Curt Rice, Rector, Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)
The Class Struggle, 11. October 2022
I was sitting in Oslo City Hall when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. It feels a long time ago.
The positive peace mood then stands in stark contrast to the atrocities reported by the UN in a new report on the situation, particularly in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. The UN describes that there is reason to believe that in several cases war crimes have been involved through ethnically motivated persecution and other inhuman acts. The report documents everything from executions to the use of starvation and rape as weapons “on a staggering scale” in the war.
Ethiopia has long been a main partner country for Norwegian aid, and NMBU has long been deeply involved in cooperation on research and education with, among others, Hawassa University in southern Ethiopia and Mekelle University in the Tigray region. Since the late 1980s, more than 100 PhD candidates have received their education at NMBU. There has been research collaboration in a number of fields to build Ethiopia’s key institutions in technology, agriculture and natural resource management. The war has destroyed much of what we and our partners in Ethiopia have invested for over thirty years. The Federal University of Mekelle normally has 30,000 students from all over Ethiopia. It has been closed since November 2020. Instead of offering education to Ethiopian youth, employees are fighting a battle for survival, without income. Several have lost their lives. The situation of our colleagues affects us greatly.
The international community is now failing to take joint responsibility for sustainable development in Ethiopia. The Tigray conflict is not, as China and Russia claim in the UN Security Council, something that belongs only to Ethiopia. The war also has more profound consequences with famine and refugee crisis that could destabilize the entire Horn of Africa. Now it is about stopping the spiral of violence and crimes against the civilian population.
The atrocities in Ukraine and Afghanistan certainly deserve our attention, commitment and vigor, but we cannot live with the fact that crimes against humanity in Ethiopia fall into the blind spot. The fact that the UN Security Council has yet to agree on anything other than concerned press releases on the situation, pictures its inaction. Or as Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt herself has stated: The Security Council has failed Ethiopia/Tigray.
In the short term, the main issue is about giving the international community opportunities to transport food and essential medicines into areas where the population lacks both. The UN World Food Programme has not been able to send its convoys into Tigray since August 22, when war flared up again.
In the longer term, it is a matter of political pressure to bring the parties to the negotiating table and open the way for reconstruction and realisation of the hopes and dreams that formed the basis for awarding the Peace Prize to the Ethiopian Prime Minister in 2019.
This is a translation of the the Norwegian article published at klassekampen