Investigations into potential war crimes committed during Ethiopia’s military offensive against the northern Tigray region must be impartial, thorough and transparent, the UN said today.
Between November 9 and 10, a massacre took place in Mai Kadre in western Tigray in which at least 700 men, women and children were brutally executed.
Government forces sought to blame the Tigray People’s Liberation Front for the atrocity. But subsequent investigations, including testimony from eyewitnesses have pointed the finger at the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF).
Those that fled the scene alleged that the killings were carried out by members of Fano.
One witness said:
Fano from the Amhara region came, then took us all out from our homes. We saw our neighbours killed and slaughtered, in the same way as you cut wood, with an axe and knife. Youths were sent to kill us. More than 70 [Fano militia] were trying to kill us. We hid ourselves in the fields. They hunted us. On the way many were killed. We passed many dead bodies. They checked the IDs of people…if they find someone with Tigrayan origin…[they] slaughter with a knife.
By Martin Plaut
Two young women – Tigrayans with foreign passports – found themselves trapped in Mekelle when the war broke out on 4th November. This is their story. For their security and the security of their families I am calling them Nay’na and Mary.
A story was going around: of a plane arriving at the airport with 500 commandos from the federal army, apparently bringing money, so we could change our currency. But the Tigrayan militia were alert. Within an hour the commandos were dead. “It was handled,” we were told.
Tigrayans are being discriminated against – in their own country!
I recommend that you read the stories that Nay’na and Mary tell, as no summary would do justice to their amazing escape stories.
Isaias Afwerki has proven to be a staunch ally of Abiy Ahmed, giving his troops much-needed support to fight the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in Tigray.
In an address to parliament, Abiy revealed that Eritrea had fed, clothed and armed retreating Ethiopian soldiers. Mr Abiy said this made it possible for them to return to fight the TPLF. “The Eritrean people have shown us… they are a relative standing by us on a tough day,” he added. This was a significant acknowledgement by Mr Abiy.
The claim that Eritrean troops are fighting in Tigray was made by the TPLF, civilians fleeing the conflict, and Eritreans inside and outside the country.
“Isaias is sending young Eritreans to die in Tigray. The war will also further weaken the economy. But Isaias will be in power for a long time. He lets people fight for their survival so that they do not fight for their freedom,” said Paulos Tesfagiorgis, an Eritrean human rights campaigner who was forced into exile by the regime in Asmara.
A US state department spokesperson also said there were “credible reports” of the presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray, and called it a “grave development”.
It is difficult to verify reports or to investigate allegations of atrocities made against all sides in the conflict – including the shelling of a hospital from Eritrean territory.
Eritrean forces are accused of looting.
Alex de Waal said: “If it goes on like this, there will be mass starvation in Tigray, and a population that is embittered and angry.”
He added that he had also learned from reliable sources in Tigray, including clerics, that Eritrean forces were involved in looting. “We are hearing that they are even stealing doors [and] bathroom fittings,” he said.
Other Eritreans said that soldiers, including their relatives, were fighting TPLF forces on several fronts, and some of them were even wearing Ethiopian camouflage.
Former Eritrean diplomat Abdella Adem said he personally knew soldiers who had been wounded in combat, while a source at the pubic hospital in Eritrea’s southern town of Senafe told the BBC that both Eritrean and Ethiopian troops had been treated there.
Gaim Kibreab said he believed that Mr Isaias had sent troops to Tigray to pursue the “liquidation” of the TPLF. “The president has been waiting for this moment and the TPLF underestimated his craftiness and patience at its own peril,” Mr Gaim added.
Mr Paulos said: “Badme is back in Eritrean hands, but there has been no public announcement about it because that is not Isaias’ main concern. He is still pushing on to crush the TPLF. “Abiy started as a peacemaker and a reformer, but he then fell into the trap of seeking revenge against the TPLF, which is what Isaias wanted.”The UN refugee agency said it had received “an overwhelming number of credible reports” that refugees had been killed, abducted and forcibly returned to the one-party state during the current conflict.
Although it did not say who was behind the abductions, a refugee told the BBC that it was Eritrean soldiers who loaded them onto lorries in the town of Adigrat and took them across the border to Adi Quala town.