Ethiopia, Eritrea rubbish US claims of war crimes in Tigray

Wednesday March 22 2023
Ethiopia and Eritrea leaders

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (R) and Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki speaking at Asmara International Airport. Ethiopia and Eritrea denied a statement released on March 20, 2023 by the US State Department claiming they committed war crimes during the Tigray war. PHOTO | ARON SIMENEH | OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER ETHIOPIA VIA AFP


The Ethiopian government on Tuesday rejected as "blanket condemnations" a US State Department's statement that determined grave war crimes were committed during the conflict in the northern Tigray region.

Eritrea, a major player in the Ethiopian conflict, also issued a statement downplaying the US allegations as something which was not new and yet which "did not stem from factual and incontrovertible evidence".

Washington accused all parties to the Tigray conflict of committing war crimes but singled out Ethiopian, Eritrean and regional Amhara forces for crimes against humanity, without mentioning forces loyal to the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

TPLF fighters are welcomed in Tigray capital Mekele

TPLF fighters in the Tigray capital Mekele. PHOTO | YASUYOSHI CHIBA | AFP

Read: Ethiopia delists TPLF as terrorist group

The Ethiopian ministry of foreign affairs said the statement issued on Monday by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was "untimely". The ministry said the allegation came shortly after the launch of national consultations on options for a transitional justice policy.


"The government of Ethiopia does not accept the blanket condemnations contained in the statement and does not see any value in such a unilateral as well as adversarial approach" it said.

Addis Ababa said Blinken's statement was selective as it unfairly apportioned blame among different parties in the conflict. 

"For no apparent reason, the statement appears to exonerate one party from certain allegations of human rights violations such as rape and other forms of sexual violence despite the clear and overwhelming evidence about its culpability," the ministry added.

'Divisive Approach'

The Ethiopian government further said that the US statement was "inflammatory" and "ill-advised".

"Whatever the intentions of the US State Department, this statement will be used to advance highly polarised campaigns pitting one community against others in the country. As Ethiopia is implementing the peace agreement, such apportioning of blame is unwarranted and undercuts the support of the US for an inclusive peace process," Ethiopian government said.

The determination comes about a week after the top US diplomat's trip to Ethiopia last week, where he praised progress in implementing a peace deal in the country. 

Read: Blinken praises Ethiopia peace progress

Casting a Shadow 

Blinken's visit to Ethiopia was hoped to mend Washington-Addis Ababa ties which had been strained following a two-year bloody conflict in the Tigray region.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. PHOTO | EVELYN HOCKSTEIN | POOL | AFP

However, the fresh US determination has overshadowed those hopes.

"The visit of the US Secretary of State gave hope that the two countries were poised to mend their bilateral relations,” Ethiopia stated.

"The Government of Ethiopia hopes that despite the US's statement, the frank discussions held and understanding reached during Blinken's visit will help restore the strategic relations between Ethiopia and the US," it added.

Addis Ababa further said it will continue implementing all measures of accountability, including finalising the nationwide consultation on transitional justice and ensuring that justice is done for all victims.

Eritrea's Reaction 

Meanwhile, Eritrea which sent its forces to fight alongside the Ethiopian army, later on Tuesday also denounced the US allegations.

Eritrea's foreign ministry said the US allegations were "unsubstantiated and defamatory".

The Red Sea nation added that the allegation constituted a continuation of unwarranted hostility and demonisation that US administrations have pursued against Eritrea since 2009 to advance their ulterior political agendas.

Asmara said Washington must extricate itself from duplicitous and cynical acts as well as illicit meddling.

Tigray Conflict 

The Ethiopian conflict which broke out in November 2020 ended after a peace agreement was signed last November between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF.

Ethiopia Tigray peace agreement

Ethiopian government representative Redwan Hussein (left), and TPLF representative Getachew Reda shake hands on November 2, 2022 after signing a peace agreement. PHOTO | PHILL MAGAKOE | AFP

The US had played a crucial role in pushing for the peace deal by facilitating transportation and protection of TPLF negotiators to Pretoria where the peace accord was signed.

During his Ethiopia visit, Blinken held talks with the country's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonon as well as officials from both parties who negotiated the peace agreement signed in Pretoria.

Discussions mainly focused on the implementation of the peace accord, on the establishment of Tigray's interim administration as well as on establishing accountability.

In Addis Ababa, Blinken announced a new $331 million humanitarian aid to Ethiopia for the current fiscal year.

Read: Blinken announces $331m Ethiopia aid

Blinken became the highest ranked US diplomat to visit Ethiopia since Tigray peace deal was inked.