Ethiopian government urged to protect unarmed civilians trapped in Mekelle

TPLF troops in military show of force |Photo: File

Nov 23rd, 2020 (Thessherald)–A South Sudanese journalist, Buay Kapduel, has urged the Ethiopian federal government to protect the civilian population, including foreigners trapped in the Tigray region, more specifically in the capital, Mekelle.

“The Ethiopian government is obligated to protect its citizens, regardless of their ethnic background or political affiliation. Launching large-scale military operations and using tanks and artillery against unarmed civilians in the city in an attempt to drive off dissident leaders is detrimental, and would certainly amount to war crimes,” said the S. Sudanese journalist who’s monitoring the situation in Kenya.

Buay Kapduel

Buay, who resides in Kenya, has lost contact with his family members who have been trapped in the capital, Mekelle – since the government cut off phone communications and internet connections on November 4.

“So far, we do not know their fate – the Ethiopian government needs to understand that there are other innocent people in that region who have the right to protection under international humanitarian law.”

“The Federal Government can use certain or other means and methods of warfare to flush out their enemies [the TPLF forces] but they can’t consider the whole city [Mekelle] as a legitimate military target – it will end up harming civilians who are not taking a direct part in the ongoing fighting in the Tigray region.”

“Based on the statement attributed to the top FDRE commander, there’s a possibility of ethnic cleansing in the whole region, if not genocide, unless the United Nations nips this unfolding situation in the bud,” he warned.

Buay Kapduel

The journalist called on United Nations agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross to identify and protect foreigners caught up in the Ethiopian conflict by establishing a temporary protection camp in the city until the African Union brings the warring parties to the negotiating table.

“I have been monitoring this situation in very closely –at first, we thought it would be a “law enforcement operation” as the prime minister described it, but now it appears to be a collective operation which will not distinguish civilians from combatants,” Buay added.

On Sunday, an Ethiopian military commander warned that there would be no ‘mercy‘ if civilians do not flee the city.

“From now on, the fighting will be a tank battle,” spokesman Colonel Dejene Tsegaye said late Saturday, asserting that the army was marching on the Tigray capital, Mekele, and would encircle it with tanks. “Our people in Mekele should be notified that they should protect themselves from heavy artillery.”

The top military officer accused the Tigray leaders of using the civilian population as human shields.

On Sunday, the rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch, condemned the statement and said the action may constitute war crimes.

“Treating a whole city as a military target would not only unlawful, it could also be considered a form of collective punishment,” Human Rights Watch researcher Laetitia Bader tweeted Sunday.

HRW

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