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Ethiopia’s leader says atrocities reported in Tigray war

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By RODNEY MUHUMUZA
March 23, 2021

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Ethiopia’s leader on Tuesday said atrocities have been reported in Tigray, his first public acknowledgment of possible war crimes in the country’s northern region where fighting persists as government troops hunt down its fugitive leaders.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also admitted, after repeated denials by authorities, that troops from neighboring Eritrea have gone into Tigray, where their presence has inflicted “damages” on the region’s residents.

“Reports indicate that atrocities have been committed in Tigray region,” Abiy said in an address Tuesday before lawmakers in the capital, Addis Ababa.

War is “a nasty thing,” he said, speaking the local Amharic language. “We know the destruction this war has caused.” He said soldiers who raped women or committed other crimes will be held responsible, even though he cited “propaganda of exaggeration” by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the once-dominant party whose leaders challenged Abiy’s legitimacy after the postponement of elections last year.

Commenting on the reported presence of Eritrean troops in Ethiopia, Abiy said they crossed the border and moved across Tigray, “causing damages to our people … We won’t accept that.”

He suggested the Eritrean soldiers are not there with his blessing. “The argument the Eritrean government presents for this is that it is a national security issue because Ethiopian troops are going after (Tigrayan) forces in other locations, so they want to keep controlling border areas,” he said. “But they have told us they don’t have the willingness to stay as long as we control trenches along the border.”

Abiy spoke as concern continues to grow over the humanitarian situation in the embattled region that is home to 6 million of Ethiopia’s more than 110 million people. Authorities haven’t cited a death toll in the war, but a trio of opposition groups based in Tigray say more than 50,000 have been killed.

The United States has characterized some abuses in the Tigray war as “ethnic cleansing,” charges dismissed by Ethiopian authorities as unfounded. It also has urged Eritrean troops, who are fighting on the side of Ethiopian government forces, to withdraw from Tigray.

The Ethiopian prime minister, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his efforts to make peace with Eritrea, faces pressure to end the conflict in Tigray as well as to institute an international investigation into alleged war crimes, ideally led by the United Nations. The government’s critics say an ongoing federal probe simply isn’t enough because the government can’t effectively investigate itself.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman in Geneva for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, told The Associated Press last week that Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission had asked to participate with her office in “a joint investigation into allegations of serious human rights violations by all sides” in Tigray.

Accounts of atrocities by Ethiopian and allied forces against residents of Tigray have been detailed in reports by The Associated Press and by Amnesty International.

But Abiy said in Tuesday’s address, which included answering questions from lawmakers, that fighters loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front had committed a massacre in the town of Mai Kadra. “But it is not getting enough attention,” he said of that massacre, describing it as “the worst” in the conflict.

The Tigray conflict began in November, when Abiy sent government troops into the region after an attack there on federal military facilities. The federal army is now hunting the fugitive regional leaders, who have reportedly retreated into Tigray’s remote mountainous areas.

Abiy accused Tigray’s leaders of drumming up “a war narrative” while the area faced challenges such as a destructive invasion of locusts and the COVID-19 pandemic. “This was misplaced and untimely arrogance,” he said, according to a transcript of his comments posted on Twitter by the prime minister’s office.

President Joe Biden last week dispatched Sen. Chris Coons to Ethiopia to express the administration’s “grave concerns” about the growing humanitarian crisis and human rights abuses in Tigray, and the risk of broader instability in the Horn of Africa. Details of Coons’ weekend visit haven’t been released.

Humanitarian officials have warned that a growing number of people might be starving to death in Tigray. The fighting erupted on the brink of harvest in the largely agricultural region and sent an untold number of people fleeing their homes. Witnesses have described widespread looting by Eritrean soldiers as well as the burning of crops.

 

6 Comments

  1. Ok folks! We have heard it all from the horse’s mouth. PM Abiy himself has finally admitted that serious human rights violations have been committed by soldiers of the defense forces in Tigray. He has admitted that women were raped and properties were looted by the soldiers. He has also promised that those who committed these crimes will be held accountable. I say good luck with that. Such wartime accountability will not be limited to the rank and file soldiers. It will travel all the way up in the ranks of commanding officers. You know or should expect what this entails. Mutinies that lead to a coup can be in the offing/plan right now as we speak. Remember war crimes are punishable by death and field commanders can be held responsible for allegedly widespread looting and rape. Jula and Bacha! Look out!! Abiy! Look out!!! How about Eritrean soldiers? Were they involved in the war? He did not say a word about that! He had told the world no foreign troops were involved in the war. Many have believed him. I did. I know feel I’ve been had! I feel hoodwinked!!! Well, well, well!!! Is this the way how it still works? Ok bigots! Finally, you may be getting your wishes!!! The old country is on a silver platter just for to enjoy and pull it apart until it is unrecognizable!

  2. Deport the Eritreans out of Ethiopia don’t let these violent Eritreans back into Ethiopia ever again. Each of these Eritrean illegal aliens who committed atrocities need to get finger printed before they voluntarily leave Ethiopia or before they get deported to Eritrea, so these Eritrean illegal immigrants who committed atrocities do not return back to Ethiopia ever again with different names and with different identities.

    Ethiopia deported Eritreans out of Ethiopia two decades ago but made a mistake not to finger print them back then, which enabled these Eritreans to return back to Ethiopia and commit atrocities once again two decades later.

  3. There is another bombshell yesterday. The country’s own human rights commission had issued a report confirming that innocent civilians including those who were attending religious sermons at a church in Axum were savagely murdered by troops from Eritrea. I looked at the map and discovered that Axum is well inside the country’s territory. This is a big no no. This will change the game in the most undesirable ways. First one, it will start eroding the popular support the current regime has been enjoying so far. Similar atrocities are taking place unabated in Oromia, Amhara and BeniShangul regions. I am having my worst fears for the peace mongering people there after reports of tensions between unruly militias of Amhara and Oromia regions. Both Amhara and Oromo Intellectuals with extremist and war rattling views among us must cool it and cool it now. Let’s not tinkering around an extremely destructive device that we can’t control from our comfy homes. This is not an ‘I don’t care’ matter! This is not a laughing matter! It is not funny at all! These two regions have militias armed to the teeth under their command and with a combined population of more than 80 million. My other fear is the possibility of a military coup. If that happens we all will blow a kiss and say goodbye to that gem of the colored.

  4. Hey, man-child, it is not that you do not want war with Sudan, but it is because you have no army to fight in two wars, in Tigray and with the Sudan. Your army is extend to the limit in Tigray. You have plunged Ethiopia into a quagmire from which it won’t be able to extricate itself. What are you going to do after your pal, the brutal dictator in the North, dies or gets toppled, which could happen very soon?

    You have betrayed the Eritrean people who prayed for you and blessed you when you first visited Eritrea. They hoped you were sent to them by God, and believed that you would influence the Satan to change his ways and not the other way around.

    You have created animosity between Amhara and Tigray that will take hundreds of years to heal. It’s clear to all Tigrayans and the entire world, you did not declare war on TPLF but on the entire Tigrayan population.

    As for the Tigrayans, they have no alternative but to fight until the end. In the end, there is no doubt they will defeat the Abiy and Amhara’s forces, and no nation will have the moral standing to tell them to stay with a nation that invited foreign forces to massacre, loot, destroy their properties and lives, to rape, and starve them to death.
    Tigray will be an independent nation. But I wish the divorce had been amicable, especially with their neighbors, the Amharas. But it won’t be.
    I am sorry to say this but once Tigray leaves Ethiopia the ordinary Amharas who live inside Ethiopia, but not the likes of Pro. Al Hailemaria, are going to pay unimaginable price for generations to come.

  5. The funny thing is that no one mentions the massacre committed on national defense northern command and the Amaharas at Maikadera and Waghemra in North Wollo. What should Abiy and​ Amharas do? Do you think they would have kept quiet when invaded and killed?
    Of course Abiy is very weak In leadership and could not take action at times appropriate to him.TPLF is tough for him​ and also he lacks firm political stand.If makes his political stance clear like Ethiopian nationalist, at the end he can win and maintain the Ethiopian National unity but if he continues with ethnocentric hiden agenda, he looses himself and the Ethiopian nation at large.

  6. Please help this absolutely confused man.
    For the sake of sitting on power, he calls Tigrayans golden people who fed him for decades; then he calls them the day-light hyaenas and and declares war against them, with support from the historical Ethiopian enemy, Isaiyas Afemerzi of Eritrea. He calls the Amharas heroes when he wants their support, and then as dangerous peoiple tyo appease the chauvinists. He sits with all differenet Oromo groups and tries to make them all happy, to keep himself on power. He is calling for disasters. Oromo people, don’t listen to him. He needs medical and rehabilitation support from drugs and abuse.

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