In March, the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the TPLF, jointly observed a humanitarian truce that over five months reduced violence and allowed life-saving humanitarian assistance to key regions in Ethiopia. With the truce, hope dawned that the brutal conflict could be brought to an end.
That hope dimmed when fighting again broke out along the border between the regions of Tigray and Amhara on August 23. Both sides blamed the other for the outbreak of hostilities.
The conflict between Government of Ethiopia and the TPLF started nearly two years ago, and it has been estimated [University of Ghent] that between 50,000 to 100,000 people have died from the fighting in a country that for three years has been devastated by severe drought and inadequate harvests. According to the World Food Program, over half of Tigray’s 5.5 million people are in “severe” need of food aid.
The United States is the largest contributor of humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia, reflecting, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “our commitment to reach all regions and people of Ethiopia in need.” Last year, he noted, the United States provided nearly 1.2 billion in development and humanitarian support for the Ethiopian people all over the country, in support of drought relief, food security, peace-building, health, education technology transfers, and training.
In a statement, Secretary Blinken deplored the renewed hostilities. “Recent provocations on the battlefield, bellicose rhetoric, and the lack of a durable ceasefire…delay the establishment of an inclusive political process to achieve progress toward common security and prosperity for all Ethiopians. A return to active conflict would result in widespread suffering, human rights abuses, and further economic hardships,” he said.
Secretary Blinken noted with approval the Government of Ethiopia’s establishment of a negotiating team and its stated willingness to engage in talks. “We ask all parties,” he said, “to respect the provision of food and fuel by humanitarian actors and refrain from militarizing humanitarian relief and to work towards restoration of basic services for those in need.” Secretary Blinken called on the Government of Ethiopia and the TPLF “to redouble efforts to advance talks to achieve a durable ceasefire without preconditions and ultimately bring a permanent end to the conflict.”