April 7, 2021

An investigation from The Associated Press sheds new light on allegations of ethnic cleansing in Ethiopia. Nine refugees from different communities in the northern Tigray region, home to a months-long violent conflict that began last November, confirmed that authorities in the neighboring Amhara region issued them new identification cards that eliminate "all traces of Tigray."

One refugee, Seid Mussa Omar, told AP the Amhara authorities now in charge of the Tigrayan city of Humera took his original ID card and burned it before handing him a new one, which AP examined. It was issued in the Amharic language — Seid, a nurse, also said anyone who came to the hospital where he worked was only allowed to speak Amharic — and contained an Amhara stamp with no mention of Tigray anywhere.

It may sound like a small anecdote buried within a story marked by so much physical violence, but AP described the new ID cards as "the latest evidence of a systematic drive by the Ethiopian government and its allies to destroy the Tigrayan people." As Seid put it, "their aim is to erase Tigray."

The Ethiopian government denies involvement in the atrocities and maintains it rejects "any and all notions and practices of ethnic cleansing," saying it will not "turn a blind eye to such crimes." Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

March 20, 2021

Throughout much of the humanitarian crisis in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray over the last few months, access for journalists and aid agencies has been severely restricted, making it difficult to verify reports of what was happening on the ground. Now, that's changing, and a clearer picture of the violence is coming into focus.

Nine doctors in Ethiopia and one in a Sudanese refugee camp told CNN that they've seen an alarming increase in sexual assault and rape cases since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive in Tigray. A CNN team also spoke with several women who described being raped by Ethiopian and allied Eritrean soldiers as they fled the fighting. One doctor at a hospital said more than 200 women had been admitted for sexual violence in recent months, while many more cases have been reported in rural villages and centers for internally displaced people, which have little or no access to medical care.

"The women that have been raped say that the things that they say to them when they were raping them is that they need to change their identity -- to either Amharize them or at least leave their Tigrinya status ... and that they've come there to cleanse them ... to cleanse the blood line," Dr. Tedros Tefera, who works at a refugee camp in Hamdayet, Sudan, told CNN. "Practically this has been a genocide."

BBC also provided a deeper look at what's happening in Tigray, detailing a growing crisis in Shire, a city of 170,000 which has seen a huge influx of people seeking refuge from the fighting. Per BBC, aid agencies estimate that around 200,000 people are living in Shire's makeshift camps. Read more at CNN and BBC. Tim O'Donnell

January 30, 2021

Ethiopia's Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen on Friday briefed a private gathering that was hosted by the Atlantic Council and included Biden administration staffers on the situation in the country's Tigray region, The Associated Press reports.

Demeke and his colleagues reportedly said Tigray — which began experiencing a violent conflict last November that has resulted in thousands of deaths — has "returned to normalcy" and that 1.5 million people have been reached with humanitarian aid. But reports from the ground, though difficult to come by, suggest otherwise, especially in rural areas. Accounts retrieved by Doctors Without Borders and the World Peace Foundation described hospitals in poor conditions with "no food, no water, and no money" and "crippling" hunger among the region's rural population that could lead to a "massive humanitarian crisis."

Gezahegn Kebede Gebrehana, the Oxfam country director in Ethiopia, told AP that when fighting broke out last year many people "fled into the bush" only to find "their houses destroyed or all their belongings looted" upon their return. "Food is a very, very prominent necessity, from what we saw" during an assessment of southern Tigray, considered the most accessible part of the region. Read more at The Associated Press and take a deeper look at the growing crisis in Ethiopia here at The Week. Tim O'Donnell

November 24, 2020

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Sunday issued an ultimatum to the leaders of the country's northern Tigray region, telling them to surrender to federal forces within 72 hours. If the Tigray People's Liberation Front rejects the warning and holds out, as they say they intend to do, the government's troops will allegedly move to take Tigray's capital city Mekelle by force Wednesday.

But, Al Jazeera reports, even the capture of Tigray may not end the conflict that broke out earlier this month after long simmering tensions. Already, hundreds of people have died and tens of thousands have fled, but "the conflict could evolve," Ahmed Soliman, a research fellow at London think tank, Chatham House, told Al Jazeera. "There is the frightening possibility it could become entrenched," he said. "Both sides are heavily armed and this could lead to a prolonged insurgent warfare."

There is also the concern, Soliman added, that "the conflict could also spill over into neighboring countries."

The United Nations fears major hostilities may soon break out, as well, and U.N. Security Council will hold a meeting Tuesday to discuss the fighting. Read more at Al Jazeera and BBC. Tim O'Donnell

November 21, 2020

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who last year won the Nobel Peace Prize after reaching a pact with Eritrea and helped lead mediation efforts to curb violence in Sudan, has rejected the African Union's attempt to mediate talks between his own government and Tigray, a rebel-held northern Ethiopia region, Reuters reports.

Abiy reportedly plans to begin peace talks only after the government's forces capture leaders of the Tigray People's Liberation Front. Until then, the army will reportedly continue its march toward Tigray's capital city, Mekelle, which it says it will reach soon.

The fighting broke out earlier this month and has increasingly intensified. Hundreds of people are estimated to have died in the conflict, and more than 30,000 refugees have fled to Sudan since the violence began, with perhaps 200,000 more possibly crossing the border before too long, per Reuters. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee representative in Ethiopia, Ann Econtre, said she was "deeply concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in Tigray, which is compounded by the lack of access and our current inability to bring in food and supplies to those in need." Read more at Reuters and Al Jazeera. Tim O'Donnell

October 10, 2016

A six-month state of emergency has been declared in Ethiopia by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

Anti-government protests have been raging since last year, with demonstrators upset over the government taking farmland belonging to the Oromos, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, for development purposes. Earlier this month, activists say more than 500 people were killed during the Oromo holy festival Irreechaa, with police firing bullets and tear gas, but the government puts the official death toll at 52, with all dying in a stampede.

The state of emergency, the first in 25 years, took effect on Saturday. On state-run television Sunday, Desalegn said "vital infrastructure, businesses, health and education centers, as well as government offices, and courts have been destroyed," and he promised reforms and to open talks with the opposition. Local media is reporting that in Oromia, the largest of Ethiopia's nine regional states, mobile internet service is down and social media is blocked. Catherine Garcia

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