The escalating civil war in Ethiopia is crossing borders, revealing massacres, and headed toward a major disaster, with a likely refugee crisis that will crush an already stretched system. There are over 70 million displaced people worldwide, a daunting task for UNHCR, agencies, civil, societies and governments involved. Africa is at its limits and refugees heading into unprepared territories will be hard pressed for survival. The world must act now:
The situation in Ethiopia is well described by Jacob Kushner an investigative journalist who frequently consult with African Human Rights Coalition for sourcing and information. As special correspondent based in Nairobi, Kushner wrote for the LA Time “As Ethiopia descends into civil war, civilians by the thousands begin to stream out, “ describing the context and noting the Nov 09 massacre of civilians, a possible war crime:
“On Nov. 9, dozens if not hundreds of civilians were slashed with machetes and many were killed during a massacre in the town of Mai-Kadra in the southwest Tigray region, according to Amnesty International. Survivors, who hail from the Amhara ethnic group, said their attackers were members of the TPLF with whom they’d long scuffled over territory. The victims appeared to be day laborers who posed no discernible threat.”
The resulting refugee crisis leads to ill-equipped lands – where tens of thousands already are arriving:
“They’re not coming with a lot of possessions, and this is the worry,” Axel Bisschop, a UNHCR representative in Sudan, told The Times on a call from Khartoum. “We are in need of everything — food, fresh water. We need to be prepared when it comes to COVID. We need more masks.”
Kushner notes in his LA TIMES Article:
Refugees flee to an unlikely place
“… rough terrain will make it difficult for aid and personnel to reach the remote region, and that resources for the refugees were already in short supply.”
“We don’t have any place to house them. They’re sleeping in the open,” Bisschop said. He said it’s crucial that a camp be established far enough from the border to protect refugees from spillover fighting. But right now, “our priority is to make sure that the border remains open.”
“We are urging governments in the neighboring countries to keep their borders open for people forced from their homes,” said UNHCR Regional Bureau Director Clementine Nkweta-Salami. Refugee workers fear tens of thousands more people could flee if the conflict continues.
From my assessment, and working in the region with refugees, the impact on the entire region will be disastrous – and it is incumbent now for global leaders to broker and seek diplomatic solutions as a matter of extreme urgency, and possibly even lay down the gauntlet. Unfortunately it seems the United States is not only in a current lame duck space when coming to global affairs, but rather in a space that delivers AWOL leadership. By the ti9me we see a Biden/Harris administration, it may be too far gone, and many tens of thousands more lives may be lost! (Melanie Nathan African Human Rights Coalition)
The United Nations has noted (New York, 12 November 2020):
UN High-level Officials Express Deep Concern Over Escalating Ethnic Tensions in Ethiopia:
The United Nations Acting Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Ms. Pramila Patten and the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Ms. Karen Smith expressed deep concern over reports of escalating ethnic tensions in Ethiopia and recent military clashes in the Tigray region, in which many civilians have allegedly been killed. The two Special Advisers have received reports of incidents of ethnically and religiously motivated hate speech, incitement to violence and serious human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, killings, displacement of populations and destruction of property in various parts of the country. The Special Advisers strongly condemned reports of targeted attacks against civilians based on their ethnicity or religion.
The Special Advisers observed that ethnic violence in Ethiopia has reached an alarming level over the past two years. The two senior UN officials noted that stigmatization of certain ethnic groups, including the Tigray, Amhara, Somali as well as the Oromo among others has significantly contributed to ethnic intolerance in the country. “The ongoing ethnic rhetoric, hate speech, incitement to violence and attacks prevailing in Ethiopia constitutes a serious threat to internal and regional stability and should immediately be addressed to avert further escalation of widespread violence,” the Special Advisers warned.
Ms. Patten and Ms. Smith stressed that ethnically motivated attacks and reportedly ethnic profiling of citizens constitute a dangerous trajectory that heightens the risk of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, commonly referred to as atrocity crimes. In the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, the Member States of the United Nations unanimously pledged to protect populations from these crimes. While the protection of populations is the primary responsibility of States, the international community also has a responsibility to assist national authorities in protecting its populations whenever necessary. “We strongly urge the Ethiopian authorities to take urgent measures to protect its population from further violence and strongly encourage them to seek assistance from the international community, including from the United Nations and regional actors especially the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union (AU) to aid in de- escalating the rising tensions in the country, especially ahead of the forthcoming elections”, the Special Advisers stated. They warned that if these urgent measures are not immediately taken, the risk of atrocity crimes in Ethiopia remains high.
The United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect stands ready and offers its support to the Ethiopian authorities and relevant stakeholders to counter and address hate speech and prevent incitement to violence in the country.
Factbox: Which countries have stakes in Ethiopia’s war? REUTERS HERE and HERE
Ethiopia’s civil war is spreading outside its borders – So are the atrocities within the country- THE ECONOMIST HERE