War Crimes In Tigray As Ethiopia’s Abiy Weaponizes Food Insecurity

Abiy Ahmed
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Abiy Ahmed. Once seen as beacon of hope for Africa--now a disaster. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Abiy Ahmed declared war on Tigray on Nov 4, 2020. 

Tigray with a population of six million is one of the 10 regional states that make up the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Abiy’s quarrel with the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front-TPLF, the regional ruling party, is what precipitated the armed conflict. Abiy deployed the bulk of the Ethiopian defense forces bolstered by the Special Forces and Militia of the neighboring Amhara Regional State. He also invited his new found ally, one of the most repressive dictators in Africa, Isaias Afeworki of Eritrea, to help with the invasion. 

The Eritrean dictator obliged by crossing the border with Tigray on several fronts, deploying 10 infantry and five mechanized divisions, according to the former Eritrean Minister of defense Mesfin Hagos who now lives in exile as an opposition leader. Other unconfirmed sources put the number as high as 30 Eritrean divisions. There are also reports of UAE military drones flying out of their base in Eritrea to participate in an all-out campaign to defeat TPLF. 

There are reports that some 3,000 Somali troops from the Mogadishu government are also participating. An unnamed Somali official said 400 of their soldiers were killed in the conflict. Meantime, Sudan has moved to occupy disputed border territories in North Western Ethiopia. The Ethiopian leader has thus turned Tigray into a killing field and countries of the Horn of Africa are now entangled in his military blunder. Abiy seems to be caught in a quagmire now unable to claim victory over TPLF but can’t manage to leave the mess he has created for himself, the country and the region. 

Troops of dictator Isaias are reported to be on a rampage spree, killing civilians with impunity, looting, and raping. These troops are also accused of setting fire to crops ready for harvest. 

Thousands are reported to have died since the war began. There are no figures about the military casualties but civilians have become victims of extrajudicial killings, air strikes and artillery shelling. Almost three months into the fighting the government still denies the presence of Eritrean troops although the U.S. intelligence reports indicate otherwise. Living in his delusional world of alternative facts, the Ethiopian PM had assured Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary General, that not a single civilian has been killed in this conflict. He has also said that no children or women fled to Sudan. Facts on the ground indicate over 70% of more than 50,000 who fled to find refuge in Sudan are women and children. 

The Associated Press on Jan. 17 reported that more than 4.5 million people, nearly the region’s entire population, need emergency food. At their next meeting on Jan. 8, a Tigray administrator warned that without aid, “hundreds of thousands might starve to death” and some already had, according to minutes obtained by The Associated Press. The PM denies this.

Mari Carmen Vinoles, head of emergency unit for Doctors without Borders adds: “There is an extreme urgent need—I don’t know what more words in English to use—to rapidly scale up the humanitarian response because the population is dying every day as we speak”. These anguished pleas have so far fallen on deaf ears.

By sealing Tigray from the outside world, barring independent media and denying unfettered access to humanities assistance, Abiy Ahmed seems determined to inflict maximum damage on the people of Tigray. These actions amount to war crimes, and denial of access to food—genocide by starvation. 

Furthermore the involvement of Eritrean troops and unconfirmed reports of Somali troops in Tigray along with the border conflict with the Sudan has engulfed nations of the Horn in the free-for all carnage, posing a threat to international peace and security. 

This is a critical matter for the world, the new American administration, and the United Nations. The UN Security Council needs to convene an emergency meeting demanding an end to hostilities and withdrawal of all foreign troops from Tigray region of Ethiopia. We cannot say we didn’t know or have not been forewarned as UN Human Rights Commission, WFP, UNHCR, EU and a host of other humanitarian NGOs and governments have been sounding the alarm ever since the war began. 

 

The UN, the US, China and Europe and certainly AU would be complicit as enablers of this misguided Ethiopian leader who may think the Nobel Prize immunizes him from charges of the horrific atrocities. The International Criminal Court (ICC) needs to step in to investigate expeditiously charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. 

Ethiopian-born Mohammed A. Nurhussein MD, is a retired physician.


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