The Humanitarian Crisis in Tigray, Ethiopia

Statement by Asfaha Hadera, Founder of African Services Committee

The dire circumstances that led to the 1996 genocide in Rwanda are rapidly emerging in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Since early November 2020, the Ethiopian government,  led by the Prime Minister (PM) and aided by Eritrea government troops, Somalia, and the United Arab Emirates, have waged a military campaign against the people of Tigray region. This is my ethnic group, and it is making it difficult for me to be proud to be an Ethiopian. What is happening to my people is totally unacceptable. Ethiopia's PM, Abeyi Ahmed, in contrast to the platform given him by the Nobel Peace Prize awarded him in 2019, is in no position to claim moral authority on any world stage to preach about law and order, democracy and democratization and good governance. He has lost all credibility on that front.

The war that has been declared against our people of Tigray has been in preparation for over 3 years, if not more. Abeyi's calculated plans to minimize Tigrayan political strength have led to government- sanctioned power, telephone and internet services shutdowns in the Tigray region. Highway transportation systems have been placed under the control of the Ethiopian government militias and fanos (local) bandits. As a result, food supply is not allowed to enter Tigray. This has effectively cut off  food supplies, leading to mass internal displacement, and severe humanitarian hunger crises. It is the start of systematic genocide against the people of Tigray.

Curfews have been imposed on the people of Tigray, on our own lands. Tigrayan civilians have been cornered into positions for wanton mass killings.

The militias and fanos, Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers, are undertaking house-to-house searches by day and night. This control over the movement of the Tigrayan people is used to commit crimes, including rape of young girls, as a form of intimidation and entertainment; they are forcing family members under the threat of death to commit incest;  brothers and uncles are forced to have sex with their sisters, daughters and mothers, among other atrocities. The result is serious mental and psychosocial damage to inter-generational populations. Schools that are acting as homes for the almost two million internally displaced people in Tigray, are being burned down; many centuries- old teaching texts including valuable relics at Tigrayan cultural and historical sites, churches and mosques, and the religious sites themselves, have also been scavenged and burned; factories, hotels and businesses are being vandalized and looted. The Ethiopian soldiers are seeking to exterminate Tigrayans, including their record of history in their cultural and historical sites.

PM Abeyi Ahmed of Ethiopia and President Isayas Afwerki of Eritrea are determined to destroy the people of Tigray.  They are now killing pregnant women and their unborn children. Their campaign is also killing male children above the age of five. This is being performed during curfew hours and is done under the guise of house-to-house search at night. Hundreds of Eritrean refugees that had fled Eritrea to the Tigray region have been forcibly loaded onto trucks and returned back to Eritrea against their will.

I am well aware as to what happened to my African brothers and sisters in Rwanda several decades ago. The genocide was unchecked and led to the death of millions of civilians at the hands of a militia insurgence, based on tribal grounds. If I do not stay silent and speak up about the injustices in Tigray, we will not survive and overcome this vile genocide which has been meted on Tigray by the Ethiopian government.

The United States of America has demanded that the Eritrean Army leaves Tigray immediately. Today the European Union joined the USA in demanding the same. Eritrea continues killing innocent civilians. Food supplies are not reaching most places in Tigray and people are dying of hunger and thirst. Propaganda from the Ethiopian government and Eritrean allies are altering the reality on the ground.

What the USA and Europe should and must do is introduce an urgent resolution pushing both countries, Ethiopia and Eritrea, through economic and other sanctions that fit the crimes being committed by both governments against the people of Tigray. The UN too must take action to bring peace-keeping forces to Tigray. There is not a moment to waste.

- by Asfaha Hadera, Founder of African Services Committee, a non-profit founded by Ethiopians to champion the rights of African immigrants.