Hunger and escalating violence in Tigray

Silence kills in Ethiopia (Press Release)

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has appealed to the German Federal Government to exert more pressure on the conflict parties in Ethiopia, emphasizing that the war in Tigray must be stopped and that a famine catastrophe must be prevented. "Quiet diplomacy has failed. As Ethiopia's most important partner in Europe, Germany must now use all means and also exert pressure to prevent a repetition of the tragic famine catastrophe of 1984/85," stated Ulrich Delius, the STP's Director, in Göttingen on Friday. "Whoever remains silent about this cruel war against the civilian population is partly responsible for the killing in Ethiopia," Delius added. Hunger is already prevalent in Tigray today. Considering the blockade of aid deliveries and the fact that tens of thousands of people are already on the run, a catastrophe seems almost inevitable. In 1984 and 1985, hundreds of thousands of people had died in the hunger catastrophe in Ethiopia. 

Since the beginning of the armed conflict in early November, at least 310 people (mostly media workers or members of the military) have been arbitrarily excluded or arrested only because they are from Tigray. The persecution of people on the basis of their ethnic origin is a massive violation of the UN Convention for the Abolition of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which the country ratified in 1976. "A country that violates human rights in order to secure state authority cannot be considered a trustworthy partner, and human rights violations committed by partners should not simply be ignored – not even if they are committed for an alleged 'good cause'. We are talking about basic and universal rights," Delius emphasized.

The STP emphatically warned that the war might spread, as it already affects Eritrea in addition to the regions of Tigray and Amhara. Contrary to the statements by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the region is threatened by a long and costly guerrilla war. Following a possible occupation of the regional capital Mekelle, the fighting would most probably shift to the mountainous rural areas. Only yesterday, Mekelle was again attacked by Ethiopian fighter planes. The president of the university in the city confirmed that bombs had caused severe damage on the campus.   

Ethiopia's government is collecting donations for the war, also from the members of the diaspora living in Germany. This week, it published according appeals in Amharic language. "Tigray's dominant TPLF movement is quite unpopular – at home and abroad. In view of the many human rights violations during the decades of its rule in Ethiopia, this is understandable – but a new armed conflicts in the north of the country might drag the entire Horn of Africa into a maelstrom of violence and flight. There can only be a political solution to the conflicts," Delius emphasized.   

In 2020, Germany increased its commitment for Ethiopia significantly. In government negotiations, for example, the country was promised 340 million EUR in aid, plus a further 110 million to fight the pandemic and strengthen the country's health system. Further, an agreement was signed to promote investments by German companies. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Ethiopia, and Development Minister Gerd Müller repeatedly praised the country as an "anchor of stability" – but the attacks on minorities, ethnic conflicts, and ongoing human rights violations are fueling violence in the country.