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Friday, May 24, 2024

Ethiopia: alarming deterioration in Tigray

The conflict between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) has been escalating since early November. The UN and its humanitarian agencies are sounding the alarm in the face of escalating violence that would include a war crime. All fear having to deal with a prolonged conflict of the gravest kind, affecting the whole of the Horn of Africa.

Ethiopia, Africa's second most populous country with 110 million inhabitants, is witnessing a worsening of the tensions that have existed for months between the federal government and the Tigray region. The alleged attack on Ethiopian army bases in Tigray prompted the army, on the orders of Addis Ababa, to storm the province in the north of the country, where neighbouring Eritrea has massed troops on the border.

Concern among humanitarian agencies

The United Nations is unable to provide assistance to over two million people in need of humanitarian aid in the region, including half a million who are food insecure. In addition, there are 200,000 internally displaced people and over 100,000 refugees from Eritrea, all based in Tigray. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is very concerned by the situation, as 14,500 Ethiopians, 50% of them children, have already crossed the border to seek shelter in neighboring Sudan, whose absorption capacity is very limited. The UN is very concerned that the conflict will continue to escalate, as almost 9 million people could suffer the consequences.


The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has expressed her deep concern about the alarming deterioration of the situation in the Tigray region. She warns the Ethiopian authorities and the leaders of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) against continuing hostilities, which could get out of hand, causing destruction and massive displacement within the country and beyond its borders.

Possible war crime

According to the NGO Amnesty International, hundreds of people were killed with knives and machetes on the night of November 9 in the town of Mai-Kadra, in southwest Tigray. Eyewitnesses claimed that TPLF supporters were responsible for the massacre. Currently cut off from the rest of the world, all the information provided cannot be validly confirmed. Michelle Bachelet, the country's human rights chief, has declared that, should the facts be proven, they would constitute a war crime. She called for an independent inquiry.

Horn of Africa

Many experts fear that civil war could engulf the country, where 9 different regions are already fighting for greater autonomy or threatening to secede. Neighboring states, such as Sudan, South Sudan and Eritrea, are very nervous. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "deeply alarmed by the situation" in Tigray, stressing that "Ethiopia's stability is important for the Horn of Africa as a whole".