Biden administration one more time condemns human rights atrocities in Ethiopia, suggests way out of quagmire

The Biden administration on Friday one more time condemned human rights atrocities in Ethiopia and suggested a way out of the quagmire that has left many people dead and hungry.

The administration said it agrees with the United Nations Secretary-General and African Union leaders that “there is no military solution to the conflict in northern Ethiopia, and a durable political solution must be found.” 

“The United States remains gravely concerned by ongoing conflict in multiple regions of Ethiopia. Reports of continued human rights abuses and atrocities by the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, the Eritrean Defense Forces, Amhara regional and irregular forces, the TPLF and other armed groups, including the reported attack on civilians in one village in Amhara region this week, are deeply disturbing. We condemn all such abuses against civilians in the strongest possible terms and call on all parties to the conflict to respect human rights and comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement in Washington D.C. “We urge the Ethiopian government and TPLF to enter at once into negotiations without preconditions toward a sustainable ceasefire.”

Price added that “the mounting reports of human rights abuses underscore the urgency of independent and credible international investigations.”

Department Spokesperson Ned Price holds the Daily Press Briefing at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 9, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everett 
Department Spokesperson Ned Price holds the Daily Press Briefing at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 9, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everett

“It is essential that the Ethiopian government and all other parties to the conflict provide and facilitate the access necessary for such investigations,” he said. “We look forward to an update from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the forty-eighth session of the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in Tigray and to the release of the joint investigation report of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Price added that the United States is also urging “full cooperation with the Commission of Inquiry of the AU Commission on Human and People’s Rights.”

“Establishing transparent, independent mechanisms to hold those responsible for human rights abuses to account is critical to political reconciliation and peace in Ethiopia,” he said.

The condemnation comes only days after CNN on Tuesday described Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali who won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize but has pursued war and death rather than peace and reconciliation in the Tigray region as a “global pariah.”

By awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize, The Norwegian Nobel Committee seems to have misled the world by painting Abiy Ahmed as a man of peace rather than an agent of instability and war.

CNN recalled how in July 2018, just three months after he was appointed leader of Africa’s second-most populous country, Abiy waved to a packed basketball arena at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, part of a whirlwind three-city tour of the United States to woo the diaspora.

With the crowd chanting “Abiy, Abiy,” and waving Ethiopia’s tricolor flag and cheering, Ethiopia’s new prime minister, dressed in a white blazer with gold trim could be seen smiling broadly.

“Excitement was surging into an almost religious fervor around the young politician, who promised to bring peace, prosperity and reconciliation to a troubled corner of Africa and a nation on the brink of crisis,” CNN wrote on Tuesday.

It was justified as Abiy “kickstarted a flurry of ambitious reforms — freeing thousands of political prisoners, lifting restrictions on the press, welcoming back exiles and banned opposition parties, appointing women to positions in his cabinet, opening up the country’s tightly-controlled economy to new investment and negotiating peace with neighboring Eritrea.”

But it did not last long. For the past 10 months, Ethiopia has been ravaged by war, deaths and famine in the Tigray region, mainly because Abiy has rejected all calls for a peaceful resolution to the devastating war.

Last Sunday, a shocking report said thousands of Tigrayans are being put into “concentration camps,” tortured and butchered as part of an ethnic purge in Ethiopia.

It was the latest development in a violent conflict that has been going on for 10 months between the Ethiopian military and the Tigray Defense Force (TDF).

The report in the Telegraph quoted one man who escaped from one of the camps by lying about his ethnicity as saying that there were at least 250 detainees there.

“We were 250 detainees. The Amhara forces take detainees every night and bring new ones. The ones they take never come back,” he told The Telegraph.

The report quoted a dozen eyewitnesses as saying that occupying ethnic Amhara forces from the neighboring region have been going “door-to-door” and rounding up ethnic Tigrayans, torturing them and killing them. Amhara forces still control the city of Humera in the Tigray region.

The Telegraph said Amhara forces had taken thousands of Tigrayan men, women and children to makeshift concentration camps.

It said some of the prisoners had their limbs cut and their bodies mutilated before they were dumped into mass graves.

The lingering conflict began in November when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali launched an offensive against Tigrayan defense forces, asserting that it was in response to Tigrayan forces attacking military camps, although his government had been feuding with the TPLF, the main political party in Tigray, for months.

On June 28, the Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire as the TPLF made unexpected gains, recapturing much of Tigray from the army.

But since then, there has been little progress made on the ground to find a lasting solution to the conflict, American officials say.

Last week, the United States said that while the Ethiopian government continues to block humanitarian assistance to Tigray, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) offensives in Amhara and Afar regions are displacing civilians there.

The United States has been the most vocal against military offensives there from all sides, and has argued that there is no military solution to the conflict in the northern Ethiopian region. But calls for negotiations and a cessation of hostilities have not been heeded.

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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