SUDAN-ETHIOPIA-CONFLICT-REFUGEES-WAR-CRISIS-AFRICA-NEWS
People walk about at a camp for Ethiopian refugees of the Qemant ethnic group in the village of Basinga in Basunda district of Sudan's eastern Gedaref region on August 10, 2021. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

After the progress made by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front fighters in and around Amhara, and in light of the United States’ intention to send a special envoy to Ethiopia, the Associated Press published an analytical explanation of the military and humanitarian scene entitled “Why the war crisis in Ethiopia is deepening day by day”, in which it discussed Three questions in the conflict that has been going on for nine months.

In humanitarian terms, millions of people in Tigray continue to suffer from a lack of food and other supplies, in a reality in which the United Nations and the United States accuse the Ethiopian authorities of denying entry to the bulk of humanitarian assistance to civilians there.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced in the neighboring Amhara and Afar provinces, pledging to head to the capital, Addis Ababa, if necessary, to stop the fighting and lift the siege on their region of 6 million people.

In turn, the United Nations spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, this week described the humanitarian crisis in the region as “one of the cases in which words have been carried out to describe the horror of what is inflicted on civilians,” considering that further conflict could lead to continued suffering among civilians.

US position

The United States announced that Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman will travel to Ethiopia on Sunday, in a move that White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan described on Twitter as a “decisive moment.”

“Months of war have brought enormous suffering and division among the ranks of a great people that cannot be repaired through more fighting,” he wrote in a tweet on Thursday, calling on all parties to “hurry up to the negotiating table.”

According to the agency’s analysis, this seems “unlikely”, as the Ethiopian government this year classified the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which dominated the government for nearly three decades before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took power in 2018, as a “terrorist group.”

The Tigray forces also set several preconditions for talks, knowing that they adhere to the fact that Abi Ahmed no longer enjoys the “legitimacy necessary to rule”, as well as the recovery of much of the Tigray region last June, which constituted a dramatic shift, especially with the retreat of the Ethiopian army.

On the pressure that Washington can exert to push for negotiations, the agency quoted an aide in the US House of Representatives (Congress), who declined to be identified, as saying: “All options are on the table.”

He continued, “From implementing the Magnitsky Act to punish human rights violations, to issuing executive orders on sanctions, to imposing more restrictive measures on aid, and blocking Ethiopian efforts to obtain support from international financial institutions,” he said.

Officials and lawmakers in Washington have also indicated that they are “impatient,” especially as Ethiopian officials deny rights abuses, such as mass rape and the forced deportation of Tigrayans.

Amnesty International had accused the Ethiopian government of committing crimes of rape, slavery, and mutilation of members at the hands of Eritrean and Ethiopian forces in the Tigray region, which the latter denies, and it “reflects the deafness with which the government deals with multiple conflicts and humanitarian crises,” according to a member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the House of Representatives. Senator Jim Risch, via his Twitter account, Thursday.

The position of the Ethiopian government

The Ethiopian government has claimed, without evidence, that the United States, the United Nations, and others are siding with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front or supporting its fighters, and the government considers that the group’s alleged abuses in the Amhara and Afar regions have not been adequately addressed.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had cited “credible information from partners” about deadly attacks that took place last week in a camp for newly displaced people in Afar.

The organization stressed, on Thursday, that “a United Nations team intends to assess the scene of the accident as soon as security allows it.”

For its part, Abi Ahmed’s government blamed the Tigray forces, whose spokesman, Getachew Reda, denied this, expressing his willingness to cooperate in an “independent investigation”.

The Tigrayan forces formed a military alliance with the Oromo Liberation Army, which Ethiopia has also designated as a “terrorist group”.

For her part, a spokeswoman for the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Beilin Seyoum, said Thursday that the government’s call for civilians to join the army and participate in the fight against the rebels means that “the Ethiopians are required to stop the Tigrayan forces by all necessary means.”

Seyoum added that this does not mean the army is unable to confront the Tigray forces, saying: “In the millions, people are responding to this call.”

Humanitarian crisis

Civilians are caught in the middle, and efforts to reach them with aid are becoming increasingly difficult due to the Ethiopian government’s concern about aid reaching Tigray forces.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) estimated that about 900,000 people in Tigray are facing famine conditions, at a time when telephone, Internet, and banking services are cut off.

Last week, USAID Administrator Samantha Power visited Ethiopia and did not meet the prime minister.

In turn, the United Nations World Food Program revealed, on Friday, that at least 30 trucks must enter the region daily to meet the need, describing what has arrived so far as “a drop in the ocean.”

Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government has suspended the operations of two large groups of international aid organizations (the Dutch branch of Doctors Without Borders and the Norwegian Refugee Council), accusing them of spreading “disinformation”, which has deterred many humanitarian workers from speaking out, fearing of retaliation, which means that efforts to respond to crises in the Amhara and Afar regions could be affected.

The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies commented, warning that this means less knowledge of the situation on the ground, where many journalists face restrictions imposed by the government.

Northern Ethiopia has seen violence since November, after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, sent troops to Tigray, a mountainous region on the borders with Sudan and Eritrea, to oust its ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

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