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News: Displacement, horrific violence continue in western Tigray as Amhara forces maintain control

Numerous internally displaced people are housed at the Endabaguna Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Center in Shire, Tigray (Photo: IOM/Kaye Viray)

By Mihret G/kristos @MercyG_kirstos

Addis Abeba – Continued displacement and human rights violations persist in the western Tigray areas under the control of Amhara forces. Over the course of five days last week, 1,436 people have been displaced, with many seeking refuge at the Endabaguna Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Center, located near Shire town in the northwestern Tigray zone. The center serves those displaced from 11 different woredas of western Tigray, such as Qafta, Humera, Qorarit, Welkayit, Setit, Maikadra, and Dansha.

Mulugeta Debalkew, the IDP coordinator at the center, stated that the fresh IDPs shared their reasons for fleeing, including escaping from prison and atrocities, as well as forced migration due to hunger, despite the signing of a peace agreement in November 2022.

Mulugeta also revealed that many IDPs were imprisoned including in Maiytsebri, Dima, and Tselemti, where they were subjected to horrific violence and forced to pay a ransom of up to 135,000 birr. According to him, these atrocities and detentions increased following rumors that the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) had disarmed the Fano rebel group operating in the areas they controlled.

An elderly man, who spoke to Addis Standard on conditions of anonymity for fear of safety said he was almost killed by the rebels in Welkayit before being saved by the ENDF. He shared his harrowing experience of being imprisoned for seven months in Welkayit, where he was constantly beaten and deprived of food. Eventually, the agitators planned to execute him and dispose of his body at Zarema Dam. However, the ENDF found him during the journey to the place of his execution and brought him to safety at the Endabaguna IDP Center.

Another individual interviewed by Addis Standard also corroborated the torture and abuse, claiming to have sustained physical injuries and endured starvation due to the lack of food at the IDP camp.

On 29 August, the United Nations Human Rights Commission issued a report stating that at least 250 ethnic Tigrayans were detained by Amhara police, local authorities, and militias, including armed youth from Wolkait. These detainees were later intercepted by the ENDF and taken to an area controlled by the Tigray Interim Regional Administration.

Mulugeta also highlighted the dire humanitarian situation at the IDP center, explaining that some IDPs had received no aid for over a year. They relied on their families for survival, engaged in manual labor, or resorted to begging. Additionally, there was a lack of attention from non-governmental organizations at the center. Consequently, five people have died from hunger, as confirmed by health institutions, since March 2023.

On 22 August, 2023, Ethiopian Defense Minister Abreham Belay announced efforts to facilitate the return of hundreds of thousands of people displaced from western and southern Tigray during the two-year war between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF, and currently stranded inside various IDPs centers across the region.

He stated that, in line with a decision made by the federal government at the presence of the leaders of the Amhara and Tigray regional states, actions had commenced to facilitate the full return of those displaced from areas currently occupied by Amhara forces. Furthermore, the current administration in the occupied regions would be dismantled, and a new administration elected by the people would be established in a shorter timeframe.

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In April 2023, Addis Standard reported that at least 47,000 newly displaced individuals had arrived at the Endabaguna center. These displaced individuals had fled ten woredas in western Tigray under the occupation of Amhara forces, including Maigaba, Tselemti, Korarit, Welkayit, and Qafta, due to escalating persecution and pressure on ethnic Tigrayans. Among the IDPs were women, girls, and children. AS

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