UN calls for swift formation of Hybrid Court for South Sudan

The United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten | Photo: UN

The United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, has called for the immediate formation of the AU Hybrid Court for South Sudan to hold accountable individuals accused of having committed acts of sexual violence during the conflict.

“The United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary- General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, welcomes the announcement by the Government of South Sudan to establish transitional justice institutions provided for under Chapter V of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), and calls on the Government to expedite their establishment,” the UN diplomat said in its statement.

The Special Representative noted that the timely establishment of Chapter V institutions, including the long-awaited African Union Hybrid Court, which are envisioned to investigate and prosecute individuals bearing responsibility for violations of international law and/or applicable domestic law will be a strong signal that such crimes, including acts of sexual violence will not be tolerated, that those responsible will be held accountable, and that the needs of survivors and communities will be addressed.

The Special Representative further underscored the importance of adhering to the 35 per cent quota for women’s representation in government institutions, including Chapter V institutions, in line with the revitalized peace agreement.

The UN official urged Southern Sudan leaders to devise an approach focusing on sexual and gender-based violence that would undoubtedly address sexual violence committed during the war.

“As the Government of South Sudan moves forward with establishing transitional justice and peacebuilding processes, I call on the authorities to adopt a survivor-centered approach. Survivors of sexual violence, their families and communities have a central role to play”, emphasized the Special Representative.

“My Office stands ready to support the Government and its partners in their efforts to strengthen prevention and response to sexual violence and ensure that the prosecution of these grave crimes takes place in a timely and transparent manner.”

PM Abiy ramps down military operations after capturing Mekelle

ENDF captures the capital, Mekelle from the TPLF |Photo: File

Nov 28, 2020 (Thessherald)–The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed has announced that the Ethiopian National Defense Force will now scale down ‘main’ military operations in the Tigray region after seizing the capital, Mekelle.

“The Federal government is now fully in control of the city of Mekelle. With full command of the regional capital, this marks the completion of the ENDF’s last phase [operation],” Abiy announced this evening.”

Abiy pointed out that the federal police forces will now continue with a specific law enforcement operation and hunt down the TPLF leaders in their hideouts.

“Federal police will now continue their task of apprehending TPLF criminals and bring them to the court of law.”

He further claimed that his forces, after engaging in fierce fighting with the TPLF forces, had rescued thousands of soldiers held as hostages for weeks.

“The ENDF has thus far managed to secure the release of thousands of Northern Command officers held hostage by TPLF Secured the Northern Command camp Take control of the airport, public institutions, the Regional administration office and other critical facilities.”

“The main operation is successfully concluded,” the Ethiopian leader declared.

He also said that the ENDF inflicted no casualties on the civilian population, a claim that could not be easily verify as the other side to the conflict remains unreasonable.

“The ENDF undertake the operation with precision and due care for citizens ensuring civilians are not targeted The people of the Tigray Region have provided utmost support and cooperation to the Ethiopian National Defense Force in all corners.”

Alert: Crisis Group warns of looming Genocide as federal forces approach Mekelle

International Crisis Group | Press Statement

Nov 28, 2020 (Thessherald)–Fighting between the Ethiopian army and Tigray forces has arrived near the region’s biggest city, home to half a million residents. Addis Ababa should pause hostilities, all sides should minimise harm to civilians and the AU should step up efforts to avert further bloodshed.

lasting damage to the country. Following the African Union’s lead, the U.S., the European Union and the UN Security Council should urge Addis Ababa to suspend the assault and convey to all sides that an already blood-soaked military campaign would be enormously damaging to the country’s well-being and international repute.

It is not too late to avert more civilian deaths, nor to avoid a bloody confrontation that could inflict lasting damage to the country.

Civilians in Tigray have paid a heavy price since the conflict began on 4 November. More than 40,000 refugees have fled west Tigray towns such as Humera and Dansha into eastern Sudan, with some having to swim across rivers to get to safety. According to the United Nations, at least 600,000 people in Tigray depended on food aid before the conflict and have not received their rations this month. Fuel and other essentials are also running low in Mekelle. Thousands have died in the fighting, including many civilians as well as security forces.

The communications blackout and blockade of air and road access to the region from within Ethiopia is affecting the humanitarian response. Federal forces and Sudanese troops are reported to have shuttered Tigray’s main external supply line through eastern Sudan.

All sides are reported to have committed atrocities. An Ethiopian Human Rights Commission preliminary report blamed Tigrayan militia for killing hundreds of mostly Amhara civilians in Maykadra town in west Tigray on 9 November. Tigrayan refugees in camps have reported atrocities by Amhara militia who have been fighting alongside the federal military, including in that same town.

All sides are reported to have committed atrocities.

Federal officials in Addis Ababa argue they are acting to bring to heel rebellious Tigrayan leaders whom they accuse of undermining stability across Ethiopia since they were squeezed out of power at the national level in 2018. They maintain that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Tigray’s ruling party, started the war by killing dozens of soldiers in an attack on a federal military base on 4 November, and that Tigrayan leaders’ objective is to ensure they enjoy immunity for “past and present misdeeds” and continue to exercise control far in excess of the TPLF’s limited nationwide support. They characterise the conflict as a “law and order operation”, which they predict will end rapidly.

Addis Ababa is intent on securing a military victory and rejects the idea of negotiations, saying that Tigray’s leaders cannot be allowed to get away with attacking the national military and violating the constitution, which it claims occurred when Tigray ran a regional election in September in defiance of federal rulings.

Officials in Addis Ababa argue that allowing the TPLF to get away with its actions would set a destabilising precedent that would incentivise future acts of rebellion. They claim that entering into dialogue would reward the illegal actions of the TPLF, whose leadership they now label a “junta” or “clique”, for the 4 November attacks, which they describe as a “treasonous act”. On 27 November, Abiy met three envoys appointed by AU chair Cyril Ramaphosa and told them he would not engage in talks with the TPLF. He said dialogue with Tigray’s ruling party would “nurture a culture of impunity with devastating cost to the survival of the country”.

In the event they do not leave, fails to discriminate between them and combatants, would be a clear violation of international law and would badly damage the Ethiopian government’s international reputation.

The likely bloodbath that would ensue would deepen the enmity between those facing off against each other and risk further alienating swathes of the civilian population in Tigray. Tigrayan officers, civil servants and others reportedly are being ethnically profiled outside of Tigray, and many echo the Tigrayan leaders’ claim that this is an attack on the entire group, a sentiment that may seed support for secession.

Given what a military offensive by Addis Ababa – even one that is successful on its own terms – would entail and what it would provoke, all sides should accept a deal to suspend hostilities. AU chair Ramaphosa, who has consistently called for talks, should appeal to Prime Minister Abiy to scrap or at least extend the ultimatum his government issued.

The chances of a negotiated agreement to end the fighting, let alone reach a longer-term solution to a bitter constitutional dispute, are vanishing quickly, given Addis Ababa’s determination to secure control of the city and bring TPLF leaders to justice. Although it has lately called for talks, the TPLF, too, raised its own obstacles to dialogue before the conflict by declaring the federal government illegitimate. Ethiopia’s partners, from regional leaders to the AU to the EU and UN Security Council members, should not give up in pointing out to Abiy’s government that Ethiopia’s problems ultimately need to be resolved politically, through talks, and not through force.

The most urgent need now is to save lives.

The most urgent need now is to save lives. Entering a heavily populated metropolis with artillery and air power, as an Ethiopian military spokesman warned federal forces will do imminently, would exact an enormous, intolerable toll on civilians and badly damage Ethiopia’s international repute, at a time when voices of concern from many of Ethiopia’s partners are growing. Addis Ababa should agree to pause hostilities and, whether or not an offensive goes ahead, all sides should strictly respect international law, which means doing everything feasible to avoid or minimise loss of civilian life and refraining from using civilians as human shields.

In parallel to efforts to avert a humanitarian crisis, Ethiopia’s partners should continue to press the message that the answer to the country’s deep political fault lines will not come on the battlefield.

Breaking: TPLF begins large-scale airstrikes in Eritrea, destroys buildings

Nov 27, 2020 (Thessherald)–Latest reports from Eritrea indicate that the TPLF has fired several rockets this evening into neighboring Eritrea and destroyed civilian buildings, the Eritrean Press confirmed a few minutes ago.

“The TPLF junta has fired numerous rockets at several Eritrean cities tonight in the last desperate attempt to internationalised the war inside Ethiopia,” the Eritrean Press said in a statement.

“EP can confirm that the rockets in Asmara have landed near busy residential areas, but no casualties are recorded. Eritrean Press will update you when more information reaches us.”

On Friday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed rebuffed calls by the African Union for dialogue and pledged to continue to enforce military operations until he controls the capital, Mekele, which is currently inhabited by thousands of civilians.

This is a developing #story, check back in a few minutes for more updates!