Biden “deeply concerned” by “escalating violence” and “large-scale human rights abuses” in Ethiopia’s Tigray region

U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday said he was “deeply concerned by the escalating violence and the hardening of regional and ethnic divisions in multiple parts of Ethiopia.”

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In a personal statement, the American leader said “large-scale human rights abuses taking place in Tigray, including widespread sexual violence, are unacceptable and must end.”

He urged Ethiopian leaders and institutions to “promote reconciliation, human rights, and respect for pluralism.”

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Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at Asmara International Airport, July 9, 2018. Photo obtained from social media
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at Asmara International Airport, July 9, 2018. Photo obtained from social media

He wrote: “I am deeply concerned by the escalating violence and the hardening of regional and ethnic divisions in multiple parts of Ethiopia. The large-scale human rights abuses taking place in Tigray, including widespread sexual violence, are unacceptable and must end.

“Families of every background and ethnic heritage deserve to live in peace and security in their country. Political wounds cannot be healed through force of arms. Belligerents in the Tigray region should declare and adhere to a ceasefire, and Eritrean and Amhara forces should withdraw. 

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“Earlier this week, the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs warned that Ethiopia could experience its first famine since the 1980s because of this protracted conflict. All parties, in particular the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, must allow immediate, unimpeded humanitarian access to the region in order to prevent widespread famine. 

“The United States urges Ethiopia’s leaders and institutions to promote reconciliation, human rights, and respect for pluralism. Doing so will preserve the unity and territorial integrity of the state, and ensure the protection of the Ethiopian people and the delivery of urgently needed assistance.

“The Government of Ethiopia and other stakeholders across the political spectrum should commit to an inclusive dialogue. Working together, the people of Ethiopia can build a shared vision for the country’s political future and lay the foundation for sustainable and equitable economic growth and prosperity.

“The United States is committed to helping Ethiopia address these challenges, building on the longstanding ties between our two nations and working with the African Union, United Nations, and other international partners. U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeff Feltman is leading a renewed U.S. diplomatic effort to help peacefully resolve the interlinked conflicts across the region, including a resolution of the dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that meets the needs of all parties.

“Special Envoy Feltman will return to the region next week and keep me apprised of his progress. America’s diplomacy will reflect our values: defending freedom, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who now leads the U.S. Agency for International Development, gives an opening statement at her U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, DC, U.S., March 23, 2021. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who now leads the U.S. Agency for International Development, gives an opening statement at her U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, DC, U.S., March 23, 2021. Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS

On Wednesday, the United States government mourned a USAID partner killed, reportedly by Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The government did not identify the victim but said “the deceased was a partner with USAID in providing desperately needed aid to the people of the region.”

In a statement, USAID Administrator Samantha Power expressed “heartfelt condolences to the family of an aid worker who was killed, reportedly by Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.”

Ms Power said since the onset of conflict in Tigray in November 2020, at least seven humanitarian workers are confirmed to have been killed while delivering assistance to those suffering in the region.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, briefs reporters on the conclusion of the U.S. presidency of the Security Council. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe 31 March 2021 New York, United States of America
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, briefs reporters on the conclusion of the U.S. presidency of the Security Council. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe 31 March 2021 New York, United States of America

Last week, the United States Representative to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Biden administration is continuously working to take diplomatic actions to help bring about an end to the crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield recapped the diplomatic steps that the United States has taken toward addressing the conflict in Tigray, saying at a briefing, “President Biden sent his own emissary to Ethiopia; Senator Coons went out to meet with and try to engage with the government on this situation.”

“Jeff Feltman has just completed a visit to Ethiopia, and I have been actively engaged on this issue here in New York, insisting that it be put on the agenda of the Security Council and successfully getting a statement out of the Security Council,” she continued.

However, all those efforts by the United States, the African Union and others, have been fruitless for months as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has ignored pleas. 

With diplomatic efforts failing, on Sunday, the Biden administration expressed what it described as “deepening concerns” about the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region “as well as other threats to the sovereignty, national unity, and territorial integrity of Ethiopia,” and announced a visa restriction for current and former Ethiopian and Eritrean government officials.

“Today, I am announcing a visa restriction policy under Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act on the issuance of visas for any current or former Ethiopian or Eritrean government officials, members of the security forces, or other individuals—to include Amhara regional and irregular forces and members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)—responsible for, or complicit in, undermining resolution of the crisis in Tigray,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken delivers a speech on American Leadership on Climate, in Annapolis, Maryland on April 19, 2021. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken delivers a speech on American Leadership on Climate, in Annapolis, Maryland on April 19, 2021. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha

“This includes those who have conducted wrongful violence or other abuses against people in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, as well as those who have hindered access of humanitarian assistance to those in the region. Immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions. Should those responsible for undermining a resolution of the crisis in Tigray fail to reverse course, they should anticipate further actions from the United States and the international community. We call on other governments to join us in taking these actions.

“Additionally, we have imposed wide-ranging restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia and will bring our defense trade control policy in line with them. We will continue humanitarian assistance and certain other critical aid to Ethiopia in areas such as health, food security, basic education, support for women and girls, human rights and democracy, good governance, and conflict mitigation, consistent with available authorities. The United States will continue its existing broad restrictions on assistance to Eritrea,” Blinken added.

Opposition members and activists have told Today News Africa that only a true dialogue and reconciliation can bring about peace and stability in Ethiopia.

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