Horn Highlights: Report of mass killing in Afar town, Video shows Ethiopia/Eritrea cooperation, US sanctions Somali officials

In this week’s Horn Highlights: Ethiopian-allied forces accused of killings of Tigrayans; Impact of drone strikes; Tigray report says over 120.000 women and girls raped in Tigray; Video appears to show Eritrean and thiopian military cooperation during a time where it was denied; UAE sends humanitarian aid to Tigray; Analyts says clear links exist between Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia; US sanctions Somali officials over election delays; China appoints a special Horn envoy.

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Ethiopian-allied forces accused of mass killing in Abala town 
A recent report by journalist Lucy Kassa in Al Jazeera says that forces allied with the Ethiopian government went door to door targeting ethnic Tigrayans in the Abala town of the Afar region in Ethiopia in December 2021. Survivors and witnesses have told Al Jazeera that they saw hundreds of dead bodies in the streets, including young men, children and even pregnant women on 24 December 2021. “They (soldiers) protected civilians of other ethnicities and erased the Tigrayans,” said a female survivor. She added: “They killed, gang-raped, looted and arrested every Tigrayan they found in the town. Only if you knew an Afar to either hide you or help you escape, could you be saved.” Dozens of testimonies were obtained by Al Jazeera with some of them saying ethnic Tigrayans were exterminated in the town. A female survivor said: “No Tigrayans are left in the town. They committed genocide against us.” After retreating from much of Tigray in June 2021, Eritrean forces were working in collaboration with the Afar regional forces, states Al Jazeera. Witnesses said such partnership between Ethiopian and allied forces led to the attack on Tigrayan communities living in the Afar town. Witnesses had a list of 278 people who they confirmed as dead. The Ethiopian government has not yet responded to the report. 

Ethiopia: Bureau of health decries drone strikes
Writing for Devex, the head of the Tigray bureau for Health, Hagos Godefay, says that Tigrayan civilians have been continuously bombed by drones for months. He writes that study by the bureau shows that between June 2021 and February 2022, 62 strikes were carried out, with 385 civilians killed. He added that these strikes “predominantly targeted civilian installations”, with 60 residential houses, 3 hospitals, and 4 schools being among the targets. The situation is made worse by the lack of medical supplies and destruction of health facilities. He is urgently calling for unfettered humanitarian access.

Ethiopia: Video appears to show military cooperation between Eritrea and Ethiopia
A video has emerged apparently showing Ethiopian and Eritrean military cooperation in December 2020, as the conflict in Tigray started. According to experts, the video is unique due to it showing Eritrean soldiers 200 km inland, at a time when the government denied their role in the conflict. It also shows extensive cooperation between Ethiopian and Eritrean commanders. One of the Eritrean commanders was identified as Brig.-Gen. Haddish Ephrem.The video is reportedly taken near Hagere Selam, where a massacre took place.

Ethiopia: UAE sent humanitarian aid to Tigray
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) says that it has sent humanitarian aid to Tigray in cooperation with the World Food Programme. According to a statement by the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 200 tons of supplies have been sent. The statement also reaffirms a commitment to de-escalation and a peaceful resolution. The aid is significant as the UAE has been closely affiliated to the Ethiopian government which is accused of carrying out a humanitarian blockade of Tigray. It has been reported that the UAE has possibly sent weapons to the government, and that UAE drones supported the initial attack on Tigray in November 2020. 

Ethiopia: Horn analyst says there are clear links between Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia
Rashi Abdi, a former International Crisis Group Horn analyst affiliated with the Sahan think tank, says that he believes there is an alliance between Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia. He believes that the agreement is kept secret, but that elements of it can be seen through the training of Somali youths in Eritrea. Abdi also believes that the agreement has roughly been in place since the beginning of 2019. Professor Kjetil Tronvoll mentions that the training of the recruits could point to plans forged far ahead, but also possibly that the youth was trained for different reasons, but then redirected when the war started.  

Ethiopia: Tigray investigation states over 120,000 girls and women have been raped in Tigray
Tigray media reports that a recent assessment conducted by the Tigray Bureau of Health and Mekelle University estimates that more than 120,000 girls and women (aged 15 – 49) have been subjected to sexual and gender-based violence by the Ethiopian, Eritrean and Amhara forces during their 8 months of stay in Tigray region. The assessment included six zones in Tigray and did not include the western zone of Tigray.

Sudan: Deputy head comes to bilateral agreement with Russia
The Sudanese deputy head of the Sovereignty Council Hemedti has agreed with Russia’s defence minister to strengthen military cooperation between both countries. Hemedti was in Moscow as Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. According to the Sudan Tribune, they also expedite the  activation of  “the signed agreements between the two countries.”

Somalia: US restricts visas for officials accused of undermining democracy
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has announced that the US is imposing visa bans on “a number of Somali officials” for anti-democratic practices and actions. According to Al Jazeera, the sanctions were announced hours after the officials extended the election deadline. The elections, which started in November 2021, are currently taking place in Somalia, through an indirect process where clan elders elect members of parliament. The elections have been repeatedly delayed. The United States says that this is driving political instability and is undermining economic development.

Horn of Africa: China appoints first envoy to the Horn
China has appointed Xue Bing as special envoy to the Horn of Africa region. China has recently created the post. Among the stated goals of the envoy are peaceful development and promoting long term stability. China is increasingly involved in the region, loaning Ethiopia billions of US dollars in loans, and in 2017 established its first military base outside of China in Djibouti.

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