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One year after Tigray peace deal, rights abuses persist

One year after a deal was signed to end the war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, there were calls Thursday for more to be done to protect civilians and ensure justice for victims of atrocities. Human Rights Watch and a group of foreign governments said rights abuses were continuing in Africa’s second most populous country despite the peace agreement reached in Pretoria on November 2, 2022. The two-year conflict between forces loyal to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front killed half a million people, according to the United States, with all sides accused of atrocities such as massacres and rapes. While the African Union-brokered deal brought an end to fighting in Tigray, clashes have since erupted in other parts of the country, notably in the Amhara region, whose forces supported federal troops during the war. “While the Ethiopian government and its international partners tout the tremendous progress made in the past year, civilians in conflict areas are still bearing the brunt of atrocities,” said HRW’s deputy Africa director Laetitia Bader. – ‘No consequences’ – HRW said Eritrean forces, which backed Abiy during the conflict, had “carried out killings, sexual violence, abductions, and pillage, and obstructed humanitarian assistance, and impeded the work of AU monitors” following the peace deal. “The United Nations and concerned governments should maintain pressure on the Ethiopian government to deliver on its commitments to ensure that civilians are protected and to set clear benchmarks for ensuring victims’ access to justice,” it added. The federal government’s decision to impose a six-month state of emergency in early August in Amhara has also raised fears, with the UN-backed International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia warning of an increase in abuses in the region. HRW spoke to a 24-year-old woman in the North Gondar zone in Amhara who said: “People are getting killed and arrested. Things are much worse. I don’t feel safe right now. No one is feeling safe.” Tensions surged after Abiy’s government announced in April that it was dismantling regional forces across the country, triggering protests by Amhara nationalists. Bader said Ethiopia was witnessing “past violators repeat patterns of abuses without consequences”. “Governments supporting Ethiopia’s fragile truce cannot afford to look away as crises in Ethiopia mount,” she said. “Ethiopia’s many victims deserve a future that is not marred by recurring abuses and impunity.” – ‘More needs to be done’ – The head of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said Thursday that the AU was “ready to consolidate the gains being made and resolve the pending issues” in implementing the Pretoria agreement. Faki “congratulates Ethiopians for embracing peace, national dialogue and reconciliation,” an AU statement said. The embassies of 10 nations including Britain, Australia, Norway, Canada and Japan hailed the Tigray deal as a “momentous achievement” but warned that “more needs to be done to protect, sustain and realise peace for all citizens”. The statement, which was also signed by the embassies of Finland, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand and the Netherlands, called attention to the “continuous human rights violations in many places” in Ethiopia. Rights groups have voiced concern about the scrapping last month of the UN-backed rights commission, with Amnesty International describing it as a betrayal of victims of atrocities. It is impossible to verify the situation on the ground in Amhara or Tigray as media access to both regions is heavily restricted. Although key services including banking, electricity and internet have resumed in some parts of Tigray over the past year, one million people remain displaced across the region, according to the International Organization for Migration.

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