Tuesday, October 19

The UN requests access to the Ethiopian region of Tigray to check if war crimes have been committed




The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle bachelet, has asked Ethiopia to allow investigators access to the Tigray region, in the north of the country, where the Ethiopian Army, the Eritrean Army and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (PFLT) are suspected of committing war crimes. At the beginning of November, the Ethiopian and Nobel President of La Paz, Abiy Ahmed Ali, ordered an attack on the province, controlled by the FPLT militia.

“The victims and survivors of these violations must not see their rights to truth and justice denied,” Bachelet demanded yesterday, when the announcement of the investigations was known. «Reports continue to be shared deeply distressing on sexual and gender-based violence, extrajudicial executions, widespread destruction and looting of public and private property by all parties, ”added the High Commissioner, lamenting that the fighting continues in Tigray.

The truth is that the UN initiative comes after a succession of disturbing news. More than a week ago, the American newspaper ‘The New York Times’ echoed an intelligence report from the United States, which stated that in Tigray it was being carried out a process of ‘ethnic cleansing’. According to that document, “entire villages were being severely damaged or completely destroyed.” For its part, the organization Amnesty International also denounced a few days ago that Eritrean troops had killed some 240 civilians in the city of Axum, including “extrajudicial executions, indiscriminate bombings and looting,” among other human rights violations.

Ethnic conflict

‘Tigray’s forces are also carrying out massacres. It is like the typical African conflict, where both parties are guilty of atrocities, “he adds on the other end of the phone. Dagauh Komenan (Ivory Coast, 1989), historian specialized in Africa. “At the beginning of November, 600 civilians were killed in Maikandra,” he recalls, about the crimes of the FPLT in that town, inhabited by the Amhara and Wolkait ethnic groups, and denounced by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (CDHE).

“Ethiopia is one of the most unusual countries in Africa, because it has not known colonization as such. For a long time, it was under a socialist regime: since 1975, with the fall of the emperor Haile Selassie, to 1991. From then on, there was an opening to the liberal model. In 1994, the country became a federal state, with an ethnic base, ”explains Komenan, who places the origin of the conflict in differences of this type, rather than in religious ones. “That’s where the main problem arose, because the Tigray make up 6 percent of the population. However, former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who ruled between 1995 and 2012, came from that province, so he especially favored it, “he adds.

An elderly Ethiopian, fled from Tigray and taken refuge in a camp in Sudan
An elderly Ethiopian, fled Tigray and taken refuge in a camp in Sudan – AFP

Thousands of dead and displaced

Last November, President Abiy ordered the offensive to begin, after Tigray held regional elections, despite the fact that Addis Ababa had ordered to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The tensions came from before, as the PFLT received with displeasure the signing of a peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, initialed in September 2018. As a result, around 52,000 people have died these months, according to opposition sources in Tigray, and some 49,000 have fled to Sudan, according to UNHCR.

Located in northern Ethiopia, on the border with Eritrea, the Tigray region, which is named after the same ethnic group that inhabits it, is predominantly Christian. Its historical importance is remarkable, since its territory corresponds to the old Kingdom of Axum, one of the first to embrace, since the fourth century after Christ, the religion preached by Jesus of Nazareth. Its churches, carved out of stone, are among the most beautiful in the world.

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