A refugee crisis looms in Ethiopia

In the escalating civil war in Ethiopia, thousands of people from the Tigray region fled to neighboring Sudan. And their number could be significantly larger. According to the Reuters news agency, the United Nations spoke on Wednesday from 6,000 to 7,000 people who had already left the Tigray region in the north of the country for the border because of the ongoing fighting. “The number is increasing around the clock,” affirmed Alsir Khaled of the Sudanese Refugee Commission. Observers expect up to 200,000 refugees.

In Tigray, government troops are engaged in a conflict with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which governs there. In the region, the situation has worsened for the population. According to the United Nations, long lines have formed in front of grocery stores. In addition, trucks with new deliveries were stuck at the borders. “We are demanding access for humanitarian aid as soon as possible,” said Sajjad Mohammad Sajid, the United Nations aid coordinator for Ethiopia. Gasoline and food are urgently needed. More than two million people in Tigray now have a “very, very difficult time”.

What is Tigray about?

The conflict is about ethnic tensions between Tigrayers, who had controlled the country for decades, and the Oromo, the country’s largest ethnic group, to which Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed belongs. Abiy has been Prime Minister since April 2018. The TPFL did not join the unity government he had formed. Tensions have risen since September when Tigray voted in what the central government declared illegal.

Hundreds of people were killed during the Ethiopian government’s ongoing military offensive against the TPFL, according to Addis Adeba. The state broadcaster Fana quoted a senior military official who said 500 members of the “extremist group” were killed. However, this information could not be verified independently, as Tigray is currently largely cut off from the outside world and the Internet and telecommunications are hardly possible.

Violation of the rule of law

The government is also stepping up its action against journalists. The independent newspaper “Addis Standard” reported a total of six arrests in the past few days. Among the detainees is the newspaper’s chief editor, Medihane Eku’michael, who has been taken to an unknown location. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission also expressed concern about the arrest of journalists and called for compliance with the rule of law.