Humanitarian situation in Tigray (12 April 2021)

Dear friend,

The scientists’ appeal for Tigray has reached almost 3200 signatories. The text dates back to the beginning of the war. Nevertheless, we continue inviting to sign the appeal; signatories may opt in to be included in the mailing list:

Then, unfortunately, this newsletter comes again with a full catalog of war crimes (as if they have a “tick list”): starvation (section 1), massacres (2 and 3), sexual violence (4), ethnic cleansing (5), as well as opinion pieces (6) and media articles (7).

Destroyed farmer’s harvest in Adet woreda ©Kindeya Gebrehiwot
  1. Starving Tigray

A very explicit report has been published by the World Peace Foundation: “Starving Tigray”.

“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.”

The report can be downloaded from:

Press articles about Starving Tigray

  1. Atlas of the humanitarian situation

The Atlas of the Humanitarian Situation is work in progress. It will be updated with new data – see section 3. On the other hand, the Atlas, and also the “Starving Tigray” report are already very well documented and, among others, serve as a base for new articles by Wikipedia editors. We tried to investigate the Dabba Selama massacre in Dogu’a Tembien (31 January, 12 people killed), as this occurred in a village with a monastery on top of a mesa, a small plateau similar to Debre Damo. Unfortunately we were not successful in documenting the Dabba Selama massacre. The reason? “In the beginning of the war, people were talking about every massacre, with full of details. Now there have been and are massacres occurring all over Tigray. Unless somebody has a relative in such a village, we cannot remember all the bad things that happen in each village…”

Press articles about the Atlas

  1. Reporting the victims

Co-author of the Atlas, Tim Vanden Bempt, asks for assistance in collecting information on the victims in the war in Tigray. We collected already too many names of people who died, but unfortunately this is only the tip of the iceberg. We have lots of reports of places where shelling, killings and fighting took place, but acquiring the number of people that died at those occasions is not easy. It is important that the possible war crimes are correctly identified, so we try to work as accurate as possible.
A format has been prepared:

For additional information, feel free to get in touch:

  1. Belgium backs search for evidence of sexual violence

Belgium is releasing EUR 4 million for the victims of the violence in Tigray. Specific attention is paid to victims of sexual violence. In doing so, the country is entering a project of the International Red Cross.
In addition to collecting and documenting sexual assault charges, efforts are being made to protect the affected population, bring together family members who have lost each other in the conflict and respect for humanitarian law.
‘In recent weeks, more and more reports of horrific facts have reached us’, says Development Minister Meryame Kitir. ‘Together with the International Red Cross, we want to take care of the victims as best we can and prevent the conflict from escalating further.’ The funds for the project come from the budget generally earmarked for humanitarian aid.

(De Tijd, 9 April 2021: In Tigray is verkrachting een oorlogswapen [in Dutch] – English translation: In the Tigray war, rape is a weapon)

  1. Ethnic cleansing in Western Tigray

In the Atlas of the humanitarian situation, there is often a lack of data for Western Tigray, because many of our contacts have fled to Sudan or to other parts of Tigray. Several others also do no longer pick up their phones… Refugees speak about encountering so many dead bodies along roads and footpaths, yet the corresponding massacres are not reported. See: The Associated Press, 7 April: ‘Leave no Tigrayan’: In Ethiopia, an ethnicity is erased… Informally, the zone has been incorporated in Amhara region.

We could gather pieces of information, through sources that we cannot disclose.

In tabiya Rawyan, where the population was 16,000 before the war, it is now less than 2000; the new Amhara administration tries to bring in Amhara people who were in Sudan or elsewhere in Ethiopia.

In Ruwassa, where the population was more than 4000 before the war, it is now around 980.

In the resettlement place called “Division”, all 9000 households fled. The site is now empty and guarded by Amhara militiamen. Also here, the new administration wants to relocate 10,000 ethnic Amhara from Sudan, but the conflict at the border prevented them from doing so.

In May Kadra, they kept around 2500 ethnic Tigrayans under custody before expelling around a thousand to the other side of the Tekeze. Remaining people “disappeared” (killed? fled to Sudan? deported?).

The new Amhara administration has an interest to present a “normal” situation, although sometimes they do not try to hide the extent to which Tigrayans have fled.

The displacements occurred widely in the lowlands and much less in the highlands of Western Tigray. The reason is that formal and informal resettlement schemes were only in the lowlands, in relation to the presence of highly productive soils (“Vertisols”). In the highlands, Tigrinya-speakers still speak Tigrinya and publicly identify as Wolqayté/Amhara.

About massacres: our witness saw several corpses even in mid-December – they left corpses unburied on purpose, to show people how “juntas” need to be treated. He saw about a dozen corpses next to a road at the entrance of Humera at mid-December. Impossible to count or to take a photo.  An Amhara Special Forces member showed him photographs of a massacre of civilians near Addi Goshu – around 25 civilians killed according to him (presumably in November or December).

  1. Opinion pieces
  1. Further in the media

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).

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