Ethiopia: Bachelet calls for de-escalation amid alarming developments in Tigray and Oromia regions

GENEVA (6 November 2020) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Friday called on all relevant actors to de-escalate the volatile situation in the Ethiopian region of Tigray and to engage in an inclusive dialogue aimed at resolving grievances without resorting to violence.

“Over the past week, we have seen alarming violence erupt in the Oromia region as well as in Tigray. I urge all sides to halt the violence, to avoid additional loss of life, mass displacement and further destabilization,” Bachelet said.

“I call on all actors to engage in a genuine, inclusive and credible dialogue to solve any differences through peaceful means.”

Heavy clashes reportedly broke out on Wednesday in the northern region of Tigray between federal and regional troops, and the Federal Council declared a six-month state of emergency. The Government announced that this was in response to an alleged attack by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front on a military base. This came after months of tensions between the federal Government and the Tigray Regional State’s authorities.

The High Commissioner expressed concern about the restrictions imposed on people of Tigray, including on the rights to freedom of movement and freedom of expression. Internet connections and telephone lines have been cut since 3 November, hampering the local population’s ability to communicate and receive vital information, including about the fast-unfolding situation in their region.

“Cutting off communication has severely hampered the ability to monitor the situation on the ground, particularly the impact of the clashes in the local population,” Bachelet said. “I call on the national authorities to re-establish all basic services, including Internet and telephone connections. The right of all people to be informed and to access information is particularly vital in a crisis situation.”

Bachelet also expressed concern at reports indicating that a group of armed assailants assaulted members of the Amhara ethnic group in Wollega zone, Oromia region, on Sunday, 1 November. According to the Government, the attack resulted in the killing of 32 people. Other sources have reported that the number of casualties could be much higher.

“Unaddressed, such violence only leaves desolation, feeds revenge and leads to further intercommunal clashes and to more casualties and displacement in the country,” she said.

“I call for prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations into all of these incidents and for the Government to ensure those responsible are held accountable. I also call on the federal and regional authorities to ensure protection of the population and to establish across the country the necessary social, economic, security and political measures to break the cycle of violence and foster trust among communities,” the UN High Commissioner said.

“I am confident that Ethiopians can succeed on the path to social inclusion and economic and social development with full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. They can count on the support of my Office.”