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  • Tigray crisis

Image rightsReutersImage descriptionTroops loyal to the government drive in trucks against the armed forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front *: not ([hidden]): not (style) ~ *: not ([hidden]): not (style) {margin-top: 1rem;}]]>

The Ethiopian Prime Minister has accused the armed forces in the northern Tigray region of massacring civilians.

Abiy Ahmed said Ethiopian federal troops “liberated” the western part of Tigray, “a victory for the innocent civilians of Mai-Kadra who were brutally massacred”.

In a separate statement, Mr. Abiy also said that “bodies of members of the army who were shot while their hands and legs were tied” had been found.

Tigrayan officials deny the atrocities.

Witnesses accused forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) for Monday’s killings – first reported by human rights group Amnesty International.

Last week there was fighting between government forces and the TPLF.

Information is difficult to get because phone lines and the internet are not available.

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This would be the first large-scale civilian killing in the conflict.

Long-standing tensions have existed between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF, which controls Tigray, the country’s northernmost state, leading to military clashes, including federal air strikes.

As a result, thousands of civilians have crossed the border into Sudan, implying that they are being placed in a refugee camp.

Who were the victims?

Amnesty said the killings happened on the night of November 9th.

The human rights group said it had confirmed that “dozens and likely hundreds of people were stabbed or hacked to death in the town of Mai-Kadra (May Cadera) in the southwest zone of Ethiopia’s Tigray region”.

It had seen and “digitally verified gruesome photos and videos of bodies scattered across town or carried away on stretchers.”

Media signatureFour things that explain the crisis in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

Amnesty said the victims appeared to be workers who were not involved in the conflict. It is not clear where they came from.

It was said that witnesses spoke of wounds “caused by sharp weapons such as knives and machetes”. Some witnesses said the attacks were carried out by troops loyal to the TPLF after they were defeated by federal forces in an area called Lugdi.

How is life in Tigray?

Communication is currently difficult as internet and cell phone services have been cut.

There are already reports of a shortage of flour and fuel – and worst of all, water, which has already been rationed.

In Mekelle, with a population of 400,000 to 500,000, the houses received tap water once a week, but the supply was stopped.

Families used to buy water from vendors, but when the phones were disconnected they could no longer call to place orders.

On Thursday it was reported that a dam was damaged in an air strike, cutting off electricity in the area.

I am concerned for the safety of my family, especially my 11 year old brother who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

I am very concerned about whether he will get his medication.

Since he cannot speak, I saw him video calling, but it is not possible now.

Read more about life in Tigray

The Ethiopian Prime Minister said his forces liberated an area that had been subjected to “cruel and deadly attacks” by the TPLF.

“Committing crimes and injustices is normal for the greedy junta,” Abiy said in a Facebook statement.

Regarding army soldiers, who he said were shot dead with their hands and legs tied, he added, “the cruelty was heartbreaking”.

Mr. Abiy’s government later announced that it had appointed Mulu Nega Kahsay as the provincial interim administrator to oust the regional leadership.

His government has also issued arrest warrants for Tigray officials.

The United Nations has declared that the supply of vital aid to hundreds of thousands of people in northern Ethiopia is at risk because of the conflict there.

Why did fighting break out now?

Mr. Abiy ordered the military operation against the TPLF after saying their fighters had crossed “the last red line”.

He accused them of attacking a military camp where federal troops were stationed on November 4th and called the operation “treason”.

Since then there have been a number of clashes and air strikes in Tigray. Abiy said the government forces made big profits.

Why was the TPLF so important?

Since the overthrow of the Marxist leader Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991 and until 2018, the TPLF was the main partner of the ruling coalition and led Tigray himself.

As a guerrilla army, the TPLF had played a crucial role in Mengistu’s death and dominated not only the country’s politics but also the economy.

Image rightsGetty ImagesImage descriptionThe TPLF was instrumental in the overthrow of Mengistu Haile Mariam (R) in 1991, who was seen here with Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 1975

Mr Abiy curbed his influence after taking power in 2018.

TPLF refused to break up and merge with the other three parties to form the Prosperity Party as requested by Mr. Abiy.

Mr Abiy accused some TPLF leaders of being “refugees from justice” and opposing his efforts to reform the way Ethiopia is run, but they say they have been wrongly targeted.

The disagreement represents a deep break in the core of the country’s power.

Most of Tigray’s regional leaders, including TPLF chairman Debretsion Gebremichael, served in the central government for a long time. Mr. Debretsion, a veteran fighter, was once deputy prime minister.

What does the TPLF want?

The government of Tigray sees Mr. Abiy’s reforms as an attempt to build a unified system of government that will destroy the current federal regime.

It is also annoyed by the prime minister’s “unprincipled” friendship with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki.

Mr Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his efforts to bring peace to long-standing enemy Eritrea. However, the TPLF believes that Tigray’s interests have been overlooked.

For his part, the Prime Minister believes the TPLF officials are undermining his authority.

Is Eritrea involved in the Tigray conflict?

In Eritrea, there is a long-standing gap between the TPLF and the government, which has a long border with the Tigray region.

The 1998-2000 Ethiopia-Eritrea War began with a dispute over the territory along this border, in particular the area around the town of Badme.

Badme’s status remains unsolved, but Eritrea wants Ethiopia to stick to a United Nations-backed border commission that decides to surrender the city.

This cannot be achieved without the cooperation of the government in Tigray, which manages the area.

Image rightsGetty ImagesImage descriptionThere were celebrations when Prime Minister Abiy (l) agreed a deal with Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki in 2018

In relation to the attack on the base of the federal army, Mr. Abiy’s office has accused the TPLF of dressing its soldiers in uniforms similar to Eritrean in order to “involve the Eritrean government in false allegations of aggression against the people of Tigray”.

Mr Debretsion has accused the Eritrean armed forces of campaigning for Ethiopia. Ethiopia and Eritrea both deny this.

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