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Ethiopia descending into widening civil war, says UN

By Ngozi Egenuka with agency report
10 November 2021   |   3:05 am
With violence escalating in northern Ethiopia, the United Nations has warned of a spreading civil war in the country. UN political affairs envoy, Rosemary DiCarlo said at a UN Security Council

Twitter suspends trend section days after Facebook removed PM’s post
• U.S., Uk, others laud OHCHR-EHRC joint investigation on Tigray conflict

With violence escalating in northern Ethiopia, the United Nations has warned of a spreading civil war in the country. UN political affairs envoy, Rosemary DiCarlo said at a UN Security Council meeting that no one can predict what continued fighting and insecurity will bring.

DiCarlo said the risk of Ethiopia ‘descending into widening civil war is only too real’, adding that the political repercussions of ‘intensifying violence in the wider region would be immense, compounding the many crises besetting the Horn of Africa’.

Addressing the Security Council, the UN, under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs said, despite much speculation on how the Ethiopian crisis would unfold in the coming weeks, “in a country of over 110 million people, over 90 different ethnic groups and 80 languages, no one can predict what continued fighting and insecurity will bring”.

“But, let me be clear, what is certain is that the risk of Ethiopia descending into a widening Civil War is only too real. The conflict in the northern region of Tigray has reached catastrophic proportions.

DiCarlo said there must be an immediate cessation of hostilities, as called for by the UN Secretary-General, African Union Commission chair, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) executive secretary, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, and the UN Security Council.

In another development, Twitter has temporarily disabled its Trends feature in Ethiopia in the latest case of a social media network becoming involved in the growing crisis in the country. The social media service announced it has suspended Trends in Ethiopia.

“We’re monitoring the situation in Ethiopia and are focused on protecting the safety of the conversation on Twitter,” Twitter said. “Inciting violence or dehumanising people is against our rules.”

Removing Trends “is, in essence, an admission of guilt,” says Odanga Madung, a fellow at the Mozilla Foundation, noted. “It means that they recognise that it is used consistently for harm and that their algorithm is in some ways complicit in amplifying that harm.”

Twitter’s move comes days after Facebook removed a post from the country’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, for violating its policies against inciting violence after he asked citizens to take up arms against rebel fighters.

Yesterday, the government declared a six-month state of emergency after fighters from the Tigray region said they had captured two strategic towns and threatened to enter the country’s capital, Addis Ababa.

Meanwhile, In a joint statement signed by 16 countries, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been lauded for their joint effort to investigate allegations of human rights violations and abuses, violations of international humanitarian and international refugee law, committed by parties to the conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia between November 3, 2020, and June 28, 2021.

The statement noted that the report demonstrates the need for further investigations into abuses and violations documented in the report as well as into allegations arising since June 28, 2021.

The countries include; Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

According to the statement, the findings of the investigation included in the joint report are grave, and there are reasonable grounds to believe that abuses and violations of human rights, and violations of international humanitarian law, such as those involving attacks on civilians and civilian objects, unlawful or extra-judicial killings and executions, torture and other forms of ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, abductions and enforced disappearances, and sexual and gender-based violence, have taken place.

The authors of the report concluded that some of these violations and abuses may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes. These acts have resulted in suffering and distress as well as an atmosphere of terror and widespread fear among the civilian population. The report highlights widespread impunity for those responsible for these acts and lack of access to support for those who have been targeted, as well as for witnesses.

They acknowledge Ethiopia’s commitment to providing redress to victims of the violations and abuses identified in the report, noting, in particular, the need for redress and support for victims of gender-based atrocities. “We urge a similar commitment be made by the Government of Eritrea and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and all other parties to the conflict.

“We also welcome the Government of Ethiopia’s commitment to a transitional justice process and its decision to establish a special prosecutor’s office and a dedicated judicial bench to oversee cases involving defendants accused of committing the violations referenced in the joint report.

“All parties must comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, including with respect to the protection of civilians and humanitarian personnel. We also call for the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces in Ethiopia and underline the need for the Government of Eritrea to ensure accountability for violations and abuses committed by its forces in Tigray,” the statement read.

The statement noted that the findings in the report show the human toll of the conflict would continue to mount, not only through the conflict but also through starvation. “As the risk of further atrocities increases, we call on all parties to immediately cease hostilities, end impunity for attacks on humanitarian personnel and cease other actions that continue to hinder the delivery of urgent life-saving assistance to the people impacted. All parties must enter into negotiations without preconditions on a durable ceasefire and commit to achieving a durable peace, underscored by justice and accountability that will enable future efforts towards reconciliation. Justice and accountability are crucial components of sustainable peace,” it read.

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