Conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray Province “may be on the edge of Genocide” – to be raised in an urgent question in the House of Lords tomorrow.

Nov 23, 2020 | News

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the war in the Ethiopian province of Tigray and what action it is taking to coordinate international action to prevent further conflict.  To be answered by Baroness Sugg (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

Refugees on the move in war torn Tigray. photo- BBC

“The most serious issue is the threatened assault on Mekelle, which is highlighted here. This is a potential war crime.” Martin Plaut, Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, former BBC World Service Africa editor, and author of ‘Understanding Eritrea’, and advisor to members of the APPG on Eritrea

On 22 November UK newspaper The Sunday Telegraph reported that Ethiopia may be on the edge of genocide,” detailing violence including the decapitation of four children, and babies being cut out of pregnant women.


“is deeply concerned at reports indicating that atrocity crimes may be underway in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where a violent civil war has been taking place since the start of November”  CSW has also received disturbing reports of house to house shootings in the town of Zalambesa that allegedly resulted in the extrajudicial executions of over 50 people.

Refugees International:

APPG on Eritrea:

More than 30,000 have now crossed into Sudan through the Hamdayet border in Kassala State, the Lugdi in Gedaref State and a new location further south at Aderafi border where Ethiopian refugees started crossing over the weekend. The speed of new arrivals “overwhelming the current capacity to provide aid.

Letter to Rt.Hon Dominic Raab MP: 22,11,2020

Six Steps HMG might take immediately

  1. Intervene at the UN Security Council and in the Commonwealth to prevent the assault on the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle, which the Ethiopians say will “show no mercy” and leaves over 500,000 in imminent danger.
  2. Back the African Union mediation initiative by three former African Presidents, agreed by the Ethiopian President, but now reneged upon.
  3. Pre-position aid in the region so that once the fighting diminishes a humanitarian rescue mission can be mounted.
  4. Take action on behalf of the tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Tigrayans and Eritrean refugees in camps in Tigray caught up in this war. Many have already fled to Sudan. The harvest, which should be being brought in, could be lost.
  5. Use its influence to reign in Eritrea and the UAE, who are already involved in this conflict. Sudan could also be drawn in.  
  6. The UK should also accept its duty, under the provisions of the 1948 Convention on the Crime of Genocide, to assess the warning signs of an impending genocide, take appropriate action, and bring perpetrators to account.

The assault on the Tigray capital, Mekelle is said to commence within 72 hours.

This is what the BBC reported:

“Ethiopia’s prime minister has given forces in the northern region of Tigray 72 hours to surrender as government troops advance on the capital, Mekelle….

Abiy Ahmed told Tigrayan leaders they were “at a point of no return”.  Earlier the Ethiopian military warned Mekelle’s 500,000 residents that the army would “encircle” the city and attack it with artillery fire. “There will be no mercy,” a spokesman said.”

The Ethiopian government’s military spokesman Colonel Dejene Tsegaye told state-run Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation that “the next phases are the decisive part of the operation, which is to encircle Mekelle using tanks”. He said the TPLF leadership was “shielding itself within the public” and said: “We want to send a message to the public in Mekelle to save yourselves from any artillery attacks and free yourselves from the junta … After that, there will be no mercy.”

This is a pre-meditated war crime. No corridor has been negotiated with the TPLF for the civilians to be evacuated along. The ICRC is not supervising their extraction. If this takes place civilian casualties are likely to be high.

It is essential that HMG does all it can to prevent this taking place by using its good offices at the UN Security Council and the Commonwealth.

The UN has prepared a confidential report, warning that this is likely to be a lengthy conflict, with little prospect of an immediate resolution. It is vital that Britain faces this crisis with this in mind.

This is a regional conflict and threatens the future of Ethiopia itself

Ethiopia has begun withdrawing troops from Somalia, undermining the fight against the Islamists of al-Shabaab. Eritrean forces are involved in the fighting (as outlined above). The UAE is reported to be flying drones from its base in the Eritrean port of Assab, to attack targets in Tigray.

It is important that every effort be made to reduce outside involvement.

We should also heed the warning from the US Institute of Peace, signed by two former Assistant African Secretaries of State, that Ethiopia itself could be at risk of collapse.

Dr.Martin Plaut says:

The fragmentation of Ethiopia would be the largest state collapse in modern history. Ethiopia is five times the size of pre-war Syria by population, and its breakdown would lead to mass interethnic and interreligious conflict; a dangerous vulnerability to exploitation by extremists; an acceleration of illicit trafficking, including of arms; and a humanitarian and security crisis at the crossroads of Africa and the Middle East on a scale that would overshadow any existing conflict in the region, including Yemen.

This threat is real and needs to be taken seriously.

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