Thursday, May 6, 2021

Western concern mounts over the Ethiopian crisis

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Ethiopia’s reputation is “tarnished” by military conflictBritish Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said ahead of his visit to the East African country on Friday to urge Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to allow unrestricted humanitarian access to the Tigray region.

Mr Raab joined a chorus of high-level Western diplomats, including candidate for US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, who have all expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in the war-torn northern region.

“Until this conflagration, [Ethiopia] has had, if you will, a reputation as a flagship, and of course, it is tarnished. There is no doubt there is no escaping it. I want to talk to Prime Minister Abiy. But above all, what we want to focus on right now is getting humanitarian aid, ”Raab told the Financial Times on the first leg of a tour that will take him to Sudan and Sudan. Ethiopia, where aid agencies have expressed concerns over the limited access impoverished Tigray.

Addis Ababa launched a military campaign on November 4 against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the movement that ruled Ethiopia for nearly three decades until Mr. Abiy took office in 2018, seeking to push through liberal economic reforms. Saying the offensive was a response to TPLF attacks on federal forces in the Tigrayan capital Mekelle, Mr. Abiy – who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 – launched a “law enforcement” operation that included air strikes and ground troops.

As the government declared the war over, the conflict in Tigray exposed ethnic rifts, with ethnically motivated attacks always reported in parts of Ethiopia, and tens of thousands of refugees crossing the border with Sudan. Western donors say the delivery of humanitarian aid has been hampered by ongoing episodes of violence.

Tiger refugees who have fled the conflict wait for assistance in the Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan © Nariman El-Mofty / AP

During a hearing in the US Senate this week, Mr Blinken said that “we have seen a number of deeply and deeply concerning atrocities directed against the two people in Tigray, against the Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, I think we have to see a much greater access to the region, responsibility. . . we have to see the reestablishment of communications, we have to see access to humanitarian aid in the region ”.

“The situation on the ground goes far beyond a purely internal ‘policing’ operation,” Borrell said last week, freezing of € 88 million in budget support for Ethiopia, until aid agencies gain better access to the area.

“We receive consistent reports of ethnically motivated violence, killings, massive looting, rape, forced returns of refugees and possible war crimes,” he said. “More than two million people have been internally displaced. And although people are in urgent need of assistance, access to the affected region remains limited, making it very difficult to deliver humanitarian aid.

There have been recent reports of “additional military incursions,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, said last week. These were “consistent with open source satellite images showing new fires and other signs of destruction” in two camps housing nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees in Tigray, who have fled Eritrea over the years, a- he said.

Some Eritrean refugees have been forced to return to the repressive state, he added, amid mounting reports of the involvement of Eritrean forces, longtime enemies of the TPLF, in the Tigray conflict. “There is clear evidence,” said a senior US diplomat, “of Eritrea’s direct involvement.”

The Ethiopian government said this week that it has worked with humanitarian agencies to provide aid to 1.8 million people.

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