Tigrayans rally in Addis Ababa to protest against resumption of hostilities in Tigray Tigrayans rally in Addis Ababa to protest against resumption of hostilities in Tigray 

Church in Tigray urges a ceasefire and peace in war-torn Ethiopia

As the two-years civil war in Ethiopia continues unabated, and risks extending to the entire Horn of Africa, the Catholic Church in Tigray calls upon the international community, as well as Catholic networks and religious leaders, to actively engage in reaching out to the Tigrayan people and in helping restore peace in the country.

By Lisa Zengarini

The Catholic Church in Tigray has once again urged for a peaceful solution to the two-year civil war in Ethiopia and for the immediate end to the shelling of civilians and civil infrastructures in the region, saying that the situation is “desperate”.

War in Tigray

The conflict broke out on 4 November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attacked a dissident local government led by the separatist People's Liberation Front of Tigray (TPLF). 

It has subsequently extended to other regions of Ethiopia, including the Amhara, Afar and Oromia state regions threatening peace in the entire Horn of Africa.

The federal army, ethnic militias and Eritrean soldiers joined forces to fight the Tigrayan rebels, who initially appeared to have been wiped out, but in mid-2021 regained much of the regional in a massive counteroffensive advancing towards the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, after Eritrean forces withdrew.  However, an influx of military drones pushed the rebels back.

The war, which has killed thousands of civilians, has resulted in one of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with millions of displaced people lacking of food and basic services.

Resumption of hostilites in August after five-month ceasefire

After a five-months fragile ceasefire that offered some respite to the population, fighting in Tigray resumed in late August and a massive offensive is tearing the region apart again with drones and shells hitting indiscriminately civilians. 

The latest incident occurred on 4 October when a drone attacked internally displaced people in Adi Daero, in western Tigray. Since the resumption of hostilities, the supply of humanitarian aid has been almost totally blocked.

Brutal attacks on civilians 

In a strongly worded appeal earlier this week, Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin, of the Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat, called international attention to the “extreme brutality” of the war and to the “magnitude” of the suffering endured by the Tigrayan people, noting that right now the conflict in Ethiopia is “the largest active war going on in our planet”.

“On top of the pre-existing siege and suffering, the resumed all-round attacks with drones and warplanes, massive indiscriminate artillery shelling in crowded places, urban and semi-urban centers, market places, health education facilities, are destroying the lives of innocent civilians who have lost all means of coping with this monstrous terrorism.”

Humanitarian crisis

The bishop further points to the impossibility for humanitarian aid supplies to access the territory.

“It is very painful and shocking to see horrifying indiscriminate artillery shelling and bombardments against civilians who are then unable to get treatement,” he said.

“Essential drugs for chronic patients are no longer available (insulin, tablets of hypertension, ART, vaccine for rabbis, vaccinations for newly born children). (…) Survivors of brutal rape are unable to get post-rape care services as a result of the the siege and blockade (…) Over one and half million school children been deprived of their right to education.”

Call for an immediate ceasefire and  lasting peace

Bishop Medhin therefore called upon the international community, Catholic networks and  national and international religious leaders, to voice their condemnation of the “brutal” violence perpetrated in Tigray, and to reach out to its people with all available means, while urging for an immediate ceasefire and “political dialogue to ensure a lasting peace” in Ethiopia.

AU-led peace talks scheduled for October 8 postponed

On Wednesday, both Ethiopia's federal government and TPLF forces accepted an invitation by the head African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat,  to meet for peace talks in South Africa, on 8 October.

The talks, which would be the first formal negotiations between the two sides since war broke out in November 2020, have been postponed for logistical reasons and, according to diplomatic sources, a new date has not yet been scheduled.

Ongoing conflict in Oromia 

While attention is focused on the war in Tigray, another silent conflict is ongoing in the State Region of Oromia, in central-western and central-southern Ethiopia , where Prime Minister Abiy is conducting military operations against the Oromo Liberation Front (OLA).

Pope Francis' appeals for peace in Ethiopia

Pope Francis has repeatedly called for a peaceful solution to the war in Ethiopia. In a message sent for the Ethiopian New Year in September, he said he is praying for peace and reconciliation in the country. 

07 October 2022, 17:39