prendergast6_Minasse Wondimu HailuAnadolu Agency via Getty Images_aid in tigray Minasse Wondimu HailuAnadolu Agency via Getty Images

Accountability and Aid in Ethiopia

With no sign that Ethiopia’s civil war will end anytime soon, the US and its partners must take action where they can to save lives. In particular, financial sanctions should be broadened to prevent further human-rights abuses, and creative humanitarian intervention is needed to head off mass starvation.

WASHINGTON, DC – Now that Ethiopia’s civil war has settled into a seemingly intractable slugfest, the United States must consider its options to prevent further loss of life. The US already is deeply engaged in efforts to mediate a ceasefire, working closely with the African Union, the European Union, and other interested parties. In that diplomacy, as in most African peace processes, the US has assumed a supporting role. Nevertheless, it can take the lead on two critical and lifesaving challenges: ensuring accountability for human-rights violations and preventing the use of starvation as a weapon of war.

All parties to the conflict have committed appalling mass atrocities, and these incidents will increase with further fighting. At the beginning of the conflict, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his ally Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki saw an opportunity to wipe out their common enemy, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The Ethiopian and Eritrean government forces had early battlefield successes, accompanied by tactics such as mass rape, ethnic cleansing, and blocking food aid. But offensives by the TPLF and its ally, the Oromo Liberation Army, soon reversed the government’s military gains and for a time put the TPLF and OLA within striking distance of the capital, Addis Ababa, provoking mass diplomatic evacuations.

Under these conditions, the TPLF will not agree to a ceasefire without the kind of concessions that Abiy is unlikely to accept, prolonging the war. But human-rights abuses will most likely continue even if the TPLF and OLA eventually take Addis Ababa. To create real accountability for war crimes and find creative avenues for humanitarian-aid deliveries, US leadership is needed.

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