November 08, 2020
FILE – U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 27, 2020.
By Lisa Schlein
GENEVA – Ethiopia’s stability is on the line as the recent outburst of fierce fighting in the country’s Tigray and Oromia regions risks getting out of hand. U.N. rights chief Michelle Bachelet called Saturday for a de-escalation of violence and for grievances in these separate but equally destructive conflicts to be settled peacefully.
Heavy clashes broke out Wednesday in the northern region of Tigray between federal and regional troops, prompting declaration of a six-month state of emergency. The Ethiopian government announced it had deployed federal troops in response to an alleged attack by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front on a military base.
Bachelet spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told VOA the eruption of fighting followed months of growing tensions between the federal government and authorities of the Tigray regional state.
“This is really quite an alarming flare-up of these tensions, which have now entered into a phase of violence. … Since then, it has been very difficult to get information exactly about what is happening on the ground, because there has been an internet shutdown and phone lines have also been cut,” Shamdasani said. “So we are very worried, especially as we are not able to access information about the impact of the clashes on civilians.”
Bachelet also deplored an attack by a group of armed men against members of the Amhara ethnic group in the Oromia region on Sunday. The government said 32 people were killed, although other sources reported many more casualties.
Shamdasani said Bachelet was concerned about the lack of proper investigations and accountability into past similarly deadly incidents.
“What that means is that, you know, people are left desolate,” Shamdasani said. “They are left feeling like there are entire communities that are pitted against each other and that this then provides fertile ground for further intercommunal clashes, more casualties.”
Shamdasani said Bachelet was calling on the government this time around to ensure prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into these incidents and to ensure that those responsible are held individually accountable.