News Highlights: Joint statement on detentions in Ethiopia, Dire humanitarian situation, OCHA update

In this week news highlights: WFP faces massive funding gap; Former EU envoy to the Horn warns of unraveling Ethiopia; US will wait to determine whether genocide occured in Ethiopia; Joint statement by six countries on detentions in Ethiopia; OCHA update; Ethiopian army recaptures territory; UN experts warn of sexual violence; European Parliament conference on Ethiopia; Sudan general says army will not be in politics beyond 2023 election, civilians demand immediate transfer; Turkish drones as a disruptive factor in the Horn.

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: WFP says it faces a massive funding shortfall
The World Food Programme has said that millions could face famine in Ethiopia as the organization faces an “unprecedented funding gap”. The WPF said that it faced a funding gap of $579 million in Ethiopia. It includes a gap of $316 million for food aid for northern Ethiopia in the coming six months. The WPF country director said that “There is food available in the country. But if WFP doesn’t receive commitments of new funding in the coming weeks, we will be unable to purchase and mobilise this food to prevent millions from falling into severe hunger and hardship by early next year.”

Ethiopia: Former EU envoy writes that country may “unravel”
Alexander Rondos, the former EU special representative to the Horn, has written a paper on Chatham House warning that Ethiopia will “unravel” if action is not taken soon. Rondos writes that the current conflict has the potential to trigger a chain reaction of economic collapse and “claims for self-determination”. He argues that Ethiopia’s system has been maintained by large subsidies to the frontier regions. With the conflict, and economic collapse, these subsidies have diminished. With the stability disappearing, frontier people  will then seek opportunities elsewhere. He also argues that Prime Minister Abiy’s conscription has “weaponized radical groups” and created warlords. He further argues that “[o]nce the provider of stability in the region, Ethiopia has become an exporter of insecurity.” All the agreements that maintained Horn stabilities have disappeared. This environment will have an impact on surrounding countries, with Al-Shabaab among others gaining an advantage, says Rondos. He calls for a new transition that involves the entire region.

Ethiopia: US says it will wait to make a determination of genocide in Ethiopia
The United States has said that it will wait to determine if a genocide has taken place in Ethiopia. The assistant secretary of state said that the administration had “decided to refrain at the current moment from making a public determination in order to allow space and time to see if the talks that are currently underway can make progress.” Rep. Brad Sherman, a representative from California, said that action needs to be taken quickly to avoid Ethiopia becoming a new Rwanda. He added the US needs to take every possible action to end the humanitarian blockade on Tigray.

Ethiopia: Joint statement on detentions in Ethiopia
The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Denmark, and the Netherlands have all expressed “profound concern” at the widespread detention of people “from certain ethnic groups” without charges in Ethiopia. The six countries also noted that no justification has been offered by the Ethiopian government. They also stated that the “widespread arrests of Tigrayans, including Orthodox priests, older people, and mothers with children” likely constitute violations of international law and “must cease immediately.” All six countries also called on the Ethiopian government to allow access to international monitors and urged all parties to the conflict to comply with their international obligations.

Ethiopia: OCHA update on humanitarian situation
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that 3.7 million people in Amhara, over 500,000 people in Afar and 5.2 million people in Tigray are in need of aid. Among them are 400.000, mostly in Tigray, that are facing famine-like conditions. Humanitarian access to the region remains limited. The organisation says that it has continued to provide aid, despite limited capacity. 27.000 people were aided in central Tigray last week, with 23.000 getting health assistance. Aid was also provided in Dessie and Kombolcha, where 35.000 received food supplies, and 79.000 medical aid. The organisation also warns for a large funding gap of US$1.2 billion for humanitarian operations across Ethiopia. 

Ethiopia: Ethiopian army makes advances
Ethiopian forces have captured large sways of territory over the last week. In some places they advanced 130 km in a few days. The government has also announced the recapture of several major areas. The two strategic towns of Dessie and Kombolcha were recaptured on Monday, while Gashena was taken at the end of last week. Lalibela, an important cultural town, was also recaptured by Ethiopian forces last week. An Ethiopian general told the BBC that “I cannot say we will pause once we reach Mekelle [Tigray’s capital] or other places, rather we will recapture areas at the hands of Woyane [the Tigray People’s Liberation Front]. We will follow and get rid of them.” The Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) responded that it is strategically redeploying forces.

Ethiopia: UN expert says urgent action needed to stop sexual violence
UN human rights experts, most of them Human Rights Special Rapporteurs,  have called for urgent action to stop sexual violence against women in Tigray, Amhara, and Afar. The experts said that there appears to be a “deliberate strategy to terrorize, degrade and humiliate the victims and the ethnic minority group”. They say that between November 2020 and June 2021, 2,204 survivors reported sexual violence in health facilities in Tigray. In one Facility, 90% of them were underage girls. Immediate action is necessary, including clear public instructions to armed forces, accountability, and facilitation of healthcare, say the experts. 

Ethiopia: Two MEPs hold conference on Ethiopia
Members of the European Parliament Michèle Rivasi and Jan-Christoph Oetjen held an online conference on the conflict in Ethiopia entitled “Ethiopia at crossroad”. It included interventions by Annette Weber, EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa, a representative of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Addis Standard founder Tsedale Lemma, and several professors and experts. Key discussion points among the speakers, who were often in direct opposition to one another, included press freedom, the start of the war and elections in Ethiopia. The full video of the conference will be posted when it is available. The input from speakers is linked below, where available. 

Sudan: General says military will not be involved beyond 2023
General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the Sudanese President of the Sovereignty Council, told Reuters that the military will leave politics after the 2023 election. He said that “[w]hen a government is elected, I don’t think the army, the armed forces, or any of the security forces will participate in politics.” Civilian groups have called on the military to leave politics immediately.

Horn: Concerns over Turkish drone technology capacity
In October it was reported that significant sales of Turkish drones had been made to Ethiopia. Concerns over weapons technologies in the conflict have arisen, as drones are playing a significant role in the fighting in Ethiopia. Turkish President Erdogan has said that the country is now in the top three in combat drone technology. He added that Turkey is determined to become a leader in the field, and is developing new technologies, including landing from aircraft carriers. Turkish drones however also use large amounts of imported technologies. These include engines and sensors. In October, it was confirmed that Turkish drones use German missile and sensor technology from The Hensoldt Group, partially owned by the German government. In August, 27 US members of congress called on the US government to suspend drone technology exports to Turkey. There have been many concerns about the use of Turkish drones in the Horn region, leading to instability.