As the war in Ukraine rages on another conflict, that began in 2020, has received little attention from the media however, the consequences of the conflict for millions of people have been dire with experts estimating that it has claimed upwards of 500,000 lives and pushed millions more into abject poverty.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) say that Tigrayan civilians in Ethiopia have been targeted in “a relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing” in the contested Tigray region since the country spiraled into war in November 2020.
According to HRW, following the outbreak of war, several hundred thousand Tigrayans were expelled from western Tigray by security forces and civilian authorities through ethnically-motivated rape, murder, and starvation.
Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, said, “Since November 2020, Amhara officials and security forces have engaged in a relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing to force Tigrayans in Western Tigray from their homes,” adding that, “Ethiopian authorities have steadfastly denied the shocking breadth of the crimes that have unfolded and have egregiously failed to address them.”
Human Rights Watch says that newly appointed officials in Western Tigray and security from the neighboring Amhara region, with possible assistance from the Ethiopian federal forces, have systematically expelled several hundred thousand Tigrayan civilians from their homes using threats, unlawful killings, sexual violence, mass detention, pillage, forcible transfer, and the denial of humanitarian assistance.
“These widespread and systematic attacks against the Tigrayan civilian population amount to crimes against humanity as well as war crimes,” the HRW asserts.
The conflict has caught the attention of U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price who recently issued a statement saying, “The United States reiterates its grave concern over continuing reports of ethnically-motivated atrocities committed by Amhara authorities in western Tigray. In particular, we are deeply troubled by the report’s findings that these acts amount to ethnic cleansing.”
Up to 500,000 dead
Jan Nyssen, who is part of a team of researchers at Ghent University in Belgium that has been closely monitoring the conflict estimates that since the conflict began, 50,000 to 100,000 lives have been lost to direct killings and somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 people have starved to death. An additional 100,000 deaths are estimated as a result of lack of access to healthcare due to the conflict.
Human Rights Watch is calling for immediate action to address the conflict and to ensure access to the region for humanitarian agencies.
They are calling for everyone who has been arbitrarily detained to be released and to investigate and prosecute all parties responsible for the abuses.
In addition, the HRW writes, “Any consensual agreement reached by the parties to the armed conflict should include the deployment of an AU-led international peacekeeping force to the Western Tigray Zone to ensure the protection of all communities from abuses.”
Agnès Callamard, Secretary General at Amnesty International, says that the response from Ethiopia’s international and regional partners “has failed to reflect the gravity of the crimes that continue to unfold in Western Tigray,” adding that, “Concerned governments need to help bring an end to the ethnic cleansing campaign, ensure that Tigrayans are able to safely and voluntarily return home, and make a concerted effort to obtain justice for these heinous crimes.”