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Tigray War

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Tigray War
Tigray War as of April 2021.jpg
Territorial control in April 2021[6]
Date4 November 2020 – ongoing
(5 months and 2 weeks)
Location
Status

Ongoing

  • ENDF captures Mekelle,[7] Ethiopian government claims victory and declares main phase over.[8]
  • Up to 40% of Tigray is still under control of the TPLF.[9]
  • UN scraps plans for resolution on Ethiopia's Tigray region.[10]
Belligerents

 Ethiopia

 Eritrea[2]
Support:

 Djibouti[3]
 Somalia[4]

Tigray People's Liberation Front
Tigray Region Tigray Regional Government
Tigray Region Local militias
Support:

Eritrea Eritrean opposition (Ethiopian claim)[5]
Commanders and leaders
Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed
(Prime Minister of Ethiopia)
Ethiopia Birhanu Jula
(ENDF Chief of Staff)
Ethiopia Kenea Yadeta
(Minister of Defense)
Amhara Region Tiruneh Temesgen
(Chief Administrator of Amhara Region, early November 2020)
Amhara Region Agegnehu Teshager
(Chief Administrator of Amhara Region, as of late November 2020)
Afar Region Awol Arba (Chief Administrator of Afar Region)
Eritrea Isaias Afewerki
(President of Eritrea)
Eritrea Filipos Woldeyohannes
(Chief of the Defence Staff)
Eritrea Sebhat Ephrem
(General of Eritrean Defense Forces)[failed verification]
Tigray Region Debretsion Gebremichael
(President of Tigray Region, Chairman of TPLF)
Fetlework Gebregziabher 
(Deputy Chairman of TPLF)
Getachew Reda
(TPLF Spokesperson)
Units involved
Ethiopia Ethiopian National Defense Force Ethiopia Ethiopian Federal Police
Amhara Region Amhara Region Special Force
Amhara Region Amhara Region Police Force
Afar Region Afar Region Special Forces
Afar Region Afar Region Police Force
Eritrea Eritrean Defence Forces
  • Tigray Region Tigray Special Forces
  • Tigray Defense Forces
Strength
Ethiopia 140,000[12]
Eritrea 42 Divisions[13][14](one eye-witness account)
Amhara Region 10,000[14]
Tigray Region 23 Battalions[12][15]
Casualties and losses

EthiopiaEritrea (Unknown)[16][17]
Ethiopia 1 MiG-23 aircraft[18]
(Unknown)[19][20][21]

100,000< (unsubstantiated TPLF claim)
Tigray Region 550 killed (government claim; 4–11 November 2020)[22]
Total civilian casualties are disputed[a]
3 UN guards and 5 aid workers killed[38]
~2,500,000 internally displaced[39][40][41]
61,000 refugees[42]
4,500,000 in need of aid[43]
20,000 missing[44]
Massacres: Adigrat, Adi Hageray, Axum, Bisober, Debre Abbay,[45][46][47] Hagere Selam, Hitsats, Humera, Irob, Mai Kadra, Milakua, Sheraro, Zalambessa, and other places[48]

The Tigray War is an ongoing armed conflict that began around midnight of 3–4 November 2020 in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia.[49][50] It is being fought between the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) which exercised control over the Tigray Regional government, and the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) aided by the Ethiopian Federal Police, regional police and gendarmerie forces of the neighbouring Amhara and Afar Regions with the involvement [51][52][53] of the Eritrean Defence Forces. All sides have committed war crimes during the conflict.[54][55][56]

In 2019, to distance the country's politics from ethnic federalism and ethnic nationalist politics, prime minister Abiy Ahmed merged the ethnic and region-based constituent parties of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition and several opposition parties into his new Prosperity Party. The Tigray People's Liberation Front, a politically powerful entity that had dominated Ethiopian politics for 27 years as a repressive regime[57] through a one-party dominant system,[57] refused to join the new party. The TPLF then alleged that Abiy Ahmed became an illegitimate ruler because the general elections scheduled for 29 August 2020 (which the House of Peoples' Representatives had already postponed twice before the COVID-19 pandemic from their regular May 2020 election date)[58] were changed yet again by him to an undetermined date in 2021.[59] The TPLF, led by its chairman Debretsion Gebremichael, went ahead with regional elections in Tigray in September 2020 in defiance of the federal government, which then declared the Tigray election illegal.[60]

Fighting between the TPLF and the Federal Government began with the 4 November attacks on Northern Command bases and headquarters of the ENDF in Tigray Region by TPLF-aligned security forces and with counterattacks by the ENDF in the Tigray Region on the same day, that federal authorities described as a police action.[61][49][62] The federal forces captured the capital of Tigray Region -- Mekelle -- on 28 November, after which Prime Minister Abiy declared the Tigray operation "over".[7][8] The TPLF stated in late November that it would continue fighting, until the "invaders" are out.[51][63][64]

Mass extrajudicial killings of civilians took place during November and December 2020 in and around Adigrat[65] and Hagere Selam,[65] in the Hitsats refugee camp,[66] and in Humera,[67] Mai Kadra[56][68] Debre Abbay,[45][46][47] and Aksum.[69]

Peace and mediation proposals included an early November African Union (AU) mediation proposed by Debretsion and refused by Abiy;[70][71] an AU trio of former African presidents who visited Ethiopia in late November;[72][73] an emergency Intergovernmental Authority on Development summit of East African heads of government and state that met in late 20 December 2020 in Djibouti;[74] and peace proposals on 19 February by the TPLF[75] and on 20 February by the National Congress of Great Tigray (Baytona), Tigray Independence Party (TIP) and Salsay Weyane Tigray (SAWET).[76]

Background

Historical/political

Following the end of the Ethiopian Civil War in 1991, Ethiopia became a dominant-party state under the rule of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a coalition of ethnically-based parties dominated by the Tigray People's Liberation Front.[57] The founding and most influential member was the TPLF and the chairperson was Meles Zenawi, who was the Prime Minister of Ethiopia until his death in 2012.[77][78]

On 2 April 2018, the once powerful TPLF was ousted from power in the federal government owing to a growing discontent within the public, a reaction to 27 years of repression. In a closed door election to chair the EPRDF, executive committee members from Amhara, Oromo and Southern Nations Nationalities Peoples regions voted for Abiy Ahmed in defiance of the TPLF, which was hoping to get Shiferaw Shigute elected chairman. After losing the election and being ousted from the federal government, TPLF officials relocated to Tigray and continued administering the region for three years frequently clashing with the federal government.[57][79] In one instance, the regional administration of Tigray is reported to have defied the federal government and refused to allow Ethiopian Federal Police to arrest Getachew Assefa, the former chief of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) of Ethiopia and executive member of TPLF.[80]

On 1 December 2019, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed merged the ethnic and region-based parties of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (which had governed Ethiopia for 27 years) and several opposition parties into his new Prosperity Party. The TPLF, a politically powerful entity that had dominated Ethiopian politics during those 27 years, refused to join the new party, and alleged that Abiy Ahmed became an illegitimate ruler by rescheduling the general elections set for 29 August 2020 (which Abiy postponed twice before from the regular May 2020 election date, before COVID-19)[58] to an undetermined date in 2021 due to COVID-19.[59]

Some of the leadership of the Tigray People's Liberation Front in 2020

The TPLF used to be part of the Ethiopian governing coalition until its 2019 refusal to merge into the Prosperity Party.[81] In 2020, tensions between the government and Tigray escalated in the months before the November Tigray military intervention.[81] Not only the TPLF, but even the Tigray branch of Abiy's own Prosperity Party expressed fears for an Eritrean invasion.[82] Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who is of Oromo descent, accused the TPLF Party Members in the Tigray Regional Government of undermining his authority.[81] By contrast, the Tigray authorities saw the refusal to recognize the September 2020 election for the Tigray parliament (which, along with all elections in Ethiopia, had been delayed by the federal elections board because of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ethiopia) as the reason for the outbreak of the conflict.[81] Abiy Ahmed's government considered the September Tigray election to be illegal.[83] Several journalists were barred by the federal government (at Addis Ababa airport) from travelling to cover Tigray's regional election.[84][85]

Long term President of the State of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki

The warming of relations between Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki, who is poorly regarded in Tigray, was also considered to have fuelled the tension.[81] Ethiopian elite units were transported to Gherghera base near Asmara "as part of a security pact" between Abiy and Isaias in a plan to "strike out of existence the TPLF", according to former Eritrean Minister of Defence, Mesfin Hagos.[86] In late October, the Ethiopian Reconciliation Commission stated that it was trying to mediate between the federal and regional governments and the Tigray People's Liberation Front, but that pre-conditions set by all sides were blocking progress.[87]

Opponents describe the Tigray People's Liberation Front also as a heavily armed ethnic nationalist[88][89][90][91] paramilitary insurgency,[92] terrorist organization,[93] political party,[94] and former ruling authoritarian regime[95] of Ethiopia.

As tension continued to grow, a general appointed by Abiy was prevented by the Tigrayan government from taking up his military post.[96] The day prior to the TPLF's 4 November Northern Command attacks, the federal parliament of Ethiopia had suggested designating the TPLF as a terrorist organization.[81]

Constitutional context

Debretsion Gebremichael who was elected President of the Tigray Region in 2020 but is not recognized by the federal government of Ethiopia

The 1995 Constitution of Ethiopia states in Article 39.1, "Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has an unconditional right to self-determination, including the right to secession."[97]

Article 62.9 grants the House of Federation (HoF) the right to "order Federal intervention if any State [government], in violation of [the] Constitution, endangers the constitutional order."[97]

In late September 2020, the TPLF stated that the constitutional term limit of the HoF, the House of Peoples' Representatives (HoPR), the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers was 5 October 2020, and that for this reason, it would consider "the incumbent" constitutionally illegitimate after 5 October. TPLF proposed replacing the government by a technocratic caretaker government as detailed in a plan posted on Facebook by the Coalition of Ethiopian Federalist Forces.[98]

Course of the conflict

Early fighting

On 4 November 2020, TPLF and Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) soldiers came into conflict during the TPLF attacks on the ENDF Northern Command headquarters in Mekelle, the Fifth Battalion barracks in Dansha, and other Northern Command bases.[99][49][100] Several people were killed and the TPLF claimed the attack was carried out in "self-defence."[101][80]

In retaliation,[102] an Ethiopian offensive was launched which was accompanied by the declaration of a state of emergency, the creation of the State of Emergency Inquiry Board[103] and a shutdown of government services in Tigray Region.[104][105] During the subsequent days, skirmishes continued and the Ethiopian parliament declared the creation of an interim government for Tigray.[106] Ethiopian offensives in the north were accompanied with airstrikes and several towns and cities were retaken.[107]

On the night of 9 to 10 November, 600 civilians, mostly Amhara people and Welkait people, were killed in a massacre in the town of Mai Kadra with machetes and knives used by local militias and police loyal to the TPLF, according to preliminary investigations by Amnesty International and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.[108][109] While refugees interviewed by the Financial Times[110] and Reuters[111] said it was the Amhara militia who were the perpetrators Tigrayans who were the victims. Two days later, refugees interviewed by the Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and The New York Times stated that Amhara militias, including Fano,[112][113] and the ENDF[67] carried out beatings and a massacre of 20 Tigrayans in Humera. Humera was shelled from the direction of the Eritrean–Ethiopian border for two days around 9–11 November. The ENDF gained control of Humera on 12 November.[114]

Offensives of joint ENDF-Amhara Region-Eritrean forces into Tigray were facilitated by the intervention of "Pterosaurus" drones, launched by the United Arab Emirates from its base in Assab in Eritrea. The Chinese-made, armed drones bombed Tigrayan towns and defence forces.[115][dubious ] EEPAα has provided a summarised translation of the Chinese article.[116]

On 14 November 2020, Tigrayan forces launched rockets at the Eritrean capital of Asmara, but the missiles missed.[117] In the late hours of 13 November 2020 TPLF-affilated forces fired a rocket towards the cities of Bahir Dar and Gondar in the Amhara Region.[118]

Rocket Attacks by the Tigray People's Liberation Front on Civilian Settlements and Airports (in November)
Cities Number of rockets fired at civilian settlements & airports
Asmara, Eritrea "Two" on 14 November, Six explosions in Asmara during the night of 28 November"[119]
8
Gondar, Ethiopia "one of the rockets hitting the airport in Gondar, partially damaging it"[120]
1
Bahir Dar, Ethiopia " 2 Heavy Explosions"[121]
2
Dibdib, Senafe, Eritrea "“heavy shelling” from the Tigray region continued to target southern Eritrea, including Senafe"[122]
1

Mekelle offensive

On 17 November 2020, the Ethiopian government accused the TPLF of blowing up four main bridges leading to Mekelle, while the TPLF denied the accusations. The TPLF also fired rockets at the Amhara Region in Bahir Dar and Gondar. The TPLF claimed these locations contained military terminals that served as bases to carry out airstrikes.[123] From 17–19 November, Ethiopian forces captured the cities of Shire, Alamata, Raya, Adwa and Axum.[124][125][126] In Raya there were an estimated 760 casualties from both forces. While fighting between the TPLF and Ethiopia continued in Zalambessa and Ethiopian forces starting moving towards Adigrat.[127] Fighting between the TPLF and Eritrea took place in Adi Quala, Zalembesa, Taruna, Ali Tina, Wadqomdi, and Bademe.[128]

On 23 November, Ethiopian forces reached the regional capital of Mekelle and encircled it. A military spokesperson for Ethiopia, Colonel Dejene Tsegaye, announced that Mekelle would be shelled, and told Tigray civilians to flee the city because Ethiopian forces would show no mercy.[129][101] Many residents of Mekelle had already left the city due to airstrikes in and around the city, but many others still remained in the city.[54]

Even though TPLF leaders, Tigray special forces and militia forces had already left the city, the Ethiopian forces still began their direct assault on Mekelle on the morning of 28 November and started heavy shelling of the city. By the evening Prime Minister Abiy declared Ethiopian forces had taken full control of the city. In total 27 civilians were killed and 100 others were injured.[54] The TPLF vowed to continue fighting.[130] Two days later Prime Minister Abiy claimed no civilians were killed.[54]

After the capture of Mekelle

On 28 and 29 November 2020, according to witnesses and survivors, some of whom were refugees in Sudan, the Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) carried out the Axum massacre of about 720–800 civilians.[131][132][133] The Eritrean government stated that it was angered by Amnesty International's report on the Aksum massacre, that the report was "fallacious" and that the Eritrean government had not been contacted by Amnesty International prior to publication. The Eritrean government also said: "It must be underscored that Amnesty made absolutely no attempt to seek any information from Eritrea. Moreover, the fabricated Axum accusation has mutated over the last month from a 'massacre of Orthodox Christians at St. Mary's Church' to 'house-to-house' killing of civilians."[134]

According to people who were in Tigray when the war broke out and according to refugees, the EDF would then go on and kill 80–150 in Idaga Hamus on 30 November,[135][136] and kill 17 in Hadish Hiwot on 2 December after forcing the victims to loot the Goda factory.[137] The EDF would also kill 13 boys aged 12–15 from 1 December to 14 December in Tokot.[135][dubious ]

By 16 December 2020, fighting had reached the places of Hagere Selam, Samre, Dogu’a, Kolla Tembien, May Tsemre, and around Maychew. During this time a violently enforced curfew was set up by Ethiopian forces along with Eritrean soldiers. In one town over 200 people were killed and the town left deserted. The Ethiopian government denied involvement in the killing.[138]

On 26 December 2020, it was reported that Eritrea started withdrawing some of its troops from Tigray.[139]

By 6 January 2021, Tigrayan forces were still in control of the mountainous areas of Tigray. Fighting continued to take place around Mekelle and ENDF forces retreated from rural positions towards the Tigray capital of Mekelle. Mutinies were reported among the ENDF troops as some didn't want to fight the TPLF in the mountains. Also, the Tigray regional special forces and Eritrean forces fought each other near Endabaguna and Kisadgaba.[140] On 9 January 2021, Ethiopian TV reported that 300 refugees in Hitsats camp were executed by the TPLF.[141] According to refugees, pro-TPLF forces used Hitsats as a base for several weeks in November 2020, killing several refugees who wanted to leave the camp to get food and, in one incident, killed nine young Eritrean men in revenge for having lost a battle against the EDF.[142] On 18 February 2021, unidentified militiamen ambushed a passenger bus in Adi Mesino, killing six and injuring 10.[143] On 20 February, Yemane Niguse, a prominent Tigrayan dissident was assassinated in his birth town of Hewane by unknown assailants. The allegiance of the assassins is unknown. The federal Ethiopian authorities accused the TPLF of responsibility.[144]

On 1 April 2021, a video surfaced that purports to show Ethiopian troops executing 11 unarmed men before disposing of their bodies near Mahibere Dego. The video has not been dated as of yet.[145]

Eritrean occupation of the North-East

EDF soldier fallen in Tigray in 2021

In February 2021, UN chief coordinator of humanitarian efforts Mark Lowcock said that up 40% of Tigray was not controlled by Ethiopian troops. He said that much of that area was under the control of Eritrean soldiers pursuing their own objectives independent of Ethiopian command.[146]

Refugees told VICE World News that Eritrea is in control of parts of the northern Maekelay Zone and most likely extending beyond the zone. Different refugees told VICE that not only did Eritreans cross into border areas, but they also took control of the area. One refugee from Maekelay told them “Since the war started, we haven’t seen a single Ethiopian soldier. Only Eritreans, they occupy the rural areas.”[147]

By 18 November, Abiy claimed that Ethiopia National Defense Force had captured the cities of Shire and Axum with battles continuing around Mekelle; Ethiopian forces further claimed to have taken some land south of the city.[148][149][150] On 23 November, the government issued an ultimatum giving the rebels 72 hours to surrender.[151] On 26 November, after the ultimatum ended, Abiy ordered federal military forces to launch an attack on Mekelle.[152][153] On 28 November, the Ethiopian government announced that it had taken control of the city, bringing "the last phase of its law enforcement operation" to an end. The TPLF said they would continue fighting.[8][130] TPLF Chairman, Debretsion Gebremichael, confirmed the TPLF was withdrawing from Mekelle. On 2 December the United Nations was promised humanitarian access to the territory held by ENDF in the Tigray Region.[154] The first UN convoy reached Mekelle on 12 December.[155] On 16 December the EU delayed financial aid to Ethiopia citing the Ethiopian government's restrictions against UN humanitarian aid as the reason.[156]

Spillover

Spillover into Sudan

Thousands of people were believed to have been killed in the conflict and around 44,000 fled to Sudan.[7] On 29 November, claims that South Sudan was giving safe haven to Debretsion, led to the Ethiopian ambassador to South Sudan abruptly returning to Ethiopia, and South Sudanese diplomats in Ethiopia allegedly being given 72 hours to leave the country.[157]

On 15 December, four Sudanese soldiers were killed, and 27 others were injured near the Ethiopia–Sudan border, in what Sudan claimed to be an ambush by Ethiopian forces and militias. A soldier later claimed that Ethiopian forces had launched artillery attacks on them and intruded into the Jebel al-Teyyour area, located 7 kilometres inside Sudan. Other soldiers claimed that the attackers were Amhara Region militias. Ethiopia claimed the clashes were Ethiopia trying to stop a Sudanese militia which had tried to cross into Ethiopian territory and seize farmlands.[12][158]

In response to the killings, Sudan started to build-up its military along the border with Ethiopia. Military sources claimed that Sudan had recaptured Jebel Abutiour. Then on 19 December Sudanese army and Rapid Support Forces were reported to have taken areas previously taken by Ethiopia and Amhara Region militias in Al Qadarif.[159][160][161] On the same day, 150 civilians were reported to have been killed by Eritrean forces in Edaga Hamus.[136]

Spillover in Somalia

On 7 December heavy fighting broke out between African Union Mission to Somalia and Ethiopian troops in Halgan District, Somalia, when Ethiopian troops tried to disarm Tigrayan troops within their ranks. In total 21 Ethiopian soldiers of Tigrayan origin and 20 other Ethiopian soldiers were killed in the internal military mutiny.[162]

Alleged Somali involvement

Somalia was involved in the Tigray War according to former head of the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency, Abdilsalan Guld.[163][164]

Guld said that the soldiers, aged from 20 to 30 years old, were secretly taken from Mogadishu and sent to Asmara for military training.[164] Guld stated that 370 of the Somali troops trained by Eritrea were killed in Tigray and hundreds of others were wounded.[164][165]

On 18 January 2021, the head of Somalia's parliamentary committee on foreign affairs asked the Somali president to investigate claims by family members that their sons had gone off to fight in Ethiopia and are now missing.[166]

On 19 January 2021, the Somalian government denied the claim that Somali troops had trained in Eritrea and then deployed in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia.[167][165]

Humanitarian crisis

Humanitarian Aid

According to the United Nations (UN), some 2.3 million children have been cut off from desperately needed aid and humanitarian assistance. Since the start of the conflict, the Ethiopian federal government has strictly controlled access to the Tigray region, and the UN has said it is frustrated that talks with the Ethiopian government had not yet secured adequate humanitarian access for "food, including ready-to-use therapeutic food for the treatment of child malnutrition, medicines, water, fuel, and other essentials that are running low" said UNICEF.[168][169][170][171][172] By 13 March 2021, the UN and its partners reached about 0.9 million people with complete food baskets, and 0.7 million people with clean water. Despite the progress made, many are still hard to reach due to ongoing fighting. About 4.5 million people of are still in need of aid and about 1 million of that are not in accessible areas due to ongoing fighting.[173]

Since the start of the conflict, there has been a limited access to clean water due to hygiene and sanitation services largely being disrupted across Tigray. The Tigray Regional Water Bureau reported that out of 36 villages it assessed, only 4 had partially functioning water sources. Along with that, an estimated 250 motorized water pumping systems have been out of order, and the status of 11,000 hand pumps in rural areas were unknown. Because of this there has been a heightened risk of outbreaks of water-born diseases and COVID-19.[173]

In February 2021, it was reported by GOAL Ethiopia, IRC, MCMDO, MSF-Spain and World Vision, that nearly one in seven children in 16 woredas and town administrations across Tigray were found to be acutely malnourished. While in Enderta, Abi Adi and Shire, GOAL and IRC reported that 16.6% of children screened had acute malnutrition with 3.5% suffering from severe acute malnutrition.[173]

Out of more than 260 health centres in Tigray before the war, only 31 are fully functional, while 7 are partially functional, according to the Emergency Coordination Center. According to WHO, all of the functioning hospitals and health centres in Tigray had a lack of medical supplies, drugs and equipment. UN partners reported continued looting of health facilities. Only 16% of the health facilities had vaccination services and only 17% had maternal services (antenatal care, birth delivery, etc).[173]

Internal displacement and forced displacement

Possible COVID-19 outbreaks have been feared as refugees fleeing the Tigray conflict have sheltered in crowded camps.[174]

In November 2020, the UN warned of “very critical” supply shortages for the nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees who, prior to the war, were registered in four camps in Tigray region.[175][176] Later that same month, the UN reported that people in Tigray were fleeing Mekelle. The federal government had warned of "no mercy" if TPLF and residents remained intermingled.[175][177]

As of December 2020, the UN estimated more than one million people have been internally displaced by the fighting.[175] More than 50,000 people have fled to Sudan due to the conflict.[178][179] Communications and travel links were still blocked, and Human Rights Watch warned that "actions that deliberately impede relief supplies" would violate international humanitarian law.[175]

There have been “deeply distressing reports of sexual and gender-based violence, extrajudicial killings, [and the] widespread destruction and looting of public and private property by all parties” according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.[180] More than 136 cases of rape have also been reported in hospitals in Mekelle, Ayder, Adigrat and Wukro in the east of Tigray region between December 2020 and January 2021, with indications that there are many more such unreported cases.[180]

As of 2 February 2021, 20,000 of the Eritrean refugees in Tigray, mostly from the Hitsats and Shimelba camps, remained unaccounted for, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.[181]

The fighting has killed thousands, according to International Crisis Group.[182]

Role of online social networks

Claire Wilmot, writing in The Washington Post, found that a significant number of new, single-issue Twitter accounts were opened in the immediate aftermath of the 4 November attacks. Most appeared to be authentic accounts from people seeking to raise international awareness of the conflict in the midst of a communications blackout in Tigray.[183] The Ethiopian government cited disinformation and hate speech to justify communications blackouts. Researchers suggested that reducing access to information could help to create contexts where misinformation can thrive, because it reduces the ability to verify information.[183][184] The Ethiopian government tried to control the information environment by positioning itself as the sole provider of reliable information.[184] In February, pro-government groups called on their supporters in Ethiopia and the diaspora to combat what they called "TPLF fake news" online.[185] Pro-government groups used tactics similar to those of pro-TPLF groups to push their narrative of the conflict, though as of 5 February, pro-government campaigns had produced fewer Tweets overall.[184] BBC News showed examples of manipulated photos which misleadingly endorsed both the federal Ethiopian government and the TPLF.[186] Researchers found that groups use tactics such as "copy and paste" campaigns hosted on websites, which include instructions for opening new accounts, copying and pasting pre-written tweets, and tagging influencers. Both campaigns produced disinformation and misinformation, though the majority of content produced was activist in nature.[184] Wilmot suggested that the lines between authentic political activity and deliberate manipulation of online content during the conflict were increasingly blurred.[183]

Ethnic profiling of Tigrayans

Ethnic profiling against Tigrayans occurred during the Tigray War, with Ethiopians of Tigrayan ethnicity being put on indefinite leave from Ethiopian Airlines or refused permission to board,[187] prevented from overseas travel,[179] and an "order of identifying ethnic Tigrayans from all government agencies and NGOs" being used by federal police to request a list of ethnic Tigrayans from an office of the World Food Programme.[188] Tigrayans' houses were arbitrarily searched and Tigrayan bank accounts were suspended.[179] Ethnic Tigrayan members of Ethiopian components of United Nations peacekeeping missions were disarmed and some forcibly flown back to Ethiopia, at the risk of torture or execution, according to United Nations officials. The State of Emergency Taskforce stated that the Tigrayan peacepeekers were returned to Ethiopia because of "infiltration of TPLF elements in various entities".[189][190]

Peace process

Several proposals for peace negotiations and mediation were made involving some of the main groups involved in the war. Around 9 November 2020, Debretsion asked the African Union to stop the war and requested peace negotiations; Abiy refused to negotiate.[70][71] On 25–27 November, a trio of former African presidents appointed by AU chair Cyril Ramaphosa visited Ethiopia with the aim of mediating;[72] they met Abiy and representatives of the Transitional Government of Tigray that officially replaced the TPLF government.[73] An emergency Intergovernmental Authority on Development summit of East African heads of government and state met on 20 December 2020 in Djibouti, resulting in a statement of support for the Ethiopian constitutional order and humanitarian access to Tigray Region.[74]

On 19 February 2021, the TPLF expressed its wish for peace negotiations, declaring eight preconditions for the negotiations.[75] On 20 February, the National Congress of Great Tigray (Baytona), Tigray Independence Party (TIP) and Salsay Weyane Tigray (SAWET) published six demands to the international community that closely overlapped with the TPLF's pre-conditions.[76]

On 11 March, Ambassador of the U.S. Geeta Pasi announced support for joint humanitarian activities by international partners and the federal government of Ethiopia.[191]

Reactions

National

  • The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) condemned the "decision of President Mustafe to portray Somalis in Ethiopia as supporters of the war against Tigray".[192]
  • On 12 November 2020, the TPLF chairman Debretsion Gebremichael denied allegations that the TPLF had surrendered, stating that "we are still holding. These people cannot defeat us. We cannot be beaten."[193]
  • On 27 November, Ethiopian Attorney General, Gedion Timothewos, pressed by the BBC's Stephen Sackur to clarify if his country was now "sinking into civil war", responded: "If the Prime Minister were to let the TPLF go on with the kind of things they have been doing, if he had let them acquire the heavy weaponry they wanted to acquire by attacking the Northern Command, yes, we would have descended into that kind of situation; but by taking the measures we are taking right now, we will be able to avert that possibility."[194]
  • When Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018, he made significant reforms to the country's judicial system, economy and foreign policy. According to an article by Hailemariam Desalegn, the former prime minister of Ethiopia, TPLF officials were concerned these moves were going to threaten their political and economic position in the country.[59] Thus TPLF officials started defying the orders from the federal government and made overt and covert actions to undermine and delegitimize the Ethiopian parliament, defense forces and the federal government.

Protests

On Tuesday 9 February 2021, when religious leaders started a visit to Mekelle organised by federal authorities to show that the situation was "normal", protestors used stones and burnt tyres to block central parts of the town in objection to the claim that the situation had return to normality. Soldiers fired at the protestors, killing one. The head of the transport division of Ayder Referral Hospital and his son were beaten by soldiers, and stated that there were many injured who were not being brought to the hospital.[195]

International

  • Canada Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne called on all parties to show restraint. Champagne also called for a peaceful solution and protection of civilians.[196]
  • China At the UN Security Council meeting, China objected to interfering in Ethiopia's internal affairs.[197]
  • Djibouti Djiboutian President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh expressed strong support for Abiy, saying that he had chosen to "restore law and order at the federal level, and punish those seeking to break up the country" and dismissed the prospect of negotiations, saying that the TPLF had "structured itself so as to bring the central government to its knees" and that talks could "only lead to the partition of Ethiopia", setting a precedent for secession by other groups in the region.[3]
  • Eritrea Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki politically support the actions taken by the Ethiopian national government against Tigray People's Liberation Front.[citation needed]
  • India At the UN Security Council meeting, India objected to interfering in Ethiopia's internal affairs.[197]
  •  Japan extended its emergency grant aid of 6.6 million US dollars for people affected by the war.[198]
  •  Kenya, Political Support for the Ethiopian national government.[49]
  • Turkey Minister of Foreign Affairs (Turkey) Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated that the Turkish government "understood" the federal Ethiopian government's decision and "expressed his confidence that the operation would end soon and not compromise the safety of civilians."[199][200][201][202]
  • Norway Norway said it was “deeply concerned by reports of the use of SGBV in Tigray. Norway joins UN Special Rapporteur Pramilla Patten in calling on all parties to commit to a zero-tolerance policy for SGBV. Obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law must be respected.”[37]
  • Poland The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in response to the massacre in the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, "We strongly condemn the perpetrators of this barbaric crime committed in a place of worship. We expect the Ethiopian authorities to immediately take all possible to clarify its circumstances and punish the perpetrators.” Poland also called "on the parties to the conflict to refrain from violence and respect human rights, to ensure the safety of civilian population, and to properly protect the places of worship and freedom of religion. We appeal for an unimpeded access for humanitarian deliveries to the Tigray province.[203]
  • Russia At the UN Security Council meeting, Russia objected to interfering in Ethiopia's internal affairs.[197]
  • Somalia Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo politically supports the current military actions taken by the Ethiopian government against Tigray People's Liberation Front.[4]

Intergovernmental organizations

  • United Nations The United Nations (UN) warned of the emergence of a major humanitarian crisis, if a full-scale conflict arose.[214]
    • UN Security Council: "The UN Security Council on Friday scrapped plans to issue a statement calling for an end to violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region because of opposition from China and Russia, diplomats said."[215]
  • European Union The European Commission said it was mobilizing an initial €4 million in emergency aid, in order to assist displaced Ethiopian refugees who had fled to Sudan.[216] The EU plans on cutting aid to and sanctioning other regions of Ethiopia due to the conflict.[217][218]
  • African Union The African Union (AU) appealed for cessation of hostilities and protection of civilians. AU also stated that the European Union and United Nations Security Council should not intervene until an African Union envoy is sent to Ethiopia.[219]
    • Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat made a statement defending the Ethiopian Government by saying "In #Ethiopia, the federal govt took bold steps to preserve the unity, stability and respect for the constitutional order of the country; which is legitimate for all states. #IgadSummit. It cannot be denied, however, that the crisis in #Tigray has provoked large scale displacement. We encourage #IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] to support #Ethiopia in addressing the humanitarian dimensions. Particular attention should be paid to refugees and displaced people. #IgadSummit."[220]

Humanitarian organisations

  • Worldwide, humanitarian organisations and the scientific community asked for a rapid ceasefire and delivery of humanitarian aid to the people of Tigray.[221][222]
  • International petitions for humanitarian aid to Tigray have been launched, for instance by concerned scientists (Professors Jan Nyssen, Eloi Ficquet, Wolbert Smidt, Jozef Deckers, Istvan Tarrosy, Paolo Billi, Sil Lanckriet, Kjetil Tronvoll and others),[223] and another one on Avaaz.[224]

Protests by the diaspora

Video of a reenactment of the suffering of ethnic Tigrayans
Tigrayans demonstrating in New York City
Tigray genocide protest on 26 March 2021 in New York City
Tigrayan demonstration in Australia
Tigrayan protest in Australia

Ethiopians and Eritrean in the diaspora took to the streets to protest and expresses their views. These protests included:

Protests opposed to the conflict

Protests opposing the TPLF and/or supporting the federal Ethiopian government

See also

Notes

A few EEPA articles begin with the following injunction: "Unconfirmed report".[243]

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