Ethiopia has been experiencing a conflict for months between the Addis Ababa government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which has already it has caused thousands of deaths and has displaced more than 2 million people.
Tigray is the northernmost region of Ethiopia. Touching the border with Eritrea, it is home to most of the 7 million Tigraya people estimated to live in the country. They represent approximately 6% of Ethiopia’s population and for the past 30 years they have had a great influence on national affairs.
Pekka Haavisto, EU special envoy and Finnish Foreign Minister, recently visited the region. There he also visited the Mekele hospital where he met the victims of the war.
“There we have been able to see women and girls who have been victims of sexual violence. And it seems that in this conflict, for some particular reason, sexual violence, rape and gang rape have been used as a weapon against the civilian population. It is time to stop this conflict because of its scale and magnitude. This is something that is causing human suffering, but there is also the fear of a major refugee crisis ”, detalla Haavisto.
The conflict is spreading beyond the borders of Ethiopia and spreading to Eritrea and Sudan something that could destabilize the entire Horn of Africa region, just one year after Ethiopia’s prime minister won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Haavisto assures that one of his greatest fears is an escalation in the conflict. “It appears that the resistance is now recruiting more young people into its ranks. Therefore, we do not see any indication that the conflict is abating. Furthermore, Eritrea has promised to withdraw from the area, but we have not been able to see any signs of withdrawal. So that Eritrean troops are clearly still on the ground. And in these circumstances, the civilian population is in the middle of the fighting and there are remote areas in Tigray, in its mountainous areas, where the international community has not been able to deliver any humanitarian aid “, Haavisto believes.
The EU has imposed sanctions on Eritrea for human rights violations related to its involvement in the Ethiopian conflict. In addition, the EU High Representative for foreign policy, Josep Borrell, has ensured that European electoral observers will be sent to monitor the June elections “unless the situation deteriorates further.”
“In Ethiopia it is difficult to act because it is a country that has a long history in the defense of its sovereignty, it has not had a very long colonization and it is not very open to foreign aid in these types of issues such as reaching a political solution or The negotiations. So I think a dynamic has emerged in which the more pressure from the outside world for Ethiopia to change, the more the Ethiopian government retreats itself. We are seeing a fortress-like mentality develop. “says Theodore Murphy, ECFR’s Africa program director.
Last week, the European Commission announced that will allocate 53.7 million euros in humanitarian aid to the country. In December it had decided to suspend this aid due to the difficulties in getting supplies to the inhabitants and refugees of Tigray and its surroundings.