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News: UN special adviser warns of increased genocide risk in Ethiopia amidst violent conflicts

Alice Wairimu Nderitu, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide (Photo: UN)

Addis Abeba – The United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, has issued a warning about an increased risk of genocide and related atrocities in Ethiopia. This comes as violent conflicts intensify in various regions of the country, including Amhara and Oromia.

In her statement issued on 10 October, 2023, Special Adviser Nderitu expressed deep concern over the ongoing fighting between government troops and local militias in the Amhara and Oromia regions, describing reports about the conflicts as “deeply disturbing”.

She highlighted that the agreement to cease hostilities in the Tigray region reached a year ago has largely failed, stressing the need for international action. Nderitu drew attention to the presence of risk factors for genocide and atrocities and urged the international community to address the situation.

The UN Special Advisor stated that the current situation in Ethiopia aligns with several warning signs and risk factors for genocide outlined in the UN Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes. She referenced reports of deliberate targeting and brutal violence against families, with men and older boys being executed and women and girls facing horrific acts of sexual violence. According to her statement, entire communities have also been forcibly displaced or expelled from their lands, suggesting an ethnic cleansing campaign.

“Civilian suffering should not be normalized or accepted, and prevention must be the priority through coordinated action,” emphasized Nderitu.

She also referred to her previous warnings over the past three years and a September report by the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia. Nderitu called for an immediate end to wide-ranging violations committed by all parties since November 2020.

The Commission’s report of 18 September, 2023, revealed that despite the ceasefire, atrocities, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, persist throughout Ethiopia. Civilians have been subjected to mass killings, rape, starvation, destruction of infrastructure, forced displacement, and arbitrary detention. Attacks on Tigrayan civilians were accompanied by derogatory language, indicating an intent to target the group ethnically. The report also highlighted widespread cases of rape against ethnic Amhara and Agew women and girls.

Condemning all violence directed at non-combatants, Nderitu warned that the conflict has evolved into “a war being waged against the people as much as between the warring factions”. With multiple indicators of atrocity risks present across Ethiopia, the UN Special Advisor stressed the urgent need for coordinated preventive action to mitigate further loss of life.

Emphasizing the importance of accountability, Nderitu stated that “ending impunity is crucial in curbing cycles of retaliatory violence that fuel ongoing instability in the country.” AS

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