International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflicts The Case of Tigray
Mekete Tigray UK
Tigrai Online June, 18, 2022
International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflicts: The Case of Tigray - An Urgent Call on UK MPs and Peers To Stop the Genocidal War on Tigray
To Members of UK Parliament,
- As we begin to celebrate this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence In Conflicts, we, concerned UK citizens and residents of Tigrayan Ethiopian origin organised under an open, independent, democratic and inclusive platform of Mekete Tigray UK, are yet again writing to UK MP and Peers to convey our continuing horror and sadness of the abject failure of the UK Government, the EU, the US and Western countries in general to stop the Genocidal War on Tigray, where the signature of the war is the systematic and widespread weaponisation of sexual violence and rape as a stratagem of war. Russia and China are aiding and abetting the genocidal war on Tigray so long as their appeasements of the Ethiopian and Eritrean regimes advance their hegemonic designs on the Horn of Africa and Ethiopia.
- The United Nations General Assembly’s 2015 resolution proclaimed 19 June as a day to condemn and call for the end of conflict-related sexual violence, including rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy and enforced sterilization and to honour victims, survivors and those fighting to end these most horrific of crimes. We see it too often in all corners of the globe, from Ukraine to Tigray in northern
Ethiopia to Syria. “Every new wave of warfare brings with it a rising tide of human tragedy, including new waves of war’s oldest, most silenced, and least-condemned crime,” said Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Similarly, Helen Hays and Lord William Hague expressed their horror on the scale and heinous nature of the weaponisation of sexual violence and rape as a stratagem of war:
“We must stop barbaric crimes against women. Gang rapes and mutilation are being carried out in the Tigray conflict but the world prefers to look the other way. Innumerable witness accounts leave no doubt that war crimes are being committed on a huge scale in Tigray, the region of Ethiopia where a military offensive against rebels was launched last November. Often committed by the armed forces of neighbouring Eritrea, working alongside
Ethiopia’s own army, these actions include mass sexual violence against women and girls. Such reports are terrible enough but it is only when you go into the details that you can fully appreciate that these crimes are against the very core of humanity. The accounts from Tigray include women being repeatedly raped next to the bodies of husbands or brothers who had tried to protect them; being told the men in uniform raping them are deliberately selected for being HIV-positive; assaulted with....”
(Lord William Hague, The Times, 31 May 2021)
“The effects of this war will continue long after the guns have fallen silent. There will be empty spaces where civilian populations were murdered, and there will be a cohort of children growing up who are the results of the rape of their mothers. This further illustrates why it is absolutely the wrong time for the UK Government to be reneging on their promise to maintain UK aid spending at 0.7% of gross national income. I hope the Minister will reflect further on that disastrous decision. Even now, the UK Government can help avert yet more destruction in Tigray and provide justice for the survivors of the massacres and for the women who have been raped. It will, however, take much more than words; it will take action, and that is what I, and many others, hope the Minister will commit to tonight.”
(Helen Hayes MP, UK Parliament Debate on Conflict in Tigray, 25 March 2021)
- In last year’s International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflicts, in an Open Letter addressed to the UN, more than 50 women of African descent expressed horror at reports that African women and girls are once again the victims of violence and rape in war. Similarly, a letter signed by the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, former UK Development Secretary, Hilary Benn, Lord Alton of Liverpool, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, the former Zimbabwean author and 2020 Booker prize nominee Tsitsi Dangarembga and more than 60 campaigners called on the UN Security Council to set up a tribunal to investigate allegations of sexual violence in Ethiopia’s northern region as a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act of genocide.
- In the war on Tigray, the horrors of the scale and number of the use of sexual violence is unprecedented since the end of the Second Wald War, where, according to the preliminary study by the Mekelle University, more than 120,000 Tigrayan women and girls have been subjected to the heinous and horrific crimes of sexual violence and rape. This happened where, according to the Ghent University study more than 500,000 Tigrayans have perished due to the onslaughts of war and the use of hunger, starvation and man-made famine as a tool of war. Tigray has been completely cut-off by total economic and transport blockade and military siege including the deliberate policy of not allowing international humanitarian support reaching the region.
- Despite the Humanitarian Ceasefire announced on 24 March 2022 and the Tigray Government doing its agreed parts, Tigrayan people continued to be starved due to an economic blockade and military siege where hunger and starvation is being used by the Ethiopian and Eritrean regimes as a weapon of war, which is against international humanitarian law. More than two months since the announcement of the humanitarian truce only 6% of the required and agreed amount of humanitarian support has been allowed to reach Tigray. Is there any more damning evidence of the intention and action of a deliberate use of huger and starvation as a weapon of war? Yet, Western governments continue to be complicit in the unfolding genocide in Tigray to the point of being delusional about the genocidal intentions and actions of Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afewerki. Both the UK Minister for Africa, Vicky Ford, and the Chief Administrator of USAid, Samantha Power, have described the 6% humanitarian assistance reaching Tigray over two months as “A Trickle” but utterly failed to condemn it or to suggest other policy and action alternatives or come to the conclusion on its genocidal implications. This is in fact the horrific history of Tigray for the last 20 months, only platitudes of concern and worries by governments and institutions but not bold or concrete actions to alter the fact on the ground, which is genocide in slow-
motion. Professor Mukesh Kapila, an international health humanitarian who worked for the UN and witnessed many genocides including, in Rwanda, Darfur and Bosnia, aptly described the use of hunger and starvation in Tigray as a weapon of modern genocide more than a year earlier:
“Modern genocides aren’t done Nazis style. Cheap, stealthy, smart way to do it is by starving, pillaging, raping, displacing. World then automatically demands humanitarian aid which will come but always little & late - allowing ethnic cleansers to finish job first #Ethiopia #Tigray”
(Professor Mukesh Kapila; @mukeshkapila; 23rd March 2021)
“Ethiopian government blocked Tigray famine declaration – Mark Lowcock. At the end of my time in the U.N., it was clear to me that there was famine in Tigray, and the only reason it wasn’t declared was because the Ethiopian authorities were quite effective in slowing down the whole declaration system,” he said during an online event held by the Overseas Development Institute on Tuesday. Lowcock left his role at the U.N. last year. Skirting around a declaration: Before he left office in June 2021, Lowcock said that “there is famine now” in the war-torn region, even though the U.N. put out a statement that didn’t go as far — saying people were “on the brink” and at “risk” of a “looming famine.”. Absent a declaration, the aid sector has used phrasing such as “famine-like conditions.”
(Sara Jerving; Devex; 7 June 2022)
“The world’s response to the #TigrayGenocide has been shameful. A total of 5.2 million people in Ethiopia’s Tigray region (91% of its population) need emergency food aid. Up to 500k Tigrayans have been killed over the past 578 days.”
(@RestlessBeings; Tweet, 5 June 2022)
- The Mekete Tigray UK has witnessed the emerging horrors of the current war in Ukraine as the result of the aggression by the Government of the Russian Federation against the sovereign Ukrainian Nation and people. We have begun to see the unfolding spectre of war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed against the Ukrainian people. The Mekete Tigray UK, the Tigrayan people and the Tigray Regional Government have rightly condemned the aggression against the nation and people of Ukraine as well as supporting the robust and all-rounded response to date by governments and global institutions. In contrast, the Eritrean and Ethiopian regimes have supported, in the UN General Assembly vote, the Russian aggression against Ukraine directly or through abstention. This is due to the authoritarian and dictatorial nature of the regimes and as a return for Russian and Chinese governments’ support for their
Genocidal War on Tigray.
- The Mekete Tigray UK supports the world response, including the UK Government’s, to the aggression against Ukraine by the Government of Russia. The response to the Russian aggression is unprecedented in its scope, scale, intensity and resolution. During the month since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, no day passed without the UK PM, Government or the Secretary of State for FCD denouncing the Russian invasion. The UK has imposed all-round and unprecedented varieties and levels of sanctions against the Russian Government. The UK PM has expressed his outrage and has travelled far and wide, including to Ukraine, to denounce the invasion and rally support for the Ukrainian nation and people. The UK Parliament has rightly convened many times to denounce the war in Ukraine and to express support for and solidarity with Ukrainian people.
- Yet, the Mekete Tigray UK’s British citizens and residents are perplexed, deeply saddened and hurt when the UK Government’s little or double standard responses to the genocidal war on Tigray is compared and contrasted with the robust and all-rounded response to the war in Ukraine. Similarly, the general lack of
concern and response to the Tigray Genocide by Her Majesty’s Official Opposition has been extremely disappointing to say the least. Overall and in effect, the UK Parliament, the governing and opposition parties and their leaders, and the British Ambassador in Ethiopia, H.E. Dr Alastair McPhail OBE, silence on the Genocidal War on Tigray during the past 500+ days is deafening. This is a clear and shameful failure of UK foreign policy on the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia and Tigray. This is despite the notable and noble exceptions of MPs and Peers, such as Helen Hayes MP, Jim Shannon MP, Kenny MacAskill MP, Mick Whitley MP, Rachel Hopkin MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Fleur Anderson MP, Sarah Champion MP, Jeremy Hunt MP; John McDonnell MP, Claire Hanna MP, Paula Barker MP, Jim Sharman MP, Virendra Sharma MP, Harriet Harman MP, Hilary Benn MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Andrew Rosindell MP, Brendan O’Hara MP, Tim Farron MP, Patrick Grady MP, Carol Monaghan MP, Sammy Wilson MP, Tony Lloyd MP, Lord David Alton, Lord William Hague, Lord Triesman, Viscount Waverley, Baroness Kennedy, the Rt Reverend Justin Welby the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury; the Rt Reverend Dr Christopher J. Cocksworth the Lord Bishop of Coventry and the Rt Reverend Christopher Chessun the Lord Bishop of Southwark; and former MPs and ministers, such as Sally Keeble amongst others, who have been vocal and outstanding in their humanitarian stand on the war in Tigray. Tigrayans and Ethiopians in general will always be grateful and remember this in the annals of their history. As for the silent friends of Tigray and Ethiopia, we say, as in the immortal words of Dr Martin Luther King: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”.
- Notwithstanding geopolitical considerations and the exigencies of global great power politics, humanity, morality, justice or the rule-of-law is one and indivisible. War crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing and genocide are all against international humanitarian law wherever they occur or whoever they are against - whether they are against Europeans or Africans, Ukrainians or Tigrayan Ethiopians, white people or blacks. All lives, peoples, races, religions and nations matter equally. We believe aggressors must be confronted wherever they happen to be located. We believe world governments and institutions must show commensurate levels of concern and solidarity, and employ similar and proportionate concrete actions to stop the horrors of wars wherever they occur. Similarly, the extremely huge disparity in news coverage of the War in Ukraine and the Genocidal War in Tigray, Ethiopia by the BBC and the UK national media in general, again with a few exceptions, depicts sadly not one standard morality or principle or humanity, but a divided, biased and unjust world. Regarding the war in Tigray the world prefers to look the other way as alluded above by Lord William Hague. This in the 21st Century.
- The war in Tigray and its attendant war crimes and crimes against humanity are largely forgotten by the world media, much more so in the aftermath of the Ukrainian War. Writing for the Observer on 11 April 2022, Trevor Lwere, after an extensive analysis of the differential and reporting with racial connotations of the wars in Ukraine and Tigray and other conflicts in Africa by the mainstream global media, opined:
“The war has gone on too long. It has caused a lot of suffering, death and destruction. No, I am not talking about the war in Ukraine. I am talking about the civil war in Ethiopia that has raged since November 2020. More than 500,000 people have died and many more have been displaced and left helpless because of this brutal conflict. While Tigrayans starve away under siege with only scanty help from the international community in a conflict that has lasted more than two years, last week the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen hosted a fundraiser for Ukraine at which over 9 billion Euros were raised for Ukrainian refugees... It is not difficult to understand why the international community has been scarcely bothered by the protracted conflicts in Africa. For certain it is not for a lack of resources but for a lack of sufficient interest as these areas are of no significant strategic value. Unlike the Ukrainian conflict that spells danger for Europe, the conflicts in Africa are of no serious direct consequence.... So, the commitment is not to peace and protection of life but to the protection of white lives. And there we have it, the racism that underlies the little interest in these other conflicts. It is not that the suffering of non-white peoples has been ignored. To add salt to the wound, statements have been made to the effect that non-white peoples are more accustomed, even more deserving of living in conditions of war and conflict. ...Thus, when one compares the attention that has been given to the Ukrainian conflict to the scanty attention given to the Ethiopian conflict, one cannot help but recall the incisive assessment of W.E.B DuBois who wrote at the dawn of the 20th century that the problem of the twentieth century was the problem of the color line.
More than a century later, DuBois’s assessment rings truer in our day. I am certainly no DuBois but dare I say
that the problem of the twenty-first century is the problem of the color line. Steve Biko knew better when he said, “Black man, you are on your own.”
(Trevor Lwere, The Observer; 11 April 2022)
“There’s Genocide in Tigray, but Nobody’s Talking About it. The reasons range from Internet shutdowns to just pure racism. A humanitarian crisis is taking place in northern Ethiopia, but you may not have read about it in the news. In fact, you may have never heard of the Tigray National Regional State, which is currently encircled by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces. Those troops are setting up blockades, burning food silos, and going from village to village committing genocidal massacres and rapes. If we compare the situation in Tigray to other ongoing armed conflicts, the numbers are startling. Looking at civilian deaths, for example, the war in Ukraine has resulted in less than 3,000 Ukrainian deaths, according to the UN Human Rights Office, while Tigray has seen upward of 500,000, as per estimates by Ghent University. To be fair, some outlets, such as Al Jazeera, have provided ample coverage. But it is not enough, and it is dwarfed by the coverage of Ukraine or the Bosnian genocide before it. “I don’t know if the world really gives equal attention to Black and white lives,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, himself an ethnic Tigrayan based in Geneva, said at a press conference given on April 13. “I need to be blunt and honest that the world is not treating the human race the same way. Some are more equal than others.” This is one of the longest and worst sieges of modern history,” Tedros told me recently. “There are 7 million people sealed off from the outside world for 18 months now. I haven’t spoken to my relatives in Tigray in 18 months, because telecoms are cut off. They are starving. But I can’t send money because banks are closed.”
(The Nation; David Volodzko; 10 May 2022)
- Mekete Tigray UK urge UK MPs and Peers to urge and press the UK Government to take bold and concrete actions to :
- condemn and press the Ethiopian, Eritrean and Amhara regional governments to stop the weaponisation of sexual violence and rape; and ensure the provision of support to all victims;
- ensure the investigation of mass atrocities crimes including sexual violence by any and all parties to the conflict by an independent, transparent and internationally-led body;
- press the need for unfettered humanitarian support and access for all victims of the war including the ending of economic blockade and military siege against Tigray; and
- press the UK Government’s responsibility to help end the genocidal war on Tigray by undertaking bold and concrete actions including the imposition of appropriate sanctions with the ultimate objectives of
changing the behaviour of the perpetrators of the crimes that are against international humanitarian laws.
- Thank you and we trust the UK Parliament will address the horrors of the war, which is one of the most horrific humanitarian crisis in the world. For further information please contact us at the above address.
The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, Prime Minister of the UK;
The Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP; Deputy Prime Minister of the UK;
The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP; Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs; The Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP; Secretary of State for Defence; The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP; Chancellor of the Exchequer;
The Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP; Secretary of State for International Trade;
The Rt Hon Vicky Ford MP; Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Africa); The Rt Hon Baroness Evans of Bows Park; Leaders of the House of Lords;
Sir Simon McDonald KCMG; Permanent Under-Secretary and Head of Diplomatic Service; H.E. Dr Alastair McPhail CMG OBE; KCVO British Ambassador to Ethiopia;
The Rt Hon Sir Keir Starmer MP; Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition;
The Rt Hon Angela Rayner MP, Deputy Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition; The Rt Hon David Lammy MP; Shadow Secretary of State for FCD Affairs;
The Rt Hon Baroness Smith of Basildon; The Shadow Leader of the House of Lords; The Rt Hon Tom Tugendhat MP; Chair of Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee; The Rt Hon Chris Bryant MP; Member of Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee;
The Rt Hon Stewart Malcolm McDonald MP; Member of Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee; The Rt Hon Sarah Champion MP; Chair of International Development Sub-Committee; The Rt Hon Kate Osamor MP; Member of International Development Sub-Committee; The Rt Hon Helen Hayes MP; UK House of Commons; The Rt Hon Sarah Champion MP; UK House of Commons;
The Rt Hon Fleur Anderson MP; UK House of Commons;
The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP; UK House of Commons;
The Rt Hon, Daisy Cooper MP; UK House of Commons;
The Rt Hon Claire Hanna MP, UK House of Commons;
The Rt Hon Paula Barker MP; UK House of Commons;
The Rt Hon Virendra Sharman MP; UK House of Commons;
The RT Hon Harriet Harman MP; UK House of Commons;
The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP; UK House of Commons;
The Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP; UK House of Commons;
The Rt Hon Edward Miliband MP; UK House of Commons; The Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP; UK House of Commons;
The Rt Hon Lord David Alton of Liverpool; UK House of Lords; The Rt Hon Lord William Hague of Richmond; UK House of Lords; The Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park; UK House of Lords; The Rt Hon Lord Triesman; UK House of Lords; The Rt Hon Viscount Waverley; UK House of Lords;
The Rt Hon Baroness Kennedy; UK House of Lords;
The Rt Reverend Dr Christopher Cocksworth; The Lord Bishop of Coventry; UK House of Lords; The Rt Reverend Justin Welby; The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury; UK House of Lords; The Rt Reverend Stephen Cottrell; The Lord Archbishop of York; UK House of Lords;
The Rt Reverend Christopher Chessun; The Lord Bishop of Southwark; UK House of Lords; His Eminence Vincent Cardinal Nichols; Archbishop of Westminster; Sir Graham Wrigley; Chairman of the CDC Group PLC;
Nick O’Donohoe; CEO of the CDC Group Plc;
His Holiness Pope Francis; Sovereign of the Vatican State;
His Holiness Abune Matias, The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church; The Rt Hon Ian Blackford MP; Leader of SNP in the UK House of Commons; The Rt Hon Sir Ed Davey MP; Leader of the Liberal Democrats;
The Rt Hon Liz Saville Roberts; Leader of Plaid Cymru in the House of Commons; H.E. Antonio Guterres, Secretary -General of the UN;
H.E Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission;
H.E. Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs; H.E. Annette Weber, EU Representative for the Horn of Africa;
H.E. Michelle Bachelet; UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; H.E. Antony Blinken; Secretary State of the United States; Richard Sharp; Chairman of the BBC Board; Tim Davie; Director General of the BBC;
The African Union;
Human Rights Watch;
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