On 11 September, the Ethiopian new year 2015 has started, again under dire conditions. Almost two years of war, and the necessary time lag is already there for international investigations – expectedly, as they have been exposed, the Ethiopian government rejected the outcomes of the ICHREE investigations (section 1). Further, this digest stresses the siege and starvation (section 2), as well as the ways in which Ethiopian universities are funding the war on Tigray (section 3). For the war situation itself (and an emerging peace movement), we refer to press articles (section 5). We also give attention to the attempts of the Eritrean dictatorship to continue controlling the refugees that have fled that very country, and the increasing resistance to this (section 7). There are also some new scientific publications (section 8), as well as opinion pieces about the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe (section 9).
Source: Ethiopia Food Cluster (14 September 2022) – note that in the woredas along the Eritrean border, only the southern part could be accessed
- Human rights and massacres in Tigray and Ethiopia
Report of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) (19 September 2021)
Summary: In the present report, submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S-33/1, the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia presents its initial findings. The report concludes that there are reasonable grounds to believe that violations, such as extrajudicial killings, rape, sexual violence, and starvation of the civilian population as a method of warfare have been committed in Ethiopia since 3 November 2020. The Commission finds reasonable grounds to believe that, in several instances, these violations amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The report provides an assessment of transitional justice developments and makes urgent recommendations.
101. Credible information indicates large-scale killings committed by EDF and ENDF forces between November 2020 and June 2021, including the killing of hundreds of people in Axum and the killing of scores of people in Maryam Dengelat in November 2020. Large-scale killings also seem to have occurred in Mai Kadra, Adigrat and surrounding areas from November 2020; Bora and Mahbere Dego in January 2021; and Kola Tembien in February 2021. In most cases, the ENDF or EDF appeared to target Tigrayan men and boys perceived to be of fighting age. Community and religious leaders who were men also appear to have been targeted.
102. Witnesses strongly implicate the EDF in these atrocities. The Commission has identified several EDF members who were present during attacks or were reported to be giving orders. Survivors of killings in Zalambessa say they are unable to return home because of EDF troops in the town, as well as landmine contamination. The Commission recommends further investigation into the EDF’s conduct during its ongoing presence in Ethiopia.
(EDF = Eritrean army; ENDF = Ethiopian army)
One of the core issues that hindered the investigation is that UN offices in Addis Ababa are largely supportive of Abiy Ahmed. As the ICHREE writes: “Requests to various UN entities operating in Ethiopia to share documents and materials of interest were largely deflected, or responded to after an inordinate delay.”
On 3 September, Arte TV reported on the Mahbere Dego massacre in Tigray, that happened in January 2021. Journalists Charles Emptaz and Olivier Jobard have met relatives of the victims and soldiers who were part of the death squad: Ethiopie : un massacre ordinaire [in French and Amharic]. See also our database: https://www.ethiopiatigraywar.com/incident.php?id=I00469
It might be good to remind the readers also that the restrictions imposed by the Ethiopian government on journalists (we don’t even speak about press in Eritrea…), resulted in the news of the Aksum massacre reaching the international media only in February 2021, thanks to an article by Cara Anna of the AP news agency. Just after that, the Ethiopian Ambassador in Brussels, Hirut Zemene, arrogantly replied to a VRT journalist that the Aksum massacre had not happened; she said that just making an allusion to the Aksum massacre is “a very, very crazy idea”. https://twitter.com/tvbempt/status/1396004979689787394
The Ethiopian government has rejected the ICHREE report; the Tigray government invited ICHREE to carry out field investigations.
- Le Monde , 3 September 2022: Ethiopie : au Tigré, la mort en direct
- Reuters, 3 September 2022: Gunmen kill more than 40 people in Ethiopia’s Oromiya region – residents
- Addis Standard, 8 September 2022: UN Rights Experts urge Security Council to keep Ethiopia, Horn situation on its agenda; say Eritrean troops engaged in Tigray hostilities
- Euronews, 16 September 2022: Repeated examples of human rights abuse in Tigray region, says expert
- Radio France internationale, 19 September 2022: UN report warns of crimes against humanity in Ethiopia
- Associated Press, 22 September 2022: UN experts detail extensive war crimes amid Tigray conflict
- Al Jazeera, 23 September 2022: UN: Warring sides committing atrocities in Ethiopia’s Tigray
- The Guardian, 23 September 2022: ‘Humanitarian crime’: fighting cuts off insulin supply in Tigray
- Siege and starvation
The humanitarian assistance has continued in accessible areas with the stockpiles in the Afar, Amhara, and Tigray regions, despite the resumption of fighting.
In Tigray, between September 1 and 7, 1.5 million people received assistance in the form of almost 25,000 tonnes of food. Priority has been given to distributing food to accessible areas with a large concentration of IDPs and those locations where the previous distribution (Round 3 of 2021!) occurred months ago.
A significant portion of the food supply was delivered to the woredas in early September thanks to the fuel that had arrived in August. Food partners had around 93,000 liters of fuel left as of September 13; this was only enough to transport 7,600 tonnes of food to 450,000 people.
An additional 250,000 liters of fuel are needed to maintain ongoing food distribution and shipment. Around 17,000 tonnes of food cannot be transported without this extra fuel, and roughly a million people would be left without food aid.
On 26 September, the Ethiopian government stated that international aid organisations should not work in areas where they carry out military operations, such as in Tigray, further confirming their ‘Biafra’ strategy.
Sources: Ethiopia Food Cluster (14 September 2022); OCHA Ethiopia Situation Report (19 September 2022); https://twitter.com/tvbempt/status/1574464210771349553.
- Reuters, 20 September 2022: Deadly childhood diseases rise in Ethiopia’s Tigray as war hampers vaccinations
- Der Spiegel, 12 September 2022: Bürgerkrieg und Hungersnot in Äthiopien – Wo Menschen Gras essen müssen [in German] – Civil war and famine in Ethiopia – Where people must eat grass
- Libération, 17 September 2022: Ethiopie: «Au Tigré, nous vivons un siège total, au sens médiéval» [in French] (Ethiopia: “In Tigray, we live a total siege, in the medieval sense”)
- NOS, 23 September 2022: Eritrea mobiliseert troepen, ‘kan genadeklap zijn voor mensen Tigray‘ [in Dutch]
- Novi Glas, 16 September 2022: Skoraj 5 in pol milijona ljudi trpi in umira zaradi namerno povzročene lakote [in Slovenian] (Nearly 5 and a half million people suffer and die from deliberately induced hunger)
- Sudan Tribune, 26 September 2022: Sudan confirms three new monkeypox cases in Ethiopian refugee camp
- Crisis Group, 23 September 2022: Back to War in Ethiopia
- Africa ExPress, 26 September 2022: Genocide in Tigray: the shameful public indifference
- Ethiopian universities are funding the war on Tigray
A thorny and unsolved problem is that of communicating vessels between cooperation in university development, Ethiopian universities and the Ethiopian army. On September 21, the Ethiopian Ministry of Education proudly announced that the ministry, its sectors and Ethiopia’s public universities had donated 211 million Birr “to the victorious Ethiopian Defense Forces.” (https://tweetstamp.org/1572554841440022528)
Whereas the substitution of aid funds permits, for instance, World Bank financing to be covertly channeled to warfare, the overt budget transfer from the educational sector to the military leaves budget gaps that would then be covered with funds from international projects.
Economist Patrick Heinisch of Helaba Bank (Germany) refers to this as “a very sensitive topic. The European Union is not directly funding Ethiopian government budgets due to the war. The question is to what extent the EU is indirectly freeing up resources in Ethiopian ministries for military purposes. EU funds projects in health and education totalling €81.5 million”. (https://twitter.com/PatrickHeinisc1/status/1573209016880209922)
Hence, in this case, the substitution of aid funds happens very openly and is directed to the military. One can’t look past it. Embassies and international universities’ foreign departments are alerted: how to explain to taxpayers that the University Development Cooperation financially supports Ethiopian universities, when these universities transfer money to the army?
With regard to substitution of aid funds to Ethiopia, or fungibility as it is called in public finance management jargon, see the recent podcast by the International Crisis Group, and particularly William Davison’s statement at around 39:30 into the podcast.
- The “International” Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES21) at Addis Ababa University
The 21st International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, which will take place at Addis Ababa University (AAU) from September 28 to October 1, will be a setback for its organizers. At the ICES20 in Mekelle (2018), there were around 600 presentations. At ICES21, there will only be a little over 200. The symposium would only be international in name because practically all foreign scholars, including the most renowned, declined to attend (https://twitter.com/rene_renelefort/status/1572988266244079622). In addition to the overall situation of the country, a major reason for this setback of ICES21 is the involvement of AAU in the Tigray war. AAU has indeed threatened to revoke academic degrees based on political opinion; the university is also a safe place for genocidal hate preachers Taye Bogale and Dagnachew Assefa. At least two AAU professors of Tigrayan origin were arrested, without reaction of the university. AAU also sent 100 medical staff to the war fronts, and donated 60 million birr to the Ethiopian army.
In the meantime the war is ongoing, with Tigray being attacked from all sides, villages shelled, and drone bombings on the towns, and on transportation (including a WFP truck).
- France Culture, 8 September 2022 : En Ethiopie, pourquoi la trêve a-t-elle été rompue ? [in French, with Mehdi Labzaé]
- Reuters, 26 September 2022: https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/un-food-agency-says-debris-drone-strike-hit-truck-northern-ethiopia-2022-09-26/
- Heise Online, 17 September 2022: Friedensnobelpreisträger Abiy Ahmed Ali in Äthiopien: Bomben gegen den Frieden [in German]
- Africa Confidential, 22 September 2022: Addis and Tigray return to the battlefields
- Angel Olaran writes about the beginning of what could be the ultimate military confrontation (6 September)
- Libération, 17 September 2022: Ethiopie: la guerre s’enlise au Tigré, «Ukraine de l’Afrique» [in French] (Ethiopia: War gets bogged down in Tigray, ‘Africa’s Ukraine’)
- AFP, 7 September 2022: Ethiopians from war-ravaged Tigray celebrate holiday in Sudan
- France 24, 2 September 2022: William Davison talks about the dire situation as fighting erupts again between the TPLF, the government & Eritrea. https://twitter.com/CrisisGroup/status/1565636120259559424
- CBS News, 6 September: Truce in Ethiopia’s war with Tigray rebels brought little relief. Now it seems to be falling apart.
- Radio France internationale, 15 September 2022: Bombardements en Éthiopie: «C’est un bras d’honneur adressé à la communauté internationale» [in French, interview René Lefort] (Bombings in Ethiopia: “This is an arm of honour addressed to the international community”)
- Associated Press, 13 September 2022: Ethiopia’s economy struggles as war reignites in Tigray
- The Washington Post, 20 September 2022: The Conflict Testing Ethiopia’s Nobel-Winning Leader
- Agenzia Fides, 21 September 2022: Tigray: the worst offensive in recent times, an emergency for hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians
- Radio France internationale, 1 September 2022: Guerre au Tigré: «C’est l’échec d’un processus de négociation entamé pour gagner du temps» [interview Mehdi Labzaé, in French] (War in Tigray: “This is the failure of a negotiation process started to buy time”)
- The New Yorker, 26 September 2022: Did a Nobel Peace Laureate Stoke a Civil War? (long read)
- Some signs of fraternity
There have again been demonstrations for peace in Addis Ababa. And in Tigray, people are confronted with large numbers of Ethiopian and Eritrean prisoners of war.
Abeba Gebresillasie owns a small stationary shop in Mekelle. She was president of the women entrepreneurs of the town. A colleague knows her well and visited her during each stay in Mekelle. In this video, she speaks in Amharic in front of ENDF prisoners of war, who sometimes applaud her! Excerpts:
“Thank God that you are still alive here…
All the harm you have done to the Tigrayans, we think about it all the time because we are moms…
Your moms are also worried about you…
You too will always think of all the harm you have done to us… some of you have raped women, even raped married women…
How could you follow people who wanted to exterminate us, the people of Tigray?
We have nothing to eat, but we give you food and drink because it is our custom…
You wanted to exterminate us while we thought we were part of Ethiopia… “
And she ends by saying “excuse me and thank you”
- Mail & Guardian, 24 September 2022: ‘Why do we have to keep killing?’
- The Continent, 17 September 2022: Ethiopia’s new pacifists
- Associated Press, 12 September 2022: Ethiopia’s Tigray forces say willing to enter peace process
- Radio France internationale, 10 September 2022: Des pourparlers de paix discrets commencent entre gouvernement éthiopien et rebelles tigréens [in French] (Discreet peace talks begin between Ethiopian government and Tigrayan rebels)
- Addis Standard, 1 September 2022: Ethiopian Teachers Association, Civil Societies Coalition call for hostilities de-escalation, continued humanitarian assistance
- Addis Standard, 9 September 2022: Women march in capital adds to growing calls for peace in Ethiopia
- Eritrea, tentacular dictatorship
There has been strong opposition this summer to the numerous “festivals” in Europe arranged by the Eritrean regime and its supporters in diaspora, that are part of a sprawling system to control all its nationals all over the world. As these “festivals” are intended to raise funds for the war, it is worth mentioning the massive opposition of Eritrean refugees, sometimes joined by Tigrayans. The authorities have often cancelled these festivals, as in Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Germany or the Netherlands.
For more information on the Eritrean opposition, it is recommended to follow these online resources:
- Frankfurter Rundschau, 22 September 2022: Invasion aus Eritrea: Tigray steht zwischen den Fronten [in German]
- Associated Press, 18 September 2022: Eritrea mobilizes its soldiers, raising Tigray fears
- Alex De Waal: The Despotism of Isaias Afewerki (The Baffler)
- Martin Plaut: Eritrea’s foreign festivals: support, finance, and defiance from the diaspora (Review of African Political Economy)
- Avvenire, 7 September 2022: Eritrea: Decine di ragazzi reclutati a forza dal regime durante la Messa [in Italian] (Dozens of boys forcibly recruited by the regime during Mass)
- Watson, 26 August 2022: In Deutschland artete es aus – jetzt kommt das «Eritrea-Festival» in die Schweiz [in German] (It degenerated in Germany – now the “Eritrea Festival” is coming to Switzerland)
- Scientific publications
- Fasika Amdeselassie : Trend of maternal mortality ratio in Tigray, pre and during the war – https://twitter.com/FAmdeslasie/status/1571164170111827970
- Phillips, J.F., Roy, C.M., Mulugeta Gebregziabher, 2022: The international humanitarian response to famine in Tigray, Ethiopia:lessons from the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-1970
- Opinion pieces
- Crisis Group: Avoiding the Abyss as War Resumes in Northern Ethiopia
- Medhanie Gaim: Functional Stupidity: The International Response to the War on Tigray (Tghat)
- David Alton: Tigray is Africa’s Ukraine
- Kenneth Roth: Confronting Ethiopia’s Abusive Siege (Foreign Policy)
- Mehari Taddele Maru: What Ethiopia and Tigray need for peace talks to succeed (Al Jazeera)
- Alex De Waal: How the International Community is Betraying Tigray—and its Principles. Annotating the official script (World Peace Foundation)
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).