US freezes funding for Ethiopia as more Tigray abuses surface

Washington: The US has asked multilateral development banks to suspend funding to Ethiopia as fresh reports of human rights abuses surface from the war-torn Tigray region.

The unending conflict in Tigray, a region that borders with Eritrea, has resulted in a famine-like situation, Robert Godec, the acting assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs told a US Senate panel. The US imposed “wide-ranging” economic sanctions against Africa second-most populous nation on May 24.

“There are confirmed reports of Tigrayans dying from malnutrition and starvation,” Godec said. As a result, the US was “withholding support for new lending from multilateral development banks that does not address basic human needs and are asking our allies to do likewise.”

Protesters chant “Stop the genocide in Tigray!” during a demonstration against Ethiopia’s war against Tigray regional forces near the Chinese Embassy in Berlin, Germany, earlier this month. Credit:Getty Images

The latest move will result in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund withholding funding to a nation led by Nobel laureate Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who wooed foreign investors by pledging to open up the large African economy. Ethiopia received $US1 billion ($1.3 billion) of American aid last year.

Hundreds of cases of gender-based violence including rape in the Tigray region have been documented in a report compiled by the region’s government.

At least 1246 women have been recorded as victims of serious gender-based violence there since war broke out in November, according to the report seen by Bloomberg and confirmed by the Ethiopian government and United Nations officials.

The data on cases of sexual violence are the most detailed yet to come out of the region and includes information compiled from 11 health centres in towns such as Mekele, Axum, Adigrat, Shire and Wukro.

Billene Seyoum, a spokesperson at Ethiopian Prime Minister’s office, and officials from the Tigray interim government, didn’t reply to questions about the document. Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize two years ago for ending a protracted conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.

Violence engulfed Tigray in November, when Abiy ordered an incursion after forces loyal to the state’s dissident ruling party attacked a federal military camp in the region.

At least 3 million people in Tigray are in need of shelter but authorities are refusing to allow displaced people to stay inside schools and colleges, according to the report. Most of those who have been forced to flee their homes are unregistered and many are sleeping outdoors, it said. The report stated there was a 77 per cent shortfall in the need for shelter and non-food items in Tigray.

Roadblocks established by armed people who were not identified in the report have been purposefully established to curtail food distribution efforts, with some beneficiaries being forced to walk as much as 50 kilometres to receive food.


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