More than six weeks ago, ICHRRF’s Chair of the International Advisory Board Professor Ved Nanda encouraged the US Government to work towards removal of Eritrean troops from the Tigray region of Ethiopia to prevent ongoing massacre. The situation is worse now in this conflict with continuing loss of life. ICHRRF’s Director for Outreach, Africa Region, Mr. Kofi Sarpong, recently published a research report on the escalating conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, bordering Eritrea in the north and Sudan in the west. Both Sudan and Eritrea have undergone partition after violent civil wars in recent decades. As with the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the criminal exploitation of the region’s natural resources and strategic location are at the root of the conflict. Mr. Sarpong pointed out lessons of timely international intervention from those conflicts: The African Union, ECOWAS, ECOMOG and the UN had successfully intervened to end both West African wars and are capable of ending the Tigray- Ethiopia conflict to prevent the massacre.
The Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and its allies oppose the troops of the ousted Tigray Regional Government, led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Eritrean government has now officially acknowledged presence of its soldiers in Tigray region. Four months into the conflict, violence is still ongoing on a large scale, with many internally displaced and the number of reports of severe atrocities against unarmed civilians is growing rapidly. Reports systematically document massacres, (often extreme) sexual violence, destruction of civilian infrastructure and mass looting. As communication lines are not yet fully restored (the internet is still shut down in the entire region and telephone lines are only working in Mekelle and a few towns), well-founded fears exist that the recent reports only uncover the tip of the iceberg.
The war emerged in the aftermath of a destructive locust plague, and in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and food insecurity was already high before the conflict. As a result of the conflict, most Tigray residents are in dire need of humanitarian aid (food as well as medical supplies and health care services). Humanitarian aid has not reached many of the people who need it most, due to restricted accessibility because of security reasons.
ICHRRF would like to urge the UN, the African Union, ECOWAS and ECOMOG to quickly act in unison to avoid further bloodshed that happened in Liberia and Sierra Leone from recurring in our East African regions. Mr. Kofi Sarpong emphasized, “In all walks of life, conflicts and wars are not ended through the barrel of the gun but through dialogue and peace deals.”