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  • Writer's pictureOvith Thiyagalingam

Ethiopia: The Tigray Conflict

This article discusses themes of violence and political conflict and may be triggering for some readers.

“Ethiopia went from being one of the most prosperous nations in Africa to the site of a brutal civil war. How did it get there?”

– Lauren Jackson, The New York Times

Understanding the Tigray Crisis

Ethiopia is a federal democratic republic comprised of 9 national regional states, with Tigray being the northernmost region in the country. Armed conflict erupted in the Tigray region in November 2020 between the Tigray Defence Force, and on the other hand, the Ethiopian National Defence Forces, the Amhara Regional Defence Forces, and the Eritrean Defence Forces.

The conflict began after the Ethiopian military attacked Tigrayan troops, who had pre-emptively assaulted a federal military base in Tigray. Since the start of the civil war between the Tigrayan forces and the federal forces, there has been reports of violent civilian massacres including children, mass displacement of people from the Tigray, Amhara, and Afar national regions, and conflict-related sexual violence including rape, mass rape, and gang rape. Armed forces on all sides have deliberately hindered civilian access to humanitarian aid and are committing brutal war crimes and crimes against humanity. The United States government estimates that over 500,000 people have been killed in the conflict and the millions who survived are displaced from their homes and face extreme conditions of famine.

In November 2022, after around two years of fighting, Ethiopian and Tigrayan forces reached a cease-fire agreement to bring an end to the violence. While the majority of troops on all sides have been withdrawn from the frontlines, civilians remain fearful of re-escalation of violence and in the aftermath of the war continue to face severe hardship caused by displacement and political and economic instability.

The Government of Canada's Response

Issuing a federal statement condemning the violence being perpetrated against civilians by all parties involved in the Tigray civil war, there has been little transparency on any tangible federal and international actions taken to alleviate the human rights crisis in Ethiopia. In 2021, the Canadian government committed $7 million in humanitarian funding to the World Food Programme, the Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the International Committee of the Red Cross to assist with humanitarian efforts in Ethiopia. However, there has been little follow up reporting since then to indicate where and how the funding has contributed to supporting Ethiopian civilians affected by the conflict.

Student Action

Most Ethiopians are displaced internally within the Tigray region of the country. With high levels of food insecurity, displaced civilians are faced with looming hunger and starvation. UNHCR is actively providing shelter, food, portable water, and health screening for refugees from the Tigray region.

Relief efforts include the distribution of blankets, sleeping bags, and hygiene products. You can help refugee families and internally displaced people by donating to the UNHCR emergency fund set up to support Ethiopian civilians.

Raise awareness of the global human rights issue by spreading the word about the Ethiopian crisis with your peers at school and in your classrooms.

Your actions impact change.

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