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The Genocidal War in Tigray

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Recently arrived refugees from Tigray in Ethiopia bring supplies to help set up their shelter in Raquba camp, in Kassala, Sudan. UNFPA/Sufian Abdul-Mouty

The Horn of Africa is known for its rugged terrain and perpetual humanitarian mayhems. Quite a reality, however, is the recurrent theme of regional conflicts that have seeped within the countries over the decades of escalation. While some ended in negotiation and many were parlayed into diplomatic successes, a handful of conflicts have unrooted the stability of the region. One such crisis is the massacre of Tigray; a northern region of Ethiopia, that has transitioned into one of the bloodiest civil wars in the history of Africa. What started as defiance by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) against the government developed into a bloodbath. In a blink of the eye, the region was rocked by heavy weaponry from all corners: both within and beyond the borders of Ethiopia. The conflict has mounted over 1000 deaths in the span of three months with tens of thousands displaced in utter chaos. However, what appears to be a counter retaliation by the government forces, as so claimed by Ethiopian officials, is only the tip of the iceberg as the roots of the conflict trace back decades and involve a labyrinth of regional and ethnic disparities which have exploded into a genocide in Tigray.

Ethiopia is a landlocked East-African country, the second populous country in Africa. Despite an unstable history, Ethiopia is located in a key location marked as the point of stability in the Horn of Africa. This significance is derived by its geographical positioning in the region: wedged between the trio of Sudan, Eritrea, and Somalia. Ethiopia has served as a point of buffer between these three unstable countries yet with such a sensitive location, Ethiopia has witnessed its fair share of conflicts over decades. The war with Sudan emerged in 1977 over the disputed region in the north of Ethiopia, where the country borders Sudan. Though by 1998 most of the disputes were resolved, the conflict over the northern periphery of Ethiopia, known as ‘Al-Fashaga’, remained a thorn in the budding relations. Jumping ahead a decade, a key campaign was reached by the coalition government of Ethiopia. The deal was championed by the dominating party of the coalition; the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The diplomatic strike bargained the historic compromise between Ethiopia and Sudan: the establishment of a soft border, Ethiopia recognizing the contested region as the legal boundary with Sudan. However, what was celebrated once as a victory is now one of the fuelling causes of the genocide against the TPLF and about 3 million Tigrayans. 

Another conflict flaming the deteriorating situation today in northern Ethiopia is the conflict with Eritrea that rattled the region in the penultimate year of the millennial. Unlike the settled arrears of distaste with Sudan, the Ethiopian clash with Eritrea in 1998 was a blood-ridden campaign over the contested land in the north, known as ‘Badme’. The clash costed a cumulative of 80000 deaths, mostly Eritrean soldiers. Despite the rulings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) awarding the land to Eritrea, the coalition government led by TPLF refused to withdraw from the contested land which gradually built up the tensions with Eritrea in the north. However, the dismay was not targeted towards Ethiopia in general, but TPLF specifically as the eruption of the civil war allowed the sentiments of the Eritrean army to perforate Tigray in an act to avenge the deaths burgeoning in Eritrea at the command of TPLF.

The external conflicts, however, are only the combusting elements of the escalation in Tigray. The fundamental causes root deep in the historical context of Ethiopia itself. Tigray is a region in the north of Ethiopia, dominated and governed by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a political party in Ethiopia. The TPLF had a triumphant contribution to the liberation movement in Ethiopia since 1989. The TPLF led the coalition movement that eventually came to be known as the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Diplomatic Front (EPRDF). With the fall of the Soviet Union, the Marxist ideology soon perished and the EPDRF overthrew the dictatorial rule to form a government in Ethiopia in 1991. Being the dominant party of the coalition, the TPLF reigned the harness to both military and diplomatic struggles, some of which irked the internal rivals. 

Amhara, the second-largest ethnic majority in Ethiopia, always butted heads with the Tigrayans. Despite the estimated 6% majority of the Tigrayans in Ethiopia, the TPLF enjoyed an oversized majority in the EPRDF coalition which was gradually building a general political dissatisfaction within Ethiopia. Many of the diplomatic turns, including the ‘Soft border agreement’ with Sudan, were cast in the suspicious hue of treason. The grudges and desires surfaced when the EPRDF proposed a country-wide party system to eradicate animosity in Ethiopia. While the TPLF refused to bow down to the inclusive agenda, all the rival parties merged with EPRDF to form the ‘Prosperity Party’, post the accession of the elected prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. In line with his long-term ambition to recalibrate powers in Ethiopia and eradicate federalism churned by the TPLF, Prime minister Abiy Ahmed established the prosperity party while dismembering the TPLF as the only minority party: after almost 3 decades of its political supremacy in Ethiopia.

However, the TPLF put up a fight and demanded elections in Tigray. The requests were shrugged off by the government on the account of Covid restrictions. This was the point of contention that led to escalation. What was reported as a skirmish between the TPLF and the Ethiopian Defence Forces (EDF) was quickly bombarded into warfare in November 2020. The EDF entered Tigray from southern Amhara under the ‘Law and Order Operation’ commandeered by prime minister Abiy Ahmed to crush the TPLF. Over the month, the EDF and the Amhara rebels seized western and southern Tigray while completely shattering the TPLF. 

Adding oil to the fire, the Eritrean forces penetrated northern Tigray and massacred thousands of Tigrayans, including some of the leaders of the TPLF. Notably, Prime minister Abiy Ahmed was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2019 for his remarkable feat of establishing peace with long-term foe Eritrea. However, what then came as a commendable effort renditioned in the chaos of the Tigray genocide. Not only did Eritrean forces systematically overpower the TPLF, the forces allegedly colluded with the Ethiopian defence forces to whelm the common enemy. Eritrea successfully reclaimed the long-lost town of Badme and Amhara decimated the TPLF, all whilst wreaking havoc in Tigray. 

As the Amhara flag flicker on the land of Tigray, the remnants of the TPLF are nowhere to be found. With many leaders perished and the remaining scattered over neighboring countries, the remaining Tigrayans have no voice to harken for justice. The former deputy prime minister of Ethiopia and president of the TPLF, Mr. Debretsion Gabremicael, accused the Ethiopian government of conducting a ‘Genocidal War’ against the people of Tigray. Whilst, Prime minister Abiy Ahmed declared victory over Tigray in late November. Surprisingly enough, the government neither claimed any loss of civilian lives nor admitted to the infiltration of Tigray by Eritrean forces. With thousands butchered to death, the Ethiopian government banned the TPLF in January 2021 and barricaded any source of relief to Tigray.

“All sorts of genocidal acts have been committed in Tigray”, said Mr. Debretsion Gabremicael. Over 60000 Tigrayans have fled the country as the genocide continues in Tigray. Their sole representation is crushed to the ground whilst a complete communication blackout is imposed in the region. The entrapped Tigrayans are subject to grueling gyrations of sexual assault, target killings, and rampant looting. The Tigrayans have repeatedly appealed to the International community to take action against the genocidal tendencies running wild in Ethiopia; urging the regional countries to advocate a resolve before the minority is wiped from existence. With the UN peddling the rights of Tigrayans, countries including the UK have responded strongly to the plea of the Tigrayans. Recently, the United States deemed the genocide as an ‘Ethnic cleansing exercise’. The US secretary state, Antony Blinken, urged both the Eritrean troops and the Ethiopian defense forces to immediately withdraw from Tigray. 

However, the brazen remarks of the Ethiopian Foreign minister imply anything but a near-end to the genocide. He rebuked the US secretary state: “It [the US statement] is regrettable. It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government and as a sovereign nation, it is our responsibility to deploy the security structures where necessary”. While the US has threatened to sever defense aid to Ethiopia, the famine-like situation of Tigray demands a prompt and congregational action. With blockades of food and health facilities in Tigray, no humanitarian access to the welfare groups and continual oppression of the Tigrayans, immediate action and restoration of the victims is dire and of immediate concern as the situation turns graver by the day.

I am an active current affairs writer primarily analyzing the global events and their political, economic and social consequences. Currently, I’m pursuing a Bachelors at Institute of Business Administration, Karachi Pakistan

Africa

Scaling Up Development Could Help Southern African leaders to Defeat Frequent Miltant Attacks

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Terrorism

Leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are now considering, without foreign interference, tackling frequent insurgency devastating regional development, causing havoc to human habitation and threatening security in southern Africa. This collective decision came out after the Extraordinary Double Troika meeting on 8th April in Maputo, Mozambique.

The violence unleashed more than three years ago in Cabo Delgado province took a new escalation on March 24 when armed groups attacked the town of Palma. The attacks caused dozens of deaths and forced thousands of Palma residents to flee, worsening a humanitarian crisis that has affected some 700,000 people in the province, according several reports.

Many international organizations and foreign countries have responded with humanitarian support and with financial aid aimed at alleviating situation, specifically in Mozambique and generally in southern Africa.

For example, the European Union (EU) pledged to send almost €7.9 million in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by terrorism in northern Mozambique, part of a package totaling €24.5 million for the entire southern Africa and Indian Ocean region. EU humanitarian aid to Mozambique “seeks to provide a response to the humanitarian consequences of the conflict in northern Mozambique, where €7.86 million of EU funding will be directed,” a statement from the European Commission details.

Beside horrific attacks, drought is also currently affecting Angola, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For instance, the EU will provide assistance to address a severe food and nutrition crisis in Madagascar. A further €6.00 million for helping children across the whole region gain access to education, and €8.00 million to improve the region’s disaster preparedness.

Now Southern African leaders are looking at pulling their resources together to improve the deteriorating security situation, supporting vulnerable displaced and affected people with shelter, food, protection and access to healthcare, especially in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, and further widely in southern Africa.

As a first step, SADC has called for cooperation in cross-border surveillance as essential to stem the flow of foreign fighters fomenting terrorism in Cabo Delgado, and further warning the spread of violence throughout southern Africa. Among other measures, SADC suggested that southern African police and judicial systems must consistently work to combat trafficking and money laundering that funds terrorism.

Despite these collective measures, there are still a few more questions as to whether SADC could, in practical terms, control frequent violent extremist attacks using available resources in the southern Africa.

SADC, among others, mandates for enforcing collective security in the region. While the presidents of Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have called for “an immediate technical deployment” to Mozambique ahead of another high-level meeting at the end of April, Mozambique has so far been unreceptive, according reports.

There have been various suggestions from experts. “What we have here is a human rights and humanitarian crisis that has left hundreds of thousands displaced, insecure and unable to return to their homes because of the attacks that have been ongoing,” said Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa director for Human Rights Watch. “So, the lack of security then spills over to affect everything else, including in terms of stability and economic programs that might be taking place in Cabo Delgado.

Historian Yussuf Adam, a retired professor at Maputo’s Eduardo Mondlane University, told VOA the problems dated back way beyond the start of the insurgency in 2017. He attributed to sharp disparity in development in the region.

He believes that Mozambique’s government, most importantly, has to tackle systemic poverty and inequality, in addition to resorting to a military solution. “There is no military solution. People have to be heard, and things have to be negotiated, and also people’s right to land,” he said. “People have to benefit from whatever it is will come out, is coming out, from this mining, oil, petrol and gas operations. That’s something which has to be seen and done.”

Mavhinga says, the government needs to take responsibility for its own policy failures. While militants have committed grievous acts – including rapes and beheadings – rights groups have also documented abuses by Mozambican security forces, including torture and extrajudicial killings.

South African lawyer and scholar Andre Thomashausen has also indicated that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has its own internal differences. He anticipated that this SADC summit would not be able to take concrete measures, due to the division of opinions that exists within SADC, the lack of means and manpower resources could obstruct any positive results.

Thomashausen, however, said that the previous meeting did not express any solidarity, intervention and appeal to the African Union, regional and international community, explained further that SADC clearly indicated it prefers to deal with the crisis at the regional and without foreign interference. Therefore, the countries of the southern region “continue to bet on their own initiative, on their own commitment from region.”

The final communiqué from the summit condemned the terrorist attacks “in the strongest terms” and declared that “such heinous attacks cannot be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response” but it did not suggest what such a regional response might consist of.

It further expressed “SADC’s full solidarity with the government and people of Mozambique” and reaffirmed “SADC’s continued commitment to contribute towards the efforts to bring about lasting peace and security, as well as reconciliation and development in the Republic of Mozambique.”

The summit ordered “an immediate technical deployment” to Mozambique, and the convening of an Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ by 28 April 2021 that will report to the Extraordinary Organ Troika summit on 29 April 2021.

SADC, an organization of 16 member states established in 1980, has as its mission to promote sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development through efficient, productive systems, deeper cooperation and integration, good governance and durable peace and security; so that the region emerges as a competitive and effective player in international relations and the world economy.

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Africa

SADC Summit Ends With Promises of More Meetings

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) held an Extraordinary Double Troika meeting on 8th April in Maputo to deliberate on measures on addressing terrorism and its related impact on the current development specifically in the Mozambique and generally in southern Africa. The Cabo Delgado crisis started in 2017 with insurgents taking control of parts of northern Mozambique.

One of the two troikas consists of the current, incoming and outgoing chairs of SADC (namely Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania), while the second is formed by the current, incoming and outgoing chairs of the SADC organ for politics, defence and security cooperation (Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe).

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and the ministers of international relations, defence and state security attended the meeting. It was also attended by Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

The summit was called in the wake of the terrorist attack of 24 March against the town of Palma in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, but the leaders did not pledge any immediate practical support for Mozambique.

SADC Troika heads however said the acts of terrorism perpetrated against innocent civilians in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, could not be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response and reported that 12 decapitated bodies have been found behind a hotel in the region.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has called for cooperation in cross-border surveillance as essential to stem the flow of foreign fighters fomenting terrorism in Cabo Delgado, warning of the spread of violence throughout Southern Africa.

Among the measures that the SADC countries should implement to combat terrorism is strengthening border control between Southern African countries, he said, and further added that Southern African police and judicial systems must consistently work to combat trafficking and money laundering that funds terrorism.

Nyusi stressed that the organization should implement practical acts to combat this scourge of terrorism to prevent its expansion and destabilization of the region, and warned of the risk that the actions of armed groups with a jihadist connotation could hinder regional integration.

According official reports, SADC fends off United States / European Union anti-terror intervention in Cabo Delgado. It further said no to another Mali / Somalia / Libya / Syria disaster on the African continent, adding that the global Anti-Terror lobbies are frustrated.

Deeply concerned about the continued terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado, especially for the lives and welfare of the residents who continue to suffer from the atrocious, brutal and indiscriminate assaults, the leaders decided at their meeting to deploy a technical mission to Mozambique. It’s not clear what action the region will take but the deployed technical mission will report back to heads of state by 29 April.

The final communiqué from the summit condemned the terrorist attacks “in the strongest terms” and declared that “such heinous attacks cannot be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response” but it did not suggest what such a regional response might consist of.

The Summit expressed “SADC’s full solidarity with the government and people of Mozambique” and reaffirmed “SADC’s continued commitment to contribute towards the efforts to bring about lasting peace and security, as well as reconciliation and development in the Republic of Mozambique.”

The summit ordered “an immediate technical deployment” to Mozambique, and the convening of an Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ by 28 April 2021 that will report to the Extraordinary Organ Troika summit on 29 April 2021.

The extremely brief communiqué mentioned no other specific measures.

The violence unleashed more than three years ago in Cabo Delgado province took a new escalation about a fortnight ago when armed groups attacked the town of Palma, which is about six kilometres from the multi-million dollar natural gas, according to United Nations data.

The attacks caused dozens of deaths and forced thousands of Palma residents to flee, worsening a humanitarian crisis that has affected some 700,000 people in the province since the conflicts data. Several countries have offered Maputo military support on the ground to combat these insurgents, but so far there has been no openness, although reports and testimonies are pointing to security companies and mercenaries in the area.

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Africa

African agriculture is ready for a digital revolution

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Authors: Akinwumi Adesina and Patrick Verkooijen*

After a dark 2020, a new year has brought new hope. In Africa, where up to 40 million more people were driven into extreme poverty and the continent experienced its first recession in 25 years, a brighter future beckons as the economy is forecast to return to growth this year.

Africa now has an opportunity to reset its economic compass. To build back not just better, but greener. Particularly as the next crisis—climate change—is already upon us.

Africa’s food systems must be made more resilient to future shocks such as floods, droughts, and disease. Urgent and sustainable increases in food production are needed to reduce reliance on food imports and reduce poverty, and this is where digital services come into play.

With mobile phone ownership in Sub-Saharan Africa alone expected to reach half a billion this year, digital services offered via text messaging can reach even the most remote village. And at least one-fifth of these phones also have smart features, meaning they can connect to the internet.

We can already see how digital services drive prosperity locally and nationally. In Uganda, SMS services that promote market price awareness have lifted the price farmers receive for bananas by 36 percent, beans by 16.5 percent, maize by 17 percent, and coffee by 19 percent. In Ghana, services that cut out the middleman have lifted the price for maize by 10 percent and groundnuts by 7 percent.

But digital services don’t just raise farmgate prices, they are the gateway to farm loans, crop insurance, and greater economic security, which in turn enables farmers to increase their resilience to climate change—by experimenting with new, drought-resistant crops, for example, or innovative farming methods.

Text messages with weather reports help farmers make better decisions about when and what to plant, and when to harvest.

In Niger, a phone-based education program has improved crop diversity, with more farmers likely to grow the cash crop okra, while an advisory service in Ethiopia helped increase wheat production from one ton to three tons per hectare.

The data footprints phone users create can also be analyzed to help assess risk when it comes to offering loans, making credit cheaper and more accessible.

Phones and digital services also speed up the spread of information through social networks, helping farmers learn about new drought-resistant crops or services that can increase productivity. Free-to-use mobile phone-based app WeFarm, for example, has already helped more than 2.4 million farmers find certified suppliers of quality seeds at fair prices. They can also connect farmers to internet-based services.

Examples of digital innovation abound, sometimes across borders. In Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, equipment-sharing platform Hello Tractor is helping farmers rent machinery by the day or even hour, while in Ethiopia, AfriScout, run by the non-government organization Project Concern International with the World Food Programme and the Ministry for Agriculture, provides satellite images of water supplies and crops every 10 days so problems can be spotted quickly to aid remedial action.

Transforming food systems digitally has demonstrably excellent results: the African Development Bank, which has allocated over half of its climate financing to adaptation since 2019, has already helped 19 million farmers in 27 countries to lift yields by an average 60 percent through applying digital technology, for example.

This is why the Global Center on Adaptation and the African Development Bank have launched the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) to mobilize $25 billion to scale up and accelerate innovative climate-change adaptation across Africa.

Once developed, the digital nature of these services often makes such projects easy to replicate elsewhere and scale, even across large rural areas with little existing infrastructure.

Further, adaptation projects are proven to be highly cost-effective, often delivering value many times the original investment and so helping African economies grow faster and create many more much-needed jobs.

This makes it imperative that the global resolve to rebuild economies in the wake of Covid-19 is harnessed in the most effective way. We must not simply replicate the mistakes of the past. We must build back stronger, with a more resilient and climate-smart focus.

Funding and promoting disruptive business models in which digital technologies are embedded to increase productivity without using more land or more water will create a triple win: increased production, a more resilient climate and more empowered farmers.

We have the means and the technical capability to put Africa well on the way to achieving food self-sufficiency and greater climate resilience. In doing so, we can help millions move out of food poverty. We must not squander this opportunity to create truly historic and lasting change.

AfDB

*Patrick Verkooijen is CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation.

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