Ethiopia – Tigray Conflict and Human Rights Violations in Ethiopia:
By Qasim Swati (United Kingdom)
Sharing its borders with Sudan to the northwest, Eritrea to the north, South Sudan to the west, Dijibouti to the northeast, Kenya to the south and Somalia to the east, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is the 12th most populous country globally and the second most populous in the continent of Africa after Nigeria, with a population of 109,224,414 inhabitants (as estimated in 2018) and having a total area of 420,000 sq mi or 1,100,000 square kilometres, located in the Horn of Africa.
Despite having the largest economy (by GDP) in East Africa, as of 2010, Ethiopia is facing many problems, like corruption, poverty, feeble infrastructure, hunger, low literacy rate, having limited access to education and health and issues of human rights, etc.
Slavery was very common in Ethiopia in the past, existing for hundreds of years in the country, until 1942, as there were about two to four million slaves out of a total population of around eleven million, in the early 20th century in Ethiopia.
So many people have been arrested, imprisoned, tortured and killed by various politicians, dictators, armed groups and other perpetrators in the history of Ethiopia, while struggling for gaining power and control over others in the country.
The Derg/Dergue (officially known as the Provisional Military Government of Socialist Ethiopia, which later was renamed as the Provisional Military Administrative Council) was a military junta in Ethiopia, ruling the country for some 13 years from 1974 until 1987.
After assuming the position of Chairman of the Derg in 1977, Mengistu Haile Mariam (an Ethiopian politician, soldier and dictator of the country from 1977 to 1991), started a political subjugation campaign against his political rivals and opponents, called the Ethiopian Red Terror or simply the Red Terror, which resulted in the killing of, approximately, as many people as between 30,000 to 750,000, as estimated.
More than 75 people were killed by the government of Ethiopia during different protests that took place in November and December, 2015, in the Oromia Region of the country (a regional state in Ethiopia, which is the native land of the Oromo people). Anyway, this is not the only and final example of human rights violations in the history of the country, as the police shot and killed dozens of protesters when the people began protests on August 05, 2016 throughout the country, while demanding a just and fair redistribution of wealth, generated within the last more than 10-year-period of growth in the country’s economy, the liberation or release of political prisoners, the return of Welkait/Wolgayt District to a regional state in northern Ethiopia (Amhara Region) and termination to the violations and abuses of human rights.
It is estimated that some 400,000 people have been displaced in 2017, as a result of the Oromo – Somali clashes that started in December, 2016 between Somali and Oromo communities due to territorial disagreement. This ethnic violence is responsible for forcing over 1.2 million people to flee their homes by the end of the conflict and killing of hundreds of others, apart from burning houses and destroying many properties.
It is reported that more than 600 Somali civilians were put to death by the Oromo militia even just on 15 December, 2017. Likewise, 23 people lost their lives during the protest, launched by minorities, taking place near Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, in September, 2018.
Similarly, no less than 239 people died during the Hachalu Hundessa riots that took place in the Oromia Region, in the form of a series of civil unrest, after the murder/assassination of an Ethiopian Oromo singer, civil rights activist and songwriter (Hachalu Hundessa) on June 29, 2020.
The recent crystal clear example of human rights violations and abuses in Ethiopia is in the form of the ongoing Tigray armed conflict that started on 04 November, 2020 in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia between the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) in alliance with the special forces of the Amhara Region and the special forces of the Tigray Region, led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front or TPLF, in short.
Besides other heinous and atrocious crimes, perpetrated by both warring sides, during the present Ethiopia – Tigray conflict, around 600 people (at the minimum) have been killed by the forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), in the course of the Mai Kadra massacre (a chain of mass murders and ethnic cleansing) carried out on the 9th and 10th of November, 2020 in the town of Mai Kadra (located in far northern Ethiopia), as reported by Amnesty International and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
The same cruel massacre of massive number of innocent civilians has been confirmed and condemned by Deprose Muchena, the Director of Amnesty International for East and Southern Africa, on 12 November, 2020, as, “We have confirmed the massacre of a very large number of civilians, who appear to have been day labourers in no way involved in the ongoing military offensive. This is a horrific tragedy whose true extent only time will tell, as communication in Tigray remains shut down.”
On the other hand, more than 550 rebels (TPLF fighters) have been killed, as claimed by the Ethiopian Federal Government via Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation. This report has been published on aa.com.tr (Anadolu Agency) on 11 November, 2020, titled “Ethiopia: 550 rebels dead, as Tigray offensive continues.”
The current situation of civil unrest and turmoil in the Ethiopian Tigray Region has led to a serious humanitarian crisis in the country, because more and more people are displaced and made refugees every day in Ethiopia and Sudan, as there are more than 43,000 refugees, who have recently fled fighting in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia to Sudan.
As warned by the UN, food assistance has run out for thousands of Eritrean refugees in the conflict-hit northern Tigray Region of Ethiopia, where almost 100,000 Eritrean refugees have sought refuge, while fleeing compulsory military service and political persecution, as told by the BBC on 2 November, 2020. Consequently, thousands of Eritrean refugees in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia are faced with food shortages and hunger, as they have run out of food in the area.
The United Nations has expressed a lot of concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia, as it is believed that more than one million people have been displaced during the ongoing Ethiopia – Tigray Conflict in the region, as told by Al Jazeera English (a Qatari state-owned news channel) on Friday, December 04, 2020.
Qasim Swati is a freelance journalist, writer and human rights activist, based in the UK, and can be reached at https://qasimswati.com or mailto:email@example.com.