Ethiopia: Week in Review
PM Abiy Ahmed Speech to Parliament
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed answered questions from Ethiopian parliamentarians in a 90 minute address on the Tigray conflict, human rights issues, humanitarian aid, reports of Eritrean troops, refugees, TPLF propaganda, on Welkait & deployment of Amhara regional troops, western concerns, and on an inter-party rift between members of his own party.
He confirmed that Eritrean troops have been in Ethiopia protecting border areas since the beginning of the conflict due to their own national security concerns after the TPLF launched rockets into Asmara. He also stated that the TPLF is like flour that has been scattered into the air and poured cold water on any hopes of them coming back as an entity.
The PM noted that the Welkait territorial issue will be resolved through legal means, and emphasized that 1.8 million Tigrayans had been on the Saftey Net Food Aid Program prior to the start of the conflict. He also stressed the humanitarian situation has been exacerbated by the plague of locusts, COVID-19, and the inability of farmers to harvest their crops due to the TPLF starting the conflict.
In terms of Human Rights concerns, he disclosed that he had completed a week long discussion with the leaders of the Ethiopian armed forces on strengthening discipline within the army making it clear that honorable soldiers will be rewarded and violators of human rights will be brought to justice.
Trip to Eritrea
PM Abiy went to Asmara after he gave his speech for a two day working trip with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. The following day he announced that the Eritrean President has agreed to the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from areas near the Ethiopian border.
On Human Rights
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission released a report claiming more than 100 civilians were killed in Axum in late November 2020 by Eritrean soldiers. The Eritrean Ministry of Information flatly dismissed the Ethiopian Human Rights report as fallacious.
Doctors without borders reported that four civilians were executed in their presence by what they claimed were Ethiopian soldiers.
Twelve UN representatives, including former TPLF member and current WHO director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom signed a joint statement calling on all parties in Tigray to protect the human rights of civilians. The UN in addition reported 516 cases of rape in various places in the Tigray region.
On Humanitarian Concerns
The UN stated the Ethiopian government has been more cooperative on humanitarian access and urged the international community to increase funding as there are an additional 1.3M people who need aid.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed remarked in his speech that a lot of the concerns from the international community does not match their action on the ground and he quipped that "Tweet concerns" will not feed the people of Tigray.
On US Concerns
Senator Chris Coons returned after his two day trip to Ethiopia in which he met with Prime Minister Abiy for five hours over two days as well as AU officials. He also met with Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen and Daniel Bekele, Head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. Dina Mufti, a spokesperson for the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, reported that the Senator was briefed repeatedly on how US calls for the removal of Amhara regional troops are inappropriate and infringe on the country's sovereignty. Mr. Coons, in a private briefing to reporters, said he pressed Prime Minister Abiy for a unilateral cessation of hostilities but the PM strongly rejected the proposal. The Senator said that he had a positive and promising stay.
The Biden administration will appoint Jeffrey Feltman as Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa to be the US point man on the Tigray Conflict, the border issue with Sudan, and the dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution urging all belligerents to end the conflict and respect human rights. The resolution is a simple resolution which expresses nonbinding positions of the Senate. It does not require action by the US House of Representatives nor will be signed into law by the President of the US.
On EU Concerns
The European Union imposed sanctions on the Eritrean National Security Office due to human rights concerns unrelated to Tigray. The sanctions aren't expected to have a significant impact on the organization and the Eritrean Ministry of Information called them “baseless and offensive” accusing the EU of “doggedly working to save and bring back to power the defunct TPLF clique”.
Earlier in the week, prior to the announcement that Eritrea had agreed to withdraw its troops by PM Abiy Ahmed, the EU High Representative Joseph Borrell made a statement calling for their withdrawal and independent investigations into alleged human rights abuses. He warned punitive actions might follow if these concerns aren’t addressed. He also announced that EU emissary Pekka Haavisto will be sent back on a mission to Ethiopia to assess the situation. Mr. Borrell repeated these calls again in a joint statement he made with US Secretary of State Blinken.
During a World Water Day celebration Sudanese Minister of Irrigation again called on Ethiopia to accept the EU, US, and UN as additional mediators to the ongoing AU led GERD negotiations. The Egyptian Minister of Irrigation, in their own World Water Day celebration warned that the unilateral filling of the GERD this summer will not be accepted by the Egyptian state.
Ethiopia celebrated 10 years since it started building the GERD. Prime Minister Abiy in his speech to Parliament reiterated that Ethiopia has absolutely no intention of harming Egypt and that his side is ready to sign an agreement on the filling part of the GERD negotiations. He also affirmed that the GERD filling planned this summer will proceed as scheduled with or without an agreement.
Turkish and Ethiopian leaders are looking to enhance and strengthen their relationship.
The Ethiopian National Election Board announced there will be 134,109 observers in the upcoming June 2021 elections.
The OLF accused the federal government of deploying Amhara regional forces in different parts of Oromia.
Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba appeared in a court hearing and pled not guilty to the charges against them.
Ethiopia recorded 2,097 new COVID cases in the past 24 hours taking the nationwide tally to 196,621 according to the health ministry.
Scientists have discovered a new species of chameleon living on the slopes of the Bale Mountains in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia defeated Madagascar 4 - 0 in an African Cup of Nations qualifying match in Bahir Dar. Ethiopia now leads its group and has an upcoming match against the Ivory Coast on Tuesday March 30.
NASA Earth Observatory highlights the dire need of electricity in Ethiopia.