US and European officials step up pressure on Addis Ababa over reports of war crimes in Tigray
Diplomatic calls to regional leaders try to coordinate policy towards Premier Abiy’s government
Abiy Ahmed‘s government is increasingly embattled as criticism grows from the European Union and wider international system about the humanitarian emergency in Tigray as fighting continues for a fourth month between government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (AC Vol 61 No 24, War resets the region).
(Africa-confidential)—Top United States officials have been calling regional leaders on the latest reports about the plight of people in Tigray. President Joe Biden had a lengthy discussion with Kenya‘s President Uhuru Kenyatta on 25 February to discuss the UN Security Council and developments in Ethiopia; and Vice-President Kamala Harris called Congo-Kinshasa President and African Union Chair Félix Tshisekedi on the same day, and they also covered Tigray.
Addis has reacted angrily to the briefings among EU foreign ministers and ambassadors in Brussels that followed Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto‘s visit to the region on behalf of Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs.
Finland’s EU ambassador is reported to have accused Abiy’s government of being ‘in denial’ about the scale of human rights abuses in Tigray.
Ethiopian government officials say they will formally complain to Borrell.
They also used a webinar with Brussels-based reporters this week to complain that the media is publishing misinformation. Reporters and broadcasters retorted that the government was not allowing them to visit Tigray.
After an EU foreign ministers’ meeting earlier this week, Borrell called for a ‘full and immediate humanitarian access to Tigray’ and stressed ‘the need to investigate allegations of severe human rights violations’.
An Amnesty International report published on 26 February accused Ethiopia’s army of massacres in Tigray in November.
The EU has also repeated its threat to cut funding for Ethiopia, complaining that around 80% of refugees are not receiving funds.
Officials also insisted that there has been no oppression or mistreatment of refugees.
Meanwhile, attempts by civil society groups to push for an urgent debate at the United Nations Human Rights Commission on the ‘deteriorating’ situation in Tigray met with heavy pushback from Addis. A communiqué from Abiy’s office stated that the government was ‘gravely concerned by unsubstantiated and politically motivated misinformation’ by actors ‘whose sole purpose is aimed at undermining the sovereign powers and responsibilities of the government.’