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Ethiopia – update June 2022

From Atrocities Watch Monitor N° 5, June 2022
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The situation in Ethiopia remains volatile. Although levels of violence in northern Ethiopia have declined, there are now more, less deadly incidents spread out over a larger geographic area. . The situation in northern Ethiopia remains calm, yet unpredictable and fighting could start up again. ACLED data shows a decline in violence in May compared to April 2022, and an almost 50% decline in fatalities compared to the monthly average of the previous 12 months. In Tigray, Afar and Amhara violence in the last three months has reduced over 75%, not the same can be said for Oromia where fatalities have increased over 50%. In the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) violent events have increased 143% and fatalities have increased 160% in May when compared to the monthly average of the previous 12 months.

Although violence overall declined in the north, fighting between Tigrayan rebels and the government allied with Eritrean troops was recorded around 8 May. Government troops blocked the roads north stopping food aid convoys.[1] Clashes between Eritrean and TPLF forces were reported in the Rama area.[2] During the last weekend of the month, Eritrean troops shelled a town killing at least 18 people. On the same day, the Eritrean military attacked the Tigrayan forces in Shiraro, about seven miles from the Eritrea-Ethiopia border, according to the TPLF.[3]

Amid rising tensions with the federal government, the Tigray forces released 4,208 prisoners of war, including 401 women, in an amnesty grant on 21 May. The federal government, however, claimed most of them were in fact civilians who had been abducted in Afar and Amhara, not soldiers, and claimed the TPLF is trying to “divert [the] attention of the international community.”[4]

Claims of forced recruitment by Tigrayan forces have also recently surfaced. Kindeya Gebrehiwot, from the Tigray external relations office, confirmed some low ranking government officials had detained family members to force their relatives to enlist but that these irregularities were “rare and sporadic, not systemic.”[5]

At least 30 people were killed in recent religious violence.[6] Clashes broke out in Addis Ababa surrounding Eid celebrations and police responded by firing tear gas into the crowd, 76 suspected riot leaders were arrested. In Oromia, 145 people were accused of conspiring to incite religious attacks. These events followed the killing of Muslims in Gondar at the end of April.[7]

Attacks against civilians continued in Oromia, most predominant are the reports of the Ethiopian National Defence forces (ENDF) as well as the Oromia Regional Special Forces killing civilians accused of being Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)-Shane members. About 297 civilians have been killed by government forces in the past few months.[8] Protests have also been organised against OLF-Shane.[9] OLF-Shane militants clashed with the ENDF throughout May. Some attacks from the group were recorded outside Oromia, in SNNPR.[10]

In Amhara, Fano militia have conducted attacks. During the last week of May, Amhara authorities arrested more than 4,500 people as part of an operation “to enforce law and order,” militia fighters, critics and the press were targeted. Over 200 were suspected of conducting illegal activities in the name of the group, among those arrested are Brigadier General Teferra Mamo, a former commander of the Amhara Special Forces, allied with the army in the fight against Tigrayan forces. Serious concerns have been raised about the human rights of those arrested. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has reported that many of the arrests were carried out without proper warrants and that many were denied their rights to contact family members.[11]

During the last two weeks of May, at least 16 journalists were arrested. Amhara and Oromia regions have been heavily targeted, most of those arrested are accused of supporting rebels. Despite concerns and requests for release from human rights defenders, the government released a statement indicating it “will continue to take irreversible measures on individuals involved in illegal activities who are planning and working to create havoc and chaos, also on those wearing a cloak of media outlets and journalists.”[12]

In SNNPR, fighting started in late April between Derashe militias, SNNPR regional forces and the ENDF.[13] Between 27 April and 20 May, six clashes were recorded in the region. Local authorities struggled to contain violence. During the third week of May, about 330 people, accused of being involved in the fighting, were arrested. [14]

In Benshangul/Gumuz region, two attacks against civilians were recorded during the third week of May, the ENDF was responsible for both.[15]

Humanitarian access has improved, but remains problematic. Since 1 April, 875 trucks have arrived in Mekelle through 11 humanitarian convoys, under 20% of the amount needed, plus 23.5 MT of supplies have been airlifted. Although some fuel has been delivered, the amount is insufficient to mobilise humanitarian supplies.[16]

Efforts are also ongoing to reduce conflict. There were unconfirmed reports that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met with TPLF leaders in Nigeria during the last week in May.[17] In Afar, the regional government met with the Somali regional government and agreed to withdraw forces from the disputed area and take on measures that provide lasting solutions to the conflict.[18]

The Ethiopian National Dialogue is set to begin in November 2022. To carry out its tasks, the Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission (ENDC) has divided its activities into four chapters, an initial pre-preparation phase to design its strategies and techniques to achieve its goals, which was presented on 20 May.[19] In the second chapter, the ENDC will provide training and identify participants and agendas for the national dialogue. In the third chapter the dialogue will take place. In a fourth chapter the ENDC will implement the outcomes of the national dialogue.[20]

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 was 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 continued to hit the Tigray region into 2022. In March 2022, the federal government declared a humanitarian truce to ease aid into the Tigray region.

In Oromia there is an ongoing conflict between the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF),[21] who wants to establish an independent state of Oromia, and the federal government. The conflict has been going on since 1973, in 2018 they reached a peace agreement,[22] yet a faction of the group who opposed formed the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) also known as OLF-Shane continues to fight.[23]

International response:

A group of African civil society organisations called on the UNSC to take action on the ongoing situation requesting Ethiopia be put on the Council’s formal agenda. Other key asks included pressing the parties for immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access, an arms embargo and verification measures to ensure the withdrawal of Eritrean troops.[24]

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, condemned the recent clashes between the Muslim and Christian population and called for thorough, independent and transparent investigations and for broader action to be taken to reconcile the communities.[25]

A group of US senators introduced a bipartisan resolution “condemning the use of hunger as a weapon of war, and recognizing the effect of conflicts on global food security and famine.”[26]

The AU Special Envoy, Olusegun Obasanjo, indicated that progress between the TPLF and the Ethiopian government was being made “slowly but steadily,” that the situation has improved and that steps are being taken for confidence building among the parties.[27]

 

[1] Republic World, “Fighting Resumes In Ethiopia’s Tigray Region,” 9 May 2022, https://www.republicworld.com/world-news/africa/fighting-resumes-in-ethiopias-tigray-region.html

[2] Ethiopia Peace Observatory, Epo weekly: 7 – 13 May 2022, 18 May 2022, https://epo.acleddata.com/2022/05/18/epo-weekly-7-13-may-2022/

[3] Al Jazeera, “UN: Eritrean troops shelled school in north Ethiopia,” 31 May 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/5/31/eritrean-troops-shell-town-in-north-ethiopia-u-n

[4] The East African, “Ethiopia: Tigray forces released captive civilians, not soldiers,” 24 May 2022, https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea/rest-of-africa/ethiopia-denies-release-of-war-captives-by-tigray-forces-3825608

[5] Reuters, “Some Ethiopians claim forced recruitment by Tigrayan forces,” 16 May 2022,https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/some-ethiopians-claim-forced-recruitment-by-tigrayan-forces-2022-05-16/

[6] The East African, “UN calls for independent probe into religious violence in Ethiopia,” 10 May 2022, https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea/rest-of-africa/un-calls-for-independent-probe-into-violence-in-ethiopia-3810396

[7] Ethiopia Peace Observatory, Epo weekly: 23 April – 6 May 2022, 11 May 2022, https://epo.acleddata.com/2022/05/11/epo-weekly-23-april-6-may-2022/

[8] Ethiopia Peace Observatory, Epo weekly: 7 – 13 May 2022, 18 May 2022, https://epo.acleddata.com/2022/05/18/epo-weekly-7-13-may-2022/

[9] Ethiopia Peace Observatory, Epo weekly: 23 April – 6 May 2022, 11 May 2022, https://epo.acleddata.com/2022/05/11/epo-weekly-23-april-6-may-2022/

[10] Ethiopia Peace Observatory, Epo weekly: 14 – 20 May 2022, 25 May 2022, https://epo.acleddata.com/2022/05/25/epo-weekly-14-20-may-2022/

[11] BBC, “Ethiopia arrests thousands including ex-army commander,” 23 May 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-africa-61170224?ns_mchannel=social&ns_source=twitter&ns_campaign=bbc_live&ns_linkname=628b66d8b622de4ef91223e4%26Ethiopia%20arrests%20thousands%20including%20ex-army%20commander%262022-05-23T11%3A40%3A42.582Z&ns_fee=0&pinned_post_locator=urn:asset:a63f8c43-ebe7-439b-b814-c4e142f69b5c&pinned_post_asset_id=628b66d8b622de4ef91223e4&pinned_post_type=share

[12] Reuters, “Ethiopian rights body seeks release of 16 detained journalists,” 27 May 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/ethiopian-rights-body-seeks-release-16-detained-journalists-2022-05-27/

[13] Ethiopia Peace Observatory, Epo weekly: 23 April – 6 May 2022, 11 May 2022, https://epo.acleddata.com/2022/05/11/epo-weekly-23-april-6-may-2022/

[14] Ethiopia Peace Observatory, Epo weekly: 14 – 20 May 2022, 25 May 2022, https://epo.acleddata.com/2022/05/25/epo-weekly-14-20-may-2022/

[15] Ethiopia Peace Observatory, Epo weekly: 14 – 20 May 2022, 25 May 2022, https://epo.acleddata.com/2022/05/25/epo-weekly-14-20-may-2022/

[16] OCHA, Northern Ethiopia Humanitarian update, situation report updated 27 May 2022, https://reports.unocha.org/en/country/ethiopia/

[17] Borkena, “Alert : unconfirmed report that PM Abiy met with TPLF leaders in Nigeria,” 29 May 2022, https://borkena.com/2022/05/29/nigeria-ethiopian-pm-abiy-tplf-leaders-met-for-negotiation/

[18] Ethiopia Peace Observatory, Epo weekly: 14 – 20 May 2022, 25 May 2022, https://epo.acleddata.com/2022/05/25/epo-weekly-14-20-may-2022/

[19] Ethiopia Peace Observatory, Epo weekly: 14 – 20 May 2022, 25 May 2022, https://epo.acleddata.com/2022/05/25/epo-weekly-14-20-may-2022/

[20] Ethiopia Peace Observatory, Epo weekly: 7 – 13 May 2022, 18 May 2022, https://epo.acleddata.com/2022/05/18/epo-weekly-7-13-may-2022/

[21] Oromo Liberation Front, http://oromoliberationfront.org/english/

[22] France 24, “Ethiopian government signs peace deal with Oromo rebels,” 7 August 2018, https://www.france24.com/en/20180807-ethiopia-government-abiy-ahmed-signs-peace-deal-oromo-rebels

[23] Tesfa News, “OLF Military and Political Wings Split,” 6 April 2019, https://www.tesfanews.net/olf-military-wing-political-leaders-splits/

[24] Atrocities Watch Africa, “African civil society’s letter to the United Nations Security Council on the ongoing situation in Ethiopia,” 18 May 2022, http://atrocitieswatch.org/african-civil-societys-letter-united-nations-security-council-ongoing-situation-ethiopia/

[25] The East African, “Ethiopia: Tigray forces released captive civilians, not soldiers,” 24 May 2022, https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea/rest-of-africa/ethiopia-denies-release-of-war-captives-by-tigray-forces-3825608

[26] US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Risch, Merkley, Young, Booker, Thune, Mendez announce bipartisian senate resolution condemning starvation as an act of war, 26 May 2022, https://www.foreign.senate.gov/press/ranking/release/risch-merkley-young-booker-thune-menendez-announce-bipartisan-senate-resolution-condemning-starvation-as-an-act-of-war

[27] BBC Sounds, Focus on Africa: Ethiopia unrest: ‘Very slow but steady’ progress, 1 June 2022, https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w172ydvhqtcy6t0

 

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