The well celebrated peace agreement reached in South Africa last November between the federal government of Ethiopia and Tigrayan authorities is falling apart, and United States President Joseph R. Biden Jr. should take immediate action to prevent further suffering and stop ‘800 days of Tigray genocide’, protesters said outside the White House on Friday.
The protesters also called on Eritrean forces to immediately leave Tigray, asserting that since the peace accord was reached on November 2, 2022, thousands of Tigrayans have continued to be killed by Eritrean forces who still occupy their land.
They gathered outside the White House to mark what they described as ‘800 days of Tigray genocide’, the period between when the war started on November 4, 2020, and now.
They said that the implementation of the peace agreement has not gone beyond Mekelle, the capital of Tigray, and that the vast majority of the people in Tigray remain hungry and under hostile Eritrean occupation.
“We want peace, that’s what we want,” a protester told Today News Africa during an interview. “We want President Biden to stop this genocide.”
Brandishing banners and placards, the protesters who gathered under an organization known as Peace Campaign with Ethiopia and Eritrea, also called for a regime change in Eritrea where Isaias Afwerki has been president since shortly after he led the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front to victory in May 1991, ending the 30-year-old war for independence from Ethiopia.
The protesters said that 6.5 million people in Tigray continue to face man-made famine, more than 2.2 million civilians remain internally displaced, over 500,000 Tigrayans have been killed since the war began in 2020, at least 75,000 fled to neighboring Sudan while 80 percent of hospitals and health facilities have been destroyed.
They noted that Western Tigray and Northern Eastern Tigray remain under the occupation of Eritrean troops and Amhara militia since Nov 3, 2022, meaning that 65 percent of Tigray remains under hostile occupation. Those parts of the Tigray region are said to be completely inaccessible to any humanitarian organizations.
Eden Kassa, the co-founder of Legacy Tigray Advocacy cited a 2022 Human Rights Watch report that stated that Western Tigray was under annexation by the Amhara militia who were forcibly displacing Tigrayans and allegedly conducting mass detention, rape and extrajudicial killings.
“In addition, areas of Tigray that were liberated before CoHA are now under occupation of Eritrea and Amhara militia, Shire, Adwa, Adigrat, and Axum,” Kassa said.
“Residents of these areas have shared photographs showing the presence of these forces looting civilian properties and eye witnesses reported that close to 4000 civilians were killed by the Amhara militias and Eritrean forces,” she added.
On January 4, 2023, the Director General of the World Health Organization Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a Tigrayan himself, acknowledged progress in Ethiopia’s Tigray region but warned that Eritrean forces continue to ‘massacre’ civilians and must withdraw from Tigray.
Speaking at the WHO news briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, Dr. Ghebereysus said that since the peace agreement between the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and Tigrayan authorities was reached in South Africa last November, there has been progress on food and medicine deliveries and the resumption of basic services such as banking and telecommunication.
“On Tigray, of course after the peace agreement, the signing, there is progress now. In food delivery, there is progress, in medicine, there is progress,” he said, noting that there are still many areas that are not yet covered.
The WHO boss, however, warned that Eritrean forces continue to put the fragile peace at risk by killing civilians and must withdraw from Tigray.
“I think the only problem now… is the continued occupation of Tigray by Eritrean army, and as we speak they are massacring civilians, they continue to massacre civilians,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said. “We believe that could affect the peace agreement. And I think the international community should help in making sure that Eritrea respects the peace deal and withdraw from Tigray and stop the massacre.”
On December 30, 2022, the United States government applauded another important step towards peace in northern Ethiopia, adding that it is ready to help.
The latest step was the signing and launch of the African Union’s Monitoring, Verification and Compliance Mission (AU-MVCM) in Mekele, Tigray.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken described the move as an “important step toward securing lasting peace for the people of northern Ethiopia.”
“The United States stands ready to support the AU-MVCM and full implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement (COHA), which includes disarmament of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) combatants, withdrawal of Eritrean forces, unimpeded humanitarian access, resumption of essential services, and implementation of transitional justice,” Blinken wrote in a statement.
He added, “We call on the parties to ensure the protection of civilians as mandated in the COHA and believe the AU-MVCM should play an important role in monitoring and verifying respect for human rights throughout the former conflict areas.
“We commend the AU and its High-Level Panel for facilitating agreement on the AU-MVCM. We look forward to working with AU panel members and the parties to expedite full implementation of the COHA that leads to lasting peace for the benefit of all Ethiopians.
“The United States will also continue to support the AU’s mandate to prevent, manage, and resolve conflicts and promote peace, security, and stability on the continent.”