As a signatory of the Appeal by concerned scientists and development professionals, we continue updating you on the humanitarian situation in Tigray.
So many developments with regard to the Tigray War over the last ten days! We’ll address the diplomatic situation, but on the ground little has changed, and massacres, sexual violence and displacement continue! Hence, this newsletter will first bring the news on the dire humanitarian situation, and also present some important new works: a list of massacres in the Tigray war, and the report of the Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum.
- Two bright girls who give hope – refugees
I will start with two sad stories. Two young girls who fled the war and the massacres and who suffer enormously. Listen to their suffering, but also their wisdom:
This is the new generation. I hope that they will be strong in these difficult conditions, for themselves, their family and their community! These clever, educated and brave girls give us hope for the future and for the reconstruction of Tigray.
The new edition of the “Atlas of the Humanitarian Situation” includes a list of 151 massacres in Tigray since the beginning of the war. In order to illustrate the type of terror and atrocities that is widespread all over Tigray, we narrate the massacre that occurred in Grizana, half way between Samre and Finerwa, some 80 km SW of Mekelle. On Wednesday 24 March, Eritrean soldiers entered the village, and at a certain moment, they missed one of their comrades. The soldiers then dragged farmers out of their house asking them about their lost comrade, which the farmers didn’t know about. Farmer Adhana Dimtsu (55) was already shot dead in revenge, when the missing soldier appeared from nowhere.
In the evening of that same day, in the same village, Eritrean soldiers were asking children (at gunpoint) to show them the houses of militiamen. Among several houses, the children showed the soldiers the house of one militiaman, where they found his wife (Gidey Teweldu). She was asked “where is your husband”? She didn’t say “he went to the mountains” but rather said that he is in a friend’s house (presumably to avoid further attention). The soldiers forced her to take them there. She had nowhere to take them but pretended to be checking on the neighborhood. That’s when they started shooting door to door. The wife was killed with her two kids as well as ten other people in that same neighborhood. Victims include Hagos Abrha (53), his wife (45) and his brothers Tesfakiros (45) and Hailu (38), Adugna Gebrehana (29), Gebremeskel Getahun (58), Gebreyohannes Hailemariam (33), Gidey Tsegay (35), Gidey Teweldu (45) and her two kids Hadas Mruts (15) and Hailu Mruts (2). In that same incident alone, nine men, two women and two children were killed. At least five additional corpses were found in the surroundings that had been partly devoured by hyenas, and these are not identified among the villagers, presumably they were from other villages and shot while fleeing to the mountains.
After this, people left the villages and moved to areas controlled by the TDF. Grizana has become another ghost town in Tigray.
In our previous newsletter, we elaborated on PM Abiy’s discourses, in which he twice justified/downplayed massacres in comparison to military losses. In other parts of his discourse to Parliament, he nonetheless promised to bring anyone who committed atrocities to justice. It seems that in these battlefields around Samre and Gijet the soldiers have not heard this part or they do not believe that this might occur, or no ‘order from above’ has been given. In the meantime, more massacres are perpetrated.
- Update of the Atlas of the Humanitarian Situation
As mentioned, the Tigray “Atlas of the Humanitarian Situation” has been updated. The update includes
- a new section on status of telecommunication and banking services, with map
- a new map on food security outcomes up to September 2021
- updated maps of civilian victims (‘fully documented’ as well as ‘reported’) and massacres
- in annex a list of 151 massacres in Tigray since the beginning of the war. A massacre is understood as at least five civilians killed at the same place and in the same day.
The maps can also be interactively consulted in this web application: https://arcg.is/vmbWH0
We have been interviewed by the Belgian newspaper De Morgen (30 March) about the preparation of this Atlas: ‘Tieners vermoord om te vermijden dat ze later wraak nemen’: Gentse geografen monitoren burgeroorlog in Ethiopië [in Dutch]; English translation: ‘Teenagers killed to avoid revenge later’: Ghent geographers monitor civil war in Ethiopia
- The Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum Report on Tigray
Just out! You may download the Report on Tigray by the Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum. It holds an awful amount of details on the war crimes in Tigray and also requests for ceasefire, inquiries and peacekeeping. Furthermore, it is important to notice that a large number of human rights associations, from all over the wider Horn (including Rwanda) support this document.
By the end of March, the Ethiopian PM Lt. Col. Abiy Ahmed briefly made headlines by suddenly admitting that Eritrea is involved in the Tigray war and that massacres had been committed, while he had denied these facts since 5 months, even in private conversation with António Guterres, the UN Secretary General. Trying to save face after such earlier blatant lies, he travelled to Asmara and came up with a communiqué that the Eritrean forces were going to leave soon from the border areas. In the meantime, there are reports of fresh Eritrean troops being transported into Tigray, and also conscript mobilisation in Eritrea, as of the age of 16. Below is a large set of related articles, which I summarise as a set of reflections:
- Eritrea itself does not mention the withdrawal, which undermines the credibility of the Ethiopian statement.
- Ethiopia lied about the Eritrean presence, it might be the same with regard to withdrawal?
- Abiy equated, even justified rape and massacres by the fact that his soldiers died. On the ground, massacres continue, such as in Grizana (see section 2) and near Negash (as reported by MSF)
- There is reason to fear that the Ethiopian and Eritrean armed forces are trying to buy time, conceding “something on the border”, and still plan to win this war by “another push”
- The common spirit in Tigray: “Why does the world only come with endless deeply concerned statements?”
- Reliable diplomatic sources mention that sanctions against the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments are under way – the evidence of severe human rights infringements by these regimes is all too overwhelming
Related articles in international media:
- African Affairs, 30 March: In comprehensive new report, U.S. government exposes human rights abuses in Tigray, Oromia, and the rest of Ethiopia
- Le Monde (leading French newspaper), 26 March: En Ethiopie, le premier ministre, Abiy Ahmed, annonce le retrait des troupes érythréennes du Tigré [in French] – English translation has been published
- Financial Times, 26 March: Ethiopia ‘will be digging up mass graves for a decade’: inside Tigray’s dirty war
- TV5Monde, 26 March: L’Erythrée, acteur clé de la crise au Tigré [in French]
- Trouw (The Netherlands), 23 March: De burgeroorlog in Tigray begint steeds meer te lijken op de Rwandese genocide [in Dutch] – English translation: The civil war in Tigray is becoming more and more like the Rwandan genocide
- The Guardian, 28 March: Scale of Tigray horror adds to pressure on Ethiopian leader
- The Telegraph, 27 March: ‘We’re here to make you HIV positive’: Hundreds of women rush to Tigray hospitals as soldiers use rape as weapon of war
- Globe and Mail, 25 March: UN, Ethiopian rights agency to conduct joint investigation into abuses in Tigray region
- Sky News, 24 March: Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: The ‘twisted joke’ of denial in the violence is finally laid bare
- Globe and Mail, 24 March: Ethiopia confirms massacre by Eritrean soldiers
- Eritrea Ministry of Information, 26 March. Press Release. Note the body language in the second photo!
- Reuters, 25 March: Ethiopia rejected U.S. call for unilateral ceasefire during talks, U.S. says
- France24, 26 March: Ethiopian PM’s week of dramatic disclosures evades root of Tigray crisis.
- Opinion pieces
- Etana Dinka: Ethiopia: The wider battle of which the Tigray war is just a part
- The Guardian view on the war in Ethiopia: Tigray’s civilians need protection
- Abraham T Zere: Can Eritrea’s Afwerki hold on to power after the Tigray war?
- John Young video rant on the Tigray war: (Part 1) and (Part 2)
- On the historical context, see a newly published book by John Young, John Markakis, Günther Schlee: ‘The Nation State: A Wrong Model for the Horn of Africa’. Freely available at: https://www.mprl-series.mpg.de/studies/14/index.html
- Alex De Waal: End the Battlefield Slaughter in Tigray
- Awol Allo: Ethiopia urgently needs inclusive national dialogue. And in order to start one, it needs to face its imperial past and legacy.
- William Davison: recording of the webinar on “A Path to Peace for Ethiopia’s Tigray Conflict“, organised by the Egmont Institute.
- Other news
- Awlo Media, 30 March: ዳንኤል ክብረትና ሬዲዋን ሁሴን ያሉበት ሚዲያ ኮሚቴ ነው ያበረረን! English summary: “The war is with the people”: interview with a recently fired Tigray interim admin official and another Arena official.
- Addis Standard, 30 March: Mekelle city interim mayor resigns
- Reuters, 29 March: ‘You don’t belong’: land dispute drives new exodus in Ethiopia’s Tigray
- Horn Daily, 29 March: Unconfirmed reports suggest An Ethiopian-Eritrean Federation Soon
- The Reporter, 27 March: Over a thousand workers in Mekelle Industrial Park still absent
- Skynews, 27 March: Ethiopia’s conflict in Tigray: Women describe how rape is used as a weapon
- RFI, 27 March : Éthiopie: l’appel du HCR pour aider les réfugiés érythréens des camps détruits au Tigré [in French]
- UN News, 26 March: Deep concern for thousands of Eritrean refugees ‘scattered’ in Ethiopia’s Tigray
- Reuters, 26 March: ‘Don’t shoot,’ Ethiopian father begged Eritrean soldiers, daughter says
- UNHCR, 26 March: UNHCR reaches destroyed camps in northern Tigray
- Washington Post,26 March: In Sudan’s Sweltering Camps, Refugees from Tigray Dream of Independence from Ethiopia
- BBC, 25 March: Tigray conflict: The fake UN diplomat and other misleading stories
- The National (UAE), 25 March: US Congress ups the ante on Tigray, calling on Ethiopia and TPLF to cease hostilities
- Associated Press, 25 March: UN warns of `alarming’ crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region
- Marie Claire, 23 March: Magi Was Excited to Be the First Ethiopian on ‘The Bachelor.’ Then Came the Tigray Conflict
- Yeha Post, 22 March: Tigrayan Catholics write to Pope Francis about the involvement of Cardinal Berhaneyesus Souraphiel in Tigray crisis
- Our report on the Tigray universities has been upgraded. We mention additional staff members killed, the re-occupation of Raya University campus by Eritrean troops, metal fencing of female students’ dormitories, after rapes by Federal Police officers, and huge material damage to MU’s Veterinary campus.
Follow up communication compiled by Prof. Dr. Jan Nyssen.
Jan Nyssen is full professor of geography at Ghent University (Belgium). Besides numerous scientific publications mostly related to Ethiopia, he published two books: “ካብ ሓረስቶት ደጉዓ ተምቤን እንታይ ንስምዕ”? “What do we hear from the farmers in Dogu’a Tembien”? [in Tigrinya] (2016), and “Geo Trekking in Ethiopia’s Tropical Mountains, the Dogu’a Tembien District”. Springer GeoGuide (2019).