Dear friends and colleagues,
This Tigray digest holds an update on Tigray’s universities (section 1), yesterday’s briefs published by the Government of Tigray (section 2), and a link to the latest FewsNet report (section 3). There are also links to press articles (section 4), particularly related to the humanitarian situation and aid that continues only to trickle into Tigray, mass killings along Tekeze river, and the evolving military situation. Unfortunately, no ceasefire talks so far. We end with a set of links to opinion pieces on the situation in Tigray and in Ethiopia (section 5).
- Update on the status of the universities in Tigray
Except for its’ Western zone and pocket areas bordering Eritrea, Tigray is now fully controlled by the elected regional government. At Tigray’s four universities the immediate stress of war and human rights abuse has been relaxed, but new challenges occurred, as the universities’ budgets have been cut, as well as all external communication lines. The universities are in ‘survival mode’.
- Due to frequent interruption of classes, students returned home without any considerable progress for the academic year 2020-2021. Most colleges didn’t even cover half a semester.
- These universities now have their bank accounts closed and their budget was not released.
- Staff members of these universities didn’t receive salaries since June 2021. Mekelle University alone has about 7500 employees.
- As the Tigray region is under a complete siege all basic services have ground to a halt, and so are the universities in the region. Mekelle University, in a press release dated 20 July 2021, announced that the university has run out of stocks to feed about 10,000 students present on its campuses.
- The Federal Government and humanitarian organisations like ICRC should collaborate in providing the universities with access to cash and food for their students.
- The Ethiopian Ministry of Science and Higher Education, and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development need to release the universities’ budgets and unblock the bank accounts.
- Early 2021, when controlling Mekelle, the Ethiopian government had called all students to travel back to the universities in Tigray, in order to present a face of normality. Even international PhD students (from Zambia, Nigeria, Kenya,…) were called back. Just like all inhabitants of Tigray these students now suffer from the consequences of the blockade and want to travel home.
- Raya University students left campus when the federal forces left the area. Mekelle, Aksum, and Adigrat universities are transporting non-Tigrayan students home, with the support of UN and Tigray Government.
- The universities and the region are however short of fuel and cash to transport these students to their place of origin. The government of Ethiopia and ICRC must facilitate the transfer of these students across regional borders .
- The universities, the Tigray government, and the population of Tigray have to ensure the safety of these students until sufficient resources are available or their travel is arranged. They have committed themselves to this.
- It is likely that these non-Tigrayan students will continue their studies in one of the many universities countrywide. However, in various places in Ethiopia, Tigrayan students are left without any possibility to travel to the four Tigray universities due to the ongoing complete siege.
- Tigray Government briefs
The Tigray government published two documents with factual information, that may not have reached the international community due to the ongoing blockade.
- Press release by the Government of the National State of Tigray, 7 August 2021. (concerns mainly the protection of cultural heritage). https://twitter.com/johniabraha/status/1424140352361992192
- Weekly brief of the Tigray External Affairs office, 7 August 2021. (concerns mainly the humanitarian situation). https://twitter.com/hayet_alem/status/1423995905385062403
- FewsNet report: extreme food insecurity in Tigray
The latest FewsNet report particularly stresses the food insecurity. There are many detailed maps in this report, including an NDVI-based status of vegetation, which confirms poor crop stands in Western Tigray.
- FewsNet, June 2021: Conflict likely to drive extreme food insecurity in Tigray through at least January 2022
- Press articles
- Egypt Independent, 21 July: Addis Ababa failed to fill GERD reservoir: researcher
- AccessNow, 29 July: What’s happening in Tigray? Internet shutdowns avert accountability
- New York Times, 29 July. This Ethiopian Road Is a Lifeline for Millions. Now It’s Blocked
- Reuters, 30 July: U.S. aid chief to travel to Ethiopia in diplomatic push on Tigray
- The Economist, 31 July: In Ethiopia’s civil war, Tigrayan forces take the offensive
- BBC World service Newshour, 1 August: Senior TDF commander: “We had no choice” (podcast)
- AFP, 1 August: Ethiopian Airlines denies shipping arms, soldiers to Tigray
- Associated Press, 2 August: Bodies found in river between Ethiopia’s Tigray and Sudan
- PBS News hour, 3 August: Ethiopian government appears determined to target Tigray as humanitarian crisis deepens
- AFP, 3 August: UN condemns ‘dangerous’ claims of bias against aid workers in Tigray
- AFP, 4 August: Aid groups in Tigray suspended for ‘misinformation’: Ethiopia
- FLASHBACK – New York Times, 4 December 1985: EXPELLED DOCTORS ACCUSE ETHIOPIA
- Der Spiegel, 4 August: Wie die Regierung Hunger als Waffe einsetzt [in German]
- AFP, 4 August: Only 10% of needed aid reaching war-hit Tigray: USAID chief
- VRT NWS, 5 August: Volksfront van Tigray verovert oude koningsstad Lalibela in de naburige Ethiopische provincie Amhara [in Dutch] – Translation: People’s Front of Tigray conquers ancient king town of Lalibela in neighboring Ethiopian province of Amhara
- Reuters, 5 August: U.S. calls for Tigrayan forces to respect Lalibela cultural heritage
- OCHA, 5 August: Ethiopia – Tigray Region Humanitarian Update – Situation Report
- Washington Post, 5 August: Samantha Power has long championed humanitarian intervention. Ethiopia’s crisis is putting her to the test.
- Spy Talk, 5 August: Secret Agents, Threats, Fake News Target Ethiopia Regime’s Critics in US
- France24, 6 August: Tigray rebels reject calls to leave neighbouring regions: “You see, we are under siege.”
- Associated Press, 6 August: At river where Tigrayan bodies floated, fears of ‘many more’
- Ethiopian Press Agency, 6 August: Death Sentences Passed On Tigrayan Members of ENDF
- The East African, 7 August: Ethiopia’s unrest sucks neighbours in as Addis shuns talk on dialogue
- GQ Magazine, 7 August: The human cost of the Tigray conflict: ‘We are in constant fear’
- Opinion pieces
- Mehari Taddele Maru: Elections? What elections? Abiy is Counting on a Military Victory
- Temesgen Kahsay: Tigray: Our suffering may not be convenient, but it is real
- Daniel Gebregiorgis: The war in Tigray: the makings of a man-made famine, and what can be done
- Mulugeta Gebrehiwot – BBC podcast: Ethiopian academic on why he joined the Tigray Defence Forces
- International Crisis Group: The Dangerous Expansion of Ethiopia’s Tigray War
- Tom Dannenbaum: Famine in Tigray, Humanitarian Access, and the War Crime of Starvation
- Statement by Alice Wairimu Nderitu, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, on the continued deterioration of the situation in Ethiopia
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).