Ethiopian federal soldiers walking along the road, in the Tigray region, May 2021. RFI/ Sébastien Németh
18 June 2021
The conflict has been going on since November in Tigray region. This northern region is still plagued by violence between the former TPLF government on the one hand and the federal army, Eritrean soldiers and Amhara militiamen on the other. The conflict has resulted in thousands of deaths and considerable damage. Multiple abuses have been documented, mostly perpetrated by the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies, whose soldiers now inspire terror and anger among the Tigrayans.
Adi Gudem. The military is everywhere in the streets of this city in Southern Tigray. The federal army has been using it as a base since November. The Eritreans stop here for a few days before leaving. The inhabitants accuse both contingents of committing crimes.
“My son was returning to the herd when a soldier called him and shot him for no reason. A mother should not bury her child. Since that day, I don’t go out much,” says Hira, 60. I get angry every time I see a soldier. If I had been younger, I would have fought against them. My other son joined the rebels after his brother died. I couldn’t dissuade him. Now I’m afraid of losing him too. The military should be exemplary. But these are demons.”
The soldiers are also accused of robbing the residents. Shops in the town were ransacked and looted. Kendeya owns a store that was robbed by soldiers.
“Soldiers entered by breaking a window. They stole cash from the cash register and SIM cards. One of them pointed his Kalashnikov at my wife and asked her if she wanted to die. He said that our people were killing their friends and that this robbery was nothing compared to what they could do to us. Another soldier hit me for no reason. They asked me to go and knock on the neighbors’ doors so they could enter. I told them that I would rather have them shoot me than help them kill my people. Finally they left. We are always afraid they will come back. We no longer keep money in the store and we don’t buy any more goods, because they could steal everything.”
Since the arrival of the soldiers, the inhabitants have been living in fear. Fear of being attacked, beaten up, or worse, executed. A group of young people play football in a shopping street in the city. They constantly look around to see if a soldier is coming.
“We are all very scared. When they patrol during the day, sometimes they stop and beat people up for no reason. It traumatizes us. They especially target young people. At night, the soldiers drink and go door to door to rob people,” said Milin [Million], 24. It feels like a strategy. They have been ordered to terrorize us. When you see the Eritreans, the fear is even greater. Even the young girls take refuge in the villages to avoid being raped. Everyone is hiding, because we have all heard what they did in Tigray. It looks like the two forces have made a deal to destroy all of Tigray.”
And as if to illustrate the situation, Milin and his friends suddenly stop their game and run away as two Eritrean soldiers with AK47s cross the street in their direction.