April 13, 2024

Photo: Refugees who fled the fighting in Tigray stand in line for supplies at the Um Rakuba camp near the Sudan border. Source: https://www.cfr.org/

 

Photo: Recruits for reserves of Amhara regional forces, together with members of the Amhara militia. Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2021/09/05/

At the Center stage:

Ethiopian forces throwing kids, women into concentration camps, building mass graves, says report. Sources said that after a series of victories by Tigrayan Defence Forces, the occupying forces in Humera started to purge ethnic Tigrayans.

 

Photo: A body is draped in plastic sheeting after being recovered from the riverbank by Wad El Hilou, Sudan. Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/09/05

 

 

 

 

Decoding in detail:

Ethiopian forces occupying a major city in the northern Tigray region are indulging in ethnic cleansing of the native people, including kids and women, by throwing them into makeshift concentration camps and dumping mutilated bodies into mass graves, a report citing witnesses has claimed.

According to the Telegraph, ethnic Amhara forces have been going “door-to-door” to round up anyone who is ethnic Tigrayan in the latest harrowing evidence of population cleansing in Ethiopia’s civil war.

One of the mortifying stories was that, “Feven Berhe was an innocent resident who owned a small shop. They took her to Tekeze river and shot her,” the Telegraph quoted a resident who knew the 40-year-old victim.

“Before they killed her, they removed her eyes and cut off her legs. They did not let anyone pick her body up and bury her,” the resident claimed.

The ethnic cleansing follows a war that broke out between Ethiopia’s federal troops and forces loyal to the Tigray People`s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the Tigray region. Thousands have died and more than two million people have been forced to flee their homes.

 

Photo: Refugees who fled the fighting in Tigray stand in line for supplies at the Um Rakuba camp near the Sudan border. Source: https://www.cfr.org/

 

 Humera city houses a population of approximately 50,000 near Ethiopia’s border with Eritrea and Sudan. Because of its strategic location, it was one of the first places to be attacked when Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s president launched a pincer attack to crush Tigray’s regional government in November.

Though Tigray forces in June reclaimed much of the region as Ethiopian and allied forces retreated, western Tigray is still controlled by authorities from Ethiopia’s neighbouring Amhara region, who have cleared out many ethnic Tigrayans while saying the land is historically theirs.

Since last year, ethnic Amhara forces, who hail from a neighbouring region and are allied to the Nobel laureate, have controlled the city, along with swathes of western Tigray.

 

Photo: A body recovered from the Setit River bank by Wad El Hilou, Sudan, is carried on plastic sheeting. Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/09/05

 

Sources told the Telegraph that after a stunning series of victories by the Tigrayan Defence Forces in late June, the occupying forces in Humera started to purge ethnic Tigrayans in the city.

On July 15, Amhara forces held a public meeting in the main municipality hall in Humera to decide the fate of Tigrayans in the areas they controlled.

“They said this—We should exterminate all Tigrayan residents in the city. We must cleanse them all,” said one man who claims he attended the public meeting.

At the beginning of August, 43 bloated and bloodied bodies were found floating down the Tekeze River, that separates the region from Sudan.

Elderly people, children and pregnant women have all been taken to several detention centres and three different warehouses across the city, which have been turned into makeshift “concentration camps”, survivors said.

At the end of June this year, the balance of power shifted suddenly as Tigrayan forces recaptured the regional capital, Mekelle, and the Ethiopian government began withdrawing troops from the region. The fighting continued, however. In mid-July, Tigrayan forces announced a new offensive to recapture areas taken by the Ethiopian government.

This new offensive, witnesses told CNN, was what prompted the government forces and militia groups holding the northern town of Humera, close to the border with Eritrea and Sudan, to launch a new phase of mass incarcerations of resident Tigrayans.

In recent weeks, a community of Tigrayans living in the Sudanese town of Wad El Hilou, 65 kilometers (40 miles) downstream from Humera, has assumed the role of excavators and grave diggers for the bodies drifting down the river known in Sudan as the Setit and in Ethiopia as the Tekeze.

It is arduous and distressing work. The stench from the bodies fills the air as they first extract each corpse from the riverbed and then dig new graves for them, before performing the burial rites.

Gebretensae Gebrekristos, known as “Gerri,” is one of the community’s leaders; he helps coordinate the grim task with a solemn determination. In total, the community estimates at least 60 bodies have been found so far. He explained how the group is certain the bodies are Tigrayans from Humera.

“We get calls from people in Humera that witnesses — often escaped detainees — saw people marched down to the river in one of the facilities and heard gunshots, or that a number of people were taken by soldiers from the detention facilities and never returned.  We’re told to look out for their bodies coming down the river”, as CNN reported.

Standpoint: – International Scrutiny

The military campaign has resulted in a humanitarian crisis and fears of regional instability. A path forward will require international cooperation, careful diplomacy, and an inclusive political process that restores confidence among the country’s diverse population.

During a debate in the UK parliament on the humanitarian crisis in Tigray, member of parliament for Dulwich and West Norwood Helen Hayes recently cited CNN’s investigation, saying,

“There are sickening accounts of Tigrayans being held in prison camps near the Sudanese border, with reports from Sudan of corpses floating down the Setit river clearly identifiable as Tigrayans and showing signs of torture,” Hayes said. “This conflict contains the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing and genocide,” she added.

A US State Department review of alleged atrocities in Tigray has been underway since at least late June. Acting Assistant Secretary of State Robert Godec told lawmakers at the time that the “assessment is quite far advanced,” and that the Biden administration had “pushed it at a very accelerated pace.”

“The administration is in full agreement that horrifying atrocities have been committed in Tigray and Secretary Blinken did say in earlier testimony, as you’ve said, that there were acts of ethnic cleansing,” Godec said on June 29.

However, human rights campaigners and US-based Tigrayan advocates worry it’s not enough, telling CNN they are concerned that there have not been sanctions publicly announced against Ethiopian government officials, and that it continues to be a member of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), granting it hundreds of millions of dollars of favorable market access in the US.

The worst may be yet to come. It claimed that if Ethiopia fails to consolidate a new political arrangement that accommodates its diverse population of 110 million and ensures basic measures of security and justice, it could be riven by a further conflict that prompts a massive and destabilizing refugee crisis. An important voice for African interests on the global stage would be lost, and external actors who view the strategically important region as a venue for proxy conflict would be empowered.

References:

Gavin, M. (February 10, 2021):” The Conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region: What to Know“, CFR. Org. Retrieved: https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/conflict-ethiopias-tigray-region-what-know

Kassa, L. (September 5, 2021): Ethiopia’s Tigrayans rounded up, mutilated, and dismembered in civil war ethnic purge”. Teleghraph.com. Retrieved from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2021/09/05/ethiopias-tigrayans-rounded-mutilated-dismembered-civil-war/?s=09

WionNews, (September 6, 2021): Ethnic cleansing: Ethiopian forces throwing kids, women into concentration camps, building mass graves, says report” wionews.com. Retrieved from: https://www.wionews.com/world/ethnic-cleansing-ethiopian-forces-throwing-kids-women-into-concentration-camps-building-mass-graves-says-report-411186