(for immediate release from TEAO)
The genocidal Abiy regime, which appears constitutionally incapable of telling the truth, continues to accuse the Government of Tigray of obstructing humanitarian aid meant for the people of Tigray. It continues to levy accusations against the Government of Tigray without providing an iota of evidence. Since the end of June 2021, the Abiy regime has imposed a devastating siege on Tigray, actively obstructs humanitarian aid, denying the entry of fuel as well as life-saving medical supplies, limiting the amount of operational cash available for aid agencies on the ground, and expelling humanitarian officials that refused to toe the line. Indeed, the UN and other international agencies have explicitly accused the Abiy regime of imposing a “de facto humanitarian blockade.” By contrast, none of these agencies has accused the Government of Tigray of obstructing aid meant for its own people. It is clear that the Abiy regime’s baseless assertions represent a poor attempt to preempt the usual barrage of international pressures that are brought to bear on a regime accused of seeking to starve its own citizens into submission.
Furthermore, the regime has also suspended banking services across Tigray, preventing Tigrayans from accessing their own savings, thereby exposing millions to unimaginable hardship. It has also imposed a total communications blackout, hoping that the truth of its atrocities would remain hidden from the world. Having placed an asphyxiating chokehold on the people of Tigray, the Abiy regime continues to manufacture false narratives about its criminal and moral culpability for its aggressive, cruel, and inhumane obstruction of humanitarian aid meant for its own citizens.
Recently, the criminal Abiy regime has resorted to a different tactic to rationalize its willful obstruction of humanitarian aid. The regime, with the direct participation of Eritrean as well as Afar regional forces, would instigate a violent confrontation along the Afar-Tigray border in Abala. It would then suspend humanitarian cargo movements on the grounds of ongoing hostilities. What the regime would not want the world to notice is that the reason we have a single viable route for humanitarian aid delivery (The Semera-Abala-Mekelle route) is that it refuses to open additional humanitarian corridors including airdropping!
On January 23, the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) issued a statement replete with the usual lies, half-truths and distortions. Among other things, it promised that the regime would allow additional humanitarian flights to Mekelle to deliver much-needed aid and medical supplies. On the same day this self-congratulatory statement was issued, a 27-trucks convoy belonging to the World Food Program (WFP) that had departed Semera on its way to Mekelle was forcibly turned back by the Afar regional government.
To take at face value the claim that the Afar regional government acted on its own would require the willful suspension of disbelief. In fact, the head of the Disaster Prevention and Risk Management agency had last week foreshadowed these developments by accusing the Government of Tigray of instigating conflict in Abala, thereby preventing aid from reaching Tigray. The state minister of foreign affairs, Redwan Hussein, had made similar claims in his meeting with the WFP’s regional director. Such a coordinated barrage of lies ahead of what would be yet another obstruction of humanitarian aid was of course designed to let the genocidal regime off the hook while levying baseless accusations against the Government of Tigray.
To the extent that hostilities along the Afar-Tigray border have had adverse impacts on humanitarian cargo movements, responsibility for it must be laid at the feet of the Abiy regime and its local intermediaries within the Afar regional government. On January 14, in its response to yet another baseless claim by the MFA, the Government of Tigray had noted that Afar special police forces were routinely crossing over into Tigrayan territory attacking our forces, and murdering innocent civilians. In fact, in December several hundred ethnic Tigrayans residing in Abala along the Afar-Tigray border were brutally murdered, with thousands forcibly evicted from their homes and an unknown number of people of Tigrayan identity were arrested and sent to Semera where they are being held incommunicado under cruel, inhumane and degrading conditions.
Even accepting the false narrative that fighting in Abala was responsible for the obstruction of aid, what then explains the obstruction of humanitarian aid during the previous 6 months? In fact, what explains the fact that no aid trucks have arrived in Tigray since mid-December? Since the end of July, no fuel tankers have been allowed into Tigray. No medical supplies have also been allowed into Tigray over the past six months. Moreover, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), no humanitarian workers have been cleared to travel by road from Semera to Mekelle since October 28, 2021.
To put the extent of the humanitarian catastrophe the regime has engineered in perspective, consider the following. Humanitarian aid agencies estimated that 100 trucks carrying food, non-food items and fuel must enter Tigray to meet burgeoning needs on the ground. However, according to OCHA, since July, only less than 15 percent of aid trucks have been allowed to enter Tigray. From July through January, over 20,000 trucks should have arrived in Tigray. In reality, fewer than 3000 trucks arrived during this period.
Having imposed a total blockade on Tigray, the Abiy regime is now doing its best to evade accountability for its siege starvation of Tigrayans—a war crime under international law. Listening to the Abiy regime’s mouthpieces’ recent statements on the humanitarian situation in Tigray, one would be forgiven for thinking that Tigray’s humanitarian nightmare began last week. In fact, as noted above, since the departure of its forces from most parts of Tigray in disarray, the regime has imposed an all-encompassing blockade that has killed thousands of Tigrayans thus far.
The Abiy regime’s baseless accusations against the Government of Tigray are, therefore, intelligible in the context of its desire to counter the widespread international consensus that it is starving its own citizens. The Abiy regime, rather than trying to find a solution in good faith, is buying manufacturing narratives in an effort to evade accountability for using hunger as a tool of war.
The international community must insist on unfettered humanitarian access (through all means including airdropping) by deploying a robust package of punitive actions or the credible threat of one. The international community must make it clear that starving one’s citizens into submission is not acceptable to state conduct in the 21st century.
Tigray External Affairs Office
24 January 2022