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UN: Ethiopian government doesn’t control Amhara and Eritrean forces; US politicians urge President Biden to intervene

UN: Ethiopian government doesn’t control Amhara and Eritrean forces; US politicians urge President Biden to intervene

(eritreahub)—The UN Security Council meeting on the Ethiopia and the Tigray war on Wednesday heard important statements. Below are reports on these issues. These are some:

Source: Reuters

U.N. warns Tigray conflict could spark broader destablization in Ethiopia

Hundreds of thousands of people in Tigray have not received help and the United Nations has been unable to completely assess the situation because it does not have full and unimpeded access, according to Lowcock’s notes for the closed virtual briefing of the 15-member Security Council.

He said there were reports of increasing insecurity elsewhere, which could be due to a vacuum created by the redeployment of Ethiopian troops to Tigray, and that the United Nations was concerned about the potential for broader national and regional destablization.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered air strikes and a ground offensive against Tigray’s former ruling party – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – after regional forces attacked federal army bases in the region on Nov. 4.

The TPLF withdrew from the regional capital, Mekelle, and major cities, but low-level fighting has continued.

In the region of more than five million people, thousands of people are believed to have died and 950,000 have fled their homes since fighting began.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “seriously concerned” over the situation in Tigray, a U.N. spokesman said late on Tuesday.

Lowcock said Abiy’s government controls between 60% and 80% of the territory in Tigray, but does not have full command of the ethnic Amhara and Eritrean forces also operating in the region.

Dozens of witnesses say Eritrean troops are in Tigray to support Ethiopian forces, though both countries deny that.

The United Nations has received reports that police are operating at a fraction of their previous capacity and Lowcock said he could confidently say that if protection and aid were not quickly increased then the humanitarian situation would deteriorate.

He said there were troubling accusations of sexual and gender-based violence.

Several senior U.N. officials recently visited Ethiopia to push for greater access to Tigray. Lowcock said he was hopeful there would be concrete progress in coming days to allow aid to be scaled up.

Source: AFP

UN still hoping for humanitarian access to Tigray

A militiaman in Ethiopia’s Tigray region in December 2020. Not enough aid is being allowed in, the UN has warned EDUARDO SOTERAS AFP/File
United Nations (United States) (AFP)

Every member of the UN Security Council called for increased aid during a closed-door meeting Wednesday to discuss the humanitarian situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, according to diplomats.

The meeting had been requested by Ireland, Estonia, France, Norway, Britain and the United States.

“Everyone said there should be more humanitarian access,” one diplomat said under condition of anonymity, though no official statement was released after the discussions.

There was never meant to be a declaration passed, according to the same diplomat, though another said the idea was abandoned because African members of the council had said they would refuse to vote for one, deeming it unproductive.

Meetings on the situation in Tigray have been few and far between since the Ethiopian military operation began in November, with African countries in particular preferring to treat the conflict as a domestic matter.

But Western powers have argued that the influx of refugees into neighboring Sudan was a humanitarian crisis requiring international intervention.

The Security Council also failed to produce a declaration after other closed-door meetings on November 24 and December 14.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in mid-December announced two deals with Ethiopian authorities that should have allowed access to the country.

But opportunities to deliver aid remain fragile, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday.

“Very little is being allowed in,” he said.

“What we need is to be able to just get in there in an unfettered manner without having to, I guess, negotiate for every truck, for every box.”

“We work cooperatively with the government, and it’s their country … we have to go through them, and that’s the way it should be,” Dujarric said.

“But there is a grave humanitarian need in Tigray, and at this point, we’re not able to reach the people that need to be reached.”

High-level UN figures visited Ethiopia this week, including the high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi and UN undersecretary-general Gilles Michaud — while a visit from World Food Program chief David Beasley is expected in the coming days, according to diplomats — to try to gain access to refugee camps.

Akshaya Kumar of the NGO Human Rights Watch said: “The Security Council should hold a public session followed by a strong resolution demanding an end to aid obstruction and immediate investigation of war crimes” in Ethiopia.

Congressional Republicans Call on Biden Administration to Act Swiftly on Ethiopia Crisis

Lawmakers call for diplomatic pressure to stop bloodshed in Tigray

Republicans are calling on the Biden administration to help put an end to a humanitarian and security crisis that has left thousands dead in Ethiopia.

Congressional Republicans, led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Jim Risch (R., Idaho) and House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaul (R., Texas), said that President Joe Biden must act to alleviate the human rights crisis emerging in Tigray, an embattled region in northern Ethiopia. McCaul said Biden must “demand accountability” from the Ethiopian government, which has allegedly committed crimes against humanity amid a regional communications blackout.

“We still do not know the full extent of atrocities committed against civilians in Tigray, and the conflict has resulted in a staggering humanitarian crisis,” McCaul said. “We must demand accountability, elevate our diplomatic engagement with the government of Ethiopia, and work with our allies and partners to prevent further destabilization in the region.”

The conflict between the Ethiopian government and Tigray’s leadership turned violent after local leaders refused to join Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party. Ahmed deployed the army into the region in November. Thousands of people are estimated dead after violent clashes between regional forces and Ethiopian troops reportedly aided by Somalia and Eritrea. Millions more may die of starvation as the region faces a food shortage. Despite a media blackout, videos showing alleged massacres in Tigray’s capital are circulating online.

Neither the State Department nor the White House returned requests for comment. The Biden administration has expended little visible effort on the crisis beyond a State Department press release that called for increased aid to Tigray and urged for an end to the violence.

Activists and lawmakers say that Biden must do more than issue public statements to address the bloodshed. The United States has been a key financial partner to Ethiopia for decades, shelling out $1 billion in foreign aid in 2020 alone. Sen. Risch said the White House will find strong bipartisan support in a sharply divided Congress if the administration moves forward with a diplomatic effort to put a stop to the siege in Tigray.

“We encourage [the Biden White House] to continue to push Ethiopian officials to abandon efforts that further the conflict and stoke tensions in the region,” Risch said. “There is much bipartisan, bicameral support for such efforts. … Ethiopia’s federal government needs to engage in a comprehensive and inclusive national dialogue with the many different political and ethnic factions in Ethiopia.”

Ethiopia, one of Africa’s most populous countries, is vital to ensuring regional stability. Another Republican aide said the Tigray crisis could soon spill out across East Africa if the Biden administration does not act. Ethiopian troops are a major partner of American forces on regional counterterrorism operations. The outbreak of internal conflict has led Ethiopian military leaders to alleviate pressure on al Shabaab, a growing jihadist organization in East Africa.

“Anyone who watches the region knows that such a conflict would have a reverberating effect,” the aide said. “Once that balance gets tipped out of space, then everything starts to fall apart. … That’s a problem for the United States, that’s a problem for Western interests.”

Emily Estelle, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project, said an uptick in terrorist activities in a country already consumed by internal conflict could spell disaster.

“The likelihood of continued fighting in that region is high. … The fighting in Ethiopia is having an effect on the counter al Shabaab fight in Somalia,” Estelle said. “The United States is in a bit of a tricky position diplomatically.”

A Republican committee staffer also spoke forcefully about the growing problems Biden faces with human rights and terrorism.

“Any kind of further withdrawal of partner forces would empower and embolden al Shabaab,” the staffer told the Free Beacon. “I think it’s a perfect storm of events that could have serious consequences.”

The Ethiopian embassy did not return a request for comment.

Source: AP

US says Eritrean forces should leave Tigray immediately

January 27, 2021
FILE – In this Dec. 12, 2020, file photo, Tigrayan refugees who fled Ethiopia’s conflict, prepare to cook their dinners in front of their temporary shelters, at Umm Rakouba, a refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan. Huge unknowns persist in the deadly conflict, but details of the involvement of neighboring Eritrea, one of the world’s most secretive countries, are emerging with witness accounts by survivors and others. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The United States says all soldiers from Eritrea should leave Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region “immediately.”

A State Department spokesperson in an email to The Associated Press late Tuesday cited “credible reports of looting, sexual violence, assaults in refugee camps and other human rights abuses.”

“There is also evidence of Eritrean soldiers forcibly returning Eritrean refugees from Tigray to Eritrea,” the spokesperson said.

The statement reflects new pressure by the Biden administration on the government of Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country with 114 million people and the anchor of the Horn of Africa, and other combatants as the deadly fighting in Tigray nears the three-month mark.

The AP this week cited witnesses who fled the Tigray region as saying Eritrean soldiers were looting, going house-to-house killing young men and even acting as local authorities. The Eritreans have been fighting on the side of Ethiopian forces as they pursue the fugitive leaders of the Tigray region, though Ethiopia’s government has denied their presence.

The U.S. stance has shifted dramatically from the early days of the conflict when the Trump administration praised Eritrea for its “restraint.”

The new U.S. statement calls for an independent and transparent investigation into alleged abuses. “It remains unclear how many Eritrean soldiers are in Tigray, or precisely where,” it says.

It was not immediately clear whether the U.S. has addressed its demand directly to Eritrean officials. And the office of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed did not immediately respond to questions.

Witnesses have estimated that the Eritrean soldiers number in the thousands. Eritrean officials have not responded to questions. The information minister for Eritrea, one of the world’s most secretive countries, this week tweeted that “the rabid defamation campaign against Eritrea is on the rise again.“

The U.S. also seeks an immediate stop to the fighting in Tigray and “full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access” to the region, which remains largely cut off from the outside world, with Ethiopian forces often accompanying aid.

“We are gravely concerned by credible reports that hundreds of thousands of people may starve to death if urgent humanitarian assistance is not mobilized immediately,” the statement says.

The United Nations in its latest humanitarian update said it is receiving reports of “rising hunger” in Tigray and cited a “dire lack of access to food” since many farmers in the largely agricultural region missed the harvest because of the fighting, and as “critical staff” to scale up the humanitarian response can’t access the region. Transport, electricity, banking and other links “have yet to be restored in much of the region,” the U.N. said, and 78% of hospitals remain nonfunctional.

“Our concern is that what we don’t know could be even more disturbing,” U.N. children’s agency chief Henrietta Fore said in a statement Wednesday. “For 12 weeks, the international humanitarian community has had very limited access to conflict-affected populations across most of Tigray.”

Vaccinations have stopped across the region, Fore added.

The U.S. statement added that “dialogue is essential between the government and Tigrayans.” Ethiopia’s government has rejected dialogue with the former Tigray leaders, seeing them as illegitimate, and has appointed an interim administration.

The former Tigray leaders, in turn, objected to Ethiopia delaying a national election last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and considered Abiy’s mandate over.

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