Ethiopia. Is humanitarian assistance in Tigray boycotted by the federal government?
After 36 days of the conflict in Tigray, the blitzkrieg against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front has turned into an Afghanistan-style nightmare. To win, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali called in mercenaries from Eritrea and committed war crimes with clear ethnic orientations. Now he is boycotting access to the UN and NGOs in Tigray so as not to reveal these two horrible truths. Fulvio Beltrami
We are on the 36th day of the conflict in Tigray. All hopes of militarily resolving a political crisis between Prime Minister Abiy’s government and the Tigray People Liberation Front — TPLF have vanished. The Tigrinya regional defence forces are far from being defeated. Despite the information blackout imposed by the federal government, news of fierce fighting in Tigray emerges every day, also confirmed by various government entities including the United States and the European Union.
Not having achieved the total annihilation of the TPLF and the capture of its political and military leaders is creating two serious problems for the Nobel Peace Prize. The first concerns the military involvement of Eritrea, still included in the international list of countries that support terrorism. The second is the mass violence against civilians. The thousands of testimonies of Ethiopian refugees collected in refugee camps in Sudan highlight a systematic use of violence as a weapon of war to break popular support for the TPLF. Given the nature of this violence on an ethnically identifiable population, such war crimes automatically turn into ethnic cleansing.
Both the TPLF and independent journalists accuse the federal government of Addis Ababa of carrying out an ethnically targeted policy aimed even at deporting the Tigrinya population to other locations in the country in order to destroy the mono-ethnic composition of the Tigray region. A region that could be dismembered by offering border territories to Eritrea as a form of compensation for its participation in the conflict and the colonization of Tigrinya lands by the poor peasants of the adjacent Amhara region. A colonization that will strengthen the already existing opposition and conflict between the two ethnic groups: Tigrigna and Amhara.
On Wednesday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet told reporters in Geneva that the spiral conflict is having a “frightening impact on civilians”. From a first (very partial) assessment of the humanitarian situation carried out by UN observers, the picture of the humanitarian situation in the “rebel” region is devastating. Over 50,000 refugees in Sudan, which could double by the end of December. Almost 900,000 people in total need for food and health, of which 52% children from 01 to 10 years.
The United Nations has been trying unsuccessfully for a week to activate humanitarian aid. There is a clear feeling that the federal government deliberately wants to create a thousand difficulties for accessing the Tigray population. Reinforcing this suspicion is the fact that aid workers have not been able to reach the province of Tigray for more than a month despite serious reports of shortages of food, fuel and drinking water, as well as cash. Hospitals are also in urgent need of drugs.
The unrestricted access to humanitarian assistance requested by the United Nations was formally accepted by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali but in fact boycotted by the defence forces of the federal army. If the same (very contradictory) situation had occurred in South Sudan or in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a dispute between the directives of the central government and the Army General Staff could be assumed. Unfortunately this is not the case in Ethiopia.
Since the time of the Emperors of the Amhara Solomonic dynasty, the central power has always had total control of the administrative and national defense apparatus. Consequently, the boycotts carried out by federal soldiers, which still prevent prompt humanitarian assistance, have a high probability of not being the initiative of some extremist General motivated by ethnic hatred but directives from the Addis Ababa government.
At a first analysis in an attempt to understand the reasons that lead the government to deny humanitarian assistance to its own population in Tigray, one can assume the precise intention of ethnic extermination. This is the main accusation levelled at the government by the TPLF that speaks openly of genocide. A closer analysis reveals that the ethnic question would take a back seat. The two main reasons would be to hide the presence of Eritrean troops fighting alongside federal soldiers and the atrocities committed on civilians.
Two reasons di extreme importance for the international public image of the Prime Minister, Nobel Peace Prize 2019 winner. Calling for help a country that supports international terrorism governed by a bloody North Korea-style dictatorship to massacre its own population would destroy the image of a Democratic Prime Minister, reformist and attentive to human rights. As well as the systematic violence against civilians used as a weapon of war. Western media (caged by the positive image of the Abiy government that they have helped create since 2018) still speak of violence committed on both sides. Unfortunately, the thousands of testimonies collected show that the majority of violence against the population was committed by federal troops, Eritrean mercenaries and the ruthless fascist Amhara militias made up of far-right paramilitary groups. The United Arab Emirates made their contribution to death by sending war drones that would have killed civilians.
The need to hide the presence of Eritrean troops appears to be a government priority. To demonstrate this last Sunday, federal soldiers fired on a UN humanitarian convoy near the town of Shimelba, near the city of Shire. The humanitarian convoy was on its way to the Eritrean refugee camp, made up mostly of dissidents from the ferocious regime of Isaias Afwerki and young people who fled to escape the compulsory military draft which lasts 20 years in Eritrea.
The incident in Shimelba was initially denied by the Addis Ababa authorities. In the face of the investigation conducted by “Reuters”, the federal government initially tried to blame the TPLF, only to admit the incident.
The version provided by the spokesman for the Ethiopian government task force for Tigray, Redwan Hussein, claims that a UN humanitarian convoy on its way to the Eritrean refugee camp broke through two checkpoints, refusing to be escorted by the military. At the third checkpoint they were ordered to stop for checks. Federal soldiers would fire when the UN convoy attempted to break through the third military block. Hussein reported that the humanitarian team was hastily heading to an unauthorized area for unknown reasons. “When they were about to break the third, they were shot and arrested,” he told national media.
For those who know the strict UN security protocols for its humanitarian workers in conflict zones, the government version is nothing short of fanciful. Local sources report that the assault on the convoy and the arrest of UN officials was motivated by witnessing the presence of soldiers from the regular army of Eritrea. Two diplomatic sources reported that the United Nations team met with Eritrean troops, although both Ethiopia and Eritrea have denied any forays across the border by President Isaias Afwerki’s military.
The United Nations has decided not to speak openly about the incident. The UN spokesman in Nairobi, Kenya refused to answer questions submitted by Reuters. Yesterday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said there is no evidence of the existence of Eritrean troops inside Ethiopia. “We have no evidence of the presence of Eritrean troops inside Ethiopia. I confronted the (Ethiopian) Prime Minister with this question, and he assured me that they did not enter Tigray territory, which is the only area where find is the area that corresponded to the disputed territory between the two countries that in the peace agreement it was decided to return to Eritrea “, Guterres told reporters.
A statement in stark contrast to the revelations of American military observers and other diplomatic sources in Ethiopia who speak of irrefutable evidence of the presence of Eritrean soldiers who are fighting in Tigray alongside Abiy’s federal troops, complicating the ongoing conflict. Claims made to Reuters, which interviewed several unidentified diplomats in the region and a US official, follow growing allegations by Tigray leaders that Ethiopia’s long-time rival Eritrea has joined Ethiopian forces against a common enemy despite the denials of both nations.
The US State Department did not confirm the US conclusions, though a spokesperson said he would view any proven Eritrean involvement with great concern and that his embassy in Asmara urged restraint from officials. A necessary diplomatic prudence subtly deceived by the same American government that has provided evidence and information to the main Anglo-Saxon media including CNN and The Guardian.
Why UN follow the official version of the absence of Eritrean troops in Tigray? Various conspiracy hypotheses have arisen on the network. The reason seems to be simpler and is explained to us by an African Union diplomat who released the short news in a personal capacity. “The real reason for the attack by UN officials was the attempt to hide the presence of Eritrean soldiers as the news would have offered valid arguments to the TPLF Tigrinya government. The fact that the United Nations is reluctant to confirm the news, although it is already in the public domain, could be explained by the need for UN humanitarian agencies to have access to the population in need. “
The noble attempt not to compromise humanitarian assistance to the needy populations of Tigray clashes with the intransigence shown by Prime Minister Abiy. On Wednesday, December 9, the Ethiopian government rejected the UN request to launch an independent investigation into war crimes and generalized violence against civilians, stating: “Ethiopia does not need a babysitter” referring to the UN. The declaration of the Addis Ababa government is aimed at boycotting the UN request for greater transparency in the war events that began last November 4 and protected by a total information blackout.
The statement by senior government official Redwan Hussein came amid international calls for greater transparency in the month-long fighting between Ethiopian forces and those of the fugitive Tigray regional government which is thought to have killed thousands, including civilians.
If that weren’t enough, on the same day the Ethiopian government opposed what it calls external “meddling” from dialogue efforts to deliver aid, drawing on its history as a rare, never colonized African country, a source of deep national pride.
But frustration is mounting as the northern region of Tigray remains largely cut off from the outside world, with food and medicine desperately needed by the population of six million. The lack of transparency, as most communications and transport links remain interrupted, has complicated efforts to verify the warring side’s claims. It also hurts efforts to understand the extent of the atrocities committed since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on 4 November that fighting had begun with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has dominated the government and army of the United States. ‘Ethiopia for nearly three decades before his arrival. in power and cast aside.
Meanwhile, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the situation in Ethiopia is “worrying and unstable” among ethnic profile relations of Tigers, including in Addis Ababa. “We have reports that especially the areas surrounding cities such as Mekelle, Sherero, Axum, Abiy Addi and the borders between the Amhara and Tigray regions continue fighting between federal forces and the TPLF and affiliated militias on both sides. There is an urgent need for independent monitoring of the human rights situation in the Tigray region, all necessary measures to protect civilians and accountability for violations.” Bachelet told a news report. Wednesday in Geneva.
The humanitarian corridor is also compromised. The Abiy government has made it clear that it wants to manage the delivery of aid. According to confidential sources, there are government directives aimed at preventing any independent humanitarian action by UN agencies and NGOs for fear that this assistance will benefit the defence forces of the TPLF. Two days ago a joint convoy of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Ethiopian Red Cross, with supplies for hundreds of wounded (mostly civilians) headed to Mekelle, the capital of Tigray was blocked by federal soldiers and is now awaiting authorization while hundreds of civilian victims of the bombing of Mekelle are dying in hospitals for lack of medicines.