Humanitarian situation in Tigray (17 August 2022)

URGENT: The International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia has extended the deadline to submit information and documentation about alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and international refugee law in Ethiopia committed since 3 November 2020. New Deadline – 21 August 2022. See: The format (Word version) may be downloaded from here; submission through the above OHCHR webpage.

IMPORTANT NOTE: this investigation is INDEPENDENT from any parties involved in the Tigray war, despite the fact that the Ethiopian authorities prevented them from carrying out an open field-based investigation. The investigators have been informed about the Tghat and databases.

In this digest, we present an update on the 2022 kremti cropping season in Tigray (section 1), on the status of humanitarian aid (section 2), which is directly linked to the blockade of Tigray (section 3). Attention is given to the dire state of National Parks as there are executions, organised poaching and rapine under the motto that the Parks are ‘TPLF concepts’ (section 4). As usual there is also an overview of recent scientific papers (section 5),  opinion pieces (section 6) and media articles (section 7) regarding Tigray.

  1. Cropping — ክራማትና

After the failed 2021 harvest in Tigray, we may only hope that 2022 will be much better. So far, we are optimistic – see these photos with crop stands around Hagere Selam, by 10 August.

The pictures were taken by Goitom Gebreegziabher of the Tigray Bureau of Agriculture. You may have an overview on crop stands in Tigray, by browsing the photos on Goitom’s twitter account: surroundings of WukroTsa’ida ImbaDogu’a TembienKilte Awula’iloGulo MakedaIrobMay K’inetalBizetSasunIndabagunaTekezeWerkamba, and Bora Chelena.

At first view, the crop stands seem better than last year. Of course, the harvest itself will not only depend on the current status but also whether fertiliser was available at sowing time, as well as on rains in late August and September.

By and large, crop stands seem to be promising for a good harvest at least for those fields that are in the pictures. Lack of fertiliser may pull down these expectations. Some farmers may still have ploughed late, for lack of oxen. Furthermore, farmers may not have planted optimal crops or varieties for lack of good seeds.

In Goitom’s twitter posts, I discovered the use of the word ክራማትና – kramatna, “our rainy seasons”, with kramat as a plural of kremti, in other words the kremti scene, including the rains and the outlook for the crops and the harvest. With the suffix ና, for “our”, ክራማትና expresses optimism. Thank you!

  1. Humanitarian aid

Fertilisers are essential for the farmers in the Tigray Region in Ethiopia, to avoid a catastrophic harvest like in 2021. Due to the road blockades all around Tigray (by Ethiopian government, Amhara Region, and Eritrea), fertiliser cannot be transported freely, and the only hope for Tigray was a speedy delivery of fertiliser through international aid convoys – convoys that may only leave for Tigray after overcoming the hurdles set up by the Ethiopian authorities.

According to the latest OCHA report, June saw the highest arrivals of food aid and fuel to Tigray, so far, but only 15% of the cash needed for salaries and logistics in Tigray has been allowed by the Ethiopian authorities.

Our colleagues in the field mention that since the agreement to ceasefire, food aid is arriving in insufficient amounts and in majority stored in Mekele. Very little food aid arrived to the woredas in May and June and not all needy people received even for one round (which is 15 kilo per person) due to lack of fuel to transport it from Mekelle. The situation is similar in almost all woredas and villages; in Western and some woredas of Eastern Tigray, no aid was distributed at all.

The arrival of fertiliser is considered good news. Even if farmers lacked fertiliser at sowing time for most crops, it was still useful and hopefully possible to apply some amount of fertiliser at a vegetative stage (topping up – a few weeks after sowing). And as teff is sown late in the season, fertiliser can also be used for this crop. However, due to late arrival of the fertiliser, and due to fuel shortages, a large part of it has been stored in Mekelle instead of being transported to the villages and the farmers. If not used, they try to store it properly so that it can be used after the rainy season, for instance on irrigated lands.

Both fertiliser and food aid are only delivered to the woreda centre towns, the farmers have to travel 10 to 30 kilometers with their donkeys to come and pick it from the towns. And then travel the same distance back.

Further reading on this topic:

  1. Tigray blockade and (failing?) diplomacy

As the Ethiopian government received again only extremely polite questions from international partners on the Tigray siege (blockade of banks, telephone, internet, roads, etc.), they were bound for an easy response to credulous diplomats: “The same services have been down in Amhara and Afar regional states. The public service providers have to determine how they can resume the basic services. Assessments on security, safety, and legal aspects must be undertaken before the public enterprises resume the services. These public service providers need time to undertake the assessments and craft regulations on how to resume the services.” (The Reporter, 13 August)

What the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said is totally wrong: the Amhara and Afar regions receive their annual budgets, telephone is working in Kobo, internet is working in Bahir Dar, banks are open in Gondar and people can access their money… Nothing of all that in Tigray. The roads leading to Tigray have been blocked for years prior to 2020. May we anticipate that diplomats will again “buy” the cheap excuses of the Ethiopian government? The blockade and starvation of Tigray is a major war crime è where are the sanctions on the Ethiopian government???

What we see today is that there is not even little hope for negotiated ceasefire or so…

This week, the Ethiopian army has attacked TDF positions around Dedebit. The TDF command accuses Addis of breaching truce. (Source: Rashid Abdi on twitter).

Further reading on this topic:

  1. National parks

One of the reasons that has moved many international scientists to closely work with Tigray in pre-war years was the great attention that was given to environmental conservation. Now, even the emblematic sites are not spared.

On 11 August, VOA Amharic reported about the Kafta Sheraro National Park in occupied Western Tigray. We see intentional destructions, because “it was a TPLF park”. Vehicles have been stolen, infrastructure damaged, wildlife poached and slaughtered. Amhara militia leaders even opened a bush meat restaurant in the town of Adebay, at the edge of the park.

Ethiopian wildlife conservation staff told us about another “anti-park” action: well inside the Amhara region where, what may be called the Guna Park massacre took place, in late August 2021. After the Tigray forces retreated from the area, the Amhara Fano militia rounded up the manager of Mt. Guna Community Conservation Area and several of his employees, all of Amhara ethnicity. They were labelled as TPLF spies and executed in public in Debre Tabor. Also here, the Guna Park had been designated as a “TPLF park”. The killings were not mentioned on the Facebook website for the Guna Community Conservation Area, although it does announce the appointment of a new manager in March 2022.

All this reads as a remake of the Derg-time terror against the Simien National Park management: in November 1976 the EPRP guerrilla, and maybe the TPLF as well, had a military operation in Simien. Ten months later, after Derg controlled the area again, their district governor punished the Park by having eight park guards publicly executed in the Debark marketplace. They were labelled “TPLF sympathisers” because of not engaging in combat with the skilled guerrilla warriors.

  1. Scientific articles
  1. Opinion pieces
  1. Other media articles

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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