰቃዩ እየሞቱ ነው፥፥ሁላችንም እንደምናዉቀዉ ወገናችን በየቀኑ ሠርቶ፥ጨዉ በርበሬ፥ሌላም ሌላ ቁሳቁሶች ሸጦ የዕለት ጉርሱን ሸምቶ ከልጆቹ ጋር ካፍሎ የሚኖር ታታሪ ሰዉ አክባሪ ሕዝብ ነው ፥፥እንዴት ና በምን ሂሳብ ነዉ ፮ ወር ሙሉ ሳይሰራ በሕይወት መቆየት የሚችለዉ? ፮ ወር ሙሉ ከጦርነት ጥግና ጣሪያ ያለፈ (የጦርነት ሕግጋትና ሥርዓቶች የማይከበሩበት ንፁሓን ወገኖች በጅምላ በሽንፈት ማግሥት የሚታረዱበት)ዘግናኝ እልቂት የሚኖሩ ሕዝባችን አይደለም እኛ በሲቃ በሀዘን በጭንቀት የምንኖረው፦፦
    As one of millions Patriotic Tegarus, I am requesting the international community to take action to save lives : Urge them to deliver humanitarian aide to every citizen of Tigray , apart from those who live in peaceful towns and villages, and undertake tangible action to stop the war via UN-led military action. No more mere words , but actions !
    Sympathy refers to the feelings of pity or sorrow we have for those who have experienced misfortune. It is when you feel bad for another person who’s going through a difficult moment!
    Sympathy without action means nothing !
    “Sympathy is no substitute for action.” — Dr. David Livingstone,
    Dear UNSC “Expressed deep concern over allegations of human rights violations ” is nothing if it is not accompanied by an action to save lives!!!

    PS: BY the way, I have been informed that some eritreans are starting to claim they do support TDF and want to fight against The PJDF (Higdef) . They launched this campaign recently , since some people spread rumours about the possible entrance of TDF to Eritrea .They are acting out of fear of being isolated if Tegarus enter Eritrea they will not able to set up a new government or governing body created in abroad. Previously, many Eritreans were saying, TDF should hit PJDF and liberate Eritrea for us .I donot want TDF to die for these thugs .
    የወደዱትን ሲያጡ የጠሉትን ይቀላውጡ ነው ነገሩ፥አበይ ኔሮም ሕጂ ሕግደፍ ሞቱ ምስቀረበት ትግራዋይ ትግራይ ንፈትዋ ኢና ምሳኹም ንቃለስ ኢና ምስ አምሐሩ ይህሸኩም ሀሳዳት አነ ብዉልቀይ ምስ ኤርትራዉያን እትምስረት ትግራይ አደይ አይብላን ትግራዋይነት ግን ማንም ዝሀበኒ ፖስፖርት አይኮነን It is the most valuable identity that was handed down to me from my progenitors(Jeganu Tegaru) ፦፦፦

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