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No agreement in Security Council on Tigray conflict

China and Russia vetoed a proposal despite the serious need for humanitarian aid amidst hunger and human rights violations

by: Isti Miskolczy

Members of the United Nations Security Council convened on the 4th of May to discuss, and if possible to reach a consensus on the armed conflict in Ethiopia in the Tigray region. Nonetheless, a joint statement was voted down with objections from China, Russia, and India on the basis of the resolution interfering in the internal affairs of Ethiopia.

This happened despite UN agencies prognosticating hunger as well as alleging serious human rights violations and war crimes in the region.

Human rights violations

“Deeply distressing reports of sexual and gender-based violence, extrajudicial killings, widespread destruction and looting of public and private property by all parties continue to be shared with us, as well as reports of continued fighting in central Tigray in particular” - told Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“Credible information also continues to emerge about serious violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict in Tigray in November last year.” - she continued.

Upon speaking to survivors and acquiring satellite images, Amnesty International revealed evidence of Eritrean troops systematically killing hundreds of unarmed civilians in the north of the region a few months ago. Sexual violence was also committed - between December 2020 and January 2021 more than 136 cases of rape were reported.

These serious violations of human rights and international law "may have been committed by multiple actors in the conflict" - details a UN report, which then names the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF), the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the Eritrean Armed Forces (EAF) and Amhara Regional Forces (ARF) as possible perpetrators.

Origins of the conflict

The conflict between the TPLF and the Ethiopian government forces (ENDF) dates back to 2018 when the incumbent Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali won the elections. His reforms (including reaching out to make peace with Eritrea) however, were said to be sidelining the Tigrayans, who prior to 2018 were a major factor in Ethiopian politics.

This dissatisfaction is presumed to be causing this conflict with armed clashes starting in November 2020, when the Ethiopian PM launched a military offensive to the Tigray region. Since then, the ENDF was joined by the Amhara Regional Forces and the Eritrean Armed Forces, albeit the presence of the latter is officially denied by both Ethiopia and Eritrea.

What's next?

Despite the UNSC resolution being voted down, the United States "deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Ethiopia to lead the scale-up of U.S. government humanitarian assistance" - announced new US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

"We are committed to holding perpetrators of abuses and violations on all sides to account. And we are committed to addressing and assisting with the humanitarian and the human rights crisis" - she also said in a speech delivered to the representatives of the Security Council.

In a review meeting with the Tigray Region taskforce earlier this Month, PM Abiy Ahmed Ali announced that the task force "will continue its stabilization and rebuilding efforts".

A solution to the conflict is particularly important as the Ethiopian elections are coming up in June 2021. In February upon consulting with federal and regional leaders, Mr. Ahmed Ali pledged to ensure free and fair elections. To what extent will that be possible, however, is to be observed.


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