The Ethiopian government has ignored international calls for a ceasefire in the northern province of Tigray, saying its forces are close to “completing operations” and will soon eliminate all armed opposition.
In recent days, the United States, the United Nations, the United Kingdom and many European states have called for a pause in hostilities to allow humanitarian organizations to reach millions of people who, according to observers, are facing famine.
The war in Tigray has disrupted harvests and caused huge problems in delivering aid to communities, especially in rural areas. The UN said earlier this week that more than 90% of the people in Tigray are in need of emergency food aid.
Officials in Addis Ababa did not mention calls for a ceasefire in a lengthy press conference on Thursday, instead saying the government’s “law enforcement mission” was nearing completion.
“The counterinsurgency operations of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) are now concentrated in only two areas where the proscribed operations are active and this phase will soon end as well…. The outlaw group occasionally carries out attacks outside these areas to give the impression of control and that the region is completely unstable, “government spokesman Billene Seyoum told reporters.
The conflict began in November when government forces mobilized to oust the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) from power in the province after it launched surprise attacks on key federal military bases.
Although the ENDF, pro-government militia and troops sent by neighboring Eritrea were initially victorious, the conflict has turned into a devastating insurgency marked by atrocities including many massacres of civilians and systematic sexual violence.
Seyoum accused Ethiopia’s critics of bad faith, saying: “Ethiopia is witnessing an orchestrated attack that is condescending in nature; often condescending in tone; belligerent in approach and destructive in outcome. It is false to hijack the suffering of ordinary citizens for other purposes … The government categorically rejects the accusations of decimating a people as a policy. “
Internal NGO assessments seen by The Guardian described the widespread destruction of agricultural equipment, seed stocks and infrastructure in Tigray, as well as several deliberate attempts by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops to delay convoys. There are also reports of the theft of food and other essential materials by the troops.
Internal UK government documents obtained by The Guardian described millions of people “on the brink”. One report described “communities that were denied access to humanitarian assistance, relief operations were hampered, essential services were destroyed and looted, widespread war crimes were committed, and what appeared to be systematic efforts to destroy the media. of life”.
Humanitarian officials have blamed troops from neighboring Eritrea brought in to reinforce Ethiopian forces for many of the worst abuses.
In April, The Guardian reported that nearly 2,000 people had been killed in more than 150 massacres in Tigray, according to investigators. The oldest victims were 90 years old and the youngest were babies.
Seyyoum said Ethiopian military police and prosecutors had focused their efforts particularly on cases of killings of civilians and sexual violence “perpetrated by members of the ENDF”, which he attributed to “bad apples that violated their rules of engagement.” A total of 53 soldiers face trial on charges related to the murder of civilians in a situation where there was no military necessity or rape.
The United States has already imposed some sanctions and signaled new restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia.
“Earlier this week, the UN humanitarian affairs office warned that Ethiopia could experience its first famine since the 1980s due to this protracted conflict. All parties, in particular the forces of Ethiopia and Eritrea, must allow immediate and unhindered humanitarian access to the region to avoid widespread famine. ” the president of the United States said in a statement.
On Sunday, people packed a stadium in Addis Ababa for a pro-government rally, shouting against US sanctions and waving posters accusing foreign powers of undermining the country’s sovereignty.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism