Thousands Flee From War Crimes In Northern Ethiopia

By John Mikko Velasquez

Photo: NPR

On November 4, Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, launched a military campaign against the northern region’s ruling party - Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Ahmed accused the TPLF of treason and terrorism and claimed that the TPLF attacked federal military camps, hoping to undermine the country. However, the TPLF denied these claims. As a result, conflict erupted. Multiple accounts of war atrocities have occurred during the conflict, but since communications were down and the media absent, we do not know who committed them. According to NBC, the United Nations stated, “Fighting between Ethiopian government forces and rebellious northern leaders could spiral out of control and war crimes may have been committed.”

In mid-November, Humera, a small city in Tigray, got shelled. Gush Tela, a resident in Humera at the time, immediately left the city and migrated to a nearby town. According to The Guardian, when Tela came back a few days later, the first thing he noticed was the stench of countless corpses, followed by the corpses of women, men and children along the road, whose bodies were filled with bullet holes. Tela stated, “I saw many dead people being eaten by dogs.”

In 2018, Abiy Ahmed received a Nobel Peace Prize for attaining a peace pact with Eritrea and won praise for easing the repressive political system of Ethiopia. However, if these war crimes are proven to be true, it will drastically blemish his reputation.

Hundreds have been killed and tens of thousands have fled to Sudan because of the conflict between the TPLF and Ethiopian government. Not to mention, this conflict erupted during a locust outbreak which destroyed crops. Consequently, the refugees are burdening the villages in Sudan, who are praised for their generosity. In addition, the conflict may force Ethiopia to call back troops who are combating Al-Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia. According to NBC, U.N. rights chief, Michelle Bachelete,, “There is a risk this situation will spiral totally out of control, leading to heavy casualties and destruction, as well as mass displacement within Ethiopia itself and across borders.”

Many are fleeing to Sudan, due to their fears of ethnic violence, but Ahmed assures them that Tigrayan are not being targeted. Instead, he claimed that it is a “law enforcement operation” to subjugate the Tigray leaders who are “primarily” targeting members of the ruling circle. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has treated hundreds of wounded so far, including “large numbers of critically injured.” Because of the law enforcement operation, there is limited water and no electricity for the people living in Tigray. Daniel O’Malley of the ICRC stated, “At the beginning most of the wounded were fighters. As days went ahead, we started seeing more wounded civilians existing…”

Although the Ethiopian government promised a quick end to this conflict, experts, the U.S. government, and humanitarian groups are not too optimistic about that statement. The U.S. embassy stated, “We do not know if there will be additional U.N.-coordinated relocation efforts out of Tigray.” We can only hope for the opposing sides to reach an agreement as soon as possible to end the suffering of innocent civilians.

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