GENEVA (24 November 2020) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday urged the parties to the conflict in Tigray to give clear and unambiguous orders to their forces to take constant care to spare – and protect – the civilian population from the effect of the hostilities.
“The highly aggressive rhetoric on both sides regarding the fight for Mekelle is dangerously provocative and risks placing already vulnerable and frightened civilians in grave danger,” the High Commissioner said. “I fear such rhetoric will lead to further violations of international humanitarian law,” she added, expressing alarm at reports of a heavy build-up of tanks and artillery around Mekelle, the capital city of Tigray province following the Government’s issuance of a 72-hour ultimatum.
“Such rhetoric suggests possible breaches of the cardinal principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of hostilities that are designed to ensure the civilian population is protected.”
Responding to allegations that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is stationing itself among civilians, Bachelet stated that under international law, parties to a conflict should take all possible measures to protect the civilian population under their control from the effects of attacks, namely by avoiding, to the extent feasible, locating military objectives in densely populated areas.
“However, this does not then give the Ethiopian State carte blanche to respond with the use of artillery in densely populated areas. I remind all parties to the conflict that the obligation to respect international law is not conditional on the other party’s behavior. All parties to the conflict are bound to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law as applicable. The protection of civilians is paramount.”
In particular, the High Commissioner recalled that it is prohibited to treat as a single military objective a number of distinct military objectives located in a densely populated area.
Bachelet said she was deeply disturbed at the continuing communication blackout in Tigray province, making it very difficult for civilians to communicate with family members, and for the UN to monitor the human rights and humanitarian situation. Reports continue to emerge of arbitrary arrests and detentions, killings, as well as discrimination and stigmatization of ethnic Tigrays. More than 40,000 people have fled from Tigray province into neighbouring Sudan since 7 November.
“I implore all parties to respond positively to attempts at dialogue, and to ensure unfettered access to humanitarian assistance for those who so desperately need it, and protection and security for aid workers,” the High Commissioner said.
Now the continued “Law Enforcement Operation” continues as it has done since 3rd November 2020. The media black-out continues and the state enforce their rules to silence dissenting voices about their actions in the Tigray region. Surely, they would do the same if people leaked about the atrocities in Oromia as well. The Prosperity Party and Prime Minister Ahmed Ali Abiy doesn’t want everything out. Therefore, we have no clear idea what happens in Tigray and in Oromia. Both places has to be remembered.
However, the main focus these days are in Tigray region. As there is where the pressure, where the army and also foreign allies are supporting the warfare. This is done to get rid of one political party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPFL have a history, which is dark and grim. The TPLF should answer for those crimes in court and through due process. However, that is not what’s happening these days. The Prosperity Party, the former coalition party has gone head on with full armed forces attacking it.
The Prime Minister has cut of electricity, internet and blocked banking service. The government has closed of the roads and all sort of delivery of goods to the public of the Tigray region. The state has sacked and arrested people who Tigrayan ethnicity. Therefore, this war is more than just against the TPLF. They have attacked the general public too.
The Prime Minister have not only sent soldiers against civilians, he has bombed and used heavy artillery. Something he now orders and plans to do within 72 hours to the capital of the Region, Mekelle. The army has already been able to move closer and closer to it.
The Federal Government has announced that it will be no mercy and that the public needs finds shelter. The government are threatening the TPLF and everyone associated with it. Just like the world and the TPLF doesn’t know they are at war, which it has been for 20 days now. While they are both doing this. The state and the TPLF is taken all the other citizens hostage in the warfare. Ensuring innocent civilians becomes casualties and prey to their war-games.
It is hard to see what will give? Since the African Union Special Envoys seems futile. The Prime Minister is not willing to talk. Neither his generals or associates within his cabinet. The Federal Government only wants to secure the total annihilation of the TPLF. Therefore, what we can remember for this days is how the central government wasn’t willing and also to mediate to spare lives. Since, the ego of actually killing the enemy was more important.
With this in mind, what happens after the third operation in this war? What is the plan after this? Do you have any?
Because, even if the Federal Army takes Mekelle it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have conquered TPLF. It only mean you have taken the biggest city of the region. That you have bombed a city of half-million inhabitants and possible caused more havoc. This is the end-game.
The TPLF and Special Forces might flee to the hills to start insurgency battles instead. You are moving the battlefields and creating a possible guerrilla war. Where they will suddenly appear and they know their region. Well, it is their home and their hills. It is not like all the soldiers from other regions knows it as well. That they can read the terrain and have control of it. This is why, it’s like the PM is playing a big-man. However, haven’t thought ahead.
With all the war-games his playing. His only hardening the staunch supporters of the TPLF and the Tigray. As they got new grievances and pain of the general punishment from the state. The suffering put on them and their kin. It is like they are second grade citizens over night.
That is why, since there is no official game-plan only ad-hoc planning it seems from Addis Ababa. What happens after Mekelle falls? Do you have a plan for a possible insurgency and recruitment camps in the hills and rural areas of Tigray? Do you think the people of Tigray and TPLF will give way because you blasted their capital to pieces?
If you do… then your a naive man. Yes, men will bow their knees and ask for peace. Even if it is a fake peace. Because, everyone knows the war waged on the public here will haunt for a long time. It is not with an on- and off switch.
Mekelle is a step in a direction of consolidation of power for the Federal Government. However, it is not clear victory. Yes, it is a symbolic victory …
However, the game is not yet over. Prime Minister Abiy should know this. The world needs to know this. That this warfare and war-game of the PM isn’t over like that. Even if he writes some pieces stating the glorious achievement.
Still, he should prepare for the long game. Though I feel that’s not in him. It is easier just to get his way and get rid of the ones in his path. That is why he ordered the war in the first place.
So, I am just wondering… what’s next? How do you plant to do this?
Prime Minister have made the TPLF a “treasonous” and “illegal” organization, the PM have made their former legal entities of the armies into “militias”. That’s why you need a plan ahead. In the short-term there is a lot of gains for you and your allies. However, in the end… can these back-fire and someone else can return the favour? Have the Prime Minister considered that?
This “Law Enforcement Operation” will not be quick-fix. That can be long lasting and the heartache it has created can last for a generation. Not like the ones losing loved ones, the ones scorned by soldiers or the ones fleeing their villages. Will not remember the devastation that meet them.
It is something that will haunt them. This was done by their government towards their regional leadership. The PM better have some good plans and legislation ahead, better have aid packages and rebuilding projects lined up. Since, he ordered this and need to fix everything was broken during these days of warfare. His the man in-charge and his accountable for it.
That’s why the PM needs to address the inevitable. It is easy to come with warnings and threaten the opponent. However, what happens after Mekelle? Peace.