Humanitarian Crisis in Ethiopia

Humanitarian Crisis in Ethiopia

Safa Hameed

According to an internal government report obtained by The New York Times, Ethiopia has been partaking in ethnic cleansing in the Tigray region under the guise of the war that was started on November 4th, 2020.

The New York Times has said that the report has described in detail ghost towns and villages where the residents appear to be missing. Moreover, the report claims that many of the soldiers that have been flooding the region since the start of the war are deliberately and efficiently rendering Western Tigray ethnically homogeneous through the organized use of force and intimidation.

The report has only furthered what people have been suspecting since the start of the war on November 4th as other reports from various groups, like the Human Rights Watch, have claimed that the Ethiopian government has been unfairly shelling and bombing civilian targets during the war, like populated urban areas, schools, hospitals and more. 

The violence being committed against the Tiray is coming from more than one group in this conflict. On one hand, there is the Ethiopian army, and on the other there is violence being committed by Eritrean troops that are helping the Ethiopian army, according to Amnesty International.

Later accounts from Associated Press push this narrative as well, as both claim that hundreds of innocent civilians in Axum, an ancient city in Tigray, were massacred and that the Eritrean forces refused to let people bury the dead bodies. Both, Eritrean and Ethiopian leadership have denied allegations that Eritrean forces have taken part in the war, but amid the reports from Amnesty International, President Abib Ahmed has promised to look into the findings.

The report also addresses the situation in western Tigray, where Amhara fighters have been pushing out the ethnic Tigray population. The Times has said that “in several towns, ethnic Tigrayans have been attacked and their homes have been pillaged and burned.” In response to such violent killing and aggression, 56,000 Tigrayans have fled, many into neighboring Sudan before the Ethiopian military closed the borders,

There is still not 100% solid evidence that this ethnic cleansing is going on as the region is closed to many. The United Nations has said before that it is hard to say exactly what is going on as the humanitarian community has been blocked from getting into major cities. However, it is indisputable that there is a humanitarian crisis going on; at least a million people have been displaced, and there is an ongoing food crisis, as 4.5 million people are in need of emergency food aid in accordance with the Tigray Emergency Coordination Center.

The heart of the conflict begins in 1970s when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was formed and eventually came to dominate politics in the country, especially in the countries coalition of parties known as the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. In 2018, when President Abiy came into power, he dissolved the coalition which angered the TPLF and they refused to follow along with his plans.

Things accelerated in November of 2020 when President Abiy refused to hold elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic, angering the TPLF. The TPLF held their own elections anyway (which the government said were invalid) and then they attacked a military base in the northern region of the country. This caused the Ethiopian government to send in troops and began attacking the Tigray region, leading to today’s conflict.