In the space of two days, the European Union issued a statement, the United States issued a joint statement with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and finally the experts of the UN International Commission on Ethiopia issued a statement.
On 10 August, the experts of the UN Commission issued the following statement
“Statement attributable to the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia on the security situation in the north-west
GENEVA (10 August 2023) – The International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia is deeply concerned about the reported deteriorating security situation in the north-west region of Ethiopia, particularly in Amhara.
The Commission has taken note of the 4 August 2023 announcement by the Council of Ministers of a state of emergency by Proclamation No. 6/2023, which under the Constitution requires approval by the House of Peoples’ Representatives.
Previous states of emergency have been accompanied by violations of human rights, and the Commission therefore urges the Government to strictly adhere to the principles of necessity, proportionality, and non-discrimination in accordance with its international legal obligations under Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Commission calls on all sides to respect human rights and take steps to de-escalate the situation and prioritize processes for the peaceful resolution of differences.”[i]
On 11 August, a coalition led by the United States published the following statement on the website of the US embassy in Ethiopia:
“The governments of Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America are concerned about the recent violence in the Amhara and Oromia regions, which has resulted in civilian deaths and instability.
We encourage all parties to protect civilians, respect human rights, and to work together to address complex issues in a peaceful manner. The international community continues to support the goal of long-term stability for all Ethiopians.”[ii]
Finally, via X (formerly Twitter), the European Union issued a press release on the situation in Amhara on the same day.
“The Delegation of the European Union and the Embassies of Austria, Belgium, The Czeck Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherland, Romania, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden are concerned about the recent outbreak of violence on Amhara region, which has been resulted in civilian deaths and instability.
We encourage all parties to protect civilians, ensure full, safe and sustained humanitarian access to affected populations; allow for evacuations and safe passage of foreign nationals; and to work together to address complex issues through peaceful dialogue, while continuing the implementation of the peace agreement; and avoid a spill-over of violence to other regions in the country.
The international community continues to support the goal of long-term stability for all Ethiopians.”[iii]
In an attempt to explain the dramatic situation in Ethiopia and for the Amhara, the association Stop Amhara Génocide (SAG) has published an analysis by M. Elias Demissie(Amhara political analyst and advocate).
His analysis focuses on how Tigrayan and Oromo nationalism is fuelling violence and genocide against the Amhara people in Ethiopia and its history.
His article describes how Ethiopia is facing a growing crisis of violence and genocide against the Amhara people. This violence is fuelled by Tigrayan and Oromo nationalism, which has a long history of conflict with the Amhara people.
According to the author, Tigrayan nationalism emerged in the late 19th century as a way to address the economic problems of the region and to create a more unified Tigrayan identity. However, it has also been used to justify violence against the Amhara people. For example, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) annexed Wolkait and Raya from the Amhara region in the 1990s, resulting in the displacement and killing of thousands of Amhara civilians.
Oromo nationalism originated in the 16th century as a means of resisting the expansion of the Amhara empire. But it has also been used to justify violence against the Amhara people. For example, the “land to the tiller” decree issued by the Derg regime in 1975 resulted in the displacement and killing of thousands of Amhara civilians.
The recent violence in Wollega, Beninshangul, Dera and Ataye is a continuation of this history of violence against the Amhara people. This violence is perpetrated by both Tigrayan and Oromo nationalist groups with the support of the Ethiopian government.
At the end of his article, author M. Elias Demissie calls on the international community to take action to stop the violence and genocide against the Amhara people. This includes condemning the violence, imposing sanctions on the perpetrators and providing humanitarian aid to the victims.
He concludes: “The violence against the Amhara people is a reminder of the dangers of nationalism. Nationalism can be a powerful force for good, but it can also be used to justify violence and genocide. It is important to understand the history of nationalism in Ethiopia in order to understand the current crisis. [iv]
We also asked the president of Stop Amhara Genocide (SAG) Ms Yodith Gideon about the atrocities in the region and what she thought of the international community’s response this week.
“For the past five years, the Amhara people have endured a relentless wave of atrocities that have left their communities shattered and their lives in turmoil. We, the Stop Amhara Genocide Association, stand as witnesses to the horrors that have befallen our people – a saga of genocide, marginalisation, ethnic cleansing and unspeakable violence.
Torture and imprisonment have become chilling tools used against Amhara journalists, activists and intellectuals who dared to speak out against the oppressive regime. Those who sought truth, justice and equality were met with brutal repression, their voices silenced in the most heinous way imaginable.
Our calls for intervention, both from our own government and from the international community, have met with little response, and when a voice has been raised to denounce the atrocities taking place, it has gone unheard.
This lack of response to the countless letters, reports and evidence of atrocities that we have sent has given the impression of impunity to the torturers, but the response has been silence – a silence that has only encouraged the impunity of those responsible.
In the silence of the international community, the Amhara risked annihilation. Today, the Amhara are fighting for their survival – the survival of a people, a culture and a heritage that has flourished for over three millennia.
We call on the international community to stand with us, to amplify our voices and to ensure that the world hears the call of a resilient people who refuse to be silenced.”
Ms Gideon was scathing about the lack of response to calls from civil society to prevent the tragic situation of the Amhara people. However, she paid tribute to the international NGOs who, together with her organisation, tried to alert the international community.
In particular, she mentioned two NGOs with which she has worked with the United Nations.
With the help of CAP Liberté de Conscience, accredited to the United Nations, and Human Rights Without Borders, an organisation based in the European capital for 30 years, several oral and written statements have been made at recent Human Rights Councils and they intervened at the last Human Rights Committee on Ethiopia.
CAP Liberté de Conscience’s representative to the United Nations, Christine Mirre, has repeatedly alerted the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia to the security situation in the north-west.
At the “52nd regular session of the Human Rights Council Item 4: Interactive dialogue with the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on the situation of human rights in Ethiopia”.
The United Nations representative of CAP Liberté de Conscience said:
“We remain deeply concerned about the massacres and attacks on Amhara civilians in East Wellega region.
According to eyewitnesses the attacks were mainly carried out by government forces and the victims were mostly women, children and the elderly. The attacks took place for a month, since November 13, 22 until December 3, 22.
In total, two hundred eighty Amhara civilians were confirmed dead on December 3, 22. Nearly twenty thousand people managed to escape.
There are currently close to one million Amharas specifically displaced to escape ethnic based massacres from Benishangul-Gumuz, Wellega and North Shewa.
The government continues the mass arrest of Amharas. There are currently close to twelve thousand Amhara youth in prison including Zemene Kassie. Sintayehu Chekol was re-arrested at least 4 times since July 22, and Tadios Tantu has been languishing in prison for more than a year.
Prisoners are held in inhumane conditions, subjected to harassment, beating and sexual abuse.
In Addis Abeba currently close to five hundred Ahmaras houses were demolished leaving families destitute and vulnerable. As a result, 9 children died due to attacks by hyenas.
It is more than imperative that the situation suffered by Amharas be considered by the Commission and the Council so that these exactions be officially investigated.”[v]
Finally, we asked the President of CAP Liberté de Conscience about this new awareness of the worrying situation in Ethiopia, and in particular for the Amhara people.
The President of CAP Liberté de Conscience regrets that it has taken this escalation of violence to see a reaction from the international community on the issue of the Amhara and the war in Ethiopia.
He also refers to the work carried out with HRWF and SAG at the Human Rights Council and the Human Rights Committee.
“Although report after report has begun to awaken the UN bodies to the tragedy of the Amhara, our voice has not been strong enough to stop the massacres, but we continue to work with the UN so that the voice of the Amhara is heard.
He concluded by saying that CAP Liberté de Conscience will be present at the next session of the Human Rights Council.