The specter of famine threatens the Tigray region

On the eve of the G7 summit, the United States and the European Union call for combating the onset of famine. Since the start of the conflict last November, the security and health situation has deteriorated.

« Famine may already be underway in some areas, threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. It is unacceptable », Warns Linda Thomas-Greenfield, American Ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday, June 10 during a videoconference organized with the European Union. The European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenaric, calls for “ act directly and indirectly, quickly and vigorously “. 350,000 people are threatened with famine, including 30,000 children according to UNICEF. The UN says 90% of the five million Tigrayans are in need of emergency food assistance.

To understand this situation, we have to go back to 1994. With the new constitution, the state is divided into several ethnically based regions. The country was then led by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (FDRPE), mainly made up of Tigrayans, which nevertheless represented 6% nationally. Its hegemony was called into question in 2018 by popular protests leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Hailé Mariam Dessalegn. He is replaced by Abiy Ahmed from the Oromo ethnic group by his father and Amhara by his mother. Quickly, the new prime minister reformed Ethiopia: release of political prisoners, more open democratic space and peace with Eritrea. His efforts enabled him to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

A conflict that has worsened for eight months

In August 2020, the legislative elections are postponed because of the health crisis. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (FLPT), which has felt marginalized since Abiy Ahmed came to power, becomes separatist and attacks the Ethiopian army on November 4. The next day, the Prime Minister declares a state of emergency and sends the army to the region. It is helped by forces from Eritrea, neighboring Tigray, and the Amhara region, a region bordering Tigray. Rumors of massacres, rapes and looting lead the United States to denounce in March 2021 an “ethnic cleansing” in Tigray. Despite the promise of a swift war, the situation appears to be bogged down, with the government controlling towns and major roads and the FLPT receiving support in the countryside.

This deterioration in security prevents international organizations from channeling aid to the population. In retaliation, the United States imposed visa restrictions on Eritrean and Ethiopian officials suspected of fueling the conflict, and the European Union froze the disbursement of $ 50 million in budget aid to Ethiopia. The fighting prevented the harvest in good conditions, the Covid-19 pandemic having made the situation worse. The specter of famine is awakening in the Tigray region.

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