Former UN USG and Special Envoy for Prevention of Genocide
Prime Minister ABIY AHMED, PhD
FEDERAL DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF ETHIOPIA
17 May 2021
Your Excellency, Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to you on behalf of colleagues and friends whom you know well:
– Former Secretary-General H. E. Ban Ki-moon, Member of Elders
– President of the Global Leadership Alliance (Club of Madrid), H. E. Danilo Turk, former President of Slovenia
and former UN Assistant-Secretary-General
– Former President of Finland, H. E. Tarja Halonen
– H. E. Lakhdar Brahimi, former UN and Arab League Special Envoy for Syria, Member of the Elders
– Emeritus Bishop of Oslo Dr. Gunnar Stålsett, Former Member of the Nobel Peace Committee, Chair of Religions for Peace
– H. E. Adama Dieng, former UN USG and Special Envoy for Prevention of Genocide
– And myself, former President of Timor-Leste
Via this letter we urge immediate action to end the crisis in the Tigray Region and address the terrible suffering inflicted on the local population.
As a result of this conflict, according to the United Nations, roughly 4.5 million of a population of 6 million people are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance. Between 2 and 2.5 million people in the region will experience severe food insecurity through September. News outlets from around the globe are also increasingly writing of horrifying stories of rape, torture, and mass arrests.
Al Jazeera reported on April 21, in its story ‘A Tigrayan Womb Should Never Give Birth’: Rape in Tigray, that hundreds of women have reported horrific accounts of rape and gang rape since the start of the conflict in Tigray. The Associated Press reported on April 29 in its article titled ‘Clean Out Our Insides’: Ethiopia Detains Tigrayans Amid War, that your government has swept up thousands of ethnic Tigrayans into detention centers across the country on accusations they are traitors, often holding them for months without charges. These are just two of many examples of reports of widespread atrocities and human rights abuses that have shocked the world and motivated the outcry for immediate action.
We know you understand the need to take immediate action to resolve this crisis, regardless of the impetus for this unfolding disaster.
We recall the powerful words of your Nobel Prize acceptance speech two years ago. As you so forcefully said, there are those,“who have never seen war, but glorify and romanticize it. They have not seen the fear. They have not seen the fatigue. They have not seen the destruction or heartbreak, nor have they felt the mournful emptiness of war after the carnage.”
With these words you inspired the world, indeed you proved yourself a great man of peace and compassion.
We now recall these words to urge you to consider several important steps to return to peace quickly and alleviate the suffering of the Ethiopian people. Specifically, we urge you to:
1.) Lead calls for a cessation of hostilities by all actors, announce your willingness to do so, and encourage other parties to commit to ending the fighting immediately;
2.) Press for the immediate and verifiable withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara regional forces from the Tigray Region;
3.) Facilitate the work of international humanitarian staff including by issuing long-duration visas, expediting the process for the importation and use of satellite communication technology by humanitarian organizations, and instructing your military and allied forces to establish a civil-military coordination cell to facilitate the work of humanitarian organizations on the ground;
4.) Issue orders to protect all civilians in Tigray and throughout Ethiopia regardless of their ethnicity, including refugees and internally displaced persons, and particularly women in the light of widespread reports of sexual and gender-based violence;
5.) Continue your support for investigations into human rights abuses and violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law by all actors in Tigray. We welcomed your support of the joint investigation by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights. We encourage you to ensure other human rights organizations are provided access to document independently ongoing reports of human rights abuses and violations in Tigray; and
6.) Open credible and inclusive talks with political and civil society actors in Tigray with the goal of charting a consensual way forward for the region’s future governance.
It is clear that like all wars, the political dispute that led to the Tigray crisis cannot be resolved through military means alone. The suffering inflicted on the people in the region has already been too great. For the good of Ethiopia, and the good of the region and the world, we ask that you work towards a political solution as soon as possible. It is only through dialogue and negotiation that you can establish lasting peace and the healing for so many can begin.