This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has gained access to the Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region for the first time since November 2020, amid ongoing security concerns.
During a joint mission to the area with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, we found both camps completely destroyed, and all the humanitarian facilities looted and vandalized.
In Hitsats, most of the shelters in an area known as zone A, as well as UNHCR’s offices and staff guest house, were found burnt to the ground. The mission confirmed what satellite imagery and accounts from refugees had indicated at the beginning of this year.
UNHCR is deeply concerned for the well-being of the Eritrean refugees who had been residing there, all of whom have fled the camps.
The joint mission was also able to visit Shiraro town; refugees are understood to be scattered in the area and in urgent need of safety and support. A subsequent mission will seek to identify the numbers living there and assess the possibility for UNHCR and Ethiopia’s Agency for Refugees and Returnee Affairs, ARRA, to deliver assistance and plan for voluntary relocation.
Of some 20,000 refugees that lived in the two northern camps of Hitsats and Shimelba prior the crisis, more than 7,000 have either made their own way or were assisted by Ethiopian authorities to reach the other two Eritrean refugee camps, Mai Aini and Adi Harush. In addition, we have so far been in contact with more than 2,000 refugees from Hitsats and Shimelba in Shire, Mekelle, Afar, and Addis Ababa.
In Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps, food and core relief supplies have been provided to the relocated refugees. They are currently living with relatives, in schools or other communal buildings in the camps which are already over-capacity, as well in some 500 newly-built emergency shelters. While another 100 shelters are under construction, they will not be sufficient. Urgent identification of alternative locations to accommodate more refugee arrivals is a priority, especially with the coming rainy season.
UNHCR’s individual reception, counselling and registration services have reopened in both camps. UNHCR and its partners are scaling up child protection and gender-based violence support services.
Local authorities have reported the presence of some 95,000 Ethiopians who are internally displaced within Shiraro’s administrative area. About 47,000 people were registered by authorities last month while the rest are estimated to have arrived since. To date, the vast majority of internally displaced people (IDPs) are living within the host community, and some 30,000 are living in five settlements. In Shimelba camp, the humanitarian team found over 2,000 IDPs and vulnerable host community members who had sought sanctuary in the camp.
All of the displaced people in Shiraro and Shimelba are in dire need of urgent life-saving assistance, including food, shelter, health care, water and sanitation. UNHCR reiterates the joint UN call for all parties to urgently enable the free and safe movement of affected people in search of safety and assistance, including across international and within national borders, regardless of their ethnic identification. We call for the right to seek asylum to be fully respected.
The Somali people in the Somali regional state(Ogaden) have a legal right to manage their political affairs and full self-rule upheld both by the Ethiopian constitution and international law. The most fundamental tenet of these entitlements is the right to choose their own leaders. Furthermore, Premier Abiy has promised to all peoples in Ethiopia to respect their democratic rights and open the political space.
ONLF calls for both the ruling party and the federal government to respect the wishes and dignity of the Somali people and desist from any acts that could jeopardise the stability and the wellbeing of the Somali regional state and the people.
Any political differences shall be resolved in a transparent manners where all stakeholders are consulted.
ONLF is committed to peace and democratic governance in the Somali state and Ethiopia in general and calls upon all stakeholders to adhere to the same principles.
Finally, ONLF calls upon the ruling party in the Somali state to resolve any difference internally in an amicable and transparent manner.
People are steady praising the reforms of Addis Ababa without recognizing that the state and the authorities are still violently oppressing people. The Oromo isn’t in the same regards as before, because of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Defence Force (EPRDF) have now Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali, who is a Oromo himself. That is why the besieged regions of the past isn’t as much. Even as the Amhara and Ogaden, still has it coming.
The Prime Minister have made peace with Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia. Where the troops close to the border with Eritrea is promised to cease to exist or to be redeployed. The Ethiopian troops is steady and active within the Federal Republic of Somalia. Still, the narrative, that everything has turned funky dory in Ethiopia. Isn’t all true.
That the ones who asked for better pay and went to the Prime Minister office in Addis Ababa, the young soldiers doing so is charged with 14 years in prison. That is a proof, that the state still expect respect first and later will retaliate.
The EPRDF is also trying to make peace with opposition groups, that is to show signs of betterment, but still, there should be doubts. Since there are still violent activity and killings going on. There is steady ambushes and killings in the Ogaden Region. It has been going on all of the month of December and November. Not, that it has hit the headlines, because the agreements made with Ginabot 7 (G7), Oromo Liberation Front, (OLF), Afar People’s Liberation Front (APLF), Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and Tigray People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM).
All of those agreements and movements are good news. But, likewise the sad news is that in Moyale on the 15th December, there was report of 25 Somalian killed in the town. This as Oromo militias are targeting the Somali citizens of the region and does it systematically. That should be worrying, but not like the Police either. Why I am saying it is systematic, is that on the 13th December, the same militia assaulted 60 people in the same town and killed another 17 Somali citizens there. That means around 40 people died within a week. If that isn’t striking, nothing is, but because the reforms and positive vibes comes from the capital. That overshadow the dire distress and hurt done in the Ogaden region. Which shouldn’t be forgotten in the scheme of things. Just like the distress and hurt under the State of Emergency in Oromia and Amhara of recent years. All of this should be messaged about.
Because this is lives in general, that is taken out by one group going against another. This is the group (Oromo) who was oppressed strongly during the EPRDF era. Now they are generating a para-military militia avenging their own oppression with killings in the Ogaden. This is the Oromo people attacking and killing Somali civilians. That should be told and not forgotten, as the authorities are not stopping them. The continuation of the killings should be remembered and the lost ones. Shall, not be revenged, but get justice for. So, that the ones who are in-charge and the ones who pushes this to happen. Get their punishment through court of justice.
The lives taken in Ogaden must be remembered. These lives has value and their lives deserves credit. As they were lives taken for another groups will to annex and control it.
The EPRDF if it was a reforming force, who cared about the lives in the Republic. They would have reacted and not let the continued violence happen, but they do. It continues and the Police Force, the army doesn’t stop it. Even when it persist, they are looking the other way. That is the sad reality. What is even worse. Is that the amounts of killings doesn’t make headlines or bothers any of the allies of Addis Ababa. As the villages, the border-town and other places are burning, the people are dying and the Oromo para-military groups are allowed to their part in the Ogaden region. Peace.