The many troubles in Africa are often blamed on Western colonization. However, Ethiopia and Liberia are the two African countries that were never colonized. Yet, Ethiopia is today boiling with a conflict that has produced one of the largest humanitarian crisis in modern history. African Union is silent on the current Tigray crisis. But, do you think Western governments should keep mum too?
📢📢📢#Ethiopia: Tomorrow @amnesty will release a detailed, blow-by-blow account of the massacre in #Axum, one of the worst atrocities documented so far in the conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia. The briefing will break down what happened in Axum and how it happened. pic.twitter.com/mKiwjdu3VG
— AmnestyEasternAfrica (@AmnestyEARO) February 25, 2021
The foreign minister of Finland, Pekka Haavisto, recently warned the EU of a “new refugee drama”. The message came after visiting the Um Rakuba refugee camp in Sudan close to the border with Ethiopia. Ethiopians are fleeing the Tigray crisis into Sudan. At the moment, Sudan is struggling to cope with 60,000 Ethiopian refugees. According to Haavisto,
“You have come to a situation which is militarily and human rights-wise, humanitarian-wise very out of control. This operation has lasted more than three months and we do not see an end to it. In the public domain [in Ethiopia], there’s still also some kind of denial of the magnitude of the problems.”
Why the Tigray crisis should bother the EU
The European Union is already struggling to keep up with migrant crisis from Africa. IN 2017, they were over 168,000 asylum seekers from Sub-Saharan Africa. This is over 300 percent growth from the figure of 2010. With the growing number of refugees from the Tigray crisis, we may see the rise in the number of people willing to make the desperate journey to Europe.
To date, it is still hard to ascertain the true nature of the conflict due to communication blockage. Humanitarian workers and journalists still don’t have access to the region. However, the only thing that we know now is that an interim administration appointed by the Federal government is in control of Mekelle. Also, there are reports that Eritrean troops are in control of the northern Tigray region and handing out ID cards.
US statement: "The United States remains deeply concerned by Eritrean troops in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, and by credible reports that they are committing grave human rights abuses and forcibly returning Eritrean refugees to Eritrea." https://t.co/oXSFXGiq2W
— Martin Plaut (@martinplaut) February 25, 2021
There is a growing call for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops and giving access for humanitarian aid. However, this pressure will work better if it comes from external bodies considering the silence of the African Union. This is where western governments can step in to make sure the pressures are relentless. This steps must come quickly to prevent widespread famine which will make the humanitarian crisis worse.
The dire humanitarian situation
As government force continue to battle the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), children continue to experience severe ongoing harm. Although reports from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is not complete, it helps us to understand the dire situation of children trapped in the Tigray conflict. Part of the press release by the agency read,
Canadian PM Trudeau has an online meeting with Ethiopian PM Abiy today. He might want to review the latest reports of atrocities and famine risk in Tigray. Child malnutrition "staggeringly high." Military situation "out of control."https://t.co/V5WFrcKeA0
— Geoffrey York (@geoffreyyork) February 25, 2021
“The partial picture emerging of the impact the crisis in Tigray has had on children – and the systems and services they rely on – make clear that children are in acute need of protection and assistance. Crucially, the humanitarian community still needs to get beyond major cities and towns into the rural areas, where most of the population live, in order to have a true picture of needs.”
I'm back on the ground here in #Ethiopia, talking with our team, getting updates and continuing to push to reach everyone in need in #Tigray. Important progress being made, but much more to do. We need $107 million ASAP to scale-up @WFP's operations. pic.twitter.com/HOqensXjug
— David Beasley (@WFPChief) February 25, 2021
Some of the children have been separated from their parents. Most of the IDP (Internally displaced people) camps have nonfunctional schools. Also, many of the children are facing looming separation. UNICEF continue to do its best to ameliorate the situation but there is a limit to how far they can go.