Ethiopia is on the brink of a human rights and humanitarian catastrophe as the war in Tigray worsens, Amnesty International warned on Friday, a day after the country marked the one-year anniversary of brutal fighting between government forces and regional Amhara militiamen aligned with Eritrean forces against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) fighters.
TPLF fighters, who have joined forces with the Oromo regional combatants against the central government, have said they were advancing on Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and could fall within months or weeks.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed Ali, said on Wednesday that government forces would prevail and would exist forever.
“Ethiopia will not collapse. Ethiopia will prosper,” he said in Addis Ababa. “Ethiopia will forever exist with her honor by defeating all (those) who test her through the blood and bones of her children.”
The government declared a six-month state of emergency on Wednesday and called on citizens to pick up arms and prepare to defend Addis Ababa.
“Our country is facing a grave danger to its existence, sovereignty and unity. And we can’t dispel this danger through the usual law enforcement systems and procedures,” Justice Minister Gedion Timothewos said during a state media briefing.
Ethiopia’s federal parliament adopted a state of emergency on Thursday, November 4, exactly a year after armed conflict with the TPLF began, granting the government sweeping new emergency powers which Amnesty International warned would “arbitrarily restrict human rights and threaten the independence of the judiciary.”
The human rights organization also noted that there has been an “alarming rise in social media posts advocating ethnic violence, and government officials have implored civilians to take up arms against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which have recently joined forces against the central government.”
“The dire humanitarian and human rights crisis which began one year ago in Tigray has been spilling into other areas of the country. To stop the situation spiraling out of control, the Ethiopian authorities must urgently take serious action to ensure human rights and international humanitarian law are respected,” said Deprose Muchena, Regional Director for East and Southern Africa at Amnesty International.
Amnesty said violations by the warring parties have included massacres, extrajudicial killings of captives and sexual violence targeting women and girls, noting that barriers to access for humanitarian organizations to areas affected by the conflict and attacks targeting aid workers and facilities have greatly worsened the dire humanitarian situation resulting from the conflict.
“African leaders and other international actors with influence must make clear to all the parties in Ethiopia that they must step back from the brink, protect civilians, end incitement, allow unhindered humanitarian access and monitoring, and respect human rights,” said Deprose Muchena. “The parties must understand that those responsible for war crimes and other violations will be held accountable.”