Since early November of 2020, Ethiopia’s Tigray region has been ravaged by war between the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, and the Tigray’s People’s Liberation Front (TPFL). Numerous eyewitnesses also credibly allege the involvement of the Eritrean Defense Forces, who are backing the Ethiopian federal government.
The TPFL was a major force in Ethiopian politics, until they refused to join prime minister Abiy Ahmed’s new Prosperity Party. Abiy rescheduled the general elections set for 29 August, citing the Covid pandemic, but the TPLF held regional elections in Tigray, defying the government.
Forces loyal to the TPFL laid siege to the Sero military base near Ethiopia’s northern border.
The government responded by launching a federal offensive, where troops shelled urban areas indiscriminately, according to Human Rights Watch.
The severity of the humanitarian crisis cannot be overstated. The UN estimates over a million people who have been internally displaced, with over 50,000 having fled to Sudan. Over 2 million people are in need of food aid. According to an AP News article published on 10 February, Red Cross president Ato Abera Tola warned that the number of people starving to death could be in the thousands within a month. In two months, it will be tens of thousands.
While Abiy’s office claims that Ethiopia has given humanitarian aid groups unfettered access, U.N. officials estimate that only 20 percent of the region can be reached because due to restrictions put in place by the government.
On top of this, Al Jazeera reported on the massacre of hundreds of civilians in the city of Axum by Eritrean troops. “The evidence is compelling and points to a chilling conclusion. Ethiopian and Eritrean troops carried out multiple war crimes in their offensive to take control of Axum. Above and beyond that, Eritrean troops went on a rampage and systematically killed hundreds of civilians in cold blood, which appears to constitute crimes against humanity,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International's Director for East and Southern Africa. Both Ethiopia and Eritrea deny the presence of Eritrean troops in the region.
Similar massacres took place in and around Adigrat, between November and December.
Reports on the use of rape as a weapon of war have also been documented.
"The women that have been raped say that the things that they say to them when they were raping them is that they need to change their identity -- to either Amharise them or at least leave their Tigrinya status ... and that they've come there to cleanse them ... to cleanse the blood line," Dr. Tedros Tefera said in an interview with CNN. He added: "Practically this has been a genocide."