Photo Source: AFP
   NIAS Course on Global Politics
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS)
Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bangalore
For any further information or to subscribe to GP alerts send an email to

NIAS Africa Weekly #82&23 | Continuing Human Rights Issues in Ethiopia

  NIAS Africa Team

Africa Weekly #82&23 Vol. 2, No.37 & 38

17 October, 2023

Continuing Human Rights Issues in Ethiopia: Takeaways of the UN report
Nithyashree RB
On 18 September 2023, the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia released a report on the human rights status in Ethiopia. The report highlights the violations of international law and crimes perpetrated in Tigray, Afar, Amhara and Oromia during the period from November 2020 to the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA) in November 2022 and ongoing violations post-COHA. The findings of the report are based on 545 interviews by interviewees who identify as Afar, Agew, Amhara, Irob, Kunama, Oromo, Qemant, Somali, Tigrayan, mixed ethnicities and Eritrean refugees and over 570 documents including satellite images, multimedia and public statements. 

The following are the major takeaways of the report.

1. The Government, ENDF, EDF and several militias continue to be involved in the killing of civilians 
The Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) and Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) were involved in mass killings of civilians across Tigray between 2020 and 2022. Such killings were undertaken in the context of a siege where essential supplies including food, medicines, electricity, banking and communications were cut off by the Ethiopian government. Along with the armed forces, militias such as the Amhara Special Forces and Fano were engaged in the looting and destruction of properties and regional health systems. The ENDF, EDF and several militias have been committing serious human rights violations and abuses since 3 November 2020 ranging from the right to life, right to non-discrimination, prohibition of torture, ill-treatment, rape and sexual violence to the right to an adequate standard of living and prohibition of hate speech both online and offline. 
Amhara and Afar
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was involved in the killings of civilians in the villages of Kobo Toen, Semien, Wollo Zone and Chenna, North Gondar Zone, Shewa Robit and Yelen. The killing of men disproportionately affected women who had to replace the male breadwinners and take care of children and extended families. The fighting between the ENDF and TPLF between November 2021 and March 2022 resulted in the deaths of civilians and forced eviction of people from their homes. Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) have killed over 185 people including children in Afar since November 2020. Looting of livestock combined with locust infestation and interruption of aid have negatively impacted several communities.
Government security forces were engaged in extrajudicial killing of leaders of the Karrayu community in December 2021; 14 were summarily executed. In Western Oromia, drone strikes were reported in November 2022, as the fighting between the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and ENDF re-escalated. Three incidents involving the killing or injuring of civilians were verified by the commission. 
2. Sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls.
EDF members along with ENDF, Amhara Special Forces, Afar Special Forces and Fano are often involved in multiple-perpetrator rapes and sexual violence against women and children. Tigrayan women of reproductive age were targeted during the looting, at detention camps, near barracks and while searching for food, water and safety. Survivors were aged between nine and 60 including pregnant women. Women were often raped in front of their families who consequently have mental health issues.
Post-COHA, EDF and Amhara forces continue to perpetrate rape and sexual violence. Nearly 100 girls under the age of 18 were subjected to brutal forms of sexual violence especially in areas where EDF are present. The commission’s report affirms that EDF members are responsible for the continuing sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls in Tigray. Data from seven medical centres enumerates over 10,000 women and girls who were survivors of sexual and gender-based violence between November 2020 and July 2023. 
Amhara, Afar and Oromia
Tigray-aligned fighters raped girls as young as 11. In over 11 towns, ethnic Amhara, Agew women and girls were targeted as revenge for the rape of Tigrayan women and girls. With sparsely available healthcare services, undiagnosed and untreated consequences of rape and sexual violence raise concerns regarding STDs, HIV, and unsafe abortions.
3. The Ethiopian government and regional governments engage in the starvation of civilians
In Tigray, the Ethiopian government and regional governments have engaged in the starvation of civilians. The Ethiopian government is mandated to alleviate hunger under the COHA. However, it has hindered humanitarian assistance and aid. Diversion of aid has resulted in the suspension of aid from USAID and WFP. The head of the Disaster Risk Management Commission in Tigray reported that 1400 deaths between April and August 2023 were hunger-related. Around 20 million Ethiopians need humanitarian food assistance especially those in drought-affected areas of Afar and Oromia.
4. The presence of EDF has exacerbated the conflict and human rights violations
Since November 2020, EDF fighters have been involved in serious crimes and regulations across Ethiopia but they denied their presence. Essentially, in March 2021, their presence was officially confirmed by the UN. They often worked closely with ENDF and air attacks were carried out from the territory of Eritrea. EDF has been implicated in large-scale killings of civilians, arbitrary detention, attacks against refugee camps, shelling in civilian areas, destruction and looting and blocking humanitarian access. COHA mandated the non-ENDF forces to leave Ethiopia but they are still present. In May 2023, they hindered the African Union Monitoring, Verification and Compliance Mission (AU-MVCM) and the UN OCHA. The involvement of the EDF showcases the inability of the state to protect its civilians. 

5. Weak structures and institutions highlight the risks of further violations and exacerbation of conflict
As per the COHA’s mandate, the commission provided an advisory note regarding transitional justice but the government’s response was insufficient. Considering that transitional justice relies on the perception of the victims, the commission held a three-day workshop in Nairobi in July 2023. They comprehended the needs and aspirations of the victims, their families, affected communities and interlocutors. The victims want their voices and experiences to drive transitional justice which must be credible, transparent and inclusive and address what the victims went through. The victims demanded reparation for the emotional and physical trauma and compensation for the looting and destruction of properties. They expressed a lack of trust in the Ethiopian system and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to deliver justice and address human rights violations.
The lack of independence of courts, military courts’ jurisdiction over crimes and lack of prosecutorial independence and impartiality highlights the bleak prospects of transitional justice in Ethiopia. Civilians feel mistrust towards government institutions and accountability mechanisms. The presence of EDF and Amhara Special Forces and the ongoing post-COHA violations showcase the Ethiopian government's policy of impunity and tolerance of violations. Even after the declaration of a state of emergency in August 2023, violations against Amharas are ongoing. The government is unable to offer protection and its weak institutions are failing to monitor and stop violations. 

4 October-17 October
By Jerry Franklin

Protests led to the detention of 400 individuals
On 4 October, BBC reported that 400 individuals had been detained in Egypt’s north-western city of Marsa Matrouh as a result of rioting after President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi declared his intention to seek a third term. Sisi was the former army chief who has been in command since Mohammed Morsi's removal from office in 2013 amid widespread opposition to his administration. Protesters claim that throughout Sisi's tenure, all dissent was ruthlessly repressed, and the Egyptian economy has been wholly disintegrated. Egypt is set to hold presidential elections in December 2023. (“Egypt presidential bid protests 'led to 400 arrests',” BBC, 4 October 2023)

Ethiopia’s embassy sustains damage during an attack in Khartoum
On 4 October, BBC reported that an attack with heavy weaponry destroyed Ethiopia's embassy in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Ethiopian ambassador to Sudan Yibeltal Aimiro Alemu stated: “No casualties were reported from Tuesday’s onslaught but the embassy was partially damaged.” The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of Sudan blamed the army for the attack. According to the UN, the fighting between warring sides has killed over 5,000 people and displaced five million people since the conflict erupted in mid-April. (“Ethiopia's embassy in Sudan damaged in attack,” BBC, 4 October 2023)

Human rights group condemns the end of UN-backed inquiry 
On 5 October, BBC reported that the human rights groups condemned the UN member countries for not extending the UN's investigation into abuses committed in Ethiopia. The mandate of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) is set to expire later this month. ICHREE accused the Ethiopian military of committing war crimes during the Tigray War. Additionally, ICHREE claimed that Eritrean soldiers were responsible for several sexual assaults and blamed Tigrayan insurgents for committing serious crimes. The chair of the ICHREE, Mohamed Chande Othman, stated: “Our report shows that the overwhelming majority of risk factors for future atrocity crimes are present in Ethiopia, including ongoing serious violations, widespread violence and instability, and deeply entrenched impunity.” Ethiopia has condemned ICHREE's operations, accusing them of partiality. (“Criticism as UN-backed probe into Ethiopia to end,” BBC, 5 October 2023)

US reboots food assistance to asylum seekers
On 6 October, the US declared that it would resume providing food aid for refugees in Ethiopia after a five-month halt due to the pillaging of food aid. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) stated that the decision to restart assistance came after the strengthened improvements to the refugee food assistance program, including increased program monitoring, reinforced commodities tracking, and enhanced registration procedures by the Ethiopian government. Additionally, USAID stated that Ethiopia has delegated control over the distribution and storage of food supplies. The restart of aid would benefit hundreds of thousands of refugees residing in Ethiopia, most of whom are from Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea. Since the aid was halted, at least 1,400 people in the region have died from starvation in the Tigray region. (“US resumes food aid to refugees in Ethiopia,BBC, 6 October 2023)

Odinga criticises the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti
On 5 October, BBC reported that Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga stated the country's decision to lead a peacekeeping mission in Haiti to combat gang violence a mistake. Odinga stated: “Before you even come to Africa, Haiti is at the doorstep of the United States which is the most powerful nation in the world. What is it that is so unique about Kenya that it is being chosen to lead the multinational force in Haiti? The problem in Haiti is political, it does not just require guns, it requires talks.” Additionally, Odinga warned that the proposed deployment put the lives of Kenyan police officers at peril because of the increasing violence in Haiti. The UN Security Council authorised the deployment of a Kenya-led peacekeeping mission for a year, with a review after nine months.  President William Ruto of Kenya promised not to let the people of Haiti down. (“Haiti crisis, not Kenya's priority - Odinga,” BBC, 5 October 2023)

Security forces deployed in Ethiopia following deadly clashes
On 6 October, BBC reported that Kenya had dispatched several specialised security forces to control the rising communal conflicts in the western town of Sondu, Ethiopia. Seven people have died and several more have been forced to flee their homes due to the clashes that erupted on 4 October. Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki stated: “Lives have been lost, property destroyed and civil order grossly undermined during the past two days.” (“Kenya deploys police units after deadly ethnic clashes,” BBC, 6 October 2023)

Court halts the deployment of police officers to Haiti
On 9 October, BBC reported that the deployment of Kenyan police officers to Haiti had been halted by a Kenyan court awaiting the verdict of an appeal. The judge emphasised the appeal's grounds as being of public and national importance. According to former presidential candidate Ekuru Aukot's petition, the intended deployment is unconstitutional as he claims that normal police officers could not be assigned to international missions. Additionally, Aukot criticised that the country cannot afford to lose 1,000 police officers as it already deals with insecurity and ethnic clashes internally. The court would provide additional instructions at the end of October. (“Kenya court puts a hold on police deployment to Haiti,” BBC, 9 October 2023)

Court revokes anti-homosexuality law
On 5 October, BBC reported that the Supreme Court ruled that Section 250 of the Mauritian Criminal Code from 1898 was unconstitutional on 4 October. The Supreme Court ruled that the statute that was repealed did not represent any traditional Mauritian beliefs but rather was a legacy of British colonialism. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAids) stated: “The UN welcomes the decision of Mauritius to join the growing list of African countries protecting the human rights of everyone, including LGBTQI+ people.” (“Mauritius repeals colonial-era anti-homosexuality law,” BBC, 5 October 2023)

UN expresses concern over violence ahead of elections
On 4 October, BBC reported that the UN expressed concern over increasing violence in Liberia ahead of elections. The United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) stated that confrontations between members of the opposition Unity Party and the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change resulted in two fatalities and twenty people sustained injuries in the Foya district on 29 September. Additionally, OHCHR stated that there were further violent outbursts in the counties of Nimba, Montserrado, and Grand Cape Mount ahead of the general elections on 10 October. UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Seif Magango stated: “Our office has also documented eight attacks on journalists by various political actors, two of which resulted in injuries.” (“UN condemns 'election-related violence' in Liberia,” BBC, 4 October 2023)

Security forces kill a commander linked to failed coup attempt
On 9 October, BBC reported that the security forces in Burkina Faso executed commander Ismael Tohobougo, suspected of taking part in a coup attempt in September. Tohobougou had been on the run ever since the military prosecutor had called him in for interrogation. Tohobougou was charged with taking part in an attempted coup against Capt. Ibrahim Traore among other military officers. Additionally, the suspension of several army personnel connected to the coup attempt was disclosed by the country’s Defense Ministry on 6 October. The National Gendarmerie's Chief of Staff, Lt. Col. Evrard Somda, was fired and Lt. Col. Kouagri Natama replaced him. (“Burkina Faso commander linked to failed coup killed - army,” BBC, 9 October 2023)

Appointment to the national assembly will begin shortly, says interim president
On 5 October, BBC reported that the interim president of Gabon, General Brice Oligui Nguema, stated that the transitional National Assembly and Senate would shortly have representatives selected, reiterating his administration's dedication to social engagement. Gen Nguema appointed the chairperson of both legislative bodies in September, allowing the possibility for additional selections of parliamentarians. Gen Nguema announced the decision after meeting with Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera on 5 October. Following talks with the leaders of Congo-Brazzaville and Equatorial Guinea, Gen Nguema visited the CAR to ask for cooperation in getting regional organisations to suspend their sanctions against Gabon in the wake of the coup. (“Gabon's interim president announces assembly appointments,” BBC, 5 October 2023)

Armed rebels kill two civilians 
On 6 October, BBC reported that the armed separatists in Cameroon's English-speaking region executed two people suspected of spying for the army. An official claimed that investigations were ongoing in the northwest hamlet of Guzang. Since 2017, separatists have been engaged in conflict in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon against the Francophone-dominated government. Over 800,000 individuals have been displaced due to the fighting. Rights organizations have denounced separatists and government forces for burning down houses and schools, raping women, and carrying out violent crimes. (“Cameroon rebels kill civilians accused of spying,” BBC, 6 October 2023)

Sanctions compel a 40 per cent reduction in the budget
On 9 October, BBC reported that the Niger administration cut its budget by 40 per cent due to the impact of sanctions and the withdrawal of aid following the coup. The military junta announced a reduction in its budget for 2023 from USD 5.3 billion (Euro 4.3 billion) to USD 3.2 billion. President Mohamed Bazoum was deposed in a coup, prompting regional and international penalties such as border closures, asset freezes, and the suspension of aid delivery. Due to trade limitations, the country has seen rising food and commodity prices as well as a shortage of medications. The budget cuts would exacerbate Niger's deteriorating economic condition. (“Niger cuts its budget by 40% as sanctions bite,” BBC, 9 October 2023)

About the Author
Nithyashree RB is a Postgraduate Scholar at Stella Maris College, Chennai. Jerry Franklin A is a Postgraduate Scholar at Madras Christian College, Chennai. 

Print Bookmark


March 2024 | CWA # 1251

NIAS Africa Team

Africa This Week
February 2024 | CWA # 1226

NIAS Africa Team

Africa This Week
December 2023 | CWA # 1189

Hoimi Mukherjee | Hoimi Mukherjee is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science in Bankura Zilla Saradamani Mahila Mahavidyapith.

Chile in 2023: Crises of Constitutionality
December 2023 | CWA # 1187

Aprajita Kashyap | Aprajita Kashyap is a faculty of Latin American Studies, School of International Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi.

Haiti in 2023: The Humanitarian Crisis
December 2023 | CWA # 1185

Binod Khanal | Binod Khanal is a Doctoral candidate at the Centre for European Studies, School of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi.

The Baltic: Energy, Russia, NATO and China
December 2023 | CWA # 1183

Padmashree Anandhan | Padmashree Anandhan is a Research Associate at the School of Conflict and Security Studies, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangaluru.

Germany in 2023: Defence, Economy and Energy Triangle
December 2023 | CWA # 1178

​​​​​​​Ashok Alex Luke | Ashok Alex Luke is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at CMS College, Kottayam.

China and South Asia in 2023: Advantage Beijing?
December 2023 | CWA # 1177

Annem Naga Bindhu Madhuri | Annem Naga Bindhu Madhuri is a postgraduate student at the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies at the University of Madras, Chennai.

China and East Asia
October 2023 | CWA # 1091

Annem Naga Bindhu Madhuri

Issues for Europe
July 2023 | CWA # 1012

Bibhu Prasad Routray

Myanmar continues to burn
December 2022 | CWA # 879

Padmashree Anandhan

The Ukraine War
November 2022 | CWA # 838

Rishma Banerjee

Tracing Europe's droughts
March 2022 | CWA # 705

NIAS Africa Team

In Focus: Libya