On 2 November Ethiopia’s federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed a peace agreement aimed at ending the country’s civil war – a conflict that erupted in November 2020 and has included serious human rights violations. Widely welcomed as a diplomatic breakthrough, the deal (among other things) commits the parties to a permanent cessation of hostilities and to securing humanitarian access to the Tigray province. However, the non-participation of Eritrea, a government ally and major party to the conflict, has raised concerns among commentators that it may frustrate the agreement’s implementation. Even so, according to the World Food Programme the agreement has opened humanitarian access to parts of Tigray, allowing it to accelerate its operations.
The International Commission of Human Rights Experts in Ethiopia believes the parties to Ethiopia’s ongoing conflict have committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and that the Ethiopian government and its allies have committed (and continue to commit) crimes against humanity. In its September report, it found that rape and sexual violence has been perpetrated on “a staggering scale” since the conflict began and, that while all parties had committed these acts, Tigrayan women and girls had been targeted with particular violence and brutality by the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces and by allied regional militia. It also found that the Ethiopian federal government has been using starvation as a weapon of war by denying humanitarian access to the Tigray Region where, it reports, 90 per cent of its 5.3 million inhabitants are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Also reported were large-scale killings of civilians by all parties.
The military conflict between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front resumed at full scale, bringing an end to a five-month humanitarian ceasefire. Between the resumption of hostilities on 24 August and the end of the month, civilian deaths have been reported to have resulted from two air strikes on Mekelle, the capital of Tigray province. The World Food Programme stated that the fighting has cut off the access it had to Tigray during the humanitarian ceasefire and that this will push those in the region further into hunger. Academics have estimated that 500,000 Tigrayans have died of hunger and related causes since the start of the conflict in November 2020.