As with conflicts around the world and throughout history, civilians of the disputed country are the main victims of violence in conflicts with armed soldiers or militias. It is usually the women and girls of the area, albeit the crimes done to them either go unreported or are underreport. It is not surprising that the recent conflict in the Ethiopian region of Tigray denounced terribly graphic cases of sexual violence against women and girls, according to a recent Reuters report.
The death toll from the conflict since the beginning of November 2020, when supporters of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front attacked army bases, continues to be debated. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a November speech that no civilians were killed, while Tigray’s opposition party stated that at least 52,000 civilians were killed.To further damage his credibility, Abiy had continuously denied the presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray.
In addition, there were reports of rape and sexual violence against the female population of Tigray as early as December. Victims mostly claimed that Eritrean soldiers were responsible for the assaults, as they were distinguished by their military uniforms and different dialects and accents. However, no one was able to name their attackers, which enabled government officials to deny allegations of sexual violence in the region as well as allegations of mass murder. In addition to the rejection, there was the simple justification that there were no Eritrean soldiers in the region at all. He had also acknowledged the rape, looting and murder of civilians had occurred and that his government was taking the matter seriously and would investigate the reports.Not only did he state that the problem would be raised in Eritrea, but he also pledged to answer any member of the Ethiopian Defense Forces found guilty. While Abiy’s acknowledgment of the problem seems like a step in the right direction, one still wonders how realistic is his intention to seek justice for the affected people of Tigray. The young prime minister received the Nobel Peace Prize for finally ending the 20-year conflict with Eritrea in 2018 and was viewed by many as a revolutionary. Accountability seems to be a distant dream as the courts and police are not working in Tigray. According to the UN Security Council and various aid organizations, the Eritrean army has shown no signs of withdrawal. Indeed, Doctors Without Borders and Amnesty International have reported unprovoked killings of civilians, especially men, by Eritrean soldiers despite being asked to leave the country and raised concerns about ethnic cleansing, according to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. For the first time, Dr. Fasika Amdeselassie, the supreme health authority of the Tigray transitional government, facing the spread of sexual slavery and mass rape by soldiers on all sides against the women and girls of Tigray. 829 cases of sexual assault have been reported since November, although the number may be underreported as most of the victims were reported when their attackers were Eritreans. Mark Lowcock, UN Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Aid, has previously stated that rape is used as a weapon of war. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “We ask the Council to reconsider a statement on Ethiopia …While the UN Security Council continues to debate the situation, it is important to know that various international aid agencies and the media have reported firsthand murders, looting and rape since the conflict began. They question the role of the UN Security Council, which in the past has only managed to issue statements recognizing and condemning war crimes such as those in Syria, Yemen and Burma. It was supposed to be broadcast because of domestic politics, which led many analysts to question its role in maintaining global peace. The situation also calls into question the credibility of the Nobel Peace Prize, as the Abiys government is not taking significant action against the reports it has received. Premiere promised accountability, Ethiopia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Taye Atskeselassie Amde, accused UN officer Lowcock of “behaving not like a humanitarian but a nemesis determined to exact some kind of retribution”, for declaring rape to be a weapon of war in Tigray.
Abiy’s credibility to having deserved the Peace Prize can best continue to exist so long as his authorities actually responds to the injustices done to its civilians. It also can be as a chance to lead by example by implementing military reforms to make sure the strugglefare crimes have been now no longer used as a covert approach for collective punishment in opposition to the civilians, even as additionally retaining the responsible soldiers accountable. Abiy’s reputed aptitude for resolving conflict also can serve to reintegrate survivors of attack into society, thereby making sure post-conflict healing and enduring peace among the people.For the worldwide community, it can nevertheless now no longer be too overdue to prevent similarly escalation of the conflict that can cause a genocide in opposition to the Tigrayans.