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The AU estimates that at least 600,000 people have been killed during the war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region

The conflict in Tigray erupted in November 2020 following a TPLF attack on the army's main base in Mekelle,

News 360

Story by Daniel Stewart

The African Union (AU) mediator for the Tigray conflict in northern Ethiopia, Olusegun Obasanjo, estimates that at least 600,000 people have died during the war that began in late 2020 between the Ethiopian Army and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in this northern state.

The former Nigerian president has indicated, in an interview with the ‘Financial Times’, that the number of dead “is around 600,000” after recalling that, during the signing of the ceasefire of the peace agreement in Pretoria (South Africa) in November last year, Ethiopian officials congratulated themselves for having stopped a conflict that until then was leaving figures of “a thousand dead a day”.

The conflict in Tigray erupted in November 2020 following a TPLF attack on the army’s main base in Mekelle, after which the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an offensive against the group following months of political and administrative tensions, including the TPLF’s refusal to recognize an election postponement and its decision to hold regional elections outside Addis Ababa.

The TPLF accuses Abiy of whipping up tensions since coming to power in April 2018, when he became the first Oromo to accede to office. Until then, the TPLF had been the dominant force within Ethiopia’s ruling coalition since 1991, the ethnically-supported Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The group opposed Abiy’s reforms, which it saw as an attempt to undermine its influence.

A ROUGH ESTIMATE International think tanks consulted by the newspaper believe Obasanjo’s estimate could be “roughly correct.”

Ghent University (Belgium) researcher Tim Vanden Bempt estimates that the number of civilians killed alone would range “between 300,000 and 400,000,” either due to war atrocities, starvation or lack of access to medical care.

The expert has qualified that other estimates pointing to between 200,000 and 300,000 combat casualties have not been verified with sufficient accuracy.

Ethiopian officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, considered these estimates to be exaggerated, but acknowledged that the conflict could have left between 80,000 and 100,000 dead, the newspaper said. The head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Daniel Bekele, nevertheless urges caution.

“We will probably never know the total number of fatalities and we have to be very cautious in dealing with estimates that could be exaggerated,” he said.

Archive – Displaced girl from Tigray – GREGG BREKKE / ZUMA PRESS / CONTACTOPHOTO© Provided by News 360


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