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'Awful things are happening': Christian Solidarity Worldwide warns of atrocities in Ethiopia

by Kelly Valencia

Hundreds of people are reported to have died in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia. 

Earlier this month, an armed conflict between the Tigray Peoples' Liberation Front (TPLF) and the central government emerged after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive in response to an attack on a federal institution. 

The two governments now regard each other as illegal.

Since then, thousands of people are thought to be without any access to necessities causing many to flee to neighbouring Sudan. Head of Advocacy at Christian Solidarity Worldwide Dr Khataza Gondwe said civilians are trapped.

"Water has been cut off, access to finances, bank accounts have been frozen, food supplies have been cut off and there has been fighting."

"They have already been fleeing in huge numbers," she said. "Around 7,000 were arriving every day in Sudan, which is a country that has its own issues. Up to 40,000 people have fled out of Tigray into Sudan at this moment. And right now, we're hearing that Ethiopians are stopping people from crossing the border."

On Sunday, Ethiopian's Prime Minister gave the Tigray regional authorities a 72-hour ultimatum to surrender. Dr Gondwe said that given that the ultimatum is completed, the worst can be expected. 

"Those 72 hours are now up. And he said that the final offensive has begun and that civilians should keep away from military installations and stay in their homes. However, this offensive, he said beforehand, was going to be with artillery, bombardment and tanks. As we know, bombs don't discriminate between civilian and military targets. So, civilians in the area are in deep danger."

The UN, humanitarian activists and many charities have warned of very critical shortages in the region. More than 600 thousand people that rely on monthly food donations have not received them this month. Dr Gondwe explains Ethiopian Prime Minister is not allowing the international community to interfere.

"The international community has tried to intervene. The African Union appointed three statesmen, to intervene and bring the two sides together [and] Ethiopian Prime Minister Abbey has told them to mind their own business."

According to Amnesty International, at least one massacre has happened of targeted Tigranes although the responsibility of the killings has not been confirmed yet. 

Dr Gondwe said: "If the situation looks like it's going to deteriorate into atrocity crimes, the international community has a responsibility to protect. And we've already heard about one ethnic massacre, we're hearing about the dehumanizing speeches about one ethnic group, which is right now, its territory is under attack. Awful things are happening."

"Pray that the Prime Minister would begin to listen to good counsel," she continued. "Pray that Ethiopia will come out of this still as a united country somehow, despite what is happening, and that the whole situation would not destabilize the Horn of Africa," she added. 

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