Ethiopia ‘impeding’ humanitarian access to Tigray

A leading humanitarian aid official has criticised the Ethiopian authorities for restricting access to victims of the conflict in the northern Tigray region.

Jan Egeland, now head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said aid agencies hadn’t been able to reach central and western parts of the region, as well as two refugee camps.

He said he’d rarely seen an aid response impeded so much.

Mr Egeland added that the international community was failing in its duty to reach millions of desperate people.

There’s mounting evidence that all sides in the conflict have been committing human rights abuses against civilians.

The injury-plagued life, and now death, of Asmelash Woldeselassie highlights the brutality and cyclical nature of conflicts in Ethiopia’s mountainous Tigray region.

Having joined the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) around the time of its formation in 1975, Asmelash lost his eyesight when he was bombed in his hideout in the Imba Alaje Mountain during the war that ended with the guerrilla movement marching into Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, to seize power from the notorious Mengistu Haile Mariam regime in 1991.

Then in 1998, when the TPLF-led government found itself at the centre of a border war with Eritrea, Asmelash lost his left arm in an airstrike on the regional capital, Mekelle.

In the latest conflict that has seen the TPLF return to being a guerrilla movement, Asmelash – who was a member of its executive – was killed along with two other TPLF veterans – former foreign minister Seyoum Mesfin and former minister of federal affairs Abay Tsehaye.

Ethiopia’s 44-year-old Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed – who ordered the military operation that ultimately led to their deaths – was a junior member of the TPLF-led coalition government until his rise to power in 2018.

Now, he and the TPLF are enemies fighting for control of Tigray, a strategically important region which borders Sudan and Eritrea, the gateway to the shipping routes of the Red Sea.

Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki has reportedly sent troops to Tigray to bolster the Ethiopian military’s operation and, some say, to avenge his humiliation at the hands of the TPLF during the 1998-2000 border war that left up to 100,000 people dead.

Both governments deny Eritrean troops are in Tigray, despite many Tigrayans, Eritreans and the US government saying they are there. -BBC

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