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At least 11,000 flee to Sudan as Tigray region conflict continues

November 13 - 2020 EL GEDAREF / TIGRAY
Ethiopian refugees cross the Sudanese border on November 12 (SUNA)
Ethiopian refugees cross the Sudanese border on November 12 (SUNA)

The Sudanese Commissioner for Refugees announced yesterday in El Gedaref that the number of people fleeing the war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region to Sudan has risen to more than 11,000 and expects that it will reach over 20,000 if the military tensions and armed conflicts continue.

An investigation by Amnesty International revealed a massacre in south-west Tigray leaving hundreds dead.

The press conference was held during yesterday’s visit of governor of El Gedaref Suleiman Ali and the Interior Minister Lt Gen El Tereifi Idris to the refugee camps where those fleeing the war in Tigray are currently hosted. They were accompanied by the National Committee for Conflicts and the High Commissioner for Refugees.

Minister Idris stated that his visit was concerned with a special plan managing the conditions of refugees and taking necessary measures concerning health and security in accordance with international law, strengthening the state’s efforts, and support to deal with the humanitarian situation until conditions return to normal.

The Refugees Commissioner also said that the visit aims to gain insight into the establishment of refugee camps prior to extending them, as circumstances require now that the number of refugees has reached 11,000 and is likely to grow as violence continues.

Massacre in Mai-Kadra Town

Yesterday, an investigation by Amnesty International revealed evidence that hundreds of people were stabbed or hacked to death in the South-West Zone of Tigray on the night of November 9.

Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, explained that they “have confirmed the massacre of a very large number of civilians, who appear to have been day labourers, in no way involved in the ongoing military offensive” and stressed that “this is a horrific tragedy whose true extent only time will tell as communication in Tigray remains shut down.”

It is unclear who was responsible for the killings but, according to Amnesty, witnesses claim that forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) were responsible for the mass killings, apparently after they suffered defeat from the federal EDF forces.

First refugee baby

Yesterday the first baby was born inside the new camps. Ethiopian refugee Dansha gave birth to a baby girl inside the temporary shelter camp in Eight in El Fashaga, which she fled to along with thousands of other Ethiopians.

The mother told Sudan News Agency that she is happy to have given birth to her new-born baby in Sudan “after fleeing the hell of war and fighting in Hamra”.

Dansha explained that she experienced great suffering since the fighting erupted, noting that she had to cross the river and “travel miles and miles” before reaching Sudan. She named her daughter Peace, wishing peace and stability in Ethiopia.

‘Wisdom and restraint’

Sudan has called on all warring parties in Ethiopia “to appeal to wisdom and restraint” to find a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict in the Tigray Region.

At a meeting on Monday at the Republican Palace in Khartoum, headed by Lt Gen Abdelfattah El Burhan, the Security and Defence Council expressed grave concerns about the possible consequences of the conflict in Ethiopia.

In a meeting on Wednesday with Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and Eritrean Presidential Envoy Yamani Gubrab in his office at the Council of Ministers in Khartoum, Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok stressed the importance of regional security and the work to stop the conflict in Ethiopia as soon as possible, in order to return to peaceful negotiations and avoid the outbreak of war.

Tigray rebels

The Tigray region has seen tensions rise as the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebelled against Ethiopia’s federal army and its leadership in Addis Ababa.

The TPLF held local elections in September but these were considered illegal by the government in Addis Ababa, which unleashed an ongoing stand-off between the rebel movement and the government.

Last week, the Government of Ethiopia declared a State of Emergency for six months and the launch of a military operation in the opposition-controlled Tigray region, located at the borders of Eritrea and Sudan.

The Prime Minister’s office also ordered the army to take offensive measures against the TPLF and accused it of attacking the offices of the Defence Forces Northern Command stationed in Mekele, the capital of Tigray, with the aim of seizing artillery and military equipment there.

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