The Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum (HoACS Forum), established in March 2016, is a regional network of civil society organisations working together to monitor and expand civic space in countries represented in the forum: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Somaliland, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda.
The following is a summary of the HoACS Forum’s Report on Tigray.
According to this report, it is now clear that the talks between PM Abiy and President Isaias were not about peace and normalisation of relationships; they were high-level secret preparations for war against Tigray. A Tigray whose autonomy and whose political elites emerged as mutual enemies requiring removal, especially following the September regional elections. The Eritrean military’s involvement means that this is a conflict that has a regional dimension and impact.
Major crimes committed
- Collective punishment;
- Grave atrocities and heavy indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombing of populated areas including using Unmanned Arial Vehicle (drones);
- Extrajudicial executions of tens of thousands of civilians;
- Denying people to collect corpses of their loved ones and let the hyenas eat corps;
- Widespread rape and sexual violence against women and girls used as a weapon of war;
- Systematic starvation of people by looting and deliberately destroying food and livelihood sources critical for survival;
- Deliberate and long interruption of basic services: water, electricity, phone, internet and banking and medical emergencies to deny fundamental needs and disrupt communication and support from families, relatives, and friends;
- Prohibition of humanitarian access and looting and diversion of aid deliberately to cause mass starvation and famine employed as a weapon of war;
- Ethnic profiling, firing from jobs, eviction from rental houses, detention and imprisonment in internment camps of tens of thousands of Tigrayans soldiers in the Ethiopian defence forces, including those in UN peacekeeping missions, wealthy private business owners, those that have been working in Ethiopian Airlines, banks and other public and private companies;
- Forcible return and attacks on refugee camps;
- The forced disappearance of close to 20,000 Eritrean refugees from Shimlba and Histats and the repeated and pre-planned destruction of the refugee camps;
- Annexure of a large swath of Tigray by the Amhara militias & systematic demographic change;
- Forcing people to acquire Eritrean ID and barring humanitarian assistant from reaching particularly to the Irob communities in Tigray by the Eritrean forces;
- Massive displacement of people, including 67,000 refugees from Tigray and more than 2 million internally displaced persons within Tigray;
- The systematic destruction of industries such as Almeda Textile Factory, Addis Pharmaceuticals, Sheba Leather, and Tsemayata Marble Stones;
- Systematic destruction and pillage of UNESCO registered and other heritage sites, religious and cultural buildings including in Aksum, Negash, and Debre Damo;
- Systematic destruction and looting of public and private service institutions and properties such as universities, hospitals, pharmacies, health centers, schools, hotels, bakery;
- The organised looting and unlawful confiscation of the Endowment Fund’s properties for Tigray’s Rehabilitation (EFFORT). A multi-million -dollar public endowment that belonged to the people and government of Tigray.
- The significant presence of Eritrean armed forces is a fact beyond dispute. The war in Tigray is not a civil war; it is a regional war.
- The legal status of the Eritrean forces in Tigray is not clear, nor is the command structure under which they are operating.
- If the federal government of Ethiopia admits to the presence of Eritrean forces in Tigray, the responsibility for Eritrean soldiers’ actions will fall on both countries. If Ethiopia denies Eritrean forces presence in Tigray, then their presence is an act of invasion, and it is the Ethiopian government’s responsibility to repel such invasion. To acquiesce to the invasion and the associated violations of civilian and refugees human rights by Eritrea is an abdication of the Ethiopian government’s responsibility to protect its population and the refugees. It is a severe breach of international law.
- The Eritrean military is also responsible for the brutal and ferocious execution of Tigrayan civilians and politicians such as Ethiopia’s former Foreign Minister, Seyoum Mesfin. These actions by Eritrea constitute grave violations of jus cogens norms in international law. Ethiopia has also failed to fulfill its duty under international law to protect refugees hosted within its jurisdiction.
- The assistance of the Eritrean military and the use of military drones launched and controlled from the UAE/Saudi bases in Assab, built in violation of the UN arms embargo imposed on Eritrea, has increased the number of deaths and internationalised the conflict.
Looming food crisis
- With some two million internally displaced persons, Tigray now represents a significant humanitarian global burden at a time when “humanitarian needs have never been higher.” In Tigray, people have died due to starvation, a tactic used to weaken the Tigrayan forces and annihilate its people.
- With the support of the Eritrean army, the federal government and the Amhara regional government have built an intricate web of checkpoints and bureaucratic processes that are impediments to humanitarian assistance. The Amhara regional authority and the Eritrean army are diverting food aid currently stored in facilities under the Amhara regional authority’s territorial control, intended for Tigray.
- Food insecurity and the denial of access to adequate nutrition and the associated hunger and starvation have been weaponised.
- For more than three years, the federal government and Amhara regional state officials have intentionally blocked transportation corridors to Tigray and looted food-loaded tracks intending to deprive Tigray of critical sources of survival. Now, the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces have systematically denied people access to basic needs indispensable for their survival in the market, such as food and humanitarian aid.
- The Ethiopian government also allows and facilitates the annexation of Tigrayan land by both the Amhara regional government and the Eritrean government. This is a violation of the Geneva Conventions and, in the long term, will cause further ethnic/sectarian divisions in Ethiopia, and it further fuels inter-communal distrust in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
- As the Ethiopian government has so far failed to prevent or alleviate a situation of great gravity within its territory (such as genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes), and as it is a perpetrator of such acts, it cannot avail itself of the principle of state sovereignty and non-intervention. Therefore, the applicable standard in this situation is the “responsibility to protect.”
The HoACS Forum strongly urges the UNSC to adopt a Tigray specific resolution to, among others, initiate estimation of cost of the war and post-war reconstruction needs by considering the infrastructure destroyed and looted public and private properties and initiating accountability and reparation modalities to Tigray. The HoACS Forum also requests that the UNSC resolution on Tigray establish a Commission of Inquiry on Tigray as well as a Peacekeeping mission.