Horn Highlights: Starvation looms over Tigray and the Horn, Ethiopian soldiers ask asylum in Sudan, Violence in West Darfur

In this week’s Horn Highlights: Few aid trucks arrive in Tigray; 1,900 children dead of starvation, says Tigray bureau of health; Debretsion sends letter to UN urging for humanitarian corridors; Hundreds of Ethiopians line up to fight for Russia; Ethiopian soldiers ask for asylum in Sudan; Hundreds killed in violence in West Darfur; Several Horn countries agree on defence cooperation; Suicide attack in Somalia; Drought continues to threaten mass starvation in the Horn.

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Few trucks arrive in Tigray despite ceasefire 
Since the ceasefire was declared by both conflicting parties in Tigray to allow humanitarian aid to pass at the end of march, few trucks have arrived in the region according to aid workers interviewed by Associated Press (AP). In the three weeks that have passed since then, few trucks have arrived in Tigray. One humanitarian worker told AP that “literally nothing has changed”. The UN estimates that Tigray needs 2000 trucks a week to supply the region with the emergency aid it needs. The first aid convoy since December, consisting of 20 trucks, arrived in Tigray at the start of April. A second convoy of 74 trucks arrived on 25 April. The UN says that only 3% of the necessary seeds and 10% of the fertiliser needed for farming has reached the region. USAID administrator Samantha Powers met with the Ethiopian minister of finance to discuss the situation. According to a USAID statement, Powers “stressed that much more can be done to facilitate significant and sustained humanitarian access.” 

Ethiopia: Hundreds of children in Tigray die due to hunger
A report by the Tigray regional bureau of health determined that hundreds of children under the age of five have died due to hunger and lack of nutrition in the Tigray region. The study revealed that at least 1,900 children have died in the last one year. It was noted that the number is likely higher, as many areas remain inaccessible.The famine has been brought about by blockade of Tigray due to the conflict, states the report. The Telegraph reports that hundreds of patients at Ayder Referral Hospital are sent home due to lack of supplies. Among them are patients suffering from tuberculosis and HIV. One official told Reuters that patients that do not have their own food are also being sent home. He added that only 360 patients remain in the hospital because of this. 

Ethiopia: Drought combined with conflict puts millions in danger, states WFP
The World Food Program (WFP) states the situation of Ethiopia is “catastrophic” due to the combination of the ongoing conflicts with the worst drought the Horn of Africa is currently experiencing since 1981. By the end of the year, 20 million people could face hunger, according to several sources. According to Voice Of America (VOA), Aid agencies in Africa complain that the Ukrainian crisis drives attention and funds away from Africa. Risk of gender-based violence and death during childbirth has greatly increased since people are leaving their home in search of food and taking desperate measures to survive, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Ethiopia: Debretsion urges UN to secure humanitarian corridors
Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) leader Debretsion Gebremichael has written an open letter to the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, urging the UN to secure humanitarian corridors, furnish humanitarian assistance, and lift the blockade against Tigray. Debretsion assures that the Tigrayans are looking for peace, and that they are wishing to cooperate. However, in the conclusion of the letter, the Debretsion stated that “if peaceful options are no longer viable, we will be forced to resort to other means to break the devastating blockade that has made Tigray hell on earth”.

Ethiopia: Several hundred men willing to fight for Russia in Ukraine
According to Reuters, many Ethiopians are lining up in front of the Russian embassy in Addis Ababa hoping to fight in Ukraine. Reuters reporters saw guards taking the names of the men assembled, and asking for proof of military service. There is however no evidence that Ethiopian men are fighting in Ukraine, or that they will be sent there. The Russian embassy denied recruiting soldiers. Reuters reports that some may have been drawn by rumours circling on Ethiopian social media about Russia offering 2000 USD as a signing up bonus, and the possibility of work in Russia. One Ethiopian man told Reuters that he was told Russia already had enough men, but that they would be contacted by the embassy if necessary in the future.

Sudan/Ethiopia: 528 Ethiopian soldiers ask for asylum
The Sudan Tribune reports that 528 Ethiopian soldiers of Tigrayan origin have requested asylum and are refusing to leave the country. The soldiers were posted with the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) peacekeeping mission in Abyei, a region that borders Sudan and South Sudan. The Ethiopian soldiers were being rotated out after Sudan requested their departure following border clashes with Ethiopia. The soldiers are refusing to leave as they fear to be arrested or killed if they return, according to the Sudan Tribune. Rumours of purges of ethnic Tigrayans in the Ethiopian army have continued to circulate since the conflict in Tigray started. According to the SudanTribune it is the third time that a group of Ethiopian soldiers have asked for Asylum in Sudan. Previous groups of soldiers made the same request in February and April 2021. 

Sudan: Violence leads to the deaths of 168 people in West Darfur, says aid group
A Sudanese aid group General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur says that 168 people have been killed in violence in West Darfur in the past week.  Agence France-Press (AFP) reports that fighting broke out after tribesmen took revenge against villages of the non-Arab Massalit minority. The aid group accused Arab Janjaweed militiamen of orchestrating the attacks. 

Horn: Defence institutions agree to collaborate on security in the Horn
On 16 and 17 April, Djibouti, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia held a Defense Intelligence Forum that led to an agreement to collectively fight ‘terrorists’ and ‘anti-peace forces’, according to an Ethiopian Federal Defense Force statement. According to the statement, the countries also agreed to cooperate on other subjects not linked to security, like environmental protection and youth unemployment.

Somalia: Six killed in a suicide attack against Somali police chief
On 22 April, 6 persons were killed and 7 injured in a suicide atack in a restaurant of Mogadishiu followed by some gun shots, according to several sources. The aim of this attack was to kill Abdi Hassan Mohamed Hijaar, Somalia’s police chief, and 11 members of the Somali parliament that were in the restaurant. The attack was claimed by al-Shabaab, who stated that they were targeting “the grouping of apostate government officials””. This event follows a mortar strike also claimed by Shabaab, targeting the Somali parliament and injuring 6 peoples. According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, those attacks are aiming to undermine the Somali election process.

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