Horn Highlights: No signs yet of aid in Tigray, Food stocks in Tigray at all time low, Amnesty calls on Egypt to stop deporting Eritreans

In this week’s Horn Highlights: UNOCHA says food stocks in Tigray at all time low; Reports that no aid trucks have entered Tigray despite humanitarian ceasefire; BBC interview with women who report being raped in Amhara; National Dialogue dead on arrival, states Wight; Amhara regional president asks for Russian support to rebuild; UAE continues to send aid to Tigray; calls to protect Ethiopian patriarch; Eritrean troops remain in Tigray despite year-old announcement of withdrawal; Amnesty International calls on Egypt to stop deportations of Eritreans; and Egypt and Sudan deepen military Cooperation.

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: UNOCHA says food distribution in Tigray reached an all-time low
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that food distribution in Tigray has reached “an all-time low since March 2021”. Food stocks are almost entirely empty in the region, stopping aid distribution. Only 68.000 people, out of 5.2 million people in need, received aid in the first two weeks of March. The organisation further said that “[d]ue to stock scarcity, around 61,000 people in Mekelle received only pulses and vegetable oil, and around 1,500 people received just vegetable oil instead of the balanced three-commodity food basket.” OCHA further said on 25 March that “[w]e are now past the 100-day mark with no relief truck going into Tigray.” Tigray also faces a critical lack of medical supplies. Two researchers warn in The Conversation that many people suffering from chronic diseases have been unable to access the medicine they need to survive. Thousands of HIV patients are unable to get treatment. This number went up drastically following large scale rape in the first months of the war, state the researchers. 

Ethiopia: No aid entered Tigray despite declaration of “humanitarian truce”
The Ethiopian government has been accused of not allowing aid to pass into Tigray, despite its recent announcement of a humanitarian ceasefire. Recent UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports warn that the humanitarian situation is getting extremely bad in Tigray, with thousands lacking basic food and medical necessities. While many, including Amnesty International and UN Secretary General Guterres, hailed the move as a step in the right direction, there are many indications on the ground that despite the government announcement, aid is still being blocked from entering the Tigrayan region. The Tigrayans have announced that they would abide by the ceasefire if aid is delivered, but have since then said that aid has not yet arrived. The Amnesty International regional director, Randa Habib, said that “Tigrayans are still waiting for delivery of emergency aid where hundreds of thousands face starvation”. 

Ethiopia: BBC interviews women who experienced rape in Amhara
The BBC has interviewed several women that state they were raped by Tigrayan forces as they moved south towards Addis Ababa in summer 2021. One interviewee recalls that Tigrayan soldiers stopped her, her husband, and their son, and locked them up in a nearby house. She was then raped, and her husband killed. Four other women told the BBC that Tigrayan fighters fought their way into their place of work in Kombolcha, and raped them over several days. The BBC says that there are at least 2.200 cases of rape that have been reported in the Tigray region in the first eight months of the war, while 900 have been reported in Amhara. Amnesty International has said that rape in Ethiopia “”amount[s] to war crimes and potentially crimes against humanity”. The Tigray government did not respond to the specific BBC article, but has earlier called for an independent investigation into the rapes.

Ethiopia: Ethiopian National Dialogue “dead on arrival”
In an article published on African Arguments, Patrick Wight, senior editor at Ethiopia Insight, writes that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s National Dialogue is “dead on arrival”. He writes that many critics have pointed out that the process involves only Abiy Ahmed’s party, and does not reflect the people representing all the different ethnicities in Ethiopia. There is strong disagreement between the different groups. While the Amharans largely support it, the Tigrayans do not accept it. The Oromo people have rejected the current form of the dialogue, and the somali believe that they were not properly consulted. Wight argues that the dialogue has no chance of success in its current form, where pro-government individuals have been assigned as part of the National Dialogue Commission, without representatives from opposition groups. Instead the National Dialogue appears to be an attempt by the government to consolidate its power, and “address the gap in legitimacy the Abiy regime has faced […]”

Ethiopia: President of Amhara region asks Russia’s support
Following a meeting with the Russian ambassador to Ethiopia, Amhara regional state president Yilkal Kefale has asked Russia to provide support in the reconstruction of the region, reports Addis Standard on the basis of regional media reports. The Russian ambassador Evgeny Terekhin has reportedly said that “We are ready to work with the region to overcome this problem”.

Ethiopia: Organisations call to protect the patriarch of ETOC
14 organisations have called for the immediate intervention for the protection of His Holiness Abune Mathias I, the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (ETOC). The letter signed by the organisations strongly condemns the threats made against His Holiness by the Ethiopian government and government supporting media. In the statement, the organisations noted that His Holiness has been living under “duress” for the last 18 months, for speaking up against the human rights violations and atrocities committed by the Ethiopian forces, Eritrean troops as well as Amhara  regional state forces in Tigray. 

Ethiopia/Eritrea: Eritrean troops remain in parts of Northern Tigray
Journalist and expert on the Horn of Africa Martin Plaut says that Eritrea maintains a presence in Tigray. This comes a year after the Ethiopian Prime Minister said on 26 March 2021, following months of denial about an Eritrean involvement in the conflict, that Eritrean troops in Tigray would shortly withdraw. According to Plaut, these Eritrean troops remain present in the region. 

Egypt/Eritrea: Amnesty calls for a halt to deportation of Eritrean refugees
Amnesty International has called on the Egyptian government to immediately halt any deportations of Eritrean refugees to Eritrea. Amnesty says that it has documented how Eritrean refugees have been increasingly arbitrarily detained and deported to Eritrea. It has noted that 31 individuals have been deported between 15 and 17 March, with a further 40 Eritreans deported between October and December 2021. Egyptian authorities have been preventing refugees from accessing UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) services to follow the proper asylum procedure, and there is reportedly another group of 50 people being prepared for deportation. Amnesty has called these deportations illegal, and against Egypt’s obligations under international law. Eritrean refugees deported back to Eritrea face prison, torture, and sometimes execution, warns Amnesty. 

Egypt/Sudan: Egypt and Sudan chiefs of staff meet to deepen military cooperation
Egypt and Sudan are deepening military ties, reports Al-Monitor. The chiefs of staff from both countries met in mid-March and discussed ways to increase military cooperation between both countries. Among other things, joint exercises and a joint strategy were discussed. Both countries have been increasing military ties over the last year, states Al-Monitor. Several joint exercises were held in 2021. The meeting comes as Ethiopia has started the next phase of the filling of the GERD Dam, a move that both Egypt and Sudan are opposed to. 

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