December 7, 2022

Beyond strong words and statements, have the U.S. and the world abandoned ethnic Tigrayans in Ethiopia? – Perspective by Simon Ateba

President Joe Biden arrives to delivers remarks to essential and frontline workers and military families attending the Fourth of July celebration
President Joe Biden arrives to deliver remarks to essential and frontline workers and military families attending the Fourth of July celebration

On Tuesday, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, again called on world leaders to ‘unite’ on the situation in Ethiopia.

“On Ethiopia, the humanitarian situation continues to worry us. And, High Commissioner, we appreciate your points concerning protection, access, assistance, and the need for a political solution,” Thomas-Greenfield said in remarks at a United Nations Security Council briefing by the UN High Commissioner for refugees.   

Linda Thomas-Greenfield

On Monday, the governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States, released a joint statement, condemning the widespread arrests and detentions of “ethnic Tigrayans, including Orthodox priests, older people, and mothers with children.”

They wrote, “We, Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States, are profoundly concerned by recent reports of the Ethiopian government’s detention of large numbers of Ethiopian citizens on the basis of their ethnicity and without charge. The Ethiopian government’s announcement of a State of Emergency on November 2 is no justification for the mass detention of individuals from certain ethnic groups.

“Reports by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Amnesty International describe widespread arrests of ethnic Tigrayans, including Orthodox priests, older people, and mothers with children. Individuals are being arrested and detained without charges or a court hearing and are reportedly being held in inhumane conditions. Many of these acts likely constitute violations of international law and must cease immediately. We urge unhindered and timely access by international monitors.

“We reiterate our grave concern at the human rights abuses and violations, such as those involving conflict related sexual violence, identified in the joint investigation report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the EHRC, and at ongoing reports of atrocities being committed by all parties to the conflicts. All parties must comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, including those regarding the protection of civilians and humanitarian and medical personnel.

“It is clear that there is no military solution to this conflict, and we denounce any and all violence against civilians, past, present and future. All armed actors should cease fighting and the Eritrean Defense Forces should withdraw from Ethiopia.  We reiterate our call for all parties to seize the opportunity to negotiate a sustainable ceasefire without preconditions. Fundamentally, Ethiopians must build an inclusive political process and national consensus through political and legal means, and all those responsible for violations and abuses of human rights must be held accountable.”

Liberal leader and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a news conference after an English language federal election debate [Carlos Osorio/Reuters]

However, beyond those strong words and statements, Ethnic Tigrayans have continued to be arrested in Addis Ababa and elsewhere in Ethiopia, including today.

Beside, humanitarian access has not been provided to the United Nations, the United States and other humanitarian organizations who have been trying to assist the people in need, including those on the brink of an unprecedented famine.

The war is continuing, the displacements are continuing, the suffering is continuing, and the United States and others have just resorted to issuing strong statements and calling on their citizens to leave the country as Ethiopians battle Ethiopians.

One of our readers who hails from the Tigray region and now lives in the United States captured the suffering of Tigrayans like her, including those living here in the United States in an email to us.

The heartbreaking email is published below as she sent it without any editing.

She wrote, “My name is (name withheld), and I’m an ethnic Tigrayan from Ethiopia. I was born and raised in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. Now I live in the USA, but my family still lives in Ethiopia.

“My parents passed away 2 years ago and my brother, sister and cousins live in Addis Ababa. Right now my brother and my cousin are in a concentration camp and in jail because of their ethnicity.

“My sister who has have three kids, one with diabetes depending on insulin- he is only 2 years old. Two months ago the Ethiopian government soldiers came to our parents house arresting her husband and my cousin.

“She told me they took them like they were criminals in front of the people and kept them for a couple of days and release them with  $15000 bail.

“After that they came again after two weeks and arrested my brother who is the other family who wasn’t home the first time they came in.

“Now most my family is in concentration camp and some of them are even we don’t know where they are. My sister and her kids are hiding in different friends houses and kids are out of school.

“Even very hard for them to buy foods and medicine. They scared so much. And me since November 4 ,2020, my life is miserable.

“I have two kids and I didn’t gave them much attention. I want the whole year for to be a voice for my Tigray people and my family state department and US Aid to stop the war and got humanitarian aid for Tigray people.  

“In Tigray my Aunt lost her grandson in front of her face. He was killed by Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers. Almost for more than a year I didn’t hear from  my relatives in Tigray Ethiopia what happened for them all connections are blocked no banks services no electricity no water.

“I work hard here to help my family in Ethiopia. Since I came to the USA We Tigray people believe in only working hard and ready for better future for all people. My family are hard workers we deserve peaceful life. No discrimination.

“I Need Red Cross help Tigray people all over Ethiopia protection. People are suffering they need help. UN and others must Act to save people. Thank you.”

Olusegun Obasanjo, Former Nigerian President

As the United States continues to issue statements upon statements and the diplomatic moves on the ground fail to yield any meaningful results, people like our readers and their family members are paying the heavy price.

Has the world abandoned Tigrayans? Is there any other thing the world can do to bring to account a government that prevents humanitarian access from reaching the most vulnerable? I do not have all the answers yet.


Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa in Washington who has written on the world in Ethiopia for more than a year now. His opinion does not represent the opinion of Today News Africa.

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