About 600,000 People May Have Died in Two Years of Tigray Conflict, AU Envoy Says
21:19 GMT 15.01.2023 (Updated: 06:45 GMT 16.01.2023)
© AP Photo / Ben CurtisThe city of Mekele is seen through a bullet hole in a stairway window of the Ayder Referral Hospital in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia on May 6, 2021
© AP Photo / Ben Curtis
During the major armed crisis in northern Ethiopia, both fighting sides were accused of war crimes, some of which were confirmed in a report by the United Nations Human Rights Office in September 2022.
About 600,000 people may have died in the Tigray conflict, said African Union envoy, lead mediator in the peace talks, and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in an interview with the Financial Times.
Based on Obasanjo's data, the conflict is one of the bloodiest in recent history. According to him, on November 2, 2022, when the peace agreement was signed in Pretoria, South Africa, Ethiopian officials said: "We have stopped 1,000 deaths every day."
Numbers similar to Obasanjo's were estimated earlier by researchers at the University of Ghent, Belgium, who said that the death toll was between 385,000 and over 600,000, with 300,000 to 400,000 being civilians.
11 January 2023, 10:16 GMT
The head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Daniel Bekele, said that it is hard to estimate the real number of casualties. "We will probably not be able to know the full number of casualties," he said, noting: "We need to be cautious about overly exaggerated death toll estimates by all sides."
The Financial Times cited several Ethiopian officials saying that the death toll is closer to 80,000 or 100,000.
The conflict erupted in November 2020 when nationalist group the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) attacked Ethiopian military bases in what the rebels called a preemptive strike. The crisis lasted for two years, with the main belligerents being the Ethiopian government with purported assistance from Eritrea, and the TPLF on the other.
The TPLF was dominant in the coalition that governed Ethiopia from 1991 to 2018. After the group lost its position, tensions began to grow between it and the new Ethiopian government.
In June 2021, Tigray rebels seized the city of Mekele, the region's administrative center, after which the government declared a ceasefire. However, the rebels announced a new offensive, took control of a part of Tigray, and broke into the Amhara region.
A new armistice was achieved only in March 2022, when the Ethiopian authorities proclaimed a humanitarian ceasefire with no fixed deadline to deliver humanitarian aid to Tigray. The rebels agreed to respect the armistice. However, in August, after an interval of five months, hostilities resumed.
On November 2, 2022, the parties to the conflict sealed a cessation of hostilities agreement in Pretoria as a result of an AU-led peace process and agreed 10 days later on a disarmament roadmap. The latter stipulated the separation of forces in four specific areas followed by the handover of heavy weapons, along with the withdrawal of foreign troops.
Eritrea was not a party to the Pretoria treaty, but, according to Obasanjo, it follows the conditions of the agreement that demand withdrawal, with "all Eritreans" currently "at the border."
14 January 2023, 14:44 GMT