Addis Ababa (AFP)
The United Nations warned Friday of possible war crimes in the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia, ten days after the battles the prime minister said his opponents would inevitably lose.
Prime Minister Abyei Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2019, ordered military operations in Tigray region last week, shocking the international community, which fears a prolonged bloody civil war.
Hundreds of people have been reported killed, some of them in a horrific massacre reported by Amnesty International, and thousands have fled the fighting and air strikes in Tigray, whose leaders Abyei accuse Ahmed of seeking to destabilize the country.
On Friday, the United States called for “immediate steps to de-escalate” in Tigray, and US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy said, “We condemn the massacre of civilians in (town) Mai-Kadra” in the southwest of the region, adding in a tweet on Twitter. ” It is necessary to restore peace and protect civilians. ”
On Friday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called for a comprehensive investigation into reports of the mass killing in Mai Kadra, as Amnesty said that it had “digitally verified horrific photos and videos of corpses scattered in the town or being carried on stretchers.”
“If it is confirmed that one of the parties to the current conflict did so intentionally, these killings of civilians would of course be war crimes,” Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.
Amnesty said it was not able to confirm the identity of the one responsible for the killings, but eyewitnesses pointed the finger at forces supporting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which is ruling in the region.
Eyewitnesses also stated that the identity cards of some of the victims indicate that they are from the region with a long history of tension with Tigray, especially with regard to territories.
Thousands of armed elements from Amhara were deployed on the Tigray border, to fight alongside the Federal Forces.
The leader of the Tigrayans, Debrecion Gebramikail, told AFP on Friday that the accusations were “null.”
Abyei Ahmed says that his military operation is a response to attacks on two military bases of the Federal Forces, launched by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, which previously controlled political and security institutions in Ethiopia and accused Abyei of marginalizing them.
The Front denies carrying out the attacks.
Tensions worsened between Abyei and the front in September when the region proceeded to hold its own elections, stressing that Ahmed is an illegal leader after the national elections were postponed due to the emerging Corona virus.
Encircled on all sides –
On Friday, Ahmed addressed the region’s soldiers, urging them to “rise up” and join the National Army.
“This malicious force is surrounded on all sides. It is a force that takes its last breath,” he said in a speech in the Tigrin language broadcast on Facebook.
“They rose up against the clique or defected and joined the Ethiopian Defense Forces,” he added.
A communications blackout in Tigray prevented the verification of conflicting reports on the ground, but Ahmed vowed to achieve a decisive victory “in a relatively short period of time”.
Gebramikail considered this a “daydream”, adding “We are a proud people who can defend themselves. This is a graveyard for invaders.”
Bachelet warned that if the conflict continues, “there is a risk that the situation will get completely out of control, which will lead to heavy losses and destruction in addition to mass exodus” within Ethiopia and outside the borders.
“I am also very concerned about reports of cutting off vital water and electricity supplies, as well as imposing a communication blackout and preventing access by land and air,” she said.
– Monkhon –
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said more than 14,500 people had fled to Sudan this week, while aid workers were overworked.
“People are arriving with little possessions, indicating that they have fled in a hurry. The children are arriving, exhausted and afraid,” she said.
The UNHCR also warned that fighting is approaching a camp in Tigray that is home to 6,500 Eritrean refugees.
Concern is mounting over reports of ethnic tension.
The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Pramila Patten, and Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect Karen Smith, condemned in a statement “reports of targeted attacks against civilians based on their ethnicity or religion.”
They considered this “a dangerous path that increases the risks of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”
Friday, an African Union official confirmed the change of its security official, who is from the Tigrayan ethnic group, after the Ethiopian Ministry of Defense complained that he “believed he was not sincere” and could destabilize the relationship between Ethiopia and the Addis Ababa-based union.
Ethiopian official media confirmed the issuance of an arrest warrant for Dipros and other commanders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, in addition to the arrest of about 250 in the capital for their supposed collusion with the front.
The government stated in a statement that it had “specific and credible evidence” of elements of the TPLF working for local and international organizations.
The statement said that the police had submitted a list of these individuals to the World Food Program in the Amhara region, but it was not a “general ethnic classification.”
“We continue to receive credible reports of Tigrayans’ jobs being suspended elsewhere in the country as the fighting in Tigray escalates,” said Letitia Bader of Human Rights Watch.
“Given the tense and hugely explosive context in the country, the Ethiopian authorities must resist measures that would exacerbate intolerance and risk deporting the Tigrayans from life,” she added.
© 2020 AFP