Ethnic Cleansing in Ethiopia

[File: Nariman el-Mofty/AP Photo]

Not much is known in the western world about the small East African country of Eritrea. One thing the world has been introduced to through the media is the social, political, and economic crisis in Eritrea and the instability and violence that has followed.

The country has a population of 6,081,196 and is made up of 50% ethnic Tigrinya, 40% Tigre and Kunama, 4% Saho (Red Sea coast dwellers), and 3% other.  The working languages are Tigrinya, Arabic, and English.

What caused this conflict in the Horn of Africa that has left tens of thousands dead and forced millions from their homes as famine hovers over the small country?

In September of 2020, the Tigrayan regional government had their parliamentary elections against an order by Abiy Ahmed, the head of the Ethiopian federal government. Ahmed’s generals surrounded the northern Tigray region’s borders and military supplies were flown to Ethiopia’s neighboring ally Eritrea. The TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) was the first to strike a military base which caused the Ethiopian and Eritrean troops to encounter from the north and south. There are similarities with Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as this conflict continues along with the deaths.

Many are fleeing the violence by escaping on foot through Sudan and Libya fleeing war, famine, and forced military service.

Amnesty International has been tracking the human rights abuses and Sarah Jackson, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, has accused Tigrayan forces of showing “an utter disregard for fundamental rules of international humanitarian law”.

“Evidence is mounting of a pattern of Tigrayan forces committing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in areas under their control in the Amhara region from July 2021 onwards,” Jackson said.

Sexual violence has been documented with nearly half the victims saying they were gang raped. Amnesty was told by some doctors that some survivors had lacerations likely caused by rifle bayonets being inserted into their genitals.

Some of these young survivors were as young as 14.

“The TPLF leadership must put an immediate end to the atrocities we have documented and remove from its forces anyone suspected of involvement in such crimes,” Jackson added.

Amnesty had a 14-year-old schoolgirl tell them that both her and her mother were raped by TPLF fighters who said the attacks were in revenge for atrocities committed against their own families.

“One of them raped me in the courtyard and the other raped my mother inside the house,” she said. “My mother is very sick now; she is very depressed and desperate. We don’t speak about what happened; it is impossible.”

Amnesty had completed a report in November where they documented sexual assaults by Tigrayan rebels in the Amahara town of Nifas Mewcha.

The United States and the African Union continue to lead mediation efforts and request humanitarian access.

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