Last updated on August 14th, 2022 at 09:30 am
Tigrayan demonstrators on Thursday 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).
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.
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.”
“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.
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 Tigrayan, 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.”
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 can EU-Africa summit offer?
Europe refused to share vaccine technology with African nations when COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, killing hundreds of thousands of people, decimating economies and skyrocketing joblessness. But in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday and Friday, February 17-18, European leaders will try to put up a good face when they meet with African leaders for the EU-Africa summit.
The anger over Europe’s refusal to share its COVID-19 technology prompted South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to condemn what he described as “vaccine apartheid.”
“They hoarded vaccines, they ordered more vaccines than their populations require. The greed they demonstrated was disappointing, particularly when they say they are our partners,” President Ramaphosa said last December. “Because our lives in Africa are just as important as lives in Europe, North America and all over.”
For the past two years, Africa was unable to produce its own vaccine, and ended up at the back of the line. So far, according to the Africa CDC, about 11.6 percent of Africans have been fully vaccinated, while more than 1.1 billion people have not yet received any jabs. In Europe, about 71 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and many who are not have decided to rely on natural immunity for protection.
The summit, which was initially planned for 2020 but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic and other agenda issues, will provide an avenue for the European Union and Africa to re-engage, strengthen ties and counter Chinese and Russian influence in the continent.
Last week, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen travel to Dakar, Senegal, to meet with President Macky Sall, the new chairperson of the African Union elected in Addis Ababa two weeks ago.
There in Dakar, she announced a 150-billion euro ($170 billion) investment plan in Africa as part of the EU’s Global gateway project, which is seen as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a program aiming to develop markets and new trade routes connecting China with the rest of the world with seat ports, bridges and power plants.
The European Union’s plan is expected to mobilize, in total, up to 300 billion euros ($341 billion) in public and private funds by 2027, noted the AP.
Two years ago in 2020, the EU set out what its described as “strategic partnership” with Africa and the entire idea behind the summit is expected to strengthen ties and take concrete actions.
As part of what it describes as “Prosperous and Sustainable Partnership”, the EU plans to unveils six initiatives at the summit, including three investment packages.
“At the summit, investments will be at the heart of the discussions because they are the means of our shared ambition,” Ursula von der Leyen said in Dakar when she met with President Sall last week.
But the summit is not expected to be backed by any new financing commitment from the Europeans.
One of the burning issues will be how much of the $450 billion Special Drawing Rights issued by the International Monetary Fund last year will be allocated to Africa to help cover the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic. A big chunk of that money was allocated to EU member states.
Reports says the French President, Emmanuel Macron, has made a push for more SDRs for Africa.