“Calls” from every corner for an immediate cessation of hostilities, withdrawal of Eritrean troops, unfettered access, talks, etc. etc. But who can really believe that Abiy and even more Isayas would listen to simple calls without any concrete action to impose them practically?
René Lefort on Twitter
(journalist at Le Monde, retired)
In this Tigray digest we must again address the worsening humanitarian situation, and indeed insist that the international community must act (section 1). In addition to ongoing famine and bloodbaths, the outlooks for the 2022 harvest are bad again (section 2). Further, the academic community is increasingly alarmed by the Ethiopian universities’ support for warfare against Tigray and Tigrayans – the case of the murder of Prof. Meareg Abraha of Bahir Dar University is emblematic (section 3). The massacres and bombardments call for independent international investigations – we reached out to our network to try and understand what happened in Kobo (section 4). One of the bottlenecks that the international community faces with regard to civil war in Ethiopia, is the functioning of the UN offices in Addis Ababa (section 5). Among the many Tigray events organised worldwide, we highlight a webinar on 20 October with Lord Alton, Alex De Waal and Sarah Vaughan: ‘Starvation – a weapon of war’ (section 6), as well as a fundraising event in Slovenia (section 7).
The UN World Food Programme has not been able to send its convoys into Tigray since August 22, when war flared up again. Journalists are not allowed in, no telecommunications, no trade, no salaries, no banks, no medical supplies (babies in Tigray die at four times the pre-war level !) and an awful war ongoing on all of Tigray’s borders, especially in the districts along the Eritrean border. The Tigrayans experienced the massacres, rape and other war crimes of the 2021 occupation and try to fence off the new invasion of ENDF and EDF.
According to the Ethiopia Food Security Cluster, between 29 September and 5 October, 414 000 people were assisted with 6535 tonnes of food (cereals, pulses and oil) in Tigray. Due to shortage of pulses and vegetable oil, 316 000 people received only partial food baskets. More food is being dispatched to Asgede to respond to the ongoing influx of new internally displaced people, coming from the embattled Adiyabo district. Due to warfare, most woredas along the Eritrean border are either partially or fully inaccessible for food deliveries. As of 10 October, there remained only 11,600 liters of fuel and 34,900 tonnes of food in the humanitarian stores in Tigray. To complete the ongoing round of distribution, additional 192,000 liter of fuel is urgently needed to ensure continuous dispatch and distribution of 12,500 tonnes of food or 740,000 people will be left without food assistance. Shortage of cash continues to slow down food response, preventing partners from paying staff salaries and relevant costs for loading, offloading, dispatch and monitoring.
The question of using international leverage to lessen the suffering of the Tigrayan people is on the table in light of the recent resolution by the European Parliament and the unambiguous report of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts. A gentle but unsuccessful approach towards the Ethiopian government has so far been favoured by the international community. Without waiting for the UN, individual nations can impose sanctions such as halting arms sales, revoking Ethiopian Airlines’ landing rights, or cancelling other flagship projects. Individual nations should act while influencing others to take equally strong stands.
- Washington Post, 17 October: Ethiopian soldiers take strategic city in Tigray amid civilian exodus
- The Globe and Mail, 17 October: New offensive in Tigray brings heavy death toll for civilians
- BBC Africa Eye, 17 October: Tigray under siege
- Food Security Cluster Tigray, weekly updates
- National Catholic Register, 14 October 2022: Tigrayan Bishop Decries ‘Devastating Genocidal War’ in Ethiopia
- NPR, 14 October 2022: ‘Where is humanity?’ ask the helpless doctors of Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region
- Tony Magaña: Tigray famine has higher death rate then 1980s Ethiopian famine
- BBC, 9 October 2022: Ethiopia civil war: My patients are doomed to die in Tigray blockade
- RFI, 4 October 2022: Éthiopie: à l’hôpital de Mekele, «nous n’avons plus d’insuline, les diabétiques meurent» [in French] (Ethiopia: at the Mekele hospital, “we have no more insulin, diabetics are dying”)
- Die Zeit, 14 October 2022: Die Toten des Friedensnobelpreisträgers [in German] (The Dead of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)
- The Telegraph, 7 October 2022: ‘Our patients come here needing life-saving treatment – we can only watch them die’- Tigray’s hospitals are collapsing under the strain of civil war as doctors reveal record numbers of avoidable deaths
- Prof. Mehari Taddelle (European University Institute) on Twitter: The U.N. Security Council’s mandate of maintenance of international peace and security is global, not limited to Europe, or those countries with commercial and geopolitical value. “African solutions to African problems” is not a codeword to absolve the Security Council off its charter-based duties. The motto “African solutions to African problems” was essentially a lesson to Africa to take responsibility for intervention to stop genocide after the International Community failed in Rwanda in 1994. Now, this slogan has taken the exact opposite of what it was intended to mean. ( https://twitter.com/DrMehari)
- Council of the EU, 17 October 2022: Ethiopia: Declaration of the High Representative on behalf of the EU on the intense fighting in the northern part of the country (it reads like a compilation of earlier statements only – JN)
A team of Mekelle University and Ghent University geographers has carried out a survey of the crop status on 262 farm plots in Tigray, late August 2022. The farmers will harvest their farmlands in the coming months, and it may be anticipated that yields will be nearly as bad as in 2021.
- Spring rains were not good and there was little opportunity for growing maize, sorghum or millet
- Though the main rainy season was generally good, shortage of fertilizer led to poor crop stands
- For the 2022 rainfed cropping season, less than 20% of the required fertilizer reached Tigray
On 3 November 2022, it will be one year since we have tragically lost Professor Meareg Amare Abrha. There is now enough inside knowledge to have a strong suspicion that the Amhara Special Forces, Bahir Dar University, Fano militants, and secret agents were all involved in Prof. Meareg’s murder. In remembrance of their father, his family have created an online memorial page that keeps his cherished memories alive containing a biography, photos, and videos. We hope that even though the family was denied having a proper funeral ceremony, this page will allow us all a platform to come together and share our condolences and keep his memory alive: Professor Meareg Abrha’s Online Memorial & Obituary
- Database: the Ethiopian public universities during the Tigray war
- Obituary Professor Meareg Amare (1959-2021)
- BDU vice president timidly admits that Prof. Meareg Amare has been murdered
- Curt Rice (rector NMBU, Norway): Krigen i Etiopia angår oss (Klassekampen) [in Norwegian] (Translation: The war in Ethiopia concerns us)
- Uniforum (Universitetet i Oslo), 30 September 2022: Kritiserer UiO for æresdoktoratet til etiopisk statsråd: – Ho har sete med politisk ansvar på alle nivå – Etiopia-ekspert Kjetil Tronvoll er rysta over situasjonen til akademikarar i Etiopia. No etterlyser han ei aktsemdsvurdering frå UiO og andre norske universitet som er engasjerte i landet. [in Norwegian] (He criticized Oslo University for the honorary doctorate of an Ethiopian minister – Ethiopia expert Kjetil Tronvoll is appalled by the situation of academics in Ethiopia. Now, he calls for an act assessment from Oslo University and other Norwegian universities that are engaged in the country.)
An article was published in The Guardian (10 October 2022) detailing the killing of dozens of people, allegedly by Tigray troops during their recent occupation of the town. The article raised much eyebrows, not the least because it lacked context. It so happens that we know Kobo and its surroundings quite well from previous projects in the Raya area – one of the aims of such projects (a bit naively maybe) was “science for peace”, with a study area covering parts of the Tigray and Amhara regions.
The information that we could collect from two sources in Kobo is as follows: “The town is quite big and the large majority of the people are newcomers; in absence of social cohesion, we mostly hear rumours. I personally know one person who was killed, that is teacher Kassa of the catholic school; I don’t know who killed him. Several other people were killed but I doubt whether it was done by Tigray soldiers – there have been many shootings though between the Tigrayan [soldiers] and fano or other Amhara militia that got killed. So many bad things have happened in Kobo. When TDF entered the town, they went to the hospitals and took the medicines, that is because there are no medicines at all available in Tigray. After that, inhabitants of Kobo went in group to the catholic mission and destroyed the school, the hospital, the chapel even with its religious objects. Earlier on, they had already stolen all the cows and the iron sheet roofs from the mission’s farm and they shared it among themselves. This was not done by any of the warring factions, this was done by people from Kobo. Similarly, if individuals were killed, it could as well be by shifta [bandits], or by fano. Of course, afterwards they will blame it on Tigray. There are people in Kobo who are known for making up stories, they like to blame everything on Tigray.”
The contacts reminded me of the continuous vandalism that was done to our own project installations around Kobo in the years before the war, simply because the project was run by Mekelle University.
“There are all kinds of rumours; some inhabitants of Kobo will blame air bombardments and drone strikes to the Tigray army, though the latter does not have airplanes or drones. I suggest not to buy directly the claims that those civilians were killed by Tigray forces.”
Also here, like in all other cases, there is high need for independent investigations. The ICHREE should receive sufficient funds and be allowed to travel all over the country to do its own investigations.
In the meantime, there are large-scale air bombardments and drone strikes all over Tigray, with numerous civilian casualties.
Further reading on massacres in the Tigray War
- BBC, 16 October 2022: Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: Civilian bloodbath warning as offensive escalates
- Human Rights Watch, 27 September 2022: Renewal of the Mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE)
- Reuters, 7 October 2022: Ethiopia rights probe extended after close vote at U.N. body
- Reuters, 5 October 2022: More than 50 killed in northern Ethiopia air strike -aid workers and Tigray forces
- AFP, 15 October: International Rescue Committee Says Employee Killed In Ethiopia’s Tigray
- Associated Press, 15 October 2022: Aid worker killed in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region
- Associated Press, 30 September 2022: Witnesses: Airstrike in Ethiopia’s Tigray kills civilians
Since the beginning of the war, observers have been surprised by covert support for the Ethiopian regime by staff of UN agencies in Addis Ababa. This was directly visible in the form of maps with “Amhara” written over large parts of Tigray on maps, or burner tweets posted by official UN accounts.
The report of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia also mentioned: “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.” (The ICHREE report may be downloaded here).
And now ALNAP (Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance, a UK based non-profit organization) published this article: What’s happened to principled humanitarian action in conflicts? The case of Tigray, aspart of a series that tells the humanitarian stories behind key findings and lessons emerging in ALNAP’s State of the Humanitarian System 2022 report.
Citation: “The conflict was heavily politicised at every level, and the humanitarian system was widely felt to be naive in its response to this: too closely aligned to the government, and lacking experience and unity. National staff often held partisan views on the crisis, while many international staff had deep relationships with government officials built over many years of living in Addis. After multiple incidents of partisan social media posts and leaking of online meeting recordings, agencies had to give regular reminders to staff about neutrality and impartiality.”
- Webinar on 20 October: ‘Starvation – a weapon of war’
On Thursday 20 October at 7 PM London time (20:00 GMT), the Union Chapel is hosting a webinar titled ‘Starvation – a weapon of war’ which is intended to develop the discussion from their earlier webinar ‘Tigray – the prevention of genocide’ (watch online). Speakers include Lord Alton of Liverpool (co-chair of the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eritrea), alongside academics Alex de Waal and Sarah Vaughan. Register to attend.
Earlier on, we reported about solidarity for Tigray in Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, UK, the USA, also in Italy, France, South Africa and Japan. No way to have the full inventory of all these activities. For now, we wish to highlight an upcoming event in Slovenia.
On Saturday, November 12, 2022, at 7:00 p.m., a holy mass and a concert for Tigray will be held in the Church of St. Mary in Ljubljana – the Franciscan church on Tromostovje. There will be fundraising for the people of Tigray.
Some recent articles in Slovenian
- Družina, 7 September 2022: Salezijanci zbirajo za Tigraj (Salesians collect for Tigray)
- Novi Glas (Italian newspaper in Slovene language): Etiopski uradniki priznavajo uporabo Biafri podobnega obleganja, da bi izstradali Tigraj (Ethiopian Officials Admit Using Biafra-Like Siege to Starve Tigray) – PART 1 – PART 2
- Opinion pieces
- Meressa Tsehaye: A referendum is the only remedy for Tigray’s problems (Ethiopia Insight)
- Alex De Waal: Tigray faces a new onslaught by Eritrean-Ethiopian forces (Responsible Statecraft)
- Alex De Waal: Why are Ethiopians Dying in Isaias’ War? (The Elephant)
- Yonas Nigussie: By refusing to lift the siege, Ethiopia’s leaders made renewed war in Tigray inevitable (Ethiopia Insight)
- Benjamin Fox: Europe’s forgotten war (EurActiv)
- Michelle Gavin: Peace Talks for Tigray Delayed – An absence of political will may prove a far harder problem than complicated logistics (Council on Foreign Affairs)
- International Crisis Group: CrisisWatch Digest Ethiopia
- Kjetil Tronvoll & Nic Cheeseman: Why international peace talks in Ethiopia were unsuccessful – and how to make them work (Mail and Guardian)
- Alex De Waal: US diplomacy failing at critical moment in Ethiopia war (Responsible Statecraft)
- Asafa Jalata: Tigray has resisted Ethiopia’s far greater military might for two years – here’s why neither side is giving in (The Conversation)
- Alex De Waal: The African Union “Peace Talks” for Ethiopia: Unmasking the Pretense (Reinventing Peace)
- Other media articles
- Associated Press, 10 October 2022: Ethiopia’s Tigray forces say Eritreans widen war offensive
- BBC, 13 October: Ethiopia’s civil war: Inside Tigray’s capital Mekelle – BBC News
- US Department of State, 12 October: Joint Statement on Resumption of Hostilities in Northern Ethiopia
- Reuters, 16 October 2022: Ethiopia is finding it increasingly difficult to pay for its Tigray war
- Associated Press, 5 October 2022: Ethiopia, Tigray head invited to peace talks in South Africa
- Deutsche Welle, 13 October 2022: Wie Eritrea den Krieg in Äthiopien befeuert [in German]
- NRC, 13 October: Strijd in Tigray laait verder op, ondanks geplande vredesbesprekingen [in Dutch] (Fighting in Tigray flares up further, despite planned peace talks)
- The Economist, 7 October 2022: Eritrea has called up thousands of reservists to fight in Tigray
- The Guardian, 8 October 2022: Postponement of Tigray peace talks latest blow in Ethiopia’s hidden war
- The New York Times, 8 October 2022: After Secret U.S. Talks Fail, a Hidden War in Africa Rapidly Escalates
- Reuters, 28 September 2022: Satellite images show troop build-ups in Ethiopia and Eritrea
- BBC, 12 October 2022: Eritreans hunted down as military call-up intensifies over Ethiopia’s Tigray war
- NRC, 23 September: Hoe Ethiopië door zijn trotse verleden wordt verscheurd [in Dutch] (How Ethiopia is being torn apart by its proud past)
- Expressen, 10 October 2022: Kyrka kopplas till diktatur – får miljonbidrag i Sverige [in Swedish] (Eritrean Church linked to dictatorship – receives millions in Sweden)
- Reversely, the Eritrean Orthodox Church, which followed Abuna Antonio and remains independent from PFDJ, and the Canonical Archdioceses of North America, Europe and Middle East condemn the bitter war in Tigray and declare a seven-day fasting and prayers from 3 to 9 October. (Statement in Tigrinya – https://twitter.com/mvreisen/status/1576807040542179328/photo/1)
- France 24, 12 October 2022: Western powers urge Ethiopia, rebels to enter peace talks
- MO*, 1 October 2022: Activiste Vanessa Tsehaye over de erbarmelijke mensenrechtensituatie van Eritreeërs – ‘Ik weet niet of mijn nonkel nog leeft, maar de president van Eritrea… die is er nog altijd’ [in Dutch] (Activist Vanessa Tsehaye on the appalling human rights situation of Eritreans – ‘I don’t know if my uncle is still alive, but the president of Eritrea… he’s still there.”)
- Reuters, 29 September 2022: Six million silenced: A two-year internet outage in Ethiopia
- Reuters, 6 October 2022: Ethiopia, Tigrayan forces accept African Union-led peace talks
- RFI, 4 October 2022: Éthiopie: l’aviation érythréenne entre en action dans le Tigré [in French] (Ethiopia: the Eritrean aviation enters into action in Tigray)
- WDR, 16 October 2022 : Tagesschau about Tigray [in German] https://twitter.com/mvreisen/status/1581710294581415938
- RFI, 6 October 2022: Éthiopie: les incertitudes des pourparlers de paix en Afrique du Sud [in French] (Ethiopia: uncertainties in peace talks in South Africa)
- The Telegraph, 3 October 2022: How a new ‘Great War of Africa’ is raging under the cover of a media blackout
- Die Zeit, 29 September 2022: Der vergessene schlimmste Krieg der Welt [in German] (The Forgotten Worst War in the World)