Source: IPIS Briefing April 2021: “In Tigray, Sexual Violence Has Become A Weapon Of War”

The IPIS briefing offers a selection of articles, news and updates on natural resources, armed conflict, Business & Human Rights and arms trade. Every month, an editorial and related publications shed a light on a specific topic in IPIS’ areas of research.


‘Clean out our insides’: Ethiopia detains Tigrayans amid war | 29 April 2021 | The Associated Press

Ethiopia has swept up thousands of ethnic Tigrayans into detention centers across the country on accusations that they are traitors, often holding them for months and without charges, the AP has found. The detentions, mainly but not exclusively of military personnel, are an apparent attempt to purge state institutions of the Tigrayans who once dominated them…

Ethiopia – Tigray Conflict, Fact Sheet #7 | 28 April 2021 | USAID | ReliefWeb

Increased insecurity and ongoing communications disruptions continue to hinder humanitarian response efforts in Tigray. The DART and USG leadership continue to express concern regarding reports of protection violations, as well as advocate that the GoE take steps to increase humanitarian access and allow the importation of communications equipment.

Ethiopia’s Tigray War Is Fueling Amhara Expansionism | 28 April 2021 | Foreign Policy

The war in Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia, is ostensibly about political control. The federal government’s stated objective is to arrest the political and military leadership of the ousted regional government in what it still refers to as a law enforcement operation. But among the ethnic Amhara political elite, it is seen as a war to regain territories lost in 1991. Being the second-largest ethnic group in the country, the Amhara militia and special forces have been pivotal in the war campaign. Western and southern parts of Tigray are thus currently being incorporated under Amhara administration and control despite protests from the interim regional government in Tigray.

Eritrean troops block, loot food aid in Tigray: documents | 27 April 2021 | France24

Eritrean soldiers are blocking and looting food aid in Ethiopia’s war-hit Tigray region, according to government documents obtained by AFP, stoking fears of starvation deaths as fighting nears the six-month mark. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray in November to detain and disarm leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the regional ruling party that once dominated national politics.

US Continues Non-Humanitarian ‘Assistance Pause’ to Pressure Ethiopia to End Tigray Conflict | 27 April 2021 | VoA

The United States is pressing Ethiopia to end the conflict in its Tigray region that has been raging for almost six months. U.S. officials are also calling for allied Eritrean troops to withdraw from the region. The United States will continue to pause non-humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia to pressure Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government to do more to stop the “deteriorating humanitarian and human rights crisis,” officials said.

In Tigray, Sexual Violence Has Become a Weapon of War | 27 April 2021 | Foreign Policy

In recent weeks, women in Tigray, Ethiopia, have started coming forward with the most painful stories imaginable about how they have been sexually violated and tortured by soldiers of the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies.

U.S. Africa Envoy: Ethiopia Crisis Could Make Syria Look Like ‘Child’s Play’ | 26 April 2021 | Foreign Policy

The Biden administration this month brought Jeffrey Feltman, a seasoned former senior U.S. and United Nations diplomat, out of semi-retirement to assume the newly created role of special envoy for the Horn of Africa, where multiple crises threaten to unravel the entire region.

“Dying by blood or by hunger”: The war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, explained | 24 April 2021 | Vox

The bodies of the two brothers were left for more than a day. Their families knew they were there, but the soldiers wouldn’t let them collect the bodies. The soldiers left behind witnesses, though: two boys, barely teens, tied to a tree nearby, after the soldiers forced them to spend the night on the ground, between the bodies of the murdered men.

UN breaks silence on Ethiopia crisis, urges investigation into reported Tigray atrocities | 23 April 2021 | CNN

The United Nations Security Council has voiced “deep concern” over a humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region for the first time since conflict erupted there five months ago, calling for reported atrocities to be investigated.

How Twitter became a battlefield to shape Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict narrative | 23 April 2021 | Daily Maverick

Despite limited access to information about the Tigray conflict, aggressive social media campaigns – both pro- and anti-government – sprung from the Ethiopian diaspora in a bid to shape the dominant narrative for an international audience, DFRLab has found.

UN Official: May be ‘Many Months’ Before Full Scale of Tigray Rapes Known | 22 April 2021 | VoA

“Testimonies of some rape survivors reveal the brutal and heinous war being waged on the bodies of women and girls,”  Pramila  Patten, the  U.N. special representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict  said during a discussion about Tigray at Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security on Wednesday.

‘A Tigrayan womb should never give birth’: Rape in Tigray | 21 April 2021 | al Jazeera

Displaced people from Ethiopia’s western Tigray region report cases of rape, looting and extrajudicial killings allegedly perpetrated by Amhara forces.

‘No end’ to conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region | 21 April 2021 | Modern Diplomacy

Le Fonds des Nations Unies pour l’enfance (UNICEF) dénonce des rapports de viols collectifs et « un niveau de cruauté déconcertant » contre les enfants au Tigré | 20 April 2021 | UN News

Disturbing reports have continued to emerge of widespread abuse of civilians in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, nearly six months since conflict erupted, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday.

Reasons the international community is unable to end the war in Tigray | 21 April 2021 | Ethiopia Insight

The war in Tigray has resulted in a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. International and domestic observers had released reports on gang rapes, extrajudicial killings, destruction of property, and deaths from starvation. On 19 November, the European Union announced, “Progress remains very limited in Tigray, fighting is ongoing, and humanitarian access is still being prevented.” The United States and European countries have called for a cessation of hostilities and peace talks. These calls, however, have fallen on deaf ears.

Video shows the horror of rape as weapon of war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region | 19 April 2021 | France24

A horrifying video showing a doctor operating on a woman who was brutally raped in Ethiopia’s conflict-torn Tigray region has been circulating widely on WhatsApp since early March. The surgery took place in a hospital in Adigrat, in the north of the Tigray. Our team spoke to several sources who told us about what happened to this woman, who is now living in a safe house. Her story highlights the massive and widespread rape of woman in the conflict in the Tigray that began in late 2020.

UN warns sexual violence being used as weapon of war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region | 16 April 2021 | RFI

The United Nations aid chief has told the Security Council that sexual violence is being used as a weapon of war in Ethiopia’s Tigray. The US ambassador to the UN said Washington was “horrified by the reports of rape and other unspeakably cruel sexual violence” in the region, adding that Eritrean forces must be removed from Ethiopia “immediately”.

Eritrean Troops Continue to Commit Atrocities in Tigray, U.N. Says | 15 April 2021 | NYT

Eritrean troops continue to commit atrocities in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray, despite assurances by Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, that they were leaving, a senior United Nations official said Thursday.

UN Security Council Needs to Act on Ethiopia’s Tigray Region | 15 April 2021 | HRW

Today is the fifth time the United Nations Security Council will discuss the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region behind closed doors. Five months into one of the world’s gravest humanitarian and human rights crises, the UN’s most powerful body needs to end its paralysis and support concrete measures to deter further abuses.

The Tale of Eritrean Withdrawal from Tigray: But Where is the Border? | 15 April 2021 | African Arguments

During a session in parliament on March 23, 2021 Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia publicly acknowledged Eritrean involvement in his country’s ongoing civil war in Tigray but indicated that it would take some time for Eritrea’s forces to withdraw. Three days later, the Prime Minister issued a statement announcing that the government of Eritrea had “agreed to withdraw its forces out of the Ethiopian border” and that the Ethiopian army “will take over guarding the border area effective immediately”.

Women in Ethiopian conflict zone tell of gang rapes and violence by soldiers | 15 April 2021 | Business Day

The young mother was trying to get home with food for her two children when she says soldiers pulled her off a minibus in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, claiming it was overloaded. It was the beginning of an 11-day ordeal in February, during which she says she was repeatedly raped by 23 soldiers who forced nails, a rock and other items into her vagina, and threatened her with a knife.

Sexual Violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region, 30 March 2021 | 12 April 2021 | Insecurity Insight | ReliefWeb

On 4 November 2020 the Ethiopian army began a military offensive against the Tigray region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Four months later the ongoing conflict has killed thousands of civilians, displaced over two million, forced thousands of refugees to flee to Sudan, and caused widespread destruction.

In Ethiopia’s war, a retreat worthy of African ideals | 9 April 2021 | The Christian Science Monitor

Over the past quarter century, Africa’s leaders have steadily erected standards to better manage their own affairs. These are meant to strengthen the rule of law through fair elections, safeguard human rights, and promote prosperity through economic cooperation and joint peacekeeping. The African Union, the continent’s loose alliance of nations, even established a peer review process to hold politicians accountable to their new principles.

Ethiopia: conflict in Tigray threatens to finish Abiy’s dream of unity | 8 April 2021 | Financial Times

At a makeshift shelter in a school in Mekelle, capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, Gezae Wolderaphael, an aquiline-featured young sesame farmer, shows what he says are rifle butt and knife wounds on his face and shoulder. The injuries, he says, were inflicted by members of an assortment of forces who surrounded him in the western Tigrayan town of Mai Kadra last November after Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister, ordered federal troops to take control of the region. “They put a gun in my mouth,” he adds, before stabbing him and leaving him for dead in the street.

Ethiopia’s Perilous Propaganda War | 8 April 2021 | Foreign Affairs

Late last month, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed finally admitted the worst-kept secret in Africa: that soldiers from neighboring Eritrea are fighting alongside Ethiopia’s military in the Tigray region of the country. For the last five months, Abiy’s government has waged a military offensive there against the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which once dominated Ethiopia’s government and regarded Eritrea as an enemy.

Ethiopia targeting Tigray with ‘starvation crimes’ as military tactic | 6 April 2021 | RFI

Famine is looming in Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region as military operations specifically target food systems with systematic looting and pillaging of food and farms forming part of efforts to use hunger as a weapon of war, according to a new report published on Tuesday.

Starving Tigray. How Armed Conflict and Mass Atrocities Have Destroyed an Ethiopian Region’s Economy and Food System and Are Threatening Famine (pdf) | 6 April 2021 | World Peace Foundation | ReliefWeb

“They have destroyed Tigray, literally.” Mulugeta Gebrehiwot speaking by phone from Tigray January 27, 2021 The people of Tigray, Ethiopia, are suffering a humanitarian crisis that is entirely man-made. This special report from the World Peace Foundation documents how Ethiopian and Eritrean belligerents in the war in Tigray have comprehensively dismantled the region’s economy and food system. We provide evidence of their ongoing actions to deprive people of objects and activities indispensable to their survival—actions that amount to international crimes. We track the process of deprivation conducted in a widespread and systematic manner. We indicate where it is leading: in coming months, to mass starvation and a risk of famine; in the longer term, to sustained food insecurity and dependence on external assistance.

Why peace will be elusive in Ethiopia’s civil war in Tigray | 5 April 2021 | Ethiopia Insight

Despite a promise from Abiy Ahmed that Eritrean troops will leave the region, it is likely the war will continue unabated until at least the start of the rainy season in June, and quite possibly beyond.

Ethiopia: 1,900 people killed in massacres in Tigray identified | 2 April 2021 | The Guardian

Tigray: Atlas of the Humanitarian Situation (pdf) | March 2021 | University of Ghent | Researchgate

Almost 2,000 people killed in more than 150 massacres by soldiers, paramilitaries and insurgents in Tigray have been identified by researchers studying the conflict. The oldest victims were in their 90s and the youngest were infants.

Evidence suggests Ethiopian military carried out massacre in Tigray | 2 April 2021 | BBC

An investigation by BBC Africa Eye has uncovered evidence that a massacre in northern Ethiopia was carried out by members of the Ethiopian military. It also reveals the precise location of the atrocity, in which at least 15 men were killed.

G7 warns of human rights abuses in Ethiopia’s Tigray | 2 April 2021 | DW

G7 foreign ministers have expressed concern about human rights violations in Ethiopia’s conflict-ridden Tigray. They also welcomed an announcement that Eritrean troops would withdraw from the region.

‘They Told Us Not to Resist’: Sexual Violence Pervades Ethiopia’s War | 1 April 2021 | New York Times

Rape is being used as a weapon as fighting rages in remote parts of Tigray region. “Even if we had shouted,” one woman said, “there was no one to listen.”

‘Two bullets is enough’: Analysis of Tigray massacre video raises questions for Ethiopian Army | 1 April 2021 | CNN

Dawit was watching television at a relative’s one-room apartment in Axum, a historic city in Ethiopia’s war-torn, northern Tigray region, in early March when a news bulletin flashed up on the screen. Graphic, unverified footage had surfaced of a mass killing near Dawit’s hometown of Mahibere Dego, in a mountainous area of central Tigray. In the shaky video Ethiopian soldiers appeared to round up a group of young, unarmed men on a wind-swept, dusty ledge before shooting them at point-blank range — picking them up by an arm or a leg and flinging or kicking their bodies off a rocky hillside like ragdolls.

‘You don’t belong’: land dispute drives new exodus in Ethiopia’s Tigray | 29 March 2021 | Reuters

The dusty buses keep coming, dozens a day, mattresses, chairs and baskets piled on top. They stop at schools hurriedly turned into camps, disgorging families who describe fleeing from ethnic Amhara militia in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

The Horn Of Africa Civil Society Forum Report On Tigray (pdf) | 26 March 2021 | The Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum | Mekete Tigray UK

In 2018 Prime Minister (PM) Abiy started a very much welcome peace process with Eritrea. An initiative for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. However, it is now clear that the talks between PM Abiy and President Isais were not about peace and normalisation of relationships; they were high-level secret preparations for war against Tigray. A Tigray whose autonomy and whose political elites emerged as mutual enemies requiring removal, especially following the September regional elections.

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