Renewed warfare, ”all out war” seems real again, which will strongly add upon the suffering of the populations in and around Tigray. In this 33rd digest, we address in the first place hunger and starvation in Tigray (section 1). Directly related, we have published version 2.1 of the Tigray Atlas (section 2). The communication blackout makes that receiving news from Tigray remains extremely difficult (section 3); the situation is worst in Western Tigray where gruesome videos and reports of torture and execution continue to emerge (section 4). Ethiopian politicians, including one of the PM’s advisors openly call for genocide (section 5), which sounds louder than the calls for ceasefire and negotiations (section 6). We continue naming the victims and Tigrai TV regularly reports from the locations where massacres have taken place (section 7). Life for Tigrayans is extremely difficult, in the academic world (section 8), but also the daily life of Tigrayans all over Ethiopia (section 9). Psychological stress is also addressed in a new book by Selam Kidane related to Eritrean refugees (section 10). On the diplomatic front there is now a clear statement by the European parliament, while higher UN officials have been expelled from Ethiopia (section 11). We conclude this digest with an overview of other media articles (section 12) and opinion pieces (section 13).
- Hunger and starvation
In line with Save The Children in Yemen, or Oxfam for the worldwide situation, we used IPC, USAID or WFP estimates, and population statistics, to calculate, for Tigray, a minimum of 425 hunger deaths per day, and a “conservative maximum” of 1201 per day. That is, averaged, one person dying of starvation per two minutes. With difficulties of access and communication, such extrapolation from the numbers in the IPC phases is the only very approximate method to know the number of starvation victims. Quite a number of impressive media articles have been published over the last month:
- Aftenposten (Norway), 27 September 2021: Unike bilder viser forholdene i fredsprisvinnerens land [in Norwegian] – English translation: Unique pictures show the conditions in the Peace Prize laureate’s country
- Associated Press, 20 September: ‘I just cry’: Dying of hunger in Ethiopia’s blockaded Tigray
- AFP, 23 September: ‘Silent killing’: Starvation stalks Ethiopia’s Tigray
- UN OCHA, 23 September: Northern Ethiopia Humanitarian Update Situation Report
- Tigray TV, 19 September: Report on Famine in Tigray [in Tigrinya, English translation]
- Der Spiegel, 16 September: »Eine der schlimmsten Hungerkrisen seit Jahrzehnten« [in German]
- AlJazeera, 23 September: Tigray mothers share shocking accounts of dire famine conditions
- Panorama, 17 September: Ethiopian Bishop: “Millions to die in Tigray if humanitarian aid doesn’t go through”
- 30 Organizations Issue Joint Open Letter to UN Secretary-General and Permanent Representatives of Security Council Member States on Ending Violence and Famine in Tigray (22 September)
- Reuters, 29 September: U.N. aid chief to Ethiopia on famine in Tigray: ‘Get those trucks moving’
- Globe News Net, 1 October: Ethiopia famine: UN reports ‘unprecedented’ malnutrition in Tigray
- Alex De Waal: Feast and Famine in Ethiopia (World Peace Foundatin blog)
- The Economist, 9 October: Ethiopia is deliberately starving its own citizens
- Tigray Atlas
A new edition of the Tigray Atlas of the Humanitarian Situation has been published – version 2.1! We acknowledge support by “Every Casualty Counts” and especially thank the intern students for mapping and editing text.
- Mereba Esset, 21 September: ኣብ ትግራይ ዝወርድ ዘሎ ግፍዕታትን ሰብ-ሰራሕ ጥሜትን ንምርዳእ ዳታ ዘለዎ ግደ [in Tigrinya] – The role of data to understand the atrocities and the human-made famine in the Tigray (interview Emnet Negash)
- Communication blackout
No internet, telephone, travel: Associated Press correspondent Cara Anna details challenges of reporting on Ethiopia’s Tigray region on BBC World Service (at 32:20).
Many of our readers may have come across the larger Tigrayan media such as Tigray TV, Dimtsi Woyane or TMH, essentially broadcasting TV and YouTube videos. The international observer may not be aware but there is also the pluralistic Radio Wegahta Tigray, essentially broadcasting to the rural areas of Tigray: https://axumitemedia.com/profile/. Radio Wegahta Tigray transmissions are however temporarily interrupted due to lack of funds.
- Western Tigray
We have received a forensic report on the recovery of bodies from the Tekeze/Setit river in Sudan, prepared by “SAHAN-Ethiopia”. Very depressive to read it. All victims were tied up. The report provides evidence that some victims had been killed in Humera back in November, kept in a mass grave for months, and then transported and dumped in the river. One of the victims bears a tattoo: ያልፋል, “it will pass soon”…
And, equally depressive, the Italian magazine Panorama, on 30 September published a graphic report on the killings in Humera: Le atrocità commesse dai soldati amhara in Tigray [in Italian – English translation: Atrocities committed by Amhara soldiers in Tigray]
- Open calls for genocide
High-level Ethiopian officials Daniel Kibret and Agegnehu Teshager openly called for genocide in the style of the sinister Rwandan Radio des Mille Collines. The style figure oscillating between “TPLF” and “Tigrayans” is a constant (example: https://twitter.com/hayet_alem/status/1438480789684080647 – copy the link to your browser). Field observers in Amhara Region noted it often from the mouth of intermediary authorities in the surroundings of Gondar and Bahir Dar. Some media articles:
- AFP, 20 September: US blasts ‘dangerous’ rhetoric by ally of Ethiopia PM
- BBC Newshour, 25 September: The speech by Daniel Kibret, a senior advisor to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, amounts to an incitement to genocide, says Dr. Awol Allo, a senior law lecturer at Keele University, UK.
- NRC, 14 September: Is in Tigray sprake van genocide in opdracht van hogerhand? [in Dutch]
- Michael Rubin: Will Ethiopia’s genocide be worse than Rwanda’s? (Washington Examiner)
- Vice, 14 September: Hate Speech on Facebook Is Pushing Ethiopia Dangerously Close to a Genocide
- Calls for ceasefire and negotiations
- 17 September: Kjetil Tronvoll discusses the situation in Tigray, the calls for negotiated ceasefire, and the problem with the aid trucks on the BBCWorldService. About 45 minutes in https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172xv59bt3bp8h
- Security forces in Addis Ababa detained Abraha Desta, a senior official in the Tigray interim administration who had recently called for negotiations to end the conflict. A week later, another top member of the Tigray interim government, Gebremeskel Kassa fled to Rwanda and asked for asylum.
- AFP, 9 October: Top Official In Tigray Interim Government Seeks Asylum Abroad
- The East African, 24 September: Ethiopia’s minister calls for peace amid fears of Tigray reinvasion
- International Crisis Group, 13 September: Working toward a ceasefire in Ethiopia
- Kebour Ghenna: How Did Ethiopia So Badly Miscalculate Its War with Tigray? (Borkena)
- Mulugeta Gebrehiwot: Ethiopia: Definition and politics of ceasefire (World Peace Foundation)
- Naming the victims
Tigrai TV revisits locations of massacres and broadcasts about it.
- Zana massacre (in Tigrinya): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSYQ13z0pkY&t=26s : the Eritrean soldiers have been shelling, killing house to house and also in the caves where people were trying to hide.
- Sewha /Gu’iguna massacre (in English): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIjB2R7Degc: with interviews of parents of the victims on their burial site
- Memorial ceremony for the Aksum victims as well as testimonies of witnesses (in Tigrinya): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7N09BHJCbOU
- Gemada (Irob) massacre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6am6LnT99pw (in Tigrinya): Eritrean soldiers killed 13 members of a family and threw them in a river which coloured red; relatives were denied to bury the bodies and mourn.
These reports are mostly within a longer broadcast and sometimes tracing back is not easy. For instance, the Grizana massacre was covered but we could not retrace it. Any assistance pointing to archived Tigrai TV videos about the massacres is most welcome.
- Amnesty International: Petition: Demand justice for sexual violence survivors in Tigray
- Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, 22 September: Atrocity Alert No. 271: Ethiopia, Burundi and Philippines
- In the academic world
Mekelle University Community, 25 September: Call for lifesaving intervention to the international community in order to stop the starvation – https://twitter.com/drhailayabrha/status/1443176453810491394/photo/1
Thomas More University (Belgium): Ethiopian civil war blocks dream of ICE Honours alumnus and space ambassador Tensae
Some information from universities in the Amhara region, from reliable sources. Lecturers of Tigrayan origin are not only put in prison by the Amhara police, and kept at unknown locations for months sometimes. At these universities, Tigrayans are also continuously monitored by the campus police and their phones are tapped. Campus guards lead the police to the residences of Tigrayans. Hence, the management of these universities is complicit to the ethnic prosecution by the government of the Amhara Region.
Tigrayan scholars continue writing up their PhD thesis, dropping tears on every page… Recently, we could congratulate Dr Hadgu Hishe at K.U.Leuven, Belgium. In his thanksword, he broadcast Eyerusalem’s poem: “What do you do”? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2jV3jmoN28).
Recently 10 Tigrayan scholars who graduated at various Chinese universities could not travel back to Ethiopia and are stranded in Rwanda. They are looking for scholarships, jobs, etc. If you can assist them by any means, please contact Dr. Mehari Desta Hawku: email@example.com; twitter: @MehariDesta6.
- Daily life of Tigrayans in Ethiopia
The country-wide ethnic prosecution of Tigrayans is well illustrated by an event that
happened on 30 September to a displaced Tigrayan woman reduced to begging for herself and her kids on the streets of Addis Ababa. This is how the police treated her: https://fb.watch/8pPLfho51W/
The police now have complete impunity and are operating a policy of ethnic profiling against Tigrayans in the city. Below are some testimonies among the many.
Another Tigrayan witnesses fled from his home in Hawzien in Tigray taking nothing with him after federal and Eritrean troops moved into the area and were targeting all the young men. Like many others he hid in a cave in the mountains. He stayed there for three days without food or water then walked over 100 km to Mekelle. From there he left for Addis just before the blockade on 28 June. He found work in a restaurant but was arrested at work by police who accused him of terrorism – all Tigrayans in the city are now considered terrorists. He was thrown into jail for 13 days where his hands were tied, and he was left out in the rain without a blanket, which compromised his health. He has now been released but it is increasingly dangerous for anyone with a Tigrayan accent to move freely in the city. He can’t work, he can’t return to Tigray, and, like many others, is trapped in a city that doesn’t want him there.
A Tigrayan woman fled to Addis Ababa to try to escape the war and went to stay with a friend there. She also was recently thrown into jail for no reason other than her ethnicity and was released on bail at a cost of 10,000 ETB (about 190 €). At her release, she noticed that her friend had fled to an unknown place. She is now staying with neighbours she doesn’t really know and she doesn’t feel safe. No one will employ her because of the almost universal hostility to Tigrayans.
Another ethnic Tigrayan was brought up in Addis Ababa and works for the government. He told us that civil servants last month had to donate a months’ salary to the war effort, even though inflation means that prices are extremely high right now. For him this is particularly bitter as he has to contribute to the fight against his own people.
- New book by Selam Kidane
“Trauma, Collective Trauma and Refugee Trajectories in the Digital Era: Development of the Trauma Recovery Understanding Self-Help Therapy”. (findings mainly from Eritrean refugee communities in multiple locations)
In line with this, investigative journalist Lucy Kassa conveys very well the emotional challenges of covering the Tigray war: “Massacres in the Dark” (Okay Africa)
a. European Parliament
On 7 October, the European parliament overwhelmingly voted a resolution on Tigray: MEPs call for sanctions if situation fails to improve by end of month. Only four right-wing extremist MEPs opposed the resolution (one from the Netherlands and three from Belgium ☹ )
b. Quo vadis, UN?
Seven senior UN staff have been expelled from Ethiopia. This includes the head of the UNHRC, who was leading the investigation on massacres in Tigray. Despite compromising their principles, teaming up with the government-bound EHRC, higher UN officials have still been expelled from Ethiopia. The real targets behind this decision are obviously not the 7 officials, but the Tigrayan victims who need such support more than ever.
Further, an audio was leaked, in which UN staff in Ethiopia openly expressed their support for Abiy Ahmed’s policies; some months ago Addis Ababa-based UN staff were recorded decredibilising the rape victims in Tigray, and IOM officials cooperated in transporting Eritrean refugees back from Addis Ababa to the war zone. Finally, on 11 October, the AFP mentions that UN recalled their Ethiopia migration head.
c. Related media and opinion articles
- UN News, 6 October: Guterres criticizes ‘unprecedented expulsion’ of staff from Ethiopia; calls for focus on saving lives
- Vanda Felbab-Brown: The exemplary U.S. sanctions regime for Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict and its limitations (Brookings Foreign Policy)
- Alex Dewaal: See No Evil: How the United Nations is Blind to the Famine in Tigray (World Peace Foundation)
- The White House, 16 September: Background Press Call By Senior Administration Officials on Ethiopia
- Chidi Odinkalu, Paulos Tesfagiorgis, Alex de Waal and Delia Burns: Neither Impartial nor Independent: The Joint UN-EHRC Human Rights Investigation in Tigray
- AFP, 14 September: Fact check – WFP vehicles used to transport Tigray rebels?
- BBC, 27 September: Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis: Why are hundreds of aid trucks stranded?
- Tigray TV, 28 September: Interview of WFP truck drivers https://twitter.com/TsenatSaba/status/1443447695360802820
- G.A.Z.: Involving a government-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission in the investigations in Tigray destined to be a giant miscarriage of justice (Globe News Net)
- Mulugeta Gebrehiwot: Not Impartial, Not Principled, Non-Starter: African Union Mediation in Ethiopia (Mulugeta Gebrehiwot)
- The New York Times, 17 September: Biden Threatens New Sanctions Against Ethiopia War Leaders
- Panorama, 28 September: Italian Tigrayans: “Financing and military agreement between Rome and Addis Ababa”, also in Italian
- Mulugeta Gebregziabher: Chiedamo a Draghi di prendere posizione sul genocidio in Tigray [in Italian]
- AP, 29 September: The AP Interview: Ethiopia crisis ‘stain on our conscience’ (Martin Griffiths, UN humanitarian chief)
- The Globe and Mail, 3 October: Canadian miners pursue prospects in war-torn Tigray
- AP, 2 October: UN says Ethiopia has no legal right to expel 7 UN officials
- Eritrea Hub, 29 September: European Union spells out its policy towards the Tigray war
- The Economist, 9 October: Abiy against the world – Ethiopia is losing friends and influence
- Other media articles
- AFP, 17 September: ‘Erase them from history’: Eritreans mark 20 years since brutal purge
- The New York Times, 21 September: Sudan Leaders Say They Thwarted Coup Attempt by Loyalists of Former Dictator
- RFI, 9 October: Nouvelle offensive des troupes gouvernementales contre les rebelles tigréens [in French]
- CNN, 6 October: Ethiopia used its flagship commercial airline to transport weapons during war in Tigray
- Reuters, 26 September: Sudan says it repelled attempted incursion by Ethiopian forces
- Reuters, 17 September: WHO’s Tedros seen running unopposed for top job despite Ethiopia snub – sources
- Salon, 25 September: Eyewitness accounts, video confirm reports of Tigrayan children held in concentration camp
- The Guardian, 13 September: The battle for Mekelle: Ethiopia’s civil war over Tigray goes on – in pictures
- BBC World Service Newshour, 9 October: Prof. Kjetil Tronvoll explains the major Ethiopian offensive against Tigray and TDF positions. 30 min into the programme.
- The New Humanitarian, 4 October: Ethiopia conflict sees hunger and atrocities spread from Tigray to Amhara
- Human Rights Watch: Ethiopia: Eritrean Refugees Targeted in Tigray
- BBC, 3 October: Ethiopia Tigray crisis: From monk to soldier – how war has split a church
- Other opinion pieces
- Leah Abraham: The Rise and Rise of Fascism in Ethiopia (African Arguments)
- Ermias Teka: Eritrea’s involvement in the Tigray war: did Asmara reap the dividends it had hoped for? (Eritrea Hub)
- Rob Marriott: Heavy Is the Head: The Trials of Abiy Ahmed (Okay Africa)
- Alex Dewaal: The world watches as Abiy loses it — and risks losing Ethiopia, too. (World Peace Foundation)
- Hidat Hagos: Las fuerzas de Etiopia, Eritrea y Amhara usaron la violación sexual en una manera sistemática y en un nivel de crueldad nunca visto y con perfiles de genocidio. (Nueva Revolucion [in Spanish])
- Isha Sesay, Masai Ujiri, Gbenga Akinnagbe and Liz Agbor-Tabi: Where is the outrage for Ethiopia? (CNN opinion)
- Radio Mereb, 1 October: Interview with Professor Kjetil Tronvoll on Current Affairs
- Credendo: The Tigray conflict is expected to be long lasting, but unlikely to lead to all out civil war in Ethiopia
- Today News Africa – Opinion : Amid Tigray famine, Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed is holding lavish celebration to inaugurate new government on a scale not seen since the coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie almost one hundred years ago
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).