Panafrican News Agency

Ethiopian Crisis: Ethiopia says US' statement on its internal affairs 'regrettable'

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - Ethiopia says a statement by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the reported atrocities and overall deteriorating situation in Tigray region was an attempt to make pronouncements in its internal affairs.

The state-owned Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) quoted a statement by the Foreign Ministry as saying United States' statement with specific reference to the Amhara regional forces redeployment was "regrettable".

Mr. Blinken, in a statement issued on Saturday, expressed grave concern over reported atrocities and the overall deteriorating situation in the Tigray region following fighting between the government and forces loyal to the former regional government led by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). 

"We strongly condemn the killings, forced removals and displacements, sexual assaults, and other extremely serious human rights violations and abuses by several parties that multiple organizations have reported in Tigray," the US statement said.

Mr Blinken stressed that the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces and Amhara regional forces from Tigray are essential first steps.  "They should be accompanied by unilateral declarations of cessation of hostilities by all parties to the conflict and a commitment to permit unhindered delivery of assistance to those in Tigray." 

The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said in its statement that "such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government, which as a sovereign nation, is responsible to deploy the necessary security structures and means available in ensuring the rule of law within all corners of its borders".

It said the Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various principles in its Federal and Regional structures which are solely accountable to the Ethiopian people.

It said the current focus and priority of the Government of Ethiopia has been and still is to effectively respond to the humanitarian situation in the Tigray Region.

"In doing so, it continues to collaborate and coordinate its actions with international partners to reach out to every person in need," it said.

Ethiopia said so far it is covering 70 percent of the assistance from its own resources, while the remaining 30 percent is shared by development partners and NGOs. "So far, the ongoing relief efforts have reached out to more than three million people," it added.

“With the significant improvement on the security situation in the region, the government has now allowed unfettered access to humanitarian actors. It has also put in place an expedited clearance system to remove the bureaucratic hurdles in securing the necessary permits to operate in the region.”

It said the international community needs to scale up the ongoing relief operations, instead of continuously lamenting on the dire humanitarian situation in the region.

Ethiopia said it has given the unfettered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and independent investigation into alleged human rights violations and crimes committed in the Tigray region.

The statement said the Federal Government is mandated by the Constitution to ensure peace and security against any threats to the Constitutional order of the country.

“It is in the spirit of this responsibility and holding a nation together from treasonous and divisive forces that the Federal government has been undertaking the rule of law operations in the north of the country.”

It added that honouring international obligations and responsibilities should not be deemed by any entity as an invitation to dictate a sovereign nation’s internal affairs.

On 4 November, the Ethiopian military began operations in Tigray in response to what Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed described as attacks on federal forces and bases by forces affiliated with TPLF.

Mr Abiy said the fighting was over but the TPLF said fighting was continuing.

Human rights advocate, Amnesty International, said in a report released last Friday that Eritrean troops fighting in Tigray state "systematically killed hundreds of unarmed civilians" in the northern city of Axum on 28-29 November 2020, describing the killings as crimes against humanity.

Amnesty International said the Eritrean troops "opened fire on the streets, shooting everyone on sight and later conducted house-to-house raids in a massacre that may amount to a crime against humanity".

The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry, in its reaction to the report of Amnesty International, said the human rights watchdog should use appropriate sources in its report to uncover the truth regarding allegations related to the incidents in the city of Axum.

The Ethiopian News Agency quoted the ministry as saying the report raised serious issues that should be of great concern. However, it said the methodology employed in producing the report had its own limitations as it depended on scanty information gathered from refugees in eastern Sudan and phone interview with individuals in Axum.

"For instance, one of the sources cited in the report is found not to be a priest as he claimed but a deceptive person who lives in Boston, USA."

-0- PANA MA 1March2021