Africa's civil society unites in call to avert 'looming genocide' in Ethiopia

Women march during a rally organised by Addis Ababa officials, bringing together artistes and athletes headed to visit troops on the front line with rebels of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on November 27, 2021. PHOTO | AFP

What you need to know:

  • The Ethiopian National Defence Forces have been battling the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a former ruling party that Ethiopia now accuses of terrorism, for one year.
  • In turn, TPLF has accused the Ethiopian and allied Eritrean forces of seeking to eliminate ethnic Tigray people. Efforts to bring the parties to the table have failed.

A group of African civil society advocates have appealed to the United Nations (UN) to take immediate action to prevent looming genocide in Ethiopia.

In a joint statement signed by 34 civic organisations and 31 activists from across the continent, they warned that the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia might lead to mass deaths if not handled amicably.

“On behalf of concerned Africans and humanity everywhere, we request you to provide leadership in taking urgent measures to prevent imminent genocide in Ethiopia,” the letter addressed to UN Secretary-General António Guterres says. 

“Absent of such action, we believe that genocide is likely to happen under your watch as the Secretary-General which will be a blot not merely on your record in that capacity but also of our collective humanity at this time.”

Under international law, genocide means targeted elimination of a certain group of people based on their race, ethnicity or religion. 

It has happened in the past, such as the Nazi extermination of Jews in Germany in the early 1940s, the killing of ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, the Khmer Rouge regime killings in Cambodia in the late 1970s and the Armenian massacres in the early 1900s.

But the definitions have been criticised for focusing more on the numbers killed, rather than the destruction it causes. In Ethiopia, an earlier investigation by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission concluded there had been atrocities by both sides in the war, but did not categorise the killings as genocide.

The Ethiopian National Defence Forces have been battling the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a former ruling party that Ethiopia now accuses of terrorism, for one year.

In turn, TPLF has accused the Ethiopian and allied Eritrean forces of seeking to eliminate ethnic Tigray people. Efforts to bring the parties to the table have failed.

And the activists said UN chief Guterres should work with the International Committee of the Red Cross to compile all internment centres in Ethiopia and ensure access, monitoring and oversight of conditions by ICRC.

“Deploy, without further delay, your Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide (SAPG), Ms Alice Nderitu, on an urgent assessment mission into Ethiopia. Take steps in liaison with Member States to convene a special session of the Human Rights Council on Ethiopia,” the groups said.

“Secure a clear Security Council Statement of commitment to the prevention of genocide in Ethiopia and authorisation of measures to follow up on that commitment and provide a clear commitment by the Secretary-General to ensuring the prevention of genocide in Ethiopia.”

Signatories as at 5pm, November 26, 2021

Institutions
Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) 
African Initiative for Peacebuilding, Advocacy and Advancement (AfriPeace), Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria
African Union Watch, Banjul, The Gambia
Atrocities Watch Africa (AWA), Kampala, Uganda
Cameroon Women's Peace Movement (CAWOPEM)
Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Nigeria  
Coalition burundaise des defenseurs des droits de l,home (CBDDH), Burundi 
Coalition des Defenseurs des Droits Humains du Benin, Benin
Coalition Malienne des Défenseurs des droits de l’homme, Mali 
Coalition Togolaise des Défenseurs des Droits Humains (CTDDH), Togo
Coalition Burkinabè des Défenseurs des droits humains (CBDDH), Burkina Faso
Coalition Ivoirienne des Défenseurs des Droits de l’Homme, Côte d’Ivoire
Coalition for an effective African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACC), Arusha, Tanzania 
Le Forum pour le Renforcement de la société civile (FORSC), Burundi
Gender Centre for Empowering Development (GenCED)
Hope Advocates Africa (HADA)
Human Rights Defenders Network Sierra Leone
Institut des Médias pour la Démocratie et les Droits de l'Homme (IM2DH)
International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), Kampala, Uganda 
Mouvement des Femmes et Filles pour la Paix et la Sécurité au Burundi, Burundi
Mozambique Human Rights Defenders Network
Nawi – Afrifem Macroeconomics Collective, Nairobi, Kenya
Network of Independent Commissions for Human Rights in North Africa
Nigerian Human Rights Defenders Focal Point, Nigeria 
Pan African Citizens Network (PACIN), Nairobi, Kenya
Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU), Arusha, Tanzania 
Réseau des Citoyens Probes (RCP), Burundi
Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale
Réseau Nigérien des Défenseurs des droits de l’homme
Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des Droits Humains 
Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (Southern Defenders)
Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA), Nairobi, Kenya
Victim Advocates International (VAI), Nairobi, Kenya
Youth Forum for Social Justice

Individuals 

Achieng AKENA, Executive Director, International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), Kampala, Uganda
Ida BADJO, Togo 
Joseph BIKANDA, Cameroon
Professor Danwood CHIRWA, Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Maître Francis DAKO, Lawyer Benin
Caryn DASAH, Cameroon 
Donald DEYA, Chief Executive Officer, Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU), Arusha, Tanzania
Adaobi EGBOKA, Human Rights Lawyer, Nigeria
Chibuzo EKWEKUO, Lawyer, Abuja, Nigeria
Hannah FORSTER, Chairperson, CSO Coalition on Elections, Banjul, The Gambia
Immaculée HUNJA, Mouvement des Femmes et Filles pour la Paix et la Sécurité au Burundi, Burundi
James GONDI, Human Rights Lawyer, Nairobi, Kenya
Ibrahima KANE, Lawyer, Senegal
Naji Moulay LAHSEN, Morocco
Bonaventure N'Coué MAWUVI, Togo
Alvin MOSIOMA, Executive Director, Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA), Nairobi, Kenya
Vera MSHANA, New York, United States of America (USA)
Salima NAMUSOBYA, Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), Kampala, Uganda 
Stella W. NDIRANGU, Human Rights Lawyer, Nairobi, Kenya
Dismas NKUNDA, Executive Director, Atrocities Watch Africa (AWA), Kampala, Uganda 
Bahame Tom NYANDUGA, Chairman ad interim, African Union Watch, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Professor Chidi Anselm ODINKALU, former Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria, Abuja, Nigeria 
Gladwell W. OTIENO, Nairobi, Kenya
Charles Donaldson OGIRA 
Dr. Feyi OGUNADE, Executive Director, African Union Watch 
Silas Joseph ONU, Convener, Open Bar Initiative, Nigeria
Caylen SANTOS, The Shalom Foundation, Franklin, TN
Crystal SIMEONE, Nairobi, Kenya 
Mélanie SONHAYE KOMBATE, Togo
Arnold TSUNGA, Lawyer, Zimbabwe
Rosalie Wakesho WAFULA, Lawyer, Kenya

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