Ethiopia, Eritrea rubbish US claims of war crimes in Tigray
Wednesday March 22 2023
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.