Ethiopia might be on the brink of a genocide

Via The Sydney Morning Herald
Via The Sydney Morning Herald

When the hospital director came in and told Mihret Glahif she had to run for her life, the women were halfway through their labor.

It didn't matter that her patients were giving birth, the workers had to leave right away. The civil war had arrived, and the door knocked.

The 25-year-old nurse said, "We heard gunshots and bombs," "We left all of the patients. Some of them were injured soldiers, some of them were women in labor. We left everyone."

Glahif was recounting the trauma of a violent new war sweeping northern Ethiopia, the second most populated nation in Africa, parched and starving.

"I shouldn't have left them. I don't know how I will face God," she said after fleeing through hostile terrain with thousands of others with only her passport, into eastern Sudan's craggy, sun-baked wasteland.

First-hand accounts show the savage war raging in Ethiopia's northern Tigray between one of Africa's most strong armies and the regional military, which has caused a mass exodus and a desperate humanitarian crisis.

Since the internet was severed, a connectivity blackout has ensured that precious few reports of suspected bombings, beatings, machete massacres, and ethnic cleansing have emerged so far.

Since the conflict erupted two and a half weeks ago, hundreds, possibly thousands, have been killed; and the allegations of alleged war crimes are coming quickly and thickly.

The Amhara [militia] cut four children's heads off. They cut the babies out of pregnant women. I saw it with my own eyes, "The Amhara [militia] cut off the heads of four children. They cut the babies out of pregnant women. I saw it with my own eyes,"

He is writing himself, pleading for assistance. "Why is the world looking at what's happening? Why is no one helping us?"

Kilbane Hilufi, a doctor who also fled from the border town of Humera, says that bombs rained down on his home from 3 a.m. to 2 p.m. before forcing him to leave. He reports that 10% of the town's 20,000 inhabitants have been killed.

"There were so many. So many. I think maybe 40 explosions. There were about 50 injured in the hospital. I think many more died."

He alleges that the bombs came from near the northern border, raising concerns that the war is also being dragged into Eritrea, which has a long history of hostilities with Tigray.

The accounts of Burani's knife massacres chime with an Amnesty International report that concluded last week that in the city of Mai-Kadra, in what appears to be ethnic cleansing, hundreds of civilians were hacked or stabbed to death.

This is a horrific tragedy whose real extent only time can tell as communication remains shut down in Tigray, "This is a horrific tragedy whose true extent only time will tell as communication in Tigray remains shut down," Three people told Amnesty that they were told by survivors of the massacre that members of the Tigray Special Police Force, a regional paramilitary force now at war with Ethiopia, had targeted them.

The dispute broke out on November 4 when the central government of the country accused local authorities in the region of conducting illegal" elections and capturing a military base.

The Ethiopian army, headed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has Russian-made MiG fighter jets, attack helicopters, and federal forces at his disposal, is facing down the Tigrayans.

Tigray itself is a mountainous area, home to some of the continent's most battle-hardened fighters and many of the best military minds in Ethiopia.

Shortly after being elected in the midst of a wave of optimism in April 2018, Ahmed received the Nobel Prize for signing a historic peace deal with Eritrea. But the regional Tigrayan government, which once dominated the country's governing coalition, was marginalized by his sweeping reforms.

The war could rip the country apart, unleash devastating ethnic bloodshed, destabilize the Horn of Africa and break up a crucial US security ally, experts warn.

Rashid Abdi, an independent expert on the Horn of Africa, wrote last week that "Ethiopia is now perched precariously on the ledge - all signs point to a country in a pre-genocide phase,"

Suggestions that missiles have started landing in Ethiopia from Eritrea open the possibility of a new front that could reverse the peace agreement.

According to the regional president, the Tigray People's Liberation Front fired missiles at Asmara, the Eritrean capital, last week.

It is difficult to know exactly what is really happening with the internet and phone lines cut in Tigray and a crackdown on media freedom across Ethiopia.

It is thought that in the last week at least 35,000 people have fled across the border. At least 4000 of them cross the border every day. In the coming days, the Sudanese government has said it is bracing for 200,000 refugees.

For days, refugees walk to find safety along paths once traveled in the Eighties by those fleeing famine. More than half of them are women and kids who are tired, holding almost nothing.

This publication's witnesses now live in what is known as Village 8, a temporary refugee camp in the Kassala region of Sudan.

The camp is a town that was originally built to house the construction of a massive Chinese dam nearby that displaced local Sudanese. But that city was never done. Instead, the windowless concrete blocks now house at least 15,000 Ethiopians who have fled the fighting in the last two weeks, walking or swimming to safety.

Some of the medical professionals seeking asylum at the camp have begun to build on the site of their own improvised clinic. The roof of the clinic is fractured and dust clouds hang over a tangle of IV rubes hanging on stands.

After about 10 days with little food, doctors and nurses are crippled with hunger as the full scale of a humanitarian crisis unfolds before them.

The swelling camp has been living off meager food distributions from NGOs that have made it to the site, more than a day's journey from Khartoum, Sudan's capital.

A panicked rush caused a massive mound of help arriving yesterday, with refugees seizing what they could before security forces interfered. Scuffles broke out before police with rubber batons beat back several desperate refugees.

Publish : 2020-11-22 12:18:00

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