The Association for African Studies in Germany (VAD) is dismayed by the outbreak of conflict in Ethiopia and deeply concerned about the genuine danger of the conflict spreading from the Tigray region to other parts of Ethiopia and to neighbouring states. We have received alarming news from Tigrayan colleagues and their relatives about war crimes such as the execution of civilians as well as arbitrary government measures and violations against Ethiopians of Tigrayan origin such as dismissals, imprisonment, displacements, and expropriations – not only in Tigray, but also in other states.
To end the violence, we see increasing international pressure on the Ethiopian government as a decisive lever. Therefore, German foreign policy needs to work more vigorously than before for the creation of mediation structures and humanitarian corridors and to support the African Union’s peace efforts, which are now underway. We do not regard it as sensible to call for a continuation of the “reform course” of the Ethiopian government (as Foreign Minister Heiko Maas did on November 20th), because this reform course has since turned into a course of repression and violence.
In view of the threat of famine caused by the conflict and the mass movements of refugees out of Tigray (currently about 4,000 people a day), more emergency aid must be made available and refugee admission to Europe must be made possible in order to relieve Sudan in particular from the influx of such high numbers of refugees. In this context and with the aim of ending the crisis, VAD strongly supports the call to the European Union to appoint high-ranking representatives for the Horn of Africa without delay. Another concern must be the protection of important cultural heritage sites, such as in Aksum, which are acutely threatened by the escalation of violence.
The intensification of international pressure on the Ethiopian government requires broad public attention, and German-language media must provide more information about this conflict and its background. It is essential to account for the regional specificities of the conflict instead of – as is unfortunately often the case – relying on outdated stereotypes of media coverage about Africa, such as the misleading narrative of a “breakaway region”.
In this context, as researchers focussing on the African continent, we are willing to assist to further the understanding of this conflict and to provide contacts to academics in Ethiopia to provide more information and to raise awareness. If, as a media outlet, you would like us to refer you to experts on Ethiopia, please contact the VAD secretariat in Hamburg: email@example.com / 040-42825595.