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Conflict between Ethiopia and Tigray Liberation Front

Verantwortlicher Autor: Carlo Marino Rome, 27.11.2020, 21:35 Uhr
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Rome [ENA] The European Parliament is deeply concerned by the current armed conflict between the federal government of Ethiopia and the regional administration of Tigray led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), comprising the ongoing violence and allegations of serious breaches of fundamental human rights. The Parliament calls on both parties to commit to an immediate ceasefire and to settle political differences by

democratic means within the framework of the country’s constitution and recalls that deliberate attacks against civilians constitute war crimes. The respect of international human rights and international humanitarian law and the protection of people in affected areas are imperative for the European Union. On 4 November 2020 the Ethiopian Government declared a state of emergency and launched military operations in the northern Tigray region the day after a reported attack by the TPLF against the federal government military base in the Tigray region. Since then there have been armed confrontations between federal forces (Federal Army, Amhara Region’s Special Police Force and Amhara local militia) on the one side and regional forces

(Tigray Special Police Force and militia) loyal to the TPLF on the other. The political divergence between the PP and the TPLF was further accentuated when the federal government postponed national elections, scheduled for May 2020, due to the COVID-19 crisis. In September 2020 the TPLF-led Tigray regional administration held its own election, which was declared illegal by the Ethiopian Government since its term was supposed to end in September 2020. The federal parliament deemed the electoral process in the Tigray region to be illegal. Tigray’s leadership announced that it no longer recognised the federal administration or its laws and on 3 November 2020 the federal parliament declared the TPLF a ‘terrorist group’.

On 8 November 2020 the TPLF approached the African Union to suggest talks, but the federal government ruled out any possibility of negotiations with the TPLF and rejected international calls for dialogue and mediation, arguing that the Tigray conflict is an internal matter that should not be internationalized. The EU offered its support in order to help de-escalate tensions, return to dialogue and secure the rule of law throughout Ethiopia. In 2018 Abiy Ahmed achieved a historic peace deal with Eritrea, ending more than a decade-long suspension of diplomatic and commercial ties between the two countries.

The Abiy government took significant steps to free journalists and political prisoners, allow previously banned opposition groups to operate, and adopt new laws on civil society organisations and on countering terrorism. The government has recently come under criticism due to the detention of opposition politicians and concerns remain at the adoption of a new law aimed at curbing hate speech and disinformation, which may adversely affect freedom of expression. Some political groups linked to ethnic groups in Ethiopia that feel marginalised by Ethiopia’s federalist system of government allege that this system has resulted in ethnic favouritism and discrimination.

In June 2020 widespread violence broke out following the death of Hachalu Hundessa, a singer and activist from the Oromo region, with hundreds being killed and arrested and on 1 November 2020 more than 50 Amhara people were killed in attacks on three villages which are being widely viewed as ethnically motivated and possibly carried out by the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a breakaway militia from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). According to the National Amhara Movement, the Ethiopian authorities banned peaceful protests - against ethnically motivated killings - which were due to take place on 28 October 2020.

According to international human rights organisations, there have been several incidents of indiscriminate killings of civilians in different parts of Tigray since the beginning of the conflict, including a massacre that took place on the night of 9 November 2020 in Mai-Kadra in the Tigray region, where the killing of hundreds of civilians could amount to war crimes. Tigrayan residents elsewhere in the country have been suspended from their jobs and prevented from flying externally and there are reports of physical and digital surveillance, mass arbitrary arrests and detentions.

The deadly fighting between the Ethiopian federal forces and the TPLF has raised international concern about the risks involved in intensifying existing security situations or sparking new ones in Ethiopia, which could have repercussions on neighbouring countries and potentially destabilise the entire Horn of Africa region. Ethiopia has withdrawn troops from Somalia who were fighting Islamist insurgents and the Kenyan authorities have scaled up security at the border with Ethiopia amid fears of escalating tensions.

The EU’s development cooperation with Ethiopia is one of the largest in the world amounting to EUR 815 million for the 2014-2020 period and Ethiopia is also one of the major beneficiaries of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, with over EUR 271.5 million for 2015-2019. In 2020 the EU is providing EUR 44.29 million to humanitarian projects in Ethiopia by supporting the provision of live-saving assistance to internally displaced people uprooted by violence or natural hazards. The fighting has caused thousands of deaths and injuries on both sides and has resulted in grave human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law.

According to the UNHCR, as of 22 November 2020 over 38 500 refugees had fled the conflict and crossed the border into Sudan. The UN has warned of a ‘large-scale humanitarian crisis’ and its agencies are planning for the possible arrival of 200 000 refugees over a six-month period. The fighting is also causing the internal displacement of the population and the UNHCR has already asked the two parties to the conflict to open corridors to allow people to leave and supplies to arrive at the same time. International humanitarian organisations on the ground are ill-equipped and face shortages of supplies needed to treat newly arriving refugees and victims of violence.

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