The second most populated country in Africa is on the brink of a devastating civil war after the Nobel Prize winner and Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed declared a military attack on the northern part of the eastern Ethiopian region, Tigray.
“The Federal Gov patiently tried for several months to resolve differences with TPLF leadership peacefully; we tried mediation, reconciliation, dialogue. All failed because of TPLF criminal hubris & intransigence. In the last straw TPLF attacked the Northern Command based in Tigray”Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Retrieved from Twitter.
The attack was prompted by increasing months-long tensions between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian federal government. Greater tension was ignited after the TPLF’s refusal to obey Abiy’s rule of postponing national elections. Abiy’s decision, stimulated by the ongoing pandemic, was seen by Tigray’s dominating political party as defying the Ethiopian constitution and resulted in the TPLF undergoing its own elections in September. In early November, the Prime Minister stated that “the last red line had been crossed” as he declared the offensive which came as a response to the TPLF’s assault on the federal government’s military base.
The TPLF’s assault resulted in numerous deaths in the national defense army in Mekelle, military resources were stolen, and property left damaged.
“The national defence force that has been in the bunkers for the past 20 plus years defending its people and the country by paying heavy sacrifices with its blood and flesh, has been attacked, this evening in Mekelle and many other places, by traitors and the force they organised”Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a TV address
The instability that the region is facing cannot be appropriately addressed by aid groups due to the lack of knowledge of people’s needs there. Communications from inside the struggling areas have been constrained ever since the internal conflict began.
Telephone companies and internet services in Tigray have been closed and news updates are unable to be verified as reporters are prohibited from entering the area. During a press conference, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet stated that “there is an urgent need for independent monitoring of the human rights situation in the Tigray region, for all necessary measures to protect civilians, and for accountability for violations.”
In addition to communication services being shut down in the Tigray area, support groups have had limited access to affected communities. Ever since the fight between the government and the TPLF broke out, humanitarian assistance groups were not able to reach Tigrayans and many Tigrayans have found refuge in neighboring countries.
“UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, working with the local authorities, has now registered nearly 50,000 Ethiopian refugees who have crossed into eastern Sudan, with some reporting having to evade armed groups to reach safety.”UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch said at a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
The number of refugees fleeing from the Tigray’s region has been decreasing since the 6th of December, according to the UNHCR spokesperson. However, conditions remain unstable in the area as people require immediate help.
The first convoy to reach Mekelle was organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Ethiopian Red Cross Society. The ICRC reported on Monday that “Medical supplies and relief items from ICRC and the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (@EthioRedCross) safely reached Mekelle, Tigray (#Tigray) region. We are now working to urgently deliver these medical supplies and relief items to health facilities that are providing care for the wounded and sick.”
Many political parties around the world are expressing their concerns and urging their governments to act for a peaceful reconciliation between the opposing factions in Ethiopia.
The Australian Green Party leader, Adam Bandt stated that “People here in Melbourne and around Australia are desperately concerned for their friends, family and loved ones in Ethiopia – in many cases, they aren’t reachable because of a communications blackout.” He pleaded for “the Australian government to do everything it can, including advocating via diplomatic channels for a peaceful resolution and a removal of the telecommunications blackout.”
With the Ethiopian federal government’s efforts to centralize power, pleas for the Ethiopian government to allow humanitarian groups are escalating. On December 15, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement that “Some 2.3 million children in Tigray, Ethiopia, remain cut off from humanitarian assistance amid continuing violence since the beginning of November.” She added that “Protecting these children, many of whom are refugees and internally displaced, and providing them with humanitarian aid must be a priority.”