A “dirty war” causing suffering
for “defenceless” victims is unfolding in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region,
a general said in a briefing with diplomats last week, according to an audio
recording of his comments obtained by AFP.
The statement from General Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam, head of a task
force formed in response to the Tigray conflict, represents an unusually
stark assessment of conditions in the region, where Prime Minister Abiy
Ahmed’s government asserts normalcy is returning.
“This is a dirty war because it’s affecting everything. You don’t see
fronts. The cost is immediately to those who are defenceless,” Yohannes said
during the March 11 briefing in the regional capital Mekele attended by
dozens of diplomats.
“On the atrocities, rape, crime… I cannot give you concrete evidence, but
I don’t think we are going to be fortunate to see that such things have not
happened.” The audio was authenticated by two people who attended the
Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops into Tigray on
November 4 after blaming the region’s once-dominant ruling party, the Tigray
People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), for attacks on army camps.
A communications blackout made it difficult to verify conditions on the
ground for weeks for weeks, though access has improved recently for
humanitarian organisations and the media.
The March 11 visit to Mekele was the first time most diplomats had any
access to the region since fighting began.
But while many expected they would be able to visit a hospital and sites
housing displaced Tigrayans, they were told upon arrival that their stay
would be limited to a briefing at a hotel.
Abiy declared victory in Tigray in late November after federal forces took
Mekele, though TPLF leaders remain on the run and fighting has continued.
Residents have told human rights groups and journalists of massacres,
widespread sexual violence and indiscriminate killings of civilians by
Aid workers, meanwhile, say the region’s health system has largely
collapsed and warn of possible large-scale starvation.
In his comments to diplomats, Yohannes suggested he did not see how a
military approach alone would end the conflict.
“I know very few and exceptional conflicts or violence — or fightings, let
me say — that have ended only by gun. Very few,” said Yohannes, who formerly
commanded UN peacekeeping forces in South Sudan.
He said other “mechanisms” would need to be considered, potentially
including negotiations and calls for a ceasefire, though he did not put
forward a specific proposal himself.
“I believe this is the way out. I don’t think we will escape this process,”
Abiy’s government has repeatedly said TPLF leaders need to be detained and
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)