Debunking 5 popular misconceptions of the situation in Ethiopia

  1. The Ethiopian Government is using hunger as a weapon of war in Tigray and now, over 5 million people are facing famine

The Government of Ethiopia’s law enforcement mission in the Tigray Region, which commenced in November 2020, has notably garnered global attention. The suffering of any Ethiopians, who are victims of a situation that was not of their choosing, remains a source of pain for 110 million Ethiopians and for the Government that represents them. Over the course of the last 7 months, there have been various efforts on the part of the government to assuage the pain and suffering of its citizens in the Region. While these efforts may have been marred by various challenges given the complexity of any armed engagement, these efforts, nevertheless, have been underway and centred on enabling the return of normalcy for our people in Tigray.

It is with these efforts in mind that the Government categorically rejects, in the strongest possible terms, any allegations that starvation is being weaponised in Tigray against the civilian population and that millions are facing famine.

As part of the Government’s comprehensive efforts to provide relief to citizens in Tigray, food and non-food items have been delivered to millions of those in need. In the first round of deliveries earlier this year, assistance was provided to 4.5 million people. In more recent months, 5.2 million beneficiaries have received emergency food aid in the scope of the Government’s second and third rounds of humanitarian assistance. Thus far, the Government has procured 70% of the total 170,798 MT (Metric Tonnes) of food which has been distributed as part of this process. These programmes will continue, with further rounds expected to address the needs of all beneficiaries in the Region.

It is also worth noting that the distribution of this assistance has been coordinated with 5 humanitarian operators in the Region, who have been working closely with Government stakeholders since late last year. These agencies include, the United Nations World Food Programme, World Vision, CARE International, the Relief Society of Tigray (REST) and Food for the Hungry (FH).

Reports of anti-farming campaigns in the Region are also unsubstantiated and not reflective of the reality on the ground. Ahead of the upcoming rainy season, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, in coordination with international partners, has been engaged in the provision of over 53,000 MT and over 7,300 MT of seed supply to facilitate planting in the Region.

With the Government’s continued provision of food assistance to the Region, allegations of starvation being used as a weapon of war are baseless and politically motivated. The concoction of figures and stories to push a particular narrative within the international community does not serve the people of Tigray, in whose name this information is being spun for fundraising, activism, and other self-serving interests.

  1. The Ethiopian Government is impeding access to the Tigray Region for humanitarian actors

Since the agreement signed between the Government of Ethiopia and the United Nations in late November 2020, the Government has been coordinating closely with agencies to enable unimpeded, sustained, and secure access to the Region.

In line with its obligation to its own citizens and longstanding commitment to international humanitarian norms, the Government of Ethiopia has been working tirelessly to improve security in the Region to ensure accessibility and the necessary conditions to speed up the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Accordingly, the Government established an Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC), at the regional capital in Mekelle, comprised of line ministries, regional bureaus, UN agencies, bilateral partners and international NGOs.

As it stands, of the total of 93 districts (woredas) in the Tigray region where humanitarian assistance is being delivered:

  • Relief Society of Tigray is the lead humanitarian actor in 40 districts in central, north-western, south-eastern, and southern zones
  • UN-WFP is the lead humanitarian actor in 21 districts in the north-western and southern zones
  • The Government of Ethiopia, through the National Disaster Risk Management Commission, is the lead humanitarian actor in 14 districts in the western zone
  • World Vision is the lead humanitarian actor in 7 districts in the eastern and south-eastern zones
  • CARE International is the lead humanitarian actor in 6 districts in the central and eastern zones
  • Food for the Hungry is the lead humanitarian actor in 5 districts in the central zone

Since the preliminary agreement signed last year, the Government has consistently been in dialogue with humanitarian partners to cut bureaucratic red tape and institute reforms to facilitate efficient access to the Region.

  • More than 202 humanitarian workers have been provided access and are actively working in the Region
  • The case-by-case access clearance procedures for humanitarian aid providers has been replaced by a blanket approval process
  • In the areas where safe movement of humanitarian cargos are strained, military escorts have been provided as a last resort to ensure relief reaches those in need
  • Visa extensions have been facilitated to ensure the scaling up and continuity of humanitarian work. Currently visas are being granted for a period of three months.

As exemplified by our efforts to date, the Government of Ethiopia has walked the talk in relation to the provision of unimpeded access in the Region. Nonetheless, the work of supporting our citizens in Tigray continues and the Government will engage with all humanitarian actors on the ground, while calling for greater support from partners and friends in the international community.

  1. The Ethiopian Government is against independent investigations into alleged human rights violations in the Tigray Region

The Ethiopian government has consistently condemned all acts that put the life and dignity of civilians in danger and has repeatedly shown and proved its commitment to hold those responsible for any alleged crimes to account.

Investigation into the alleged crimes committed in the Region during the course of the law enforcement operation are currently ongoing with four entities currently engaged including: the military courts and prosecutors; regional police and prosecutors; federal police and investigators; as well as independent local and international investigative bodies.

In relation to independent investigations, institutions, including the UN, AU, and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission are currently undertaking investigations in the Tigray region. In particular, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have already deployed teams of experts to the Region as part of a joint independent investigation. The results of this investigation are expected to be announced in about 3 months. Furthermore, upon the invitation of the Government, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights is also set to undertake its own investigative work in due course.

Considering these activities, the Ethiopian Government encourages the international community to refrain from drawing hasty conclusions on alleged events in Tigray prior to the conclusion of these investigations. The Government remains committed to ensuring accountability and the rule of law across the country, and will continue to exhert all efforts to aid these investigations and to ensure justice.

  1. Ethiopia is objecting to signing an agreement with Sudan and Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

As declared time and again, Ethiopia, while fully embracing its legitimate right to utilize its Nile water resources, has no desire to cause significant harm upon its downstream neighbors.

Furthermore, Ethiopia is committed to finding an amicable solution to the technical differences between the three countries through the AU-led tripartite process. This was demonstrated by Ethiopia’s recent proposal for the three countries to sign an interim agreement on first filling and related operation in parallel with continuing tripartite talks on medium to long-term issues. This proposal has yet to be accepted but remains on the table and could serve to allay downstream concerns, were they to engage in these talks in good faith.

Unfortunately, the ultimate success in the tripartite talks depend on Sudan and Egypt’s full commitment to the process, Ethiopia’s willingness alone will not bring about the positive outcomes desired by all parties.

Therefore, Ethiopia encourages all parties to recommit to dialogue in the spirit of good neighbourliness and to return to the AU-led negotiations, which remain the ideal platform to facilitate a mutually beneficial outcome for the people of the three riparian countries.

  1. The upcoming elections in Ethiopia will not be competitive, inclusive or fair

Ethiopia’s 6th National Elections are scheduled to take place on Monday 21 June 2021. The highly anticipated elections will arguably be the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia’s first attempt at free and fair elections.

Thus far, significant progress has been made in anticipation of the polls, including:

  • Conclusion of voter registration, which has seen 37,408,600 citizens register to vote, of which 17 million are women.
  • Representation of political parties in these elections have seen 46 of 49 registered political parties fielding more than 9,000 candidates in federal and regional constituency races
  • Engagement of over 190 domestic civil society organisations in the provision of voter education
  • 34 domestic civil society organisations are deploying over 100,000 Ethiopians in the observation of the vote and other electoral activities across the country
  • In addition to domestic observers, international observer groups from the African Union, United States, European Union and Russian Federation, as well as diplomatic staff from embassies located in Ethiopia, are set to observe the upcoming polls
  • A National Election Security Committee comprising members of the Federal Police, the Attorney General, the National Intelligence and Security Service, and the Ministry of Defence and regional representatives has been established by the government to ensure a peaceful and legitimate election

The Government of Ethiopia continues to be committed to holding democratic and peaceful elections in the country and wishes to encourage its international partners to bolster these efforts through tangible support for the ongoing democratic transition in the country.

—ENDS—

The Brief


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