Situation Report EEPA HORN No. 17 – 05 December

Europe External Programme with Africa is a Belgium-based Centre of Expertise with in-depth knowledge, publications, and networks, specialised in issues of peace building, refugee protection and resilience in the Horn of Africa. EEPA has published extensively on issues related to movement and/or human trafficking of refugees in the Horn of Africa and on the Central Mediterranean Route. It cooperates with a wide network of Universities, research organisations, civil society and experts from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda and across Africa. Key in-depth publications can be accessed on the website.
Key information (in addition to what is already widely published)

International dimension (as confirmed per 05 Dec)

  • The US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs heard four witnesses on the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia.
  • European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič urges the Ethiopian government to lift the communication blockade, after speaking to refugees from Ethiopia in Sudan who had no information on the people they left behind.
  • EU Commissioner Lenarčič states that the UN-Ethiopia deal on humanitarian aid must include non-Federal government controlled areas.
  • UN states fighting is continuing in many parts of the Tigray region, including in areas with refugee camps with refugees under international protection. This complicates efforts to provide humanitarian assistance since the agreement only covers assistance to areas under federal control.
  • According to the spokesperson and advisor for the President of the Tigray regional government, fighting is ongoing on three fronts involving indiscriminate bombing in Abiy Addi (Tigray) by federal forces and Eritrea.
  • Reports from Eritrea that citizens are forced to participate in the war in Tigray against their will.
  • Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia Demeke Mekonnen spoke with the President of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa about Ethiopian cities’ potential to host international sports events.

Regional dimension (as confirmed per 05 Dec)

  • Reports that the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) have retaken control of the Khor Yabis area in eastern El Gedaref on the border between Sudan and Ethiopia. The demarcation of the border in the area has been unclear since the 1950s and Sudanese troops have been absent from the area for 25 years.

Human Rights (as confirmed per 05 Dec)

  • The New York Times reports that they have spoken with doctors in Mekelle which report at least 27 civilian deaths and over a 100 wounded from the shelling last saturday. This contradicts the government’s claim that the city was taken without any casualties.
  • Tigray TV has shown images of burned and shelled villages. Villagers interviewed on the TV claim that Ethiopian ENDF troops have been looting and killing people while passing through.
  • The BBC has spoken to residents in Mekelle who complained about lack of water, electricity, and looting.

Military situation (as confirmed per 05 Dec)

  • The UN has said that fighting is still taking place in many parts of Tigray. This has complicated efforts to deliver humanitarian aid.
  • TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael states per text message that fighting is ongoing in four locations previously held by the Federal Government, including two near Mekelle and two 60 kilometres North of Mekelle.
  • The Ethiopian Federal government claims most TPLF leaders are captured or killed.
  • Reports of ongoing bombing of Abiy Addi in Tembien, Tigray; 90 km from Mekelle.
  • Fire exchanges between Tigray forces and federal government soldiers around Mai Ayni (3 Dec.) and military activity converging close to Mai Ayni refugee camp. Many Eritrean refugees from Mai Ayni have fled the camp and some have been pictured walking on the roads with suitcases as they fear being killed or arrested. Mai Ayni was reportedly hit by shells on 3 December, leaving a woman, child and an elderly man injured, without medical supplies to treat the wounds.
  • Tigrayan TV has shown images of heavy artillery being used by TPLF elements.

Situation in Ethiopia (as confirmed per 05 Dec)

  • CORRECTION (Sitrep No. 15): 69 people have died in violent clashes in Konso, SNNPR (Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region)
  • Over a hundred staff of Tigrayan ethnicity from Ethiopian Airlines have been suspended from work, sparking accusations of ethnic profiling within the airline company.

Situation in Tigray (as confirmed per 05 Dec)

  • Attempts by federal troops and Eritrean troops to loot the Ayder hospital, the main referral hospital in Mekelle, 80% of patients are wounded by the bombardment of the city. Two civilians were killed and four injured as they resisted. 
  • Demonstrations by large numbers of Tigrayan civilians against federal Ethiopan and Eritrean troops in Mekelle have led to at least one death and four injuries on 3 December, doctors state. TPLF leader Debretsion states there are protests ongoing in Aksum as well.
  • Many of Mekelle’s roads have been blocked with stones. BBC spoke to Mekelle residents who spoke of looting and lack of water and electricity.
  • The UN states that humanitarian aid is delayed by logistical and security issues. It will resume operations “as soon as the situation allows”. It also noted that 1,000 refugees from Tigray arrived in Sudan on 3 December, noting that a small number of Eritreans are among them.
  • Report of heavy looting from Mekelle with trucks transporting goods to Eritrea and Amhara region.

Situation refugees (as confirmed per 05 Dec)

  • UNHCR states that over 47,000 refugees from Ethiopia have now arrived in Sudan. RFI notes that refugees arrive with often nothing but the clothes they wear.
  • Eritrean refugees in Tigray speak of lack of medical supplies.

■ Disclaimer: All information in this situation report is presented as a fluid update report, as to the best knowledge and understanding of the authors at the moment of publication. EEPA does not claim that the information is correct but verifies to the best of ability within the circumstances. Publication is weighed on the basis of interest to understand potential impacts of events (or perceptions of these) on the situation. Check all information against updates and other media. EEPA does not take responsibility for the use of the information or impact thereof. All information reported originates from third parties and the content of all reported and linked information remains the sole responsibility of these third parties. Report to info@eepa.be any additional information and corrections.

Links of interest

https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearings?ID=9D2F46CA-C05B-43BF-A027-DE90BBFF4B4C

https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20201204-un-says-tigray-fighting-hampers-aid-delivery-despite-deal?ref=tw

https://reliefweb.int/report/ethiopia/ethiopia-tigray-region-humanitarian-update-situation-report-no-7-1-december-2020