UN special advisor warns of escalating genocide threat in Ethiopia, calls for urgent action

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A UN Special Advisor expressed grave concern on Tuesday about the growing threat of genocide in Ethiopia. UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Alice Wairimu Nderitu called attention to ongoing battles between government military forces and local militias, highlighting the critical need to address serious human rights violations such as mass executions, sexual assault and the destruction of property.

According to Nderitu, “The suffering of innocent civilians should never be accepted as inevitable; rather, it must reinforce our commitment to ensure that impunity does not prevail and that all possible prevention actions are prioritized.”

Nderitu also cited incidents of ethnic violence against Tigrayan citizens, including gang rape and the use of disparaging language during attacks. Nderitu also expressed concern over reports of Eritrean troops in Ethiopia, and demanded accountability measures to be taken. The fighting ended only in November 2022, when the parties signed the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA).

Unfortunately, the success of the peace agreement was limited, as reports revealed several incidences of sexual attacks against women in the Tigray region, typically perpetrated by multiple individuals. In 2021, UN created the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia to investigate abuses of human rights in the Ethiopia-Tigray Conflict. The ICHREE issued a warning on October 3 that the “risk of more atrocity crimes” in Ethiopia remains high. The national human rights situation has deteriorated suddenly. Despite calls from international bodies to extend the ICHREE mandate, its mandate expired this month.

Nderitu stressed that Ethiopia has many danger factors for genocide or other atrocities. She said there is a crucial need for regional and international communities to work together to cease the violence and mitigate its destructive consequences.