Ethiopian federal soldiers walking along the road, in the Tigray region, May 2021. RFI/ Sébastien Németh

Published: 18/06/2021 – 00:56

[Rough translation of a report by Sébastien Nemeth for Radio France International – RFI]

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 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 southern Tigrayan town. 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 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. Stores in the town have been ransacked and looted. Kendeya has a store that was robbed by soldiers.

“Soldiers came in and broke a window. They stole money 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 knock on the neighbors’ doors so they could come in. I told them I would rather have them shoot me than help them kill my people. Finally they left. We are still afraid they will come back. We don’t keep money in the store anymore and we don’t buy back goods, because they might steal everything. “

Since the arrival of the soldiers, the inhabitants live in fear. Fear of being attacked, beaten up, or worse, executed. A group of young people play table soccer in a commercial street of 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 up people 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, 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 an agreement 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.