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Ethiopia – update April 2022

From Atrocities Watch Monitor No. 3
April 2022. Read full newsletter here

On 24 March, the Ethiopian government announced an indefinite humanitarian truce expressing the hope that this would “substantially improve the humanitarian situation on the ground and pave the way for the resolution of the conflict in the northern Ethiopia without further bloodshed.”79 A day later, Tigrayan forces released a statement announcing their commitment to implementing the ceasefire, as long as the people start to receive humanitarian assistance immediately and telecommunications and banking services are restored.80 However, by the end of the month it remained unclear whether government policies and the actions of militias in Afar would change sufficiently to allow aid relief through to Tigray.81 Despite the truce, fighting persisted between Afar regional special forces and associated militias against Tigrayan forces in Erebti woreda, Gubi Kebele in Abala woreda, and Sokardora kebele in Konneba woreda, in Kilbati Rasu-Zone 2 in Afar region.82

The humanitarian situation remained dire, 5.2 million people need food aid in Tigray, but humanitarians were able reach only 784,000 people since May 2021. 83 On 16 March 2022, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization had readied 95 metric tons of medical supplies for Tigray which were unable to reach their destination due to lack of government permissions. Adhanom estimated that less than 1% of what is needed has been delivered to the region.84 The only accessible land route for humanitarian convoys into Tigray runs through Afar and has not been open since 14 December 2021. Western Tigray remains inaccessible and information on the region remains limited. Some supplies are being moved by air to Mekelle, but the quantities are insufficient. Lack of fuel remains a key constraint for distributions within Tigray.85 UNOCHA assessments in Adigrat and Erob in the Eastern Zone of Tigray reported an extremely dire humanitarian situation. Some people have been forced to resort to negative coping mechanisms, such as children begging and engaging survival sex.86

A recent investigation found that Ethiopian soldiers would have been responsible for killing 3 aid workers with Doctors Without Borders in the Tigray region in June 2021.87 Research conducted by Human Rights Watch suggests that a government airstrike that hit a school hosting displaced Tigrayans in the northwestern part of the region in January 2022, killing at least 57 civilians, could amount to war crimes, “Using guided bombs without evidence of any military target indicates that this was an apparent war crime.”88

The overall situation remains tense and unpredictable,89 although violence has lessened since January 2022, there was an increase in incidents in March as compared to February 2022 with a rise in battles and acts of violence against civilians.90 In the Oromia region, clashes between the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)-Shane and the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and Oromia regional special forces continued throughout the month. Between 1 October 2021 and 18 March 2022, ACLED recorded 30 armed clashes between OLF-Shane and government security forces in the West Shewa zone, whereas prior to that only two clashes between the two had been recorded since 2018.91 Amhara militias, including Fano, continued to attack civilians in Benshangul/Gumuz region.92 11.6 million people in Amhara are in need of food aid and the region is currently host to 263,000 internally displaced persons.93

Context:

On 4 November 2020, following months of political tensions, the federal government of Ethiopia launched a military offensive in the Tigray region against forces loyal to the governing TPLF. The conflict has drawn in troops from nearby Eritrea and Ethiopia’s Amhara region and there have been frequent claims of rapes, massacre, enslavement, and widespread humanitarian abuses. Following the expansion of the conflict to Amhara and other Ethiopian regions, there has been an alarming rise in ethnic-based hate speech particularly against Tigrayans. On 18 October 2021, in response to the TDF advances, the ENDF launched an airstrike campaign on Tigray’s capital, Mekelle. Airstrikes continue to hit the Tigray region into 2022.

International response

 The declaration of a humanitarian truce was generally welcomed by the international community including declarations from the UN Secretary General,94 the African Union,95 IGAD,96 the United States,97 UK and Turkey.98

On 31 March 2022, the government of Ethiopia tried to pass a resolution in the UN General Assembly’s budget committee to block funding to the International Commission of Human Rights Experts which was authorized by the UN Human Rights Council in December 2021 to investigate ongoing human rights abuses in Ethiopia. The measure failed, but a vote of 66 to 27 with 39 abstentions.99

US President Biden was pressed by a chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to determine whether parties to the conflict in Ethiopia are guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide.100

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79 Ethiopian Government Communication Service, Declaration of a Humanitarian Truce by the Government of Ethiopia, 27 March 2022, https://ethiopianembassy.be/declaration-of-a-humanitarian- truce-by-the-government-of-ethiopia/

80 Statement by the Government of Tigray on the Cessation of Hostilities, 24 March 2022, https://twitter.com/TigrayEAO/status/1507108987107430407

81 New York Times, “Ethiopia Declares ‘Humanitarian Truce’ in War-Ravaged Tigray Region,” 24 March 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/24/world/africa/ethiopia-tigray-conflict- truce.html?referringSource=articleShare

82 Ethiopia Peace Observatory, EPO Weekly: 19-25 March 2022, 29 March 2022, https://epo.acleddata.com/2022/03/29/epo-weekly-19-25-march-2022/

83 Amnesty International, “Ethiopia: Federal government humanitarian truce in Tigray is a positive step forward and must lead to humanitarian access,” 25 March 2022, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/03/ethiopia-federal-government-humanitarian-truce-in- tigray-is-a-positive-step-forward-and-must-lead-to-humanitarian-access/

84 “95 Metric Tons of Medical Supplies Ready for Tigray but No Permission Given Yet: WHO,” Addis Standard, 16 March 2022, https://allafrica.com/stories/202203170080.html?utm_campaign=daily- headlines&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_content=aans-view-link

85 ACAPS, “Northern Ethiopia crisis: Update on humanitarian needs,” 16 March 2022.

86 UNOCHA, Situation Report Northern Ethiopia – Humanitarian Update, 31 March 2022, https://reliefweb.int/report/ethiopia/ethiopia-northern-ethiopia-humanitarian-update-situation-report-31- mar-2022

87 New York Times, “’Finish Them Off’: Aid Workers, Found on Battlefield, Executed by Soldiers,” 17 March 2022,

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/17/world/africa/ethiopia-tigray-aid-workers-killed.html

88 Human Rights Watch, “Ethiopia: Airstrike on Camp for Displaced Likely War Crime,” 24 March 2022, https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/24/ethiopia-airstrike-camp-displaced-likely-war-crime

89 OCHA, Situation Report Northern Ethiopia – Humanitarian Update, 31 March 2022, https://reliefweb.int/report/ethiopia/ethiopia-northern-ethiopia-humanitarian-update-situation-report-31- mar-2022

90 ACLED, https://acleddata.com/dashboard/#/dashboard

91 Ethiopia Peace Observatory, EPO Weekly: 12-18 March 2022, 23 March 2022, https://epo.acleddata.com/2022/03/23/epo-weekly-12-18-march-2022/

92 Ethiopia Peace Observatory, EPO Weekly: 19-25 March 2022, 29 March 2022, https://epo.acleddata.com/2022/03/29/epo-weekly-19-25-march-2022/

93 Addis Standard, “News: More than 11 million people in Amhara state in need of food assistance, region hosting 263,000 IDPs,” 19 March 2022, https://addisstandard.com/news-more-than-11-million-people-in- amhara-state-in-need-of-food-assistance-region-hosting-263000-idps/

94 UN News, “Ethiopia: Guterres welcomes Tigray humanitarian ceasefire agreement,” 25 March 2022, https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/03/1114742

95 African Union, AUC Chairperson Welcomes the Declaration of An Indefinite Humanitarian Truce by The Ethiopian Government in Tigray Region, 25 March 2022, https://au.int/en/pressreleases/20220325/auc- chairperson-welcomes-declaration-indefinite-humanitarian-truce-tigray

9696 IGAD, IGAD Statement On The Ethiopia Humanitarian Truce., 25 March 2022, https://www.igad.int/executive-secretary/3000-igad-statement-on-the-ethiopia-humanitarian-truce

97 US Department of State, “Declaration of a Humanitarian Truce by the Government of Ethiopia,” 24 March 2022, https://www.state.gov/declaration-of-a-humanitarian-truce-by-c-government-of-ethiopia/

98 Walta Media, “US, UK, Turkey Governments Welcome Ethiopia’s Declaration of Humanitarian Truce,” 25 March 2022, https://waltainfo.com/us-uk-turkey-governments-welcome-ethiopias-declaration-of- humanitarian-truce/

99 “Govt Fails to Block UN Funding for Human Rights Investigation,” Voice of America, 1 April 2022, https://allafrica.com/stories/202204010079.html?utm_campaign=daily- headlines&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_content=aans-view-link

100 US Foreign Relations Committee, “Menendez Presses Biden Administration on Genocide Determination for Conflict in Ethiopia,” 17 March 2022, https://www.foreign.senate.gov/press/chair/release/menendez-presses-biden-administration-on-genocide- determination-for-conflict-in-ethiopia-

 

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