Ethiopian troops, refugees fleeing fighting cross into Sudan

Amhara militia men, that combat alongside federal and regional forces against northern region of Tigray, receive training in the outskirts of the village of Addis Zemen, north of Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, on November 10, 2020. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 11 November 2020

Ethiopian troops, refugees fleeing fighting cross into Sudan

  • Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed again vowed that his military will bring a speedy end to the fighting in the heavily armed Tigray region

NAIROBI: At least 30 armed Ethiopian troops and “large numbers” of refugees fleeing the fighting in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region have crossed the border into Sudan, the state-run SUNA news agency reported, while one diplomat on Tuesday said hundreds of people have been reported killed on both sides of Ethiopia’s week-long conflict.

Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed again vowed that his military will bring a speedy end to the fighting in the heavily armed Tigray region and the removal of its leadership, which his government regards as illegal. With the region almost completely cut off, it remained difficult to confirm either side’s claims. Each blames the other for sparking the conflict.

Sudan, which has sent more than 6,000 troops to the border, has been under pressure from the international community to help make peace and from the Ethiopian government, which seeks to cut Tigray off from the outside world.

The troops from Ethiopia’s Amhara region neighboring Tigray fled into Sudan’s Qadarif province Monday evening, the SUNA report said, citing witnesses. Local authorities have started to prepare a refugee camp for the fleeing Ethiopians, it said, while aid groups warn of a brewing humanitarian crisis affecting millions of people at the heart of the Horn of Africa region.

The Ethiopian troops turned themselves and their weapons in, and appealed for protection as fighting raged over the border, said a Sudanese military official on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

Abiy described his government’s military campaign in the Tigray region as “law enforcement operations” that he said will end as soon “as the criminal junta is disarmed, legitimate administration in the region restored, and fugitives apprehended and brought to justice — all of them rapidly coming within reach.” On Monday a military official said the air force was “pounding targets with precision.”

The African Union Commission chairman, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has called for the “immediate cessation of hostilities.” 

 

In a statement Monday, he said the AU, based in Ethiopia, is ready to support an “inter-Ethiopian effort in the pursuit of peace and stability.”

Abiy has shown no sign of opening talks with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which once dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition. Feeling marginalized by Abiy’s political reforms after he took office in 2018, it broke away last year as the prime minister sought to transform the coalition into a single Prosperity Party. The TPLF defied the federal government by holding a local election in September.

Diplomats and others assert that the conflict in Tigray could destabilize the region and other parts of Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country with 110 million people. Ethiopia has scores of ethnic groups and other regions that have sought more autonomy even as Abiy, who won the Nobel just last year, tries to hold the country together with exhortations of national unity.

Several hundred people reportedly have been killed on both the Ethiopian government side and the Tigray regional government side, a diplomat in the capital, Addis Ababa, told The Associated Press.

More than 150 citizens of European Union countries alone are thought to be in the Tigray region, which is increasingly cut off with airports and roads closed and communications largely severed, and governments are trying to ensure their consular protection, the diplomat added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“There are so many uncertainties,” the diplomat said. “How far can Abiy go with this operation while keeping the possibility of, in the end, having a more or less peaceful solution? You need the support of the people.”

Experts worry that the longer the conflict lasts, the more difficult it will be for the federal government to bring the Tigray region back to Ethiopia’s federation of regional states.

And aid groups warn the humanitarian needs will grow. A United Nations spokesman told reporters on Monday that discussions were underway on the relocation of all non-essential UN staff and on gaining humanitarian access.

Ethiopia’s state television on Monday showed scenes of federal government troops arriving in the border town of Dansha, to cheers, and of what the report said were Tigrayan militia members after surrendering to federal forces.


Foreign donors pledge $12 billion to Afghanistan

Updated 26 November 2020

Foreign donors pledge $12 billion to Afghanistan

  • Facing uncertain future, Kabul promises to see through Taliban talks stalemate

KABUL: Afghanistan on Wednesday vowed to fight graft and hold officials accountable after an international donor conference renewed its conditions-based pledge to provide the country $12 billion in foreign aid over the next four years.

“Afghanistan feels committed and pledges for the sake of the nation, for the sake of God, for its future self-sufficiency to fight against corruption,” Shamrooz Khan Masjidi, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry told Arab News.

“We want to work for good governance and for transparency and give accountability to the international aid,” he added.

The pledge was made during a two-day conference in Geneva which ended on Tuesday, where ministers from almost 70 countries and officials from humanitarian organizations spoke about funding cuts and tighter restrictions on vital aid for Afghanistan, marking further challenges for a country that is preparing for an early withdrawal of US-led troops and grappling with the pandemic.

And while the pledged amount falls short of the nearly $16 billion aid raised during a similar meeting in Brussels in 2016, Masjidi said it was a “major” sum considering the financial constraints faced by many countries amid the pandemic.

“Kabul, unlike in the past, expects donors to channel most of the aid through the Afghan budget,” he said, adding that the international community had expressed a willingness to release $3.3 billion next year and, based on a mechanism to be drawn by Afghan authorities and its representatives, review and extend more aid for 2022.

However, several of the donors imposed tough conditions for extending aid, such as progress in the intra-Afghan peace talks between the country’s government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, which have reached a stalemate since they first began on Sept. 12.

The pledge comes amid uncertainty about Afghanistan’s future and an escalation in violence as the US plans a complete withdrawal of troops from the country as per an accord signed with the Taliban in February.

The Afghan government welcomed the $12 billion in aid on Tuesday, with Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar labeling it a “success,” adding that the strict conditions set by the donors would renew focus on peace negotiations.

Taliban representatives were unavailable for comment when contacted by Arab News.

In the past, however, the group, emboldened by the February accord and US exit plan, has resisted pressure and repeated calls by Kabul and the international community to enforce a cease-fire.

Fawzia Koofi, a government negotiator who took part in the Qatar talks before returning home several weeks ago, said that both Kabul and the Taliban need to “grasp the delicacy of the situation” and the conditions attached to the aid.

“All sides now engaged in negotiations should know the urgency for peace in Afghanistan because both sides, especially the Taliban, must realize that the luxury of having the world and international community stand with us will not continue,” she told Arab News.

Koofi added that “peace and stability are vital for delivering services and good governance” in the country.

“And the worst scenario would be the international community losing hope for Afghanistan. I think both sides should understand that and show logical flexibility in the process,” she added.

However, experts said “shutting out” the Taliban from the Geneva conference “did not demonstrate inclusive peacemaking on the part of the conference organizers.”

“The Taliban can say to the donors ‘we were not present at the conference to give our view … and for stamping out corruption, please talk to your friend in Kabul,’” Torek Farhadi, an adviser to the former government, told Arab News.

Unlike in the past, the US said it had pledged $300 million in civilian aid for use next year and would extend another $300 million based on progress in peace talks. Washington has contributed about $800 million per year in civilian aid in recent years.

Farhadi said that with President-elect Joe Biden assuming power in the White House, there is a possibility of Washington expressing its view on the Taliban talks and proposing another conference involving the militant group.