UN Chief: War in Ethiopia “spiralling out of control”
By Joseph Tulloch
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said on Monday, that the civil war in northern Ethiopia is “spiralling out of control” and that “violence and destruction have reached alarming levels.”
“Hostilities in the Tigray region of Ethiopia must end now,” he told journalists. “There is no military solution.”
A civil war has been raging in the country for almost two years, since late 2020. The conflict, which is concentrated in the northern state of Tigray, but has spread to other areas, has brought on what the head of the World Health Organisation has called the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world”.
Millions have been displaced, and lack access to food and basic services. The UN estimates that even before hostilities resumed in August, 13 million were in need of aid. There had been a ceasefire in place since March, which had allowed limited aid to reach the area.
The war broke out when the Ethiopian government, aided by Eritrean federal forces, attacked the dissident Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The offensive initially appeared to have been a success, but in July 2021 the TPLF retook much of the territory it had lost. Fighting has now spread to other areas of Ethiopia, including Amhara, Afar, and Oromia states, and has threatened to spill over into Sudan.
Prospects of an immediate ceasefire appear slim, however. On the same day that the UN called for a truce, the Ethiopian government announced its intention to immediately retake airports and other major infrastructure in Tigray, and is reported to have recaptured the important regional centre of Shire.
The Church’s call for peace
Pope Francis has made frequent and urgent appeals for peace, and urged dialogue between the rival factions.
Cardinal Berhaneyesus D. Souraphiel, Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Ababa and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia, has been equally outspoken.
In a message for the Ethiopian New Year, this September, he said the Church “implores all parties to give space for peace and reconciliation, to sit down for dialogue to save our country and people from destruction.”
He also appealed to Ethiopian citizens at home and in the diaspora to take responsibility for defusing the situation.
“Our conversations should lead to peace,” he said. “The Gospel teaches us that our speech should heal wounds and lead to reconciliation and unity. Conversations that bring hatred and unnecessary competition hurt us.”
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