December 6, 2022

Tigrayans in America outraged “Ethiopian regime responsible for genocide” was welcomed with “photo ops” and “pleasantries” at AU-EU Summit in Brussels

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali attends the EU-Africa summit in Brussels, Belgium, in February 2022.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali attends the EU-Africa summit in Brussels, Belgium, in February 2022.

A Tigrayan advocacy group in the United States of America, Omna Tigray, has expressed outrage that the Ethiopian regime “responsible for genocide” was welcomed this week “with photo ops and pleasantries” at the just concluded AU-EU summit in Brussels, Belgium.

“It remains disappointing to witness the Ethiopian regime, responsible for genocide and one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world, welcomed with photo ops and pleasantries at the AU-EU Summit instead of the condemnation it deserves,” Jerusalem Girmay, a spokesperson for Omna Tigray, a nonprofit organization focused on educated advocacy and economic development, said in a brief statement to Today News Africa in Washington D.C.

The organization, which describes itself as a “global movement to stop the genocidal war on Tigray”, added that “talks of strengthened bilateral relations between Ethiopia and EU member states should only follow verifiable progress in Ethiopia’s conduct toward Tigray and Tigrayans across the country, which appears improbable due to the international community’s continued inaction.”

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali attends the EU-Africa summit in Brussels, Belgium, in February 2022.

On Thursday, Tigrayan demonstrators stormed the venue of the EU-Africa summit in Brussels, Belgium, and called on EU leaders to halt their support for “African dictators” like “Abiy Ahmed Ali” of Ethiopia.

The demonstrators carried flags and placards in front of the venue of the summit attended by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed Ali and other African heads of state, including the chairperson of the African Union, President Macky Sall of Senegal.

Tigrayan demonstrators demanded that the humanitarian blockade imposed by the Ethiopian government be fully lifted to save lives and get help to the people in need. They also called on European and African leaders to “stop Tigray genocide.”

The United Nations estimates that thousands of people have been killed in northern Ethiopia since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali ordered a military offensive against the Tigray people’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on November 4, 2020, following an attack on a federal government base.

The conflict has also displaced hundreds of thousands of people and put many more at an increased risk of famine.

For months, since July of 2021, the government of Abiy Ahmed Ali refused to allow any humanitarian access to the Tigray region, which is located in northern Ethiopia. The humanitarian blockade was condemned by many in the international community, including the World Health Organization (WHO).

Tigray demonstrators protesting at Au-EU summit in Brussels.

Tigrayans were also rounded up and detained at many cells across the nation, prompting accusations that an ethnic cleansing may be underway in Ethiopia.

Human Rights Watch urges African leaders to act on Tigray

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch called on African leaders who met in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, between February 5 and February 6, for the African Union summit, to urge Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali to release thousands of Tigrayans being held across the country. They should also use their time in Africa’s second most populous nation to address “rampant abuses occurring in the conflict in Ethiopia.”

The human rights organization noted that during the first two weeks of January, at least 108 civilians were killed in government airstrikes in Tigray, including 59 in a January 7 airstrike on an internal displacement site. 

“And while the government has released some detainees in recent weeks, thousands of Tigrayans arbitrarily detained under the country’s sweeping state of emergency remain in informal and formal detention sites,” it wrote.

The organization urged President Macky Sall of Senegal to ensure that civilian protection, human rights, and justice and accountability are the focus of the African Union’s agenda as he takes over leadership of the 55-country body.

Amnesty International says Tigrayan forces have also killed innocent civilians

Amnesty International said in a new report released on Tuesday evening that fighters affiliated with the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) deliberately killed dozens of people, gang-raped dozens of women and girls – some as young as 14 – and looted private and public property in two areas of northern Ethiopia’s Amhara region.

The atrocities were perpetrated in and around Chenna and Kobo in late August and early September 2021, shortly after Tigrayan forces took control of the areas in July. The attacks were often characterized by additional acts of violence and brutality, death threats, and the use of ethnic slurs and derogatory remarks. In Kobo, Tigrayan forces were apparently lashing out at the civilian population in retaliation for increased resistance from local militias and armed residents.

“Tigrayan forces have shown utter disregard for fundamental rules of international humanitarian law which all warring parties must follow. Evidence is mounting of a pattern of Tigrayan forces committing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in areas under their control in the Amhara region from July 2021 onwards. This includes repeated incidents of widespread rape, summary killings and looting, including from hospitals,” said Sarah Jackson, Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes at Amnesty International. “The TPLF leadership must put an immediate end to the atrocities we have documented and remove from its forces anyone suspected of involvement in such crimes.”

The conflict in Tigray broke out in November 2020 and spread to other regions of northern Ethiopia from July 2021.

The White House acknowledges progress being made in Ethiopia

In Washington DC, the White House said on Tuesday that it was pleased by the steps taken by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali to promote dialogue in Ethiopia but “serious concerns” remain about the humanitarian situation in the East African nation.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki commenting on the conflict in Ethiopia on Tuesday said the Biden administration was “hopeful that recent steps taken by the government of Ethiopia and other actors might open a path to resolving the conflict.”

Press Secretary Jen Psaki deliver remarks and answers questions from members of the press Friday, October 22, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. (Official White House Photo by Katie Ricks)

“Over the last month, the Prime Minister has taken steps to promote dialogue, release political prisoners, and enable expanded delivery of medical supplies in the Tigray region.  We continue to have serious concerns about the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia, and we are focused on working with our parties — with all parties to end the source of the suffering, the military conflict,” she said during the press briefing.

U.S. State Department acknowledges progress being made in Ethiopia

In a statement, State Department spokesperson Ned Price also said the United States has welcomed the lifting of the state of emergency in Ethiopia.

“This is another important step by the Government of Ethiopia to pave the way for a peaceful resolution of the ongoing conflict,” Price wrote. “We urge that this move be immediately followed by the release of all individuals arrested or detained without charge under the state of emergency. The end of these detentions will facilitate an inclusive and productive national dialogue,” he wrote.

Department Spokesperson Ned Price briefs reporters at the Daily Press Briefing at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 16, 2022. [State Department photo by Freddie Everett

Price added that the United States continues “to engage with all parties to advance an immediate cessation of hostilities, unhindered humanitarian access, transparent investigations into all human rights abuses and violations, and a negotiated resolution to the conflict.”

No fuel to deliver humanitarian aid to Tigrayans, WHO says.

On Monday, the World Health Organization announced that it has been permitted to deliver medical supplies to Ethiopia’s Tigray region for the first time since July 2021, “but there is no fuel to distribute them to health centers.”

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks at a special session of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, November 29, 2021.

The WHO wrote, “The supplies, which are now in storage until they can be distributed, include essential medical equipment, personal protective equipment, antibiotics, medicines for malaria and diabetes, including insulin, treatment for severe acute malnutrition, and medicines and supplies for reproductive health. Our partner, the World Food Programme (WFP), began airlifting them to Mekelle, in Tigray, on 11 February. More shipments are planned this week.

“Fuel for humanitarian operations has not been allowed into Tigray since August 2021, except for two WFP trucks in November. 

“The lack of fuel, cash and supplies has caused humanitarian operations in Tigray to be reduced or suspended altogether, as highlighted in OCHA’s humanitarian update for Northern Ethiopia last week.

“The WHO shipments, which are part of 33.5 metric tonnes of planned deliveries, still represent a small portion of what is needed. Without access to supplies, health workers are trying to continue to provide health services with almost no medicines or functioning equipment.

“According to OCHA, health partners estimate the following supplies are required to meet the urgent nutrition and health needs of the people in Tigray:  2,200 metric tonnes of emergency health kits; 1.5 million doses of cholera vaccine; polio oral vaccination for 888,000 children under five years; more than 30,000 metric tonnes of nutrition supplies for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition in outpatient clinics and 100 metric tonnes  for children hospitalized at stabilization centres;  about 830 metric tonnes of nutrient supplements to fortify the nutrition of 1.4 million people, mainly women and children; and 15,000 metric tonnes of Vitamin A supplements.  

“Malnutrition rates among children and pregnant and breastfeeding women in Tigray, as well as in Amhara and Afar, remain alarmingly high. For example, nutrition screening campaigns conducted in recent months found that 71% of pregnant and breastfeeding women in Tigray were acutely malnourished. The figure in Afar was 45%, and in Amhara was 14%.

Access has been relatively easier in Amhara and Afar regions with WHO shipping 84 metric tonnes of supplies in late December 2021. WHO is planning to ship an additional 15-20 metric tonnes to Afar to meet the health needs of people recently displaced as a result of the ongoing fighting on the Tigray-Afar border.”

What did AU-EU Summit achieve?

The sixth summit between Africa and Europe has come and gone but nothing has changed on the ground. The same problems remain and the eight commitments that leaders from both continents made at the end of the summit on Friday were vague.

In their joint statement released at the end of the sixth EU-Africa summit in Brussels, Belgium, the leaders of Europe and Africa made eight bold commitments and vowed to engage as equal partners on a range of shared interests.

EU-Africa summit opens in Brussels, Belgium

The two continents made immediate and long term commitments, including securing COVID-19 vaccines for Africans right now, and gradually “combatting Illicit Financial Flows (IFF) and addressing domestic tax base erosion, profit shifting (BEPS), and cooperating in tax transparency.”

“The immediate challenge is to ensure a fair and equitable access to vaccines. Together we will support local and regional mechanisms for procurement, as well as allocation and deployment of medical products,” the leaders of both continents wrote in their joint statement. “The EU reaffirms its commitment to provide at least 450 million of vaccine doses to Africa, in coordination with the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) platform, by mid-2022.”

Both continents noted that “contributing to this and complementing the actions of the AVATT, Team Europe has provided more than USD 3 billion (i.e. the equivalent of 400 million vaccine doses) to the Covax Facility and to vaccination on the African continent.”

Looking ahead, Team Europe will mobilize EUR 425 million to ramp up the pace of vaccination, and in coordination with the Africa CDC, to support the efficient distribution of doses and the training of medical teams and the capacity of analysis and sequencing.

“We will also contribute in this context to the fight against health-related disinformation,” they said. Both continents also committed to a renewed and enhanced cooperation for peace and security. 

“Facing growing common security challenges, we announce a renewed and enhanced peace and security cooperation. The two continents have a long-standing cooperation premised on the principle of African solutions to African problems, within the framework of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and reflected in the AU-EU MoU on Peace, Security and Governance (2018), designed to combat instability, radicalization, violent extremism and terrorism, tackling the root causes of conflicts, and addressing the entire conflict cycle through the integrated approach,” they wrote.

African and European leaders come together for the EU-Africa summit in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday, February 17, 2022

However, there was nothing specific about the challenges Africans face right now, from the devastating crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region that has led to an atrocious humanitarian crisis to the panoply of coups and attempted coups in Africa; from rising hunger across the continent to skyrocketing unemployment numbers. Their eight commitments were so vague that they were difficult to understand.

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