In Ethiopia, it appears that the tripartite pact between Abiy Ahmed, the Amhara elite, and Isaias Afewerki’s Eritrea is in the process of dissolution. Recently federal forces arrested more than 4,000 Amhara and then engaged in clashes with Fano militias, and in addition, last week saw renewed clashes between Eritrean and Tigrinya forces. The situation seems to be getting out of hand in Abiy Ahmed, and new reports of ethnically motivated violence are popping up to exacerbate the situation.
On May 30, according to Tigrinya sources although there has not yet been confirmation from third parties, the outcome of a clash between some Eritrean army divisions and the TPLF in the AdiAwalla area of Tigray was reported. According to the TPLF, the Eritrean army’s 57th and 21st divisions on May 24 allegedly carried out an offensive in the area, attempting to reignite the conflict and undermining the indefinite humanitarian truce established between TPLF and federal forces, which is still holding. According to the TPLF, one brigade commander and three battalion commanders in addition to 300 privates were reportedly killed and/or wounded by Tigrinya troops and that the counteroffensive stopped the Eritrean advance. This led, again according to the TPLF, to two days of shelling on the town of Sheraro on May 28 and 29 (https://www.ethiopiaobserver.com/2022/05/30/tplf-says-its-fighters-clash-with-the-eritrean-army/).
The situation, after the clashes between Amhara and federal government forces in recent weeks, could mean that the alliance on which the conflict in Tigray has rested so far has definitely crumbled and that the three actors are now acting individually, which certainly does not improve Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s position at a time when it appears that even the secret negotiations between Addis Ababa and Mekelle are at an impasse.
If the news of the Eritrean attack is not good news for Addis Ababa, the bad news is not over. A June 3 Foreign Affairs (https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/ethiopia/2022-06-02/ethiopias-invisible-ethnic-cleansing) report summarizing the situation in Tigray since the beginning of the conflict in November 2020 reiterates accusations, already made by some NGOs, against the federal government.
The two authors of the article enumerate the various atrocities committed during the conflict against Tigrayans and especially by the Amhara forces in western Tigray, such as summary executions, indiscriminate arrests, and the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. At the same time, they bring to light additional atrocities committed in Tigray’s West. In Humera, in particular, Amhara militias and federal troops keep hundreds of people imprisoned, and perhaps more, in degrading conditions according to some witnesses: prisoners are starved to death and often left in the same cell after death for days on end while other prisoners are then used as laborers to dispose of the bodies of the deceased when security personnel deem it necessary. These, and the other alleged crimes brought to the attention of the international community are crimes that could amount to the charge of extermination, a crime against humanity as defined by the Rome Statute.
The article is basically part of the advocacy campaign carried out by the two NGOs responsible two various reports on the crimes committed during the conflict and in fact the authors are the Secretary General of Amnesty International and the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, but in any case, they highlight a situation that the international community, particularly the UN and AU, can no longer ignore.