Genocide in Tigray

We learn more about the genocide in Tigray, Ethiopia, and speak to Sarah Champion M.P. 

Not many people in my school have heard of Tigray or know where it is…and I don’t think that anyone would be able to tell you anything about what is happening there at the moment. In short, no one is really paying attention to the terrible genocide that is being committed against the men, women and children of Tigray by the Ethiopian government and their henchmen. Yet, it isn’t just others in my school who seemingly don’t know about what is happening in Tigray. Judging from the relative silence from western governments, our leaders don’t seem to know much either.

A conflict that erupted as a feud between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front has escalated into a dreadful conflict in which civilians have been target- ed and where, according to many, genocide is being committed. Recent reports state that two million people have been uprooted and hundreds of thousands face a man-made famine. Shocking accounts tell of massacres and the use of sexual violence against Tigrayan women and girls as a terrible weapon of war. Humanitarian agencies are unable to provide life-saving aid due to the blockade imposed by the Ethiopian government. The September 2021 Situation Report by global nonprofit Omna Tigray states “a minuscule 5% of the thousands of trucks of food that are needed to avert catastrophic famine death have made it into the region.”

The government in Ethiopia, led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and others have been accused of using hate speech to incite the dehumanisation and violence against all people from Tigray. Tigrayans have been labelled as ‘hyenas’, a ‘cancer’ and ‘weeds’ that need to be ‘erased.’ Ethiopian media has used euphemistic but chilling phrases such as ‘To catch the fish, you must drain the sea.’ Activists report that hundreds of ethnic Tigrayans have been arrested in Addis Ababa for no reason.

Despite the dire evidence there has been little action from western governments. Our government has sent financial aid to the region and called for a resolution to the crisis but done little else. Sarah Champion MP, Chair of the House of Commons International Development Committee recently commented that “This must not go on, and the UK Government cannot bury its head in the sand”. The Biden administration has expressed concern and imposed sanctions on some indi- viduals too. More direct intervention is not on the agenda, it would seem.

Is there hope? Is there anything that can be done? Now?

A message on Tigray from Sarah Champion, MP

“I’m really pleased that the pupils at Hampton School are taking an active interest in the disaster unfolding in the northern regions of Ethiopia. These young people are setting an example to the rest of us. They want to understand – and need to understand – international affairs. I commend them.

“In Ethiopia this latest crisis began late last year with a conflict between government forces and rebels of the Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front, named after the Tigray region where the fighting began. That war would be bad enough – but it has got much worse than a fight between these two groups. My committee has heard that innocent civilians live in constant fear of reprisal killings or rape. Millions of people have been displaced by the unrest and hunger has been used as a weapon of war.

“My Committee published a report on this terrible and desperately sad situation in April. We called on the government to use its influence – through the British Embassy in Ethiopia and through international institutions that the UK helps finance, like the United Nations – to negotiate an end to the war. The government responded constructively to our cross-party report and agreed that diplomacy was the way forward.

“But I think the government can and must do more. It must redouble its efforts.

“It is not a completely hopeless situation. Ethiopia has a long and proud history. In recent years it had one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and it boasts many highly educated people.

“Ethiopia was once a powerful Empire. It is the only African country that was never colonised by a European power. Italian facists occupied it briefly during World War Two, but British forces then helped to liberate the country. Ethiopians remember that – one of the main streets in the capital is still called Churchill Avenue.

“We have some influence in Ethiopia. Our government should use that to help end this terrible humanitarian tragedy.”

 

Sarah Champion is the Labour Member of Parliament for Rotherham in South Yorkshire. She is also the Chair of the House of Commons cross party International Development Committee. The Committee’s role is to scrutinise what the government does on behalf of Parliament, and the people of the UK, in the fields of foreign aid and development.

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