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Ethiopia: The Cry of the Imburi

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations on November 30, 2021 at 9:33 PM

By René Wadlow

The Imburi are spirits that are said to inhabit the forests of Gabon in Equatorial Africa and who cry out for those who can hear them at times of impending violence or danger. The Imburi have been crying out over the increasing dangers of the conflict in Ethiopia which began on November 3, 2020. However, during the past year, the conflict has spread to other parts of Ethiopia and has impacted neighboring countries.

The fighting in Tigray becomes more complex each day as Ethiopian Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces and ethnic militias face Tigrayan forces. There is a buildup of Sudanese government forces on the Ethiopian-Sudan border where refugees flee into Sudan. The whole Horn of Africa, already fragile, is in danger of greater destabilization.

For the moment, all efforts for mediation proposed by the United Nations (UN), by the African Union or individual states such as the USA have been refused by the Ethiopian central government. Many of the former officials of the Tigray Province have fled to other countries. Thus, it is not clear who is in a position to negotiate for the Tigray factions were negotiations to be undertaken.

Isolated Children in Tigray (C) Rod Waddington

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has sent representatives to Ethiopia to collect information on human rights violations related to the conflict in Tigray. With great difficulty some information on massive human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law has been collected. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet has spoken out on these violations involving mass killings, rapes, and the abduction of civilians when presenting the report on November 3, 2021 in Geneva. However, she stressed the difficulties of collecting information and the impossibility to visit certain areas where massive violations were said to have taken place. Amnesty International has also tried to collect information by telephone since its representatives were not allowed to enter the country.

On November 2, 2021, a state of emergency covering all of Ethiopia was declared by the federal government. Arrests of Tigrayans living in the capital Addis Ababa followed. Travel within the country is limited and heavily controlled by the police and the military. There is talk of a wide-spread roundup of Tigrayans living in Addis Ababa and other large cities and placing them in camps. There is an increase in local self-defense groups as fear grips the country.

There are few signs of compromise or a willingness to deal with the deep consequences of the armed conflict. There might be some possibilities for nongovernmental, Track II type efforts to see where some progress might be made. The Association of World Citizens, knowing the fragile nature of the confederation of provinces which make up the Ethiopian State had made a first appeal for a ceasefire and negotiations in good faith shortly after fighting had started in early November 2020. However, for the moment, possibilities for mediation either by governments or nongovernmental organizations have not been acted upon. A situation which needs to be follow carefully.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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