Ethiopian diplomat in US resigns over Tigray war

Thursday March 11 2021
Ethiopians from the Tigray region protest

Ethiopians from the Tigray region holds placards while they gather and protest outside the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in Pretoria, South Africa, on November 25, 2020. PHOTO | PHILL MAGAKOE | AFP


A senior Ethiopian diplomat posted to the country's embassy in the United States resigned Wednesday, citing the ongoing conflict in the country's Tigray region.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray in November to detain and disarm leaders of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the regional ruling party.

He said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps.

Though Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, declared victory after federal troops entered the regional capital Mekele in late November, TPLF leaders remain on the run and fighting has continued.

"I resign from my post in protest of the genocidal war in Tigray, and in protest of all the oppression and destruction the government is inflicting on the rest of Ethiopia," Berhane Kidanemariam, the deputy chief of mission in Washington, said in an open letter.

A communications blackout and media access restrictions have made it difficult to assess the conflict's toll.


Rights groups have documented atrocities in multiple locations, and aid workers warn of a humanitarian catastrophe. 

Abiy's government says life is returning to normal in much of the region while touting its efforts to provide humanitarian assistance.

Berhane is a former central committee member of the TPLF, but he was expelled in 2018.

He has previously served as head of the state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation and as consul general in Los Angeles.

In his letter Wednesday, he painted a grim picture of the situation in Tigray, saying its "infrastructure has been completely and intentionally destroyed." 

"Soldiers are systematically raping women and young girls. Hundreds of thousands of people are being displaced, killed, and deliberately starved," he wrote. 

He also accused the government of misrepresenting conditions on the ground and failing to come clean about "the presence of foreign powers" -- a reference to Eritrean troops, whose presence has been widely documented but is officially denied by Addis Ababa and Asmara.

Fitsum Arega, Ethiopia's ambassador in Washington and Abiy's former chief of staff, has been a vocal defender of the government amid mounting international pressure to cease hostilities, casting doubt on some reports of atrocities and blaming the TPLF for delays in delivering aid.