Tigray crisis: Ethiopian teenagers become pawns in propaganda war
By Vivienne Nunis
The fog of war is a term usually used to describe confusion on the battlefield, but when it comes to Ethiopia, it could just as easily be applied to the bitterly fought information war surrounding the escalating conflict between Tigrayan rebels and government forces.
(bbc)–When the BBC was recently offered an interview with teenagers allegedly caught fighting for the rebels, we cautiously accepted.
“I was playing football with friends when I was forcefully recruited by Tigrayan fighters to join their ranks,” one 17-year-old told us, on the phone from Afar, a state which borders Tigray.
The conflict began in Tigray in northern Ethiopia in November, but has since spread to the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara, where the TPLF rebels recently captured Lalibela, a town famous for its rock-hewn churches.
“I was taken by force to the war front,” said another teenager, who told us he was in Year 10 at school in Tigray. “My family couldn’t say anything because they feared for their life.”
A 19-year-old woman said: “We didn’t get any military training. They took us to Afar. They threatened to kill our family if we didn’t join the fight.”
The teenagers told us that around 50 adolescent boys and girls were rounded up near Tigray’s capital Mekelle and forced to fight, before being captured by Afar’s regional forces, who are allied to the federal government.