Thousands of Ethiopians crosses to Sudan fleeing from Tigray

Ethiopians refugees waiting for assistance in a refugee camp in Sudan Ethiopians refugees waiting for assistance in a refugee camp in Sudan AFP

11 November 2020

Up to 200,000 refugees could cross the Ethiopian-Sudanese border as the ongoing conflict has been escalating in the Tigray region

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, more than 7,000 refugees from Ethiopia’s northern region Tigray have already entered Sudan. This number is expected to increase in the next days and weeks as finding a peaceful solution through negotiations is becoming less  probable. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is currently working with the Sudanese authorities to provide emergency assistance to those who have reached the country fleeing from the violence which erupted between the Ethiopian federal army and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Arriving refugees are being temporarily accomodated very close to the border area where they are registered and provided with water and meals. UNHCR is also working with other governments and partners to respond to displacements in the region.

The fighting started after Abiy Ahmed Ali, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, ordered a military offensive against the TLPF which rules the northern region. The pretext was an alleged TLPF attack of  a government defense post aimed at  obtaining  artillery and other military equipment. According to governmental sources, since, the federal army  carried  out airstrikes and deployed ground troops to “liberate” west Tigray. Furthermore, after having accused the elected Tigray leader Debretsion Gebremichael of treason, armed rebellion and terrorism, the Ethiopian Parliament appointed the deputy minister for sciences and higher education Mulu Nega as chief executive for  the region. Communications with the Tigray region remain almost completely cut off since the start of the military offensive, and it is not clear how the situation will evolve as Prime Minister Abiy affirmed that there would  be no negotiations with a regional government he considered  illegal.

Ethiopia’s federal government and the TPLF accuse each other of causing  the conflict and both regard the respective other as illegal. Since 2018, when Abiy came into power, ethnic and political tensions rose significantly in several areas of the country, including the Tigray region. While Abiy had declared that one of his goals was to end divisions between regional governments and grant them more autonomy  over their territories, officials in Tigray and other regions accuse the Prime Minister of increasingly centralizing power from Addis Ababa. The international community has called for a negotiated solution amidst fears  that the conflict could turn into a civil war that could  destabilize the already fragile neighbouring countries and thus threaten the entire region..


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Author: Michele Pitta

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