Ethiopian leaders say they will ‘sweep’ Tigrais: EU envoy | Conflict news

The Ethiopian leadership said earlier this year that “they will sweep the Tigrayans for 100 years,” said a European Union special envoy to the country at war..

The words of Pekka Haavisto, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland, describing his discussions with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and other ministers in February are among the strongest on conflict in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia.

They came in a question and answer session Tuesday with a European Parliament committee.

Ethiopia’s foreign minister has dismissed Haavisto’s comments as “ridiculous” and a “hallucination of sorts or a lapse in memory of some kind.”

Haavisto’s special adviser, Otto Turtonen, told the Associated Press that the envoy “has no further comment on this matter.”

In February he said he had “two intensive days in substantive meetings” with Abiy – the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2019 – and other “key ministers” on the growing humanitarian crisis in Tigray, where thousands of civilians are were killed and the famine began in a region of about 6 million people.

Ethiopian and allied forces in neighboring Eritrea have been accused of atrocities while pursuing fighters who support Tigray’s former leaders.

It is not clear from Haavisto’s statements this week that Ethiopian officials had made comments about the elimination of ethnic Tigrayans.

“When I met the Ethiopian leaders in February they really used this kind of language, they were going to destroy the Tigraans, they were going to wipe out the Tigraians for 100 years and so on,” the envoy said.

“If you erase your national minority, well, what is?” Haavisto said. “You can’t destroy all the people, you can’t destroy the entire population in Tigray. And I think it’s very obvious, that we have to react, because it seems like an ethnic cleansing. It’s a very, very serious act, if that’s true, ”he said.

Abiy ordered a ground and air military operation in Tigray in early November 2020 after accusing the then ruling party of the region, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), of orchestrating attacks on camps. of the federal army – an accusation rejected by TPLF officials.

The 44-year-old leader, whose forces are backed by Eritrean troops and fighters from the Amhara region in Ethiopia, declared victory in late November when the army entered the regional capital, Mekelle. .

However, the fight is still ongoing amid reports of massacres, rape and widespread hunger.

Upcoming elections

The United Nations Office of Human Rights said all parties to the conflict have been accused of abuse, but witnesses have largely accused Ethiopian and Eritrean forces of forced famine, mass expulsions and even more. .

The European Union and the United States have been outspoken about the situation in the Tigray region, with the United States last month announcing that it has begun restricting visas for government and military officials from Ethiopia and Eritrea who are being seen. as it undermines efforts to resolve the fighting.

The United States earlier this year said that ethnic cleansing is located in the western Tigray.

In comments shortly after those February meetings, Haavisto had warned that the crisis in Tigray seemed to have spiraled out of control.

Haavisto’s remarks emerge as Ethiopia is getting ready to vote in Monday’s national election, the first crucial test at the ballot box for Abiy as he seeks to centralize power under his Prosperity Party.

Abiy was awarded the Nobel a year after taking office and introduced dramatic political reforms while dismissing Tigray leaders who had dominated the Ethiopian government for years in a coalition with other ethnic-based parties.

Despite being declared a national poll, Monday’s vote will not take place in nearly one-fifth of the country’s 547 constituencies, including all 38 seats in Tigray and another 64 across the country. country of about 110 million people.

The majority of the delayed votes are scheduled for Sept. 6, but no date has yet been set for Tigray, where more than five million people are in need of emergency food assistance.

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