UN: Hunger, Rape Rising in Ethiopia’s Tigray

Source : voanews

The U.N. humanitarian chief warned Thursday that an already dire situation in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region is getting worse five months into the conflict, with hunger and sexual violence rising and no sign of an Eritrean troop withdrawal.

Mark Lowcock told a closed-door meeting of the U.N. Security Council that his office is starting to receive reports of people starving to death, according to a copy of his remarks seen by VOA.

Map of Ofla woreda, in Tigray, Ethiopia
Ofla woreda, in Tigray

“We received the first report this week of four internally displaced people dying from hunger. I then received a report just this morning of 150 people dying from hunger in Ofla woreda [district] — just south of Mekelle,” Lowcock told council members. “This should alarm us all. It is a sign of what lies ahead if more action is not taken. Starvation as a weapon of war is a violation.”

Mekelle is the capital of Tigray. The region has been the epicenter of hostilities since November, when fighters from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) attacked federal government army bases in the region, according to the federal government. The attack, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said, prompted his government to launch a military offensive to push the group out. 

Abandoned villages

Lowcock said that as of the end of March, Ethiopia’s Bureau of Labor and Social Affairs estimates that 1.7 million people in Tigray have been displaced from their homes.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 1, 2021 A woman leans on the wall of a damaged house which was shelled as federal…
FILE – A woman leans on the wall of a damaged house that was shelled as federal-aligned forces entered the city, in Wukro, north of Mekelle, capital of Tigray. The region has been beset by hostilities since November.

“Since then, hundreds of thousands have been fleeing from Western Tigray — and still are — with many villages having been abandoned entirely,” he said.

Lowcock said aid workers are having difficulty reaching the needy and vulnerable, as “the vast majority” of Tigray is completely or partially inaccessible to aid workers, either because of fighting or denial of access.

The outbreak of hostilities began around harvest season, and it follows a severe locust infestation. Food insecurity is growing, and next season’s food supply is also under threat if fighting does not stop in time for farmers to plant.

The United Nations estimates that at least 4.5 million of Tigray’s nearly 6 million people need humanitarian aid. The Ethiopian government has put the figure even higher — at 91% of the population.

Despite obstacles and danger, humanitarians have been able to reach more than 1.7 million with some form of emergency assistance.

Next week, the U.N. will appeal for $1.5 billion to assist 16 million people in Ethiopia this year.

No sign of withdrawal

On March 26, Abiy said Eritrea had agreed to withdraw its forces from Tigray, but Lowcock told council members there is no evidence this has happened.

“Unfortunately, I must say that neither the U.N. nor any of the humanitarian agencies we work with have seen proof of Eritrean withdrawal,” he said. “We have, however, heard some reports of Eritrean soldiers now wearing Ethiopian Defense Force uniforms.”

The U.S. ambassador issued a statement following the closed-door meeting, noting credible reports that Eritrean forces are changing into Ethiopian military uniforms “in order to remain in Tigray indefinitely.”

“The Eritrean government must withdraw its forces from Ethiopia immediately,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.

A Tigrayan woman who says she was gang raped by Amhara fighters, speaks to surgeon and doctor-turned-refugee, Dr. Tewodros…
FILE – A Tigrayan woman who says she was gang-raped by Amhara fighters speaks to doctor-turned-refugee Tewodros Tefera at the Sudanese Red Crescent clinic in Hamdayet near the Sudan-Ethiopia border, eastern Sudan, March 23, 2021.

Reports of atrocities

Lowcock said humanitarian workers continue to report new atrocities committed by Eritrean forces. Most alarming, he said, are the widespread reports of rapes and gang rapes against civilians.

Diplomats said the U.N. humanitarian chief recounted the horrific story of one survivor, who hid in the forest with her family for six days. During that time, she gave birth to a baby who died a few days later. Her husband was killed. And while she tried to get her remaining children to safety, she encountered four Eritrean soldiers who raped her in front of her children all night and into the following day.

“The majority of rapes are committed by men in uniform,” Lowcock told council members. “Cases reported have involved the Ethiopian National Defense Force, Eritrean Defense Forces, Amhara Special Forces, and other irregular armed groups or aligned militia.”

During a Wednesday meeting of the Security Council that focused on the issue of sexual violence in conflict, many council members expressed concern about reports coming from Tigray and called for independent, credible investigations to be conducted to hold perpetrators accountable.

The U.N. official whose office monitors and works to prevent sexual violence in conflict, Pramila Patten, told that meeting that more than 100 allegations of rape have been recorded since November.

“It may be many months before we know the full scale and magnitude — the extent and impact — of these atrocities,” she said.

Patten noted health care workers are documenting new cases of rape and gang rape daily, “despite their fear of reprisals and attacks on the limited shelters and clinics still in operation.”

Starving Tigray

Executive Summary

The people of Tigray, Ethiopia, are suffering a humanitarian crisis that is entirely man-made. This special report from the World Peace Foundation documents how Ethiopian and Eritrean belligerents in the war in Tigray have comprehensively dismantled the region’s economy and food system. We provide evidence of their ongoing actions to deprive people of objects and activities indispensable to their survival—actions that amount to international crimes. We track the process of deprivation conducted in a widespread and systematic manner. We indicate where it is leading: in coming months, to mass starvation and a risk of famine; in the longer term, to sustained food insecurity and dependence on external assistance.

All the 5.7 million people in Tigray are affected by this crisis, of whom the United Nations estimates that 4.5 million are ‘in need’. It is, first and foremost, an urgent humanitarian disaster demanding life-saving assistance. The World Peace Foundation urges all the belligerents to place the survival and welfare of the affected people above political and military goals.

Regardless of who is responsible for the outbreak of hostilities, the sole reason for the scale of the humanitarian emergency is that the coalition of Ethiopian Federal forces, Amhara regional forces, and Eritrean troops are committing starvation crimes on large scale.

This report does not go into legal details, but we believe that accountability for mass starvation crimes should follow.

The crisis is also a challenge to the international community, which invested substantial resources and expertise over 30 years in ensuring that the formerly famine-prone provinces of Ethiopia would never again be reduced to starvation—and be a charge on the aid budgets of foreign char- ities and donors. How are international partners to respond to the willful destruction of a shared project of poverty alleviation and famine prevention by their ‘development partner’?

There is a severe deficit of information about the depth and spread of the humanitarian crisis in Tigray today. The established humanitarian crisis information and analysis systems have been disabled. There is not even an agreed figure for the number of people in need of assistance, though we cite the widely-used estimate of 4.5 million.

At every stage in the war in Tigray thus far, worst-case assumptions have been proven the most reliable. What we do not yet know has consistently turned out to be more dreadful than what we can document reliably. We have reason to fear that this may be the case for the crisis of forced mass starvation.

This report cannot fill the information void. It tries instead to put together what we know about Tigray’s economy and food system with what we know about the processes whereby they are being dismantled. The report draws upon publicly available data and established frameworks of food security analysis.

Section 1 draws on existing information to provide a (blurry) snapshot of the current humanitarian emergency in Tigray. This is necessarily incomplete due to lack of access for humanitarian workers and journalists, and because standard food security forecasting breaks down in situations in which armed actors are deliberately causing starvation. The picture is extremely alarming. It points to a massive crisis for which national and international humanitarian actors were sorely underprepared, and to which the response to date is grossly inadequate. We conclude that given the food security status of Central and Eastern Tigray, it is likely that the populations of these areas have been suffering elevated mortality rates over the last two months due to the effects of hunger, acute malnutrition and disease. There are no validated methods for extrapolating mor- tality estimates from acute food security analysis that we are able to provide, but a figure in the range 50-100 excess deaths per day is credible.

Section 2 is a general analysis of the process of creating food crisis, with particular attention to the context of armed conflict. It brings together international law prohibiting starvation with the process of famine creation. The key concept here is that the crime of starvation is defined (in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and drawing on the Geneva Convention) as de- stroying, removing or rendering useless ‘objects indispensable to survival.’ We explore what this means in reality: not just ‘objects’ such as foodstuffs and medicines, but also activities such as moving freely to obtain these objects or having employment to earn money and purchase them.

Section 3 examines the structure of livelihoods and food security in Tigray prior to the outbreak of war. The region was historically a food deficit region dependent on migrant labor, and was the epicenter (with neighboring Wollo Province) of the famine of 1984-85. After 1991, the economy was developed and reconfigured by the government in partnership with international donors, determined that never again should people be reduced to starvation. Tigray became more food secure through the promotion of diversified and sustainable smallholder agriculture, commercial sesame production, artisanal mining, industries, and various components of the Productive Safety Net Program, among other initiatives. This was a major achievement that took three decades to build.

The paradox of resilience in Tigray is that this impressive development has exposed the population to new vulnerabilities should those new structures be dismantled. The economy and food system have been hard hit by the hostilities and consequent closure of banks and microfinance institutions and the interruption of government resource transfers, the seizure of land and forced displacement, and massive looting. This looting includes the systematic ransacking of industry and services along with the closure of migrant labor options. This framework provides a more comprehensive picture and indicates the trajectory of the crisis. Achieving basic food security in the next 12-18 months will be extremely difficult for the average Tigrayan, alongside the long- term challenge of impoverishment.

Section 4 compiles evidence for starvation crimes committed in Tigray. It is a detailed list based on public sources augmented by some confidential information from interviews. The evidence listed is not intended to identify specific starvation crimes nor to identify specific perpetrators. Rather, it points to evidence indicative of various criminal acts that warrant further investigation. It includes a summary account of looting and asset stripping, asset destruction, and the pillage and vandalism of health facilities, schools, homes, banks, offices, hotels, water and sanitation services, and additional private and public infrastructure. It describes the obstruction of essential activities including through ethnic cleansing, sexual violence, impeding labor migration and de- stroying opportunities for employment. This section also examines the role of the information and communications blackout in preventing affected people from coping and briefly touches on the attacks on refugee camps for Eritreans.

Section 5 turns to the inhibition of an effective international response, including lack of timely and accurate information and lack of humanitarian access. The tight restrictions on information flows from Tigray mean that widespread and systematic atrocities are concealed from the world, including essential information about the perpetration of starvation and the impacts on the civilian population. Access for humanitarian actors remains limited in where they can go, what they can do, and their ability to assess the overall situation. Most of the affected population lacks full and safe access to humanitarian assistance.

Section 6 considers responses and remedies. This begins with a cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access (for humanitarian actors and affected people). Urgent steps are needed to keep farmers on their land and provide them with the necessities for cultivating in the fast-approaching rainy season. Freedom of communication is an essential element in the above. We then turn to responding to the element of intentional starvation, which begins with acknowledging starvation crimes, investigating and punishing them, and securing restitution and reparations.

Our stark conclusion is that the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea are starving the people of Tigray. Circumstantial evidence suggests that this is intentional, systematic and widespread. In today’s predicament it may be necessary for international humanitarian actors to cooperate with the authorities to provide essential assistance to the victims. It is not appropriate to praise the Ethiopian government for permitting modest acts of mercy towards the survivors of its policies.

How I Found Myself in the Tigrayan Struggle

How I Found Myself in the Tigrayan Struggle

The Story of a Tigrayan in Addis Ababa

I am not a great writer, and under normal circumstances, I would not be writing about this. However, I have realized that when it comes to Ethiopia, staying quiet hasn’t benefited Tigrayans. With the genocidal war waged on Tigray on November 4, 2020, I feel the need to speak up. 

This is not a special story. It is one that is common among Tigrayans in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 

In the past year, I have realized that I have lived in a fantasy world all my life. I grew up thinking that Ethiopia was home to a perfectly diverse, peace-loving, and progressive population. I am now amazed by how out of touch I was from the dark history and reality of Ethiopia.

My parents are Tigrayans and I was born and raised in Addis Ababa. My family is middle class at best. My parents worked hard to provide us with a quality education and to put food on the table. Up until my twenties, my connection to Tigray was limited to sending books, pens, and clothings to relatives in Tigray. 

I was a typical Addis Ababaian. My family was too. We assimilated, unconsciously conforming to the culture, language, and lifestyle of the city. We celebrated ‘Abebayosh’ (a more typical Amhara celebration) more than ‘Ashenda’ (a Tigrayan festival). We sang and danced to “Menilik Tikur Sew” and “Ethiopia hagere yedefersh yiwdem,” and  other songs that were pro-Ethiopian nationalism. Little did I know that I was singing and dancing to songs that would be used as background music to the decimation of my own people – Tigrayan people.

“I grew up thinking that Ethiopia was home to a perfectly diverse, peace-loving, and progressive population. I am now amazed by how out of touch I was from the dark history and reality of Ethiopia.”

As a member of the Tigrayan population in Addis Ababa, I now feel deeply betrayed by both communities. I blame my parents and relatives for not teaching me Tigray’s history and for not telling me what Tigrayans went through in the past. 

I also feel betrayed by the people in my hometown, the city I was born and raised in, that now sees me and my parents as the “enemy.” The truth came out in pieces … and then slowly flooded our homes and hearts with blood.

My upbringing as a Tigrayan in Addis Ababa… 

I grew up aware of my Tigrayan identity. I was raised to respect the dynamic identity of populations in Ethiopia. I was raised to be conscious of others’ feelings, emotions and to not offend anyone in our community.

Retrospectively, I am not going to deny the fact that I had my own implicit biases against people from outside of Addis Ababa. For example, my friends and I often laughed at non-city sounding names. I had my own biases against every ‘non-Addis Ababian’ (non-urban) person. It was all fun and jokes at the time, but I believe those small implicit biases contribute to the bigger problems we see today. 

Ethiopia’s university system draws students from across the country to new areas in hopes of creating appreciation for the country’s diversity. Now, as I witness students who once studied at Mekelle University (in Tigray’s capital) cheering for the destruction of Mekelle or Tigray, I can’t help but wonder if education or cultural integration through universities failed to address the root cause of the problem. 

2005 Election

As I think back, there were always signs of what was to come. One of my best friends once said to me, “Tegrewochu yihidulin” (we want Tigrayans out). We were in middle school. He wasn’t the brightest kid, he never really paid attention in our civic or history classes. His parents appeared to be loving people. I wondered what they taught him at home behind closed doors.

There were protests throughout the city against the outcome of the elections. It did not take long for me to realize that Tigrayans were being scapegoated for the problems.

Many were chanting, “Tigre wede Mekelle” (deport Tigrayans to Mekelle). My Tigrayan friends and I were shocked. We knew our parents were from Tigray,  but we had no clue what they did to deserve deportation. None of us had been to Mekelle at that time, so it felt somewhat foreign.

What happened during the protests was utter chaos. My most vivid memory was of the fear in my father’s eyes when he came to pick me up from school during one of the protests in Addis Ababa. I could see he felt threatened, unsafe, and concerned about the future.

Although I was young, I too felt the uncertainty, the rush, the panic.

“Many were chanting, “Tigre wede Mekelle” (deport Tigrayans to Mekelle). My Tigrayan friends and I were shocked. We knew our parents were from Tigray, but we had no clue what they did to deserve deportation.”

ESAT: The media that spread hate against Tigray and Tigrayans

The flames of ethnic tension in 2005 continued to be fanned by Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT). 

ESAT journalists shared conspiracy theories, and demonized Tigrayans every day. Ethiopians, ate it up!

In my home, we were not allowed to watch TV, though on occasion we watched some family oriented shows. Our parents wanted us to focus on our studies. I had never heard of ESAT. It was never brought up in conversation with friends and we never really discussed politics. I thought all of our problems could be solved if we were educated together. I had no clue what the rest of Addis Ababa was being fed day in and day out until recently.

The first time I learned about ESAT in 2016, it came with a warning from my cousin who lived in the United States. She told me to keep my “eyes open.” She mentioned that Tigrayans were being targeted in the media – especially on ESAT. There was apparently a Youtube video on “How to shoot a Tigrayan in the leg” and that ESAT released a statement to challenge the Ethiopian people to fight Tigrayans who made up 5 million of Ethiopia’s 95 million population at that time. I dismissed it and thought “diasporas are crazy, man. No one is going to do that.

But I was wrong… 

Following ESAT’s call for solidarity against Tigryans in 2016, universities became a hit zone for Tigrayans, and later they became a crime scene for everyone. So many despicable things happened, including the killing of innocent Tigrayans, the removal of Tigrayan students’ eyes, and the burning of Tigrayan homes in Gondar that launched the internal displacement of Tigrayans from different parts of Ethiopia. There was a systematic demonizing and persecution of Tigrayans all over Ethiopia.

The same friend who said, “we want the Tigrayans out,” in middle school, said that the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) made Ethiopians racist. The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was a key member of the EPRDF coalition and Tigrayans were often associated with the EPRDF regime and its doings.

“Many despicable things happened, including the killing of innocent Tigrayans, the removal of Tigrayan students’ eyes, and the burning of Tigrayan homes in Gondar that launched the internal displacement of Tigrayans from different parts of Ethiopia.”

Other people also joined the chorus. 

You don’t think Tigrayans benefited from the system?” or  “By the way, I like the people of Tigray but not TPLF…”  said the same person who is denying the rape and death of civilians during the genocidal war today. 

Our Addis Ababian friends were quick to tell us about Tigrayans’ experience in Addis Ababa. They didn’t want to hear what we had to say. If we had anything positive to say about Tigray or Tigrayans, some of them went as far as telling us that we were brainwashed and lied to by our Tigrayan community elders. 

Slowly, I stopped engaging with friends about the Tigrayan struggle for equality in Ethiopia. They believed the accusations made about Tigrayans on ESAT more than they believed their own friends. 

I am not going to defend the EPRDF regime for its oppressive reputation, but the party did not represent Tigrayans nor work for the Tigrayan population alone. Tigrayans were members of the community receiving the same services as others. We were no different. Money didn’t rain in Tigray or in our homes, but the way others portrayed it made it seem like each one of us was receiving gold chains for every breath we took. 

“We supported the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and we gave money to the project… Tigrayans had fully bought into the idea of the “Ethiopian” identity, without realizing that we were never fully accepted by other Ethiopians.”

Ethiopia was one of the fastest growing economies during the EPRDF regime, but Tigrayans were not the beneficiaries of the rapid economic growth. The Ethiopian elites were made up of people from different ethinic groups. 

Tigrayans often supported developmental projects during the EPRDF regime, not because TPLF was a key party in the coalition, but because all we wanted was development, for the country to do better, and most of all – we wanted peace. We know the cost of war – most of us have lost close family members in wars. Our mothers were thankful for and willing to do anything to preserve peace. We supported the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and we gave money to the project without a second thought. Tigrayans had fully bought into the idea of the “Ethiopian” identity, without realizing that we were never fully accepted by other Ethiopians. 

It was shocking and painful to discover your own friends were saying such awful things about Tigrayans.

Personal experiences of anti-Tigrayans sentiments…

“A Tigrayan can’t be rich, poor, smart, or dumb without having his or her Tigrayan roots mentioned in the conversation in Addis Ababa.”

A Tigrayan can’t be rich, poor, smart, or dumb without having his or her Tigrayan roots mentioned in the conversation in Addis Ababa.

I remember once in my profile picture on social media I had an afro, but I was naive to not know the association of this hairstyle with Tigrayan fighters during the Derg regime. A very close friend said: 

Zemedochisihn new mitmesiyew, keyriw please” (Please change your afro hair style, you look like your Tigrayan relatives.)

Tigrayans were also perceived as having access to wealth and weapons. Occasionally, I got the usual:

“Tigre aydelesh eski yeteshale sira asfeligilign” (Aren’t you a Tigrayan, find me a better job through your connections.)

To this day I cannot believe what a medical doctor friend of mine said: 

It looks like the number of contraceptives and abortion laws in Amhara was designed to depopulate the Amhara region.”

Typically, when people refer to harmful laws implemented in the Amhara region, they blame the EPRDF regime, but I had never heard such extreme opinions before. I didn’t respond to her statement, I was in disbelief. 

The comments continued.  The sad thing is most of us Tigrayans did not bother to correct their jokes on Tigrayan identity or how the EPRDF was being associated with Tigrayans. 

“The comments continued. The sad thing is most of us Tigrayans did not bother to correct their jokes on Tigrayan identity or how the EPRDF was being associated with Tigrayans.”

And then there was the election– 

Tigrayans decided to hold a regional election in August 2020. The unelected Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, did not support this election. He wanted to postpone the regional and federal elections and used COVID-19 as an excuse. Through a state-sponsored campaign, Abiy’s administration successfully made it look like holding an election was a crime against humanity.

During this period, Abiy strengthened ties with Eritrea’s dictator Isaias Afwerki. Ethiopian youth went out to celebrate dictator Isayas’s visit to Ethiopia. No one questioned why Ethiopians or the Prime Minister would celebrate a guy who is known to have destroyed his own country – Eritrea. 

Anti-Tigrayan sentiments escalated across the media. The Amhara elites began telling farmers not to sell their goods to Tigray or Tigrayans. They genuinely believed that the best way to defeat Tigrayans would be to starve them. They blocked roads to Tigray and started robbing trucks and cars in an attempt to starve the Tigrayans in Tigray.

Amhara Regional Government officials admitted to blocking roads to Tigray because Tigrayans were “harboring criminals.” 

“Tigrayans decided to hold a regional election in August 2020. The unelected Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, did not support this election. He wanted to postpone the regional and federal elections and used COVID-19 as an excuse.”

I will never forget the videos of armed men threatening to destroy Tigray, broadcasted on social media since 2018. The same men were paraded around as heroes in Amhara Regional Government meetings and conferences. 

Each one became hunters of what the Prime Minister called ‘‘ye ken jib’’ (daytime hyenas).

I visited Tigray during the elections. No one was harassing non-Tigrayans. To the contrary, the people would speak to you in their broken Amharic if they felt like you were struggling with Tigrigna – it is our culture to welcome guests. No hate was sung against innocent people. They would criticize Abiy, but they saw criticizing a politician as a right. I was pleasantly surprised by the political knowledge of the average Tigrayan and their ability to separate people and governments.

The world turned upside down right before our eyes

The war on Tigray broke out on November 4, 2020. 

People in Addis Ababa began voicing their support for the war. Our friends, our neighbors, and our co-workers. All of them were happy to hear a war being waged on Tigray. 

“People in Addis Ababa began voicing their support for the war. Our friends, our neighbors, and our co-workers. All of them were happy to hear a war being waged on Tigray.”

They posted and shared their support of the war on social media outlets. To my surprise, those who had lived and worked in Tigray, or those with better exposure to the people of Tigray than myself, were cheering for the destruction of Tigrayan cities.

Our Instagram friends who had enjoyed watching what we had had for breakfast, lunch and dinner muted us when we started speaking out against war.

Every complaint was followed by whataboutism. Friends were no longer allies. People stopped asking questions and just started to watch and see how the war would play out.

Addis Ababa police raided Tigrayan homes. Some Tigrayans were being taken to the police station and disappearing for days. My aunt was held hostage by the police for no apparent reason. 

We were nervous to go to the airport even as civilians. We began mocking each other by looking at each other’s’ ID’s to see if we could be identified by our last names and thrown in jail. Tigrayans usually have distinct names that could be identified easily. We asked ourselves if we would lie and say we were not Tigrayans. Would we proudly say we were Tigrayans and risk prison? 

We could not reach loved ones in Tigray. But news about airstrikes and door to door killings in Tigray were common. Everyone was in the dark and it only kept getting darker.

Constant anxiety and panic attacks. We received phone calls from family members abroad with uncontrollable tears. They somehow knew our pain. 

Police officers were telling people to identify Tigrayans coming back from Mekelle. Our neighbors called our children “little juntas” and their friends were told not to hang out with Tigrayans. The non-Tigrayan people we once considered ours turned against us.  

Our non-Tigrayan mother and father in-laws started denying the atrocities happening inside of Tigray, forgetting that we are family. They always asserted: “In the end, Tigrayans will be Tigrayans.” They seemed to be disappointed by the fact that we didn’t want to see another war. 

My coworkers couldn’t hold in their excitement to go cheer for war on Tigray. Those who grieved for the innocent lives during the protests that followed the 2005 election results happily accepted that Tigrayan youth (our brothers and sisters) could be collateral damage in the name of politics.

All the while, Tigrayans in Ethiopia and across the globe were worried about their loved ones in Tigray and in Addis Ababa. My family has already lost three distant cousins.  A few family members in the ENDF are missing after being taken out for questioning and a few more are seeking refuge in Sudan.

Humanity slowly disappeared into thin air. The Ethiopians who in the past would stand by to make sure you have your tire changed, or gather to help with anything, turned into strangers who wished you ill. 

Our Ethiopian “friends” chose to ignore our suffering. They never asked about our relatives in Tigray. At birthday celebrations, they got mad at us for not laughing as much, or for acting “oddly.”

It became clear. They never liked our Tigrayan identity. Such dislike did not develop in the past thirty years; it was a culturally and socially constructed hate that goes back for generations. 

Conversations with friends in Addis Ababa have become different — shallow, tasteless, meaningless. They want Tigrayans to denounce their Tigrayan roots. Tigrayans’ response: “Watch me protect it with all I have got.”

In the end…

I am Tigrayan. No amount of hate or fear can diminish that part of my identity. I, like many others raised in Addis Ababa, didn’t grow up romanticizing living in Tigray. 

Since the war began, I have made every effort to learn about Tigray’s history and its people. There is nothing that I am ashamed of. 

In fact, I have found a cause greater than myself. A cause to protect my heritage and my identity. A cause to resist forced assimilation and to rebuild Tigray.

My last message is to fellow ESAT followers. I would like you to to understand that:

  1. A country is not an idea, it is the people in it.
  2. Invasion is not liberation. Under Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia has allowed Eritrea to invade Tigrayan lands. 
  3. War kills both sides, not just the minority group.
  4. War has rules. You cannot rape, kill civilians, and demolish religious sites, universities or factories.
  5. Justice does not equal vengeance.
  6. Having an election should always be encouraged. It should never be a crime, especially when the constitution allows for it. 
  7. The EPRDF is not the TPLF. Four coalition parties led the country under the EPRDF.  Oppression under the EPRDF should never be associated with Tigrayans or Tigray. 
  8. Tigray will prevail. History will judge those who are supporting the genocidal war. 

Betty – Omna Tigray External Contributor April 2021

Daily Noon Briefing Highlights: Ethiopia

Daily Noon Briefing Highlights – 14 April 2021

Ethiopia

The humanitarian situation remains dire in Tigray, with access constantly changing.

Despite recent improvements in access, active conflict continues in some areas, restricting the humanitarian response. Hostilities have been reported in the north-western, central, eastern, south-eastern and southern zones. The Alamata-Mekelle-Adigrat-Shire road is partially accessible.

Given the highly fluid displacement situation and access constraints, the number of displaced people remains unknown. According to official figures, an estimated 1.7 million people were displaced across the region as of 27 March.

Gross violations and abuses against civilians, including sexual violence, also continue to be reported.

Despite challenges, humanitarian partners are scaling up the response.

At least 1.4 million people have received double allocations of food rations in 12 targeted districts and in Mekelle and Shire towns. More than 160,000 newly displaced people have been provided with emergency shelter and vital relief items. More than 630,000 people have accessed clean water through water trucking.

But the humanitarian response is still inadequate to reach the estimated 4.5 million people who need life-saving assistance (the estimated numbers are according to the Tigray interim administration).

More funding is urgently needed to scale up the response to help all affected people. Continue reading “Daily Noon Briefing Highlights: Ethiopia”