First of all, our best wishes for 2022 and ርሑስ በዓል ልደት – may we soon see peace in Tigray and Ethiopia as a whole!
In this digest, we address the ongoing extreme famine and starvation in Tigray (section 1) and the new edition of the “Tigray: Atlas of the Humanitarian Situation” (section 2). On the diplomatic front, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution establishing an international commission to conduct an investigation into allegations of human rights violations, and the USA terminated Ethiopia’s access to its preferential trade programme AGOA as the Ethiopian government failed to address the issue of gross human rights violations raised in November 2021 (section 3). We also highlight the peace or ceasefire diplomacy taking place (section 4), as well as the political life within Tigray (section 5). We end with some unexpected bottom-up history (a serial, a cartoon and some newly discovered maps – section 6), followed by opinion pieces (section 7) and media articles (section 8).
- Famine and starvation due to blockade
From the USAID assessment: “Ethiopia is projected to face record levels of food insecurity during 2022, with the greatest needs concentrated in conflict-affected areas of northern Ethiopia. Insecurity and a critical shortage of supplies and fuel continue to hinder food assistance. No convoys carrying humanitarian aid reached Tigray’s capital city of Mekelle between December 15 and 30, exacerbating the already dire need for assistance.”
Also, Tigray’s healthcare system has completely collapsed. Patients die in the hands of doctors at the best hospitals in Mekelle, for sake of lack of medical supplies; even expired medicines have been used and are exhausted now. See the statement by Doctors and other Health Professionals of Ayder Hospital – College of Health Sciences, Mekelle University (4 January 2022).
- USAID, 30 December 2021: Ethiopia – Northern Ethiopia Crisis Fact Sheet #3 Fiscal Year 2022
- Bistandsaktuelt, 15 December 2021: Tigray-krigen: – En planlagt sultkatastrofe [in Norwegian]
- Globe News Net, 1 January 2022: USAID warns worsening humanitarian situation in Tigray with continued blockade and forced eviction in Western Tigray
- TMH, 1 January 2022: Interview Dr Meskelu Kidu on the health system in Tigray [in Tigrinya]
By the end of December, version 2.2 of the “Tigray: Atlas of the Humanitarian Situation” has been published. Besides updated maps, there also are some new maps (and corresponding explanatory texts) in the Atlas:
- Gold and base metal potential; exploration concessions of foreign companies in Tigray – as for some countries the permanency of their concessions seems to override concerns for human rights
- Occurrence of massacres in the Tigray War up to 16 November 2021, contrasted to sites visited by the joint EHRC-UNHRC investigation
- Occurrence of massacres & conflict incidents in the Tigray and Amhara Regions in Ethiopia
- Distribution of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) due to the Tigray War at the end of August 2021
We also admire a very professional Ethiopia-Tigray conflict map by Dzsihad Hadelli: https://twitter.com/dhadelli/status/1477289122180050944
On 17 December 2021, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution establishing an international commission of experts on Ethiopia, to conduct an investigation into allegations of human rights violations and abuses by all parties to the conflict. (https://twitter.com/UN_HRC/status/1471855119096549389). The resolution was adopted despite intense diplomatic pressure by the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments. Hosting AU headquarters, the Ethiopian diplomats particularly targeted the African countries. Nevertheless, Libya, Malawi, Mauritania, Senegal, Sudan and Togo resisted the pressure from the Abiy Ahmed regime and abstained during the vote.
The US has repeatedly warned the Ethiopian government about “the gross violations of internationally recognised human rights being perpetrated by the government of Ethiopia and other parties”. Here, we were even desperate about the never-ending repetition of messages of “greatest concerns”. Finally, belated action has been taken by 1 January 2022; the US has removed Ethiopia from its preferential trade programme. Concerns for employment expressed by economic decisionmakers sound fake – we never saw them concerned about the levels of the textile workers’ salaries – 0.5 USD per day! What they will miss is the hard currency generated by the trade of cheap and unethically produced clothes.
Also, the Joe Biden administration penalised Ethiopia for its democratic backsliding, and withheld hundreds of millions of dollars of MCC money (Millennium Challenge Corporation).
Related media articles:
- The East African, 28 December 2021: Pan-Africanism or impunity? The divisive Tigray crimes issue
- The East African, 3 January 2022: Guinea, Mali, and Ethiopia removed from US trade programme
- CNN, 24 December 2021: Ethiopia to lose access to lucrative US trade program following CNN investigation
- The Africa Report, 16 December 2021: US picks Zambia for massive MCC grant, suspends Ethiopia
- The World, 22 December 2021: Fighting continues in Ethiopia amid UN call for human rights probe
- Tony Magaña: Tigray genocide is following same tragic inaction by UN and AU as Rwanda genocide
- RFI, 2 January 2021: Les États-Unis excluent Éthiopie, Mali et Guinée de l’accord commercial Agoa [in French]
- Reuters, 30 December 2021: Impoverished Ethiopia seeks extra $2.5 bln to rebuild from war
4. Peace? Or at least: peace talks?
Somehow frontlines have stabilised over the last weeks along Tigray’s borders (except for Western Tigray), although ethnic cleansing and drone attacks on Tigray continue to take place. Yet, there is an understanding that peace or ceasefire diplomacy currently is taking place. Major media and opinion articles in this regard are:
- The Washington Post, 31 December 2021: As the tide of war in Ethiopia turns, a chance for peace talks opens
- Michael Horton: The Window for a Negotiated Settlement in Ethiopia’s War is Closing as the Country Faces Protracted Civil War
- International Crisis Group: A Rare Chance for Peace in Ethiopia
- Le Soir, 28 December 2021: Corne de l’Afrique: un espoir de paix se dessine en Ethiopie [in French]
- Kjetil Tronvoll : Peace, or continued war in Ethiopia?
- John Young: Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed: From poster-boy of the West to poster-boy of the Left
- Mistir Sew: Now is the time to silence Ethiopia’s guns
- Democracy in Africa, 27 December 2021: Peace, or continued war in Ethiopia?
5. Tigray’s political landscape
When talking about Tigrayan politics, friends and foes focus on one party only, i.e. the TPLF. However, in addition to civil society organisations, there are several opposition parties in Tigray, having their political position on the causes and consequences of the war, humanitarian situation, governance in Ethiopia, political re-organisation of Tigray, peace negotiations, and security and territorial integrity of the region. For instance, General Tekleberhan Woldearegay (Tigray Defence Forces) hinted at the existence of political differentiation in Tigray: https://twitter.com/tklebrhanw/status/1475205398672166922, and in a joint press release, the three Tigray autonomist parties demanded involvement in the peace negotiations: https://twitter.com/HailuKebede_/status/1476575069698678789/photo/1 .
Since a couple of months, interviews in Tigrinya that TMH TV has broadcasted, for instance of Hayalu Godefay (Sawet party), Mehari Yohannes (Tigray Independence Party), and Kidane Amene (Baytona Party) – all three members of the TDF – make their distinct positions clear concerning the fate of Tigray.
On 23 December, the Global Society of Tigrai Scholars pleaded also for “a broad-based inclusive consultation among all Tigrayan stakeholders including the political parties, youth, women, scholars, religious leaders, civil society and minority ethnic communities”.
It would be interesting to have a political analyst writing a comprehensive review of these and other similar discussions in Tigray.
6. Some bottom-up history
To stay in touch with Tigray’s history, our colleague Prof. Eloi Ficquet republished Ras Wolde-Selassié’s Adventurous Youth (around 1800) in the form of a serial. Note that this was written before the scramble for Africa! Eloi published the first issue. It is possible to subscribe in order to get the next issues of the serial.
Then, just out, “Stichproben”, the Vienna Journal of African Studies has published: Tigray Tragedy – A graphic essay by Manuel João Ramos (Department of Anthropology – University Institute of Lisbon), representing the views of different actors in the conflict. https://stichproben.univie.ac.at/en/all-issues/stichproben-no-412021/ – holding introductory words, graphic essay (cartoon), and an interview with the author.
Colleagues also retrieved a couple of maps of the Horn published around 1850 (again, before Tigray got divided as part of the Scramble for Africa) – hope to see it re-published soon!
- Mistir Sew: The Ethiopian blueprint for a limitless war on Tigrayans
- Alex De Waal: How foreign drone intervention and more turned tide for Abiy in Ethiopia
- Mehari Taddele Maru: Joint UN, Ethiopia Atrocities Report: Poison Fruit of Poisonous Tree
- Tsadkan Gebretensae: Pertinent Issues on the War in Tigray
- Manuel João Ramos: A tragédia etíope e o autismo português [in Portuguese]
8. Other articles on the media
- The Washington Post, 30 December 2021: She was in Abiy Ahmed’s cabinet as war broke out. Now she wants to set the record straight.
- The Times, 31 December 2021: Ethiopia’s war turns into a testing ground for the deadliest drones
- BBC, 27 December 2021: My art channels the pain from Ethiopia’s war
- RFI, 31 December 2021: UN reports record number of civilians killed in airstrikes across Ethiopia’s Tigray region
- Bloomberg, 4 January 2021: More Than 140 People Killed in Air Strikes in Northern Ethiopia Since October
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).