Biden’s diplomacy push meets its match as Ethiopia unravels

“Visa bans. Trade restrictions. Threats of economic sanctions. And visit after visit from top emissaries, including a U.S. senator bearing a message from President Joe Biden.

For a year, U.S. officials have used these and other instruments in their diplomacy toolbox to persuade, push and pressure Ethiopia’s government and rebel forces to end a vicious civil war believed to have killed thousands of people, left hundreds of thousands starving and displaced millions.

But nothing is working. And things are getting worse.”

Why Ethiopia wants to expel UN officials sounding the alarm on famine

“A civil war between Ethiopia’s federal government and the country’s northern Tigray region, which began late last year, has led to widespread atrocities and created famine conditions in parts of the country. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s decision to expel UN officials from the country comes after they raised concerns about the worsening humanitarian situation.

UN officials have repeatedly warned that Ethiopia’s government is blocking the movement of critical supplies — like medicine, food, and fuel — into the Tigray region, with as little as 10 percent of the needed humanitarian supplies being allowed in. Those accusations were echoed this week by the head of the UN’s humanitarian aid arm, as well as by a UN report finding the region on the brink of famine.”

Ethiopia Is Plunging Into Chaos. It’s Time for a New Dayton Peace Process.

“The bloodshed and cost of last weekend’s offensive launched by the government against Tigrayan forces could begin to exhaust the parties, creating an opening for negotiation. This is the moment to prepare for concerted international action to prevent further chaos and to focus diplomacy on a comprehensive settlement. Secretary Antony Blinken’s recent meeting in Washington with his European Union counterpart Josep Borrell, the African Union’s high representative for the Horn of Africa, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was a good start. It is the first time Africa, the U.S. and E.U. have met at this level to chart a way forward on the Ethiopian crisis. And President Biden’s Oval Office meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday is important, with Kenya now presiding in the U.N. Security Council. This is the level of commitment that will be required for a Dayton-style process to gain traction and be successful.

A future political settlement will need to be comprehensive. It should include lifting the blockade and immediate opening of humanitarian access to Tigray and other regions; the withdrawal of Eritrean troops and a commitment to non-intervention by neighboring powers; the release of political prisoners; negotiation of a new political balance for Ethiopia, with substantial regional autonomy and a fair system of fiscal federalism; and provision for an independent commission to investigate abuses of power.”

Ethiopia is facing a human-made famine

“Ethiopia’s Tigray region is facing a deepening hunger emergency, with about 350,000 people threatened by famine. It is the most severe starvation crisis in the world right now, and it is almost entirely manmade.

The region, located in the north of the country, has been engulfed in conflict since November, when a political dispute between Ethiopia’s central government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party that represents the Tigray region, erupted into open warfare. The Ethiopian National Defense Force has since partnered with troops from neighboring Eritrea and other militias within Ethiopia, specifically Amhara forces, in the battle against the Tigrayan defense forces.

The fighting has had horrific consequences. There have been credible reports of atrocities being committed by all parties in the conflict, including mass killings, mass rape, and destruction and looting of property. As of April, more than 1.7 million people had been internally displaced, and more than 60,000 refugees have fled to neighboring Sudan since November.

Aid access has been inconsistent, and in May the United Nations confirmed a CNN report that Ethiopian federal troops and allied forces were blocking humanitarian supplies from entering parts of Tigray — a charge the Ethiopian government has denied.”

“About 350,000 people in Tigray are facing a food “catastrophe,” which means they’re suffering from famine conditions. That classification is based on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a global index that relies on assessments from United Nations agencies and other regional and international nongovernmental organizations.

“Catastrophe” is the highest classification, at Level 5. According to the IPC’s assessment, the risk of famine exists in several vulnerable pockets throughout Tigray, but millions of others across the region are at risk of falling into this category. Right now, more than 5.5 million people — about 60 percent of Tigray’s population — are facing acute food insecurity. As many as 2.1 million are in the “emergency” phase, a level below catastrophe, and 3 million people are in the “crisis” phase.”

“Dying by blood or by hunger”: The war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, explained

“More than 60,000 refugees have fled to neighboring Sudan since the fighting began in November, and humanitarian groups — many of which remain cut off from parts of Tigray — say the security situation has likely displaced thousands of people internally.

The United Nations estimates that of Tigray’s 6 million people, 4.5 million are in need of food aid. A recent report from the World Peace Foundation warns of the risk of famine and mass starvation as people are displaced and crops, livestock, and the tools needed to make and collect food are destroyed.

One witness in Tigray, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he fears for his safety, told me that Eritrean soldiers will kill an ox and eat just one leg, leaving the rest of the carcass to rot. “The people are either dying by blood or by hunger,” he said by phone from Mekele, Tigray’s capital, earlier this month.

Prime Minister Abiy, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient who was once seen as the country’s peacemaker and a democratic liberalizer, is now leading a country that is beginning to turn on itself.

Violence and ethnic tensions are flaring up in other parts of Ethiopia. Sudanese and Ethiopian troops have clashed in a disputed border territory, a sign of how Tigray’s unrest is spilling over into an already volatile neighborhood where Ethiopia had been viewed, at least by some international partners, as a stabilizing force.

The war in Tigray has no clear end, and the reports of killing and rape and looting are still happening. “Everybody is just waiting, just waiting — not to live, but waiting for what will happen tomorrow, or in the night,” the man in Mekele said.”

Ethiopia says it’s captured the capital of its rebellious Tigray region

“The assault on the city marks the latest clash in a conflict between Ethiopia’s federal government and the TPLF, an Ethiopian political party, that began earlier this month when the TPLF launched what it called a preemptive strike against a federal military facility in Tigray, a region in northern Ethiopia. The federal government claimed the party hoped “to loot” the base, and responded to the attack with a full military offensive that is now pushing the country toward a massive humanitarian crisis.”

“There have also been widespread reports of atrocities as the conflict continues. According to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Tigrayan security forces retreating from Ethiopian federal troops massacred at least 600 civilians from other ethnic groups in early November, and the EHRC says the eventual death toll could be even higher.
On the other side of the conflict, refugees in Sudan told the Washington Post of a “genocide against Tigray people.”

“They’re killing people madly,” one refugee said. “We saw a lot of dead people on the way. We didn’t bring any food or clothes — we just escaped to save our lives and our children’s lives.””

Ethiopia’s unfolding humanitarian crisis, explained by top aid official Jan Egeland

“firsthand accounts of violence have been trickling out from the tens of thousands of refugees who have fled across the border to Sudan — an average of 3,000 per day, according to the United Nations high commissioner for refugees. The humanitarian situation within Tigray is also worrisome: Some 100,000 Eritreans who live in longstanding refugee camps in the region have been cut off from food and other aid for weeks due to the fighting.

This is a refugee and humanitarian crisis unfolding in real time, amid a pandemic and a hunger crisis exacerbated by drought and locusts.”