In early November of last year, after months of escalating tensions, a war erupted between the Ethiopian Government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in the country’s northern Tigray region. Armed units from the neighboring region of Amhara and Eritrean Defense Forces, soon joined in on the Ethiopian Government side.
In late November, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, declared victory after Ethiopia’s armed forces entered the regional capital Mekele.
Nonetheless, Ethiopia’s forces, Amhara forces, and Eritrean forces remain in Tigray. But their conduct, as well as that of other armed actors including the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, is anything but peaceful, according to the United Nations and Amnesty International.
“The conduct of the Eritrean Defense Forces and Amhara regional forces have been particularly egregious,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a written statement.“There are many credible reports of armed forces in Tigray committing acts of violence against civilians, including gender-based violence and other human rights abuses and atrocities.”
Even more concerning is the fact that Eritrean troops and other armed actors are blocking and even looting the delivery of humanitarian aid to Tigray’s civilian population. Of the region’s 6 million people, 5.2 million need aid, particularly food. The United Nations said that “Of the three million people targeted to receive emergency shelter and non-food items, only 347,000 people, that is about 12 per cent, had been reached since 3 May.”
“The United States is gravely concerned by the increasing number of confirmed cases of military forces blocking humanitarian access to parts of the Tigray region,” said Secretary Blinken.
“The United States unequivocally calls upon the Governments of Eritrea and Ethiopia to take all necessary steps to ensure that their forces in Tigray cease and desist this reprehensible conduct. We also again call on all parties to comply with obligations under international humanitarian law, including those relevant to the protection of civilians, and to cease immediately all hostilities and allow relief to reach those suffering and in greatest need of assistance,” said Secretary Blinken.
“We equally urge the Government of Ethiopia to withdraw Amhara regional forces from the Tigray region and ensure that effective control of western Tigray is returned to the Transitional Government of Tigray. Prime Minister Abiy and [Eritrean] President Isaias [Afwerki] must hold all those responsible for atrocities accountable.”