The UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Alice Nderitu has condemned the escalation of conflict in northern Ethiopia, expressing concern over “worrying levels of violence”, hate speech and incitement to violence.
“The conflict has reached new worrying levels of violence since a five-month humanitarian truce was broken in August,” Ms Nderitu said in a statement this week.
She expressed concern over “reports of increased drone attacks in Shire resulting in large numbers of civilian casualties and a huge mobilisation of military forces and equipment in the area”.
Ms Nderitu called on parties to cease hostilities and recommit to the African Union-led mediation for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Ethiopian government forces this week went into Tigray after the government announced on Monday it would use military means to recapture federal sites, including the airport and other infrastructure. The government later announced that its forces had taken control of several towns in Tigray.
The African Union and the United Nations have called for a cessation of hostilities since the war broke out in November 2020, with both organisations and other international actors calling for peace talks to end the fighting.
The Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) were scheduled to attend peace talks called by the African Union in South Africa on October 9 but this was postponed due to “logistical” issues.
The African Union on Thursday announced October 24 as the new date for peace talks which will take place in South Africa.
Both parties to the Tigray conflict have always said they are ready for the mediation process and on Thursday the government confirmed that it is ready for the talks despite the offensive to capture federal installations in Tigray.
The UN Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide warned against hate speech, particularly propagated through social media and diaspora blogs calling for “genocide”.
Ms Nderitu further said she is concerned over the “use of inflammatory language by political leaders and armed groups in the Tigray conflict”, which could lead to genocide and other “atrocity crimes”.
“Hate speech and incitement to violence is fuelling the normalisation of extreme violence not just in Tigray and neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, but in Oromia and other parts of the country too,” she added.
The renewed fighting in Ethiopia has led to discrimination and the suffering of civilians, Ms Nderitu added, as she called on the Ethiopian government to protect civilians, and also take steps to prevent conflict-related sexual violence.