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Accusation of “ethnic cleansing” in Ethiopia: what happened in this region of Western Tigray?

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Ethiopian regional forces are accused by several NGOs of ethnic cleansing in a region of Tigray. Thousands of civilians were killed and more than a million people are believed to have fled. A joint report by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch denounces several abuses.

Two leading human rights organizations on Wednesday accused the armed forces of Ethiopia’s Amhara region of carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Tigrayans.

“A relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing”

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a joint report that abuses committed by officials from the Amhara region, regional special forces and militias during fighting in western Tigray constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity. They also accused the Ethiopian army of complicity in these acts.

“Since November 2020, officials and security forces in the Amhara region have engaged in a relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing to force Tigrayans in western Tigray from their homes,” said Kenneth Roth, Director executive of HRW. Gizachew Muluneh, spokesman for the Amhara region government, told Reuters that allegations of abuse and ethnic cleansing in western Tigray were “lies” and “fabricated” information.

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Abuse for 17 months

Spokespersons for the Ethiopian military and government, the former Amhara special forces commander and the West Tigray administrator did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Amnesty and HRW said Tigrayan forces also committed abuses during the 17-month war, but that was not the focus of the report. The report, which is based on 427 interviews with survivors, family members and witnesses, is the most comprehensive assessment to date of abuses committed during the war in Western Tigray.

Western Tigray has seen some of the worst violence in the war, which pitted the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and its allies in the Amhara region against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s government before Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018. Both Amhara and Tigray regions claim the area, which is controlled by Amhara forces and the Ethiopian military.

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Murders, arrests, arbitrary detentions, acts of torture…

Besides the repeated massacres, the report cites meetings in which officials from the Amhara region discussed plans to eliminate Tigrayans and the restrictions they imposed on the Tigrayan language as evidence of ethnic cleansing. Federal authorities failed to investigate allegations of ethnic cleansing, while, according to the report, the national army committed “murders, arbitrary arrests and detentions, as well as acts of torture against the Tigrayan population”. .

Amhara government spokesman Gizachew Muluneh said regional forces had always upheld the rule of law. Reuters, which has previously reported on massacres by Amhara and Tigrayan forces in western Tigray, could not independently verify the details of the report. In March last year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Amhara forces of committing “acts of ethnic cleansing”.

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