UN warns food supply exhausted for nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia’s Tigray



Issued on:

The United Nations says food has now run out for the nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea who have been sheltering in camps in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, which has been cut off from the world for nearly a month amid fighting.

“Concerns are growing by the hour,” U.N. refugee spokesman Babar Baloch told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday. “The camps will have now run out of food supplies – making hunger and malnutrition a real danger, a warning we have been issuing since the conflict began nearly a month ago. We are also alarmed at unconfirmed reports of attacks, abductions and forced recruitment at the refugee camps.”

Wednesday marks a month since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that fighting had erupted in the Tigray region between federal forces and regional ones, as each government now regards the other as illegitimate due to a dispute over holding elections during the pandemic.

Communications and transport links to the Tigray region of 6 million people have been severed, and the U.N. and others have pleaded for access to deliver badly needed food, medicines and other supplies. 

Abiy, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, has rejected the idea of dialogue with the Tigray regional leaders, who are on the run but say they continue to fight even after Abiy over the weekend declared victory in the deadly conflict. 

Under growing international pressure, Abiy on Monday said that “my message to friends of Ethiopia is that we may be poor but we are not a country that will negotiate our sovereignty. Threatening Ethiopia for coins will not work.”

Ethiopia’s government has said it will create and manage a “humanitarian corridor” for the delivery of aid, but the U.N. wants access that is neutral, unhindered and immediate.

UN: two million in Tigray need assistance

The U.N. has said some 2 million people in Tigray now need assistance — a doubling from the number before the fighting — and some 1 million people are displaced, including more than 45,000 Ethiopians who have fled into Sudan as refugees.

>> ‘A race against time’: Sudan struggles with refugee influx from Ethiopia’s Tigray region

The 96,000 Eritrean refugees are in an especially precarious position. They are in camps in Ethiopia near the border of their homeland, Eritrea, which they fled, and reports have emerged that some have been attacked or abducted. The U.N. refugee chief has warned that, if true, any such actions “would be major violations of international norms.”

Eritrea has remained almost silent as the Tigray leaders accuse it of joining the conflict at Ethiopia’s request, which Abiy’s government has denied.

Some 1,000 of the Eritrean refugees have arrived in the Tigray regional capital, Mekele, looking for food and other help, the International Committee of the Red Cross said over the weekend.

“For almost two decades, Ethiopia has been a hospitable country for Eritrean refugees but now we fear they are caught in the conflict,” Baloch said. “UNHCR appeals to the government of Ethiopia to continue to fulfill its responsibility in hosting and protecting Eritrean refugees and allow humanitarians to access people who are now desperately in need.”

In Mekele, which the Ethiopian military has said is under its “full control” after its offensive last week, “aid workers report that people have been forced to rely on untreated water to survive following the damage and destruction of water infrastructure,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Monday. “Our humanitarian colleagues are also warning that it is critical that essential supplies and services be restored immediately in Mekele and across the Tigray region.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres underscored that need in a phone call with Abiy on Sunday, Dujarric said.

(AP)



Source link

Related posts

Rockets target Eritrea capital after Ethiopia declares victory in Tigray



Issued on:

Rockets launched from Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region targeted the capital of Eritrea several hours after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared military operations in the region were over, diplomats told AFP on Sunday.

It remained impossible to independently verify whether the regional capital Mekele was completely under federal government control, though a military spokesman told AFP operations were proceeding “very well”. 

The US embassy in the Eritrean capital Asmara reported early Sunday “six explosions” had occurred in the city “at about 10:13 pm” Saturday.

Two Addis Ababa-based diplomats told AFP multiple rockets appeared to have targeted Asmara’s airport and military installations.

>> Tigray conflict threatens to ‘catalyse’ tensions elsewhere in Ethiopia

It marked the third time Asmara has come under fire from Tigray since Abiy ordered military operations against leaders of the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). 

The TPLF has claimed responsibility only for the first attack two weeks ago. 

It said Asmara was a legitimate target because Ethiopia was enlisting Eritrean military support for its campaign in Tigray, something Ethiopia denies.

As with the previous attacks it was unclear where the rockets landed and what damage they might have caused.

Eritrea is one of the world’s most secretive countries and the government has not commented on the strikes. 

Conflict ‘completed’

Abiy, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, announced November 4 he was sending federal troops into Tigray in response to attacks by pro-TPLF forces on federal army camps.

The move marked a dramatic escalation of tensions between Abiy and the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before anti-government protests swept Abiy to office in 2018.

>> ‘A race against time’: Sudan struggles with refugee influx from Ethiopia’s Tigray

Thousands have died in the fighting and tens of thousands of refugees have streamed across the border into Sudan.

On Saturday night, Abiy declared military operations in Tigray “completed” after the army claimed control of the regional capital Mekele, a city of half a million before the conflict broke out.

Tigray has been under a communications blackout throughout the conflict and media access has been restricted making it impossible to verify Abiy’s claim.

Little news filtered out of the city Sunday even through official channels.

A military spokesman, Gen Mohamed Tessema, told AFP that operations were proceeding “very well” and that soldiers were “doing their work peacefully”, but said he could offer no details.

State television stuck to its usual Sunday programming of talk and music shows, while Tigray regional television did not appear to be broadcasting at all. 

The lack of clarity on the situation in Mekele did not preclude some small-scale celebrations Saturday night in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, and the city of Gondar, in the Amhara region south of Tigray.

“People were out celebrating all night. They fired their guns into the air until midnight and people were shouting, ‘We won!'” said Gondar resident Edom Asmare.

Amhara and Tigray have been embroiled in land disputes for decades, and Amhara special forces have played a central role in securing parts of Tigray that are now under federal control.

Next steps

The TPLF has considerable military assets, and at the outset of the conflict analysts estimated it could mobilise 200,000 troops.

After securing control of western Tigray and giving TPLF leaders a 72-hour ultimatum to surrender, Abiy announced Thursday he had ordered a “final offensive” on Mekele.

Global fears mounted over a bloodbath, and heavy shelling was reported in Mekele earlier on Saturday. 

But in the government’s telling, little fighting actually occurred, suggesting TPLF leaders opted to retreat.

Abiy said Saturday that police were working to apprehend the party leadership, who were not reachable Sunday, their whereabouts unknown. 

The TPLF has previously vowed to fight on as long as pro-Abiy forces have any kind of presence in Tigray, and analysts have warned it could shift gears to adopt insurgency-style tactics.

Abiy also said his government would focus on rebuilding Tigray and providing humanitarian assistance to the population of six million.

Displacement is believed to be widespread within the region, which has suffered multiple rounds of air strikes and at least one massacre that killed hundreds of civilians. 

The United Nations has spent weeks lobbying — so far unsuccessfully — for full access.

 Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director for Human Rights Watch, said Saturday night it was clear the conflict had taken a “heavy toll”, even if details remained unknown.

“The UN should be conducting an independent international investigation into abuses committed by all sides since the beginning of the conflict, with the mind to pushing for accountability,” she said.

(AFP)



Source link

Related posts

Ethiopian military has taken ‘full control’ of Tigray capital, chief of staff says



Issued on: Modified:

Ethiopian federal forces have taken “full control” of the Tigray region’s capital Mekelle, the military’s chief of staff Birhanu Jula said in a statement posted on the military’s official Facebook page on Saturday evening.

Authorities had said earlier that government forces were in the final stages of an offensive in the region and would take care to protect civilians in Mekelle, a city of 500,000 people.

There was no immediate comment from the Tigrayan forces in the northern region who have been fighting government troops.

Claims from all sides are difficult to verify since communications links to the region have been down and access has been tightly controlled.

Thousands have been killed since fighting started on November 4, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed – 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner – ordered military operations against Tigray’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

>> Tigray conflict threatens to ‘catalyse’ tensions elsewhere in Ethiopia

Tens of thousands more have streamed across the border into Sudan, and displacement within Tigray is believed to be widespread. 

Eritrea drawn in

Earlier on Saturday, the Tigray regional government accused Abiy of teaming up with Isaias Afwerki, president of neighbouring Eritrea, for the assault on Mekele.

“The Tigray regional state would like it to be known to friends and enemies alike that it will give proportional response to the massacres and property damages being done by those fascists,” it said. 

Ethiopia has denied enlisting Eritrean military support against Tigray but has acknowledged using Eritrean territory.

>> ‘A race against time’: Sudan struggles with refugee influx from Ethiopia’s Tigray

Residents of the border city of Humera in western Tigray told AFP that shells fired from Eritrea hit both residential and commercial structures during fighting earlier this month.

At least one rocket fired from Tigray targeted Eritrea’s capital Asmara on Friday night, regional diplomats told AFP. There were no reports of casualties or damage.

The TPLF claimed responsibility for rockets fired towards Asmara two weeks ago, but there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the latest attack. 

The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before Abiy came to power in 2018, and it fought a brutal border war with Eritrea that killed tens of thousands between 1998 and 2000.

Abiy won his Nobel in large part for initiating a rapprochement with Isaias in 2018. 

Concern for civilians

Global concern about the conflict has heightened in recent days with world leaders and human rights groups warning of possible rules of war violations. 

The United Nations has spent weeks lobbying — so far unsuccessfully — for full access to Tigray.

Abiy’s office said this week it would open a “humanitarian access route”. Hundreds of UN and international NGO workers are currently in Mekele, but they are grappling with shortages of food, cash and other essentials. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had received “1,300 requests from people in Ethiopia and abroad frantically looking to contact their relatives,” adding, “We know this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Pope Francis on Saturday tweeted for “everyone to pray for #Ethiopia where armed clashes have intensified and are causing a serious humanitarian situation”. 

Abiy’s government has said the military campaign in Tigray was triggered by attacks by pro-TPLF forces on federal army camps in Tigray in early November. 

Abiy has repeatedly snubbed international calls for a halt to fighting and negotiations with TPLF leaders, saying they need to be disarmed and apprehended. 

On Friday, he met with three African ex-leaders — Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa — dispatched by the African Union as mediators.

An AU statement said Abiy told envoys that military operations in Tigray “would not last long”.

The military expects to take control of Mekele “within a few days”, according to a report Saturday from state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)



Source link

Related posts

Eritrea hit by rocket fire as Ethiopia presses ahead with Tigray offensive



Issued on:

Eritrea’s capital came under fire from Ethiopia’s breakaway Tigray region Friday, raising fears that Ethiopia’s internal conflict could spread as leader Abiy Ahmed resisted calls for dialogue.

For more than three weeks now, Ethiopia and Tigray have engaged in fierce fighting that the International Crisis Group said Friday had left thousands dead “including many civilians as well as security forces”.

On Friday night, at least one rocket fired from the northern Tigray region targeted neighbouring Eritrea, four regional diplomats told AFP.

Abiy, the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, announced Thursday a “third and final phase” in his campaign against leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Global concern remains centred on the half a million residents of Mekele, Tigray’s regional capital, which the army says it has encircled ahead of the threatened attack.

 

World leaders and human rights groups have warned such a strike could violate rules of war and were calling for urgent mediation.

Pope Francis was among those worried about the intensifying fighting, growing loss of life and displacement, Vatican media head Matteo Bruni said Friday.

Abiy announced military operations in Tigray on November 4 after months of friction between his government and the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before Abiy took office in 2018.

The prime minister has refused to negotiate with the TPLF and dismissed calls for dialogue as “interference” in Ethiopia’s internal affairs.

On Friday he met with three African ex-leaders — Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa — dispatched this week by the African Union as mediators.

‘Enforce rule of law’

In a statement issued after their meeting in Addis Ababa, Abiy said he appreciated “this gesture and… the steadfast commitment this demonstrates to the principle of African solutions to African problems”.

Even so, the government has a “constitutionally mandated responsibility to enforce rule of law in the region and across the country,” his office said in a statement.

“Failure to do so would further a culture of impunity with devastating cost to the survival of the country,” it said.

UN chief Antonio Guterres welcomed the talks with the AU envoys and urged all parties to “peacefully resolve the conflict”.

The UN Secretary-General also stressed the need “to ensure the protection of civilians, human rights and access for humanitarian assistance to the affected areas”.

The Tigrayan government, meanwhile, said Friday the federal army was bombarding towns and villages and inflicting heavy damage, although it did not specifically mention Mekele.

“Our struggle will continue from every direction until the self-determination of the People of Tigray is guaranteed and the invading force is driven out,” Tigrayan authorities said in a statement read on regional television.

A communications blackout in Tigray has made it difficult to verify claims from both sides on the fighting.

Hostilities have erupted in a year when the 55-member AU — which is headquartered in Addis Ababa — resolved to play a more prominent role in resolving conflicts across the continent under the slogan “Silencing the Guns”.

Fresh strike on Eritrea

At least one rocket fired from Tigray targeted neighbouring Eritrea Friday night, four regional diplomats told AFP, the second such attack since Ethiopia’s internal conflict broke out earlier this month.

There was no immediate confirmation of how many rockets were fired, where they landed, and any casualties or damage caused.

The TPLF has accused Ethiopia of enlisting Eritrean military support in the fighting, a charge Ethiopia denies.

The group claimed responsibility for similar strikes on Eritrea two weeks ago, but there was no immediate comment from its leaders Friday.

Abiy, who ordered the “final” offensive on TPLF forces in Mekele after the lapsing of a deadline for their surrender earlier this week, said “great care” would be taken to protect civilians and spare the city from severe damage.

Humanitarian crisis                  

The prospect of a full-scale attack accelerated diplomatic efforts this week to resolve the conflict, with the UN Security Council holding its first meeting on Tigray and US and European officials urging restraint.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who met his Ethiopian counterpart Demeke Mekonnen in Paris on Thursday, called for urgent measures to protect civilians as the humanitarian fallout from the crisis worsened across the region.

The UNHCR said Friday that nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees in Tigray could run out of food as early as Monday if supplies could not reach them.

In eastern Sudan, meanwhile, where more than 40,000 refugees have escaped the fighting in Tigray, local authorities are struggling to meet the sudden surge in demand for food, shelter and other life-saving essentials.

(AFP)

 



Source link

Related posts

Ethiopia’s Abiy meets African Union envoys, rejects talks with Tigray leaders



Issued on:

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed again ruled out dialogue with the leaders of the defiant Tigray region Friday, but said he was willing to speak to representatives “operating legally” there during a meeting with African Union special envoys trying to end the deadly conflict between federal troops and the region’s forces.

The meeting came as the Ethiopian News Agency reported the military’s capture of several key towns around the Tigray capital, Mekelle, as more people fled the city ahead of a promised “final phase” of the offensive.

The conflict has threatened to spill over to Ethiopia’s neighbouring countries, with an exodus of civilians crossing the border into Sudan to flee the fighting.

On Friday night, at least one rocket fired from Tigray region targeted neighbouring Eritrea in the second such attack since the conflict broke out, according to regional diplomats.

“There was one rocket coming from Tigray that seems to have landed south of [the Eritrean capital] Asmara,” a diplomat told AFP, noting there was no immediate information available on casualties or damages.

A second diplomat said there were reports of another rocket striking a neighbourhood in Asmara, but this remained unconfirmed.

Ethiopian forces capture Tigrayan town

The Ethiopian military on Friday said it had seized control of the town of Wikro, 50km (30 miles) north of Mekelle a day after the government said it was beginning the “final phase” of an offensive in the northern region.

Federal forces have captured Wikro “and will control Mekelle in a few days”, Lieutenant-General Hassan Ibrahim said in a statement. Government troops had also taken control of several other towns, he added.

Claims by all sides in the three-week-old conflict between government and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces however have been impossible to verify because phone and internet connections to the region are down and access to the area is tightly controlled.

On Sunday, the government gave the TPLF until Wednesday to lay down arms or face an assault on Mekelle, a city of 500,000 people, raising fears among aid groups of extensive civilian casualties.

Abiy accuses Tigrayan leaders of starting the war by attacking federal troops at a base in Tigray on November 4. The TPLF says the attack was a pre-emptive strike.

Abiy meets AU envoys

The Ethiopian prime minister received at his office in Addis Ababa on Friday three African ex-leaders – Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa – dispatched this week by the AU as mediators.

In a statement issued after their meeting, Abiy said he appreciated “this gesture and… the steadfast commitment this demonstrates to the principle of African solutions to African problems”.

Even so, the government has a “constitutionally mandated responsibility to enforce rule of law in the region and across the country”, he said.

Many attempts, he added, had been made to negotiate with the TPLF before military action was ordered on November 4. 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)



Source link

Related posts

Ethiopian cabinet minister: Army’s assault on Tigray region “to protect Tigrayan people”



Issued on:

In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, Ethiopian Finance Minister Ahmed Shide discussed the government’s ongoing military offensive against the northern Tigray region and its capital Mekele. Shide said government forces had “liberated” significant areas of the region and that military operations “will be completed soon”.

Shide called the conflict a “law-and-order operation” and claimed that the aim was to “protect the Tigrayan people from the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) junta”, which he accused of “committing different atrocities”. 

The finance minister cited an alleged November 9 massacre in the town of Mai-Kadre in the region, where the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says that a local youth group helped kill hundreds of civilians, charges that followed an Amnesty International report that “scores, and likely hundreds” were killed. 

“The state has to protect itself,” Shide told FRANCE 24.

Click on the player to watch the full interview.



Source link

Related posts

Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed orders ‘final phase’ of military operation on Tigray capital



Issued on:

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Thursday ordered the country’s army to launch a “final” offensive against Tigray’s dissident leaders in their regional capital Mekele, saying the deadline for their surrender had expired.

On Sunday, Abiy, the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, gave the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) 72 hours to lay down their arms.

The ultimatum was rejected by the leaders of the region, whose forces have been fighting federal troops in the country’s north for three weeks. Violence has claimed hundreds of lives and displaced more than 40,000.

In a statement posted on Twitter Thursday, Abiy said, “The last peaceful gates which had remained open for the TPLF clique to walk through have now been firmly closed as a result of the TPLF’s contempt for the people of Ethiopia,” adding, “The Ethiopian National Defence Forces have now been directed to conclude the third and final phase of our rule of law operation.”

Abiy said “thousands” of TPLF militia and special forces had surrendered to federal forces before the deadline lapsed.

It was not immediately clear how close the army was to Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region. A communications blackout in Tigray and restrictions on reporting have made verifying claims from both sides difficult.

Diplomats briefed on the fighting told AFP Wednesday that federal forces were at least 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Mekele to the north and the south.

‘Humanitarian access route’

The threatened assault and fears for Mekele’s half a million inhabitants accelerated diplomatic efforts to mediate this week, with the UN Security Council holding its first meeting on the crisis on Tuesday.

A team of special envoys dispatched by the African Union (AU) to try to mediate between the warring parties arrived in Addis Ababa late Wednesday, a spokesperson for the 55-member bloc said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged “the leaders of Ethiopia to do everything possible to protect civilians” as the US, EU and other international powers encouraged mediation through the AU, headquartered in Addis Ababa.

Rights groups have warned bombarding Mekele could constitute a war crime.

Abiy’s office on Thursday for the first time did say a “humanitarian access route” would open under the management of the country’s ministry of peace, with no details. It also said distribution of supplies has begun in areas of Tigray now under government control.

That came hours after the UN said shortages have become “very critical” in the Tigray region as its population of 6 million remains sealed off.

“Despite the Ethiopian military’s warnings to residents, warnings alone do not absolve the government of its obligation to take constant care to protect civilians, particularly when using airpower and heavy weaponry” in congested urban areas, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

Heavy bombardments, people in church compounds

Fuel and cash are running out in Tigray, more than 1 million people are now estimated to be displaced and food for nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea will be gone in a week, according to the UN update released overnight. And more than 600,000 people who rely on monthly food rations haven’t received them this month.

Travel blockages are so dire that even within Mekele the UN World Food Programme cannot obtain access to transport food from its warehouses there.

A statement this week from a civil society representative in the region, seen by the AP, described heavy bombardment of communities elsewhere that has kept many residents from fleeing.

Other people are frantically moving within the Tigray region from one district to another and “living within church compounds, streets, schools, health centers”, the statement warned, and it pleaded for a safe corridor to send in aid as food runs out.

Human Rights Watch is warning that “actions that deliberately impede relief supplies” violate international humanitarian law, and that the complete shutdown of communications “could amount to a form of collective punishment by imposing penalties on people without a clear lawful basis”.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)



Source link

Related posts

More than a million displaced in Ethiopia’s Tigray region as UN warns of ‘critical’ food shortages



Issued on:

The United Nations says shortages have become “very critical” in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region as its population of 6 million remains sealed off and its capital is under threat of attack by Ethiopian forces seeking to arrest the regional leaders. 

Fuel and cash are running out, more than 1 million people are now estimated to be displaced and food for nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea will be gone in a week, according to a new report released overnight. And more than 600,000 people who rely on monthly food rations haven’t received them this month.

Travel blockages are so dire that even within the Tigray capital, Mekele, the U.N. World Food Program cannot obtain access to transport food from its warehouses there.

Communications and travel links remain severed with the Tigray region since the deadly conflict broke out on Nov. 4, and now Human Rights Watch is warning that “actions that deliberately impede relief supplies” violate international humanitarian law.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed‘s 72-hour ultimatum for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front leaders to surrender ended Wednesday night. His government has said Mekele is surrounded.

The U.N. has reported people fleeing the city. Abiy’s government had warned them of “no mercy” if residents didn’t move away from the TPLF leaders who are accused of hiding among the population.

But with communications cut, it’s not clear how many people in Mekele received the warnings. The alarmed international community is calling for immediate de-escalation, dialogue and humanitarian access.

Abiy on Wednesday, however, rejected international “interference.”

(AP)

 



Source link