UN calls for de-escalating conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray

Alarmed by the increasing violence in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray state, the UN has called for de-escalating the conflict and allowing humanitarian access.

“The UN is alarmed by the escalating conflict in the north,” Xinhua news agency quoted the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) as saying on Monday, citing reports of rocket attacks on the Eritrean capital of Asmara and in the cities of Bahir Dar and Gondar.

The OCHA said in a statement that it had received reports of an airstrike in the vicinity of Mekelle, a major city in Tigray, “from where the rockets were presumably launched last (Sunday) night”.

“According to unconfirmed reports, there is massive internal displacement from western to northern Tigray,” OCHA said.

“Already, the number of Ethiopian asylum seekers who have crossed into Sudan has reached 25,300.”

Some 96,000 refugees from Eritrea and a large number of internally displaced persons have been living in Tigray and are threatened by the violence, OCHA has said.

“The protection of civilians and the adherence to international humanitarian law must be enforced as a priority by all parties,” it said.

“In addition, the UN calls for humanitarian access and the resumption of telecommunication and basic supplies, including food, medicine and fuel for civilians inside the Tigray region.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was following with great concern the developments in Tigray, their impact on more regions and “the risk of destabilizing the whole of the Horn of Africa”, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a briefing.

“The Secretary-General made a number of calls over the weekend,” Dujarric told reporters.” His envoy for the Horn of Africa also remains in the region.”

Dujarric noted that part of the issue is a breakdown in communications with the region.

According to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, an attack on a bus in Benishangul-Gumuz’s Debate district on November 14 left at least 34 civilians dead.

Since the early hours of November 4, the Ethiopian government has been undertaking military operations against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

The mounting disputes between the federal government and the TPLF were exacerbated in September this year, when the Tigray government decided to go ahead with its planned regional elections, which the Ethiopian parliament had previously postponed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.