US expresses concerns over Ethiopia's elections amid Tigray genocide
WASHINGTON, US - The United States has raised serious concerns over the impending elections in Ethiopia, just weeks after putting on notice top Ethiopian and Eritrean leaders, who are closely linked to the ongoing genocide in the Tigray region.
In a statement, the US said it's gravely concerned over the upcoming elections, adding that it had reached to community leaders and politicians, denouncing violence which has been the order for the last couple of months.
"The hardening of regional and ethnic divisions in multiple parts of Ethiopia threaten the country's unity and territorial integrity. The period following these elections will be a critical moment for Ethiopians to come together to confront these divisions," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
"The exclusion of large segments of the electorate from this contest due to security issues and internal displacement is particularly troubling," Price said.
Ethiopia is set to go for elections on June,21 after postponing them for one year but there are still issues that are yet to be solved following a series of internal politics that have seen politicians disagree and even degenerated to serious conflict in Tigray.
Ethiopia's national and regional
On Thursday, the country's election board postponed elections in two regional states, citing irregularities and ballot printing problems, moving the vote there to Sept. 6.
In his statement, Price cited potential obstacles "to a free and fair electoral process and whether Ethiopians would perceive them as credible," including "the detention of opposition politicians," media harassment, and inter-ethnic and conflicts, among other issues.
Already, the country is facing famine among other disasters, which have led to calls for help from the international community. The country has been on spot for the ongoing war in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.
More than 350,000 of Tigray’s nearly 6 million people are living in famine conditions, according to an analysis by United Nations agencies and global aid groups first reported by Reuters on Thursday. Nearly 2 million others are one step away from such dire deprivation, they said. Ethiopia has disputed these estimates.
Fighting since November between Ethiopia’s government and the region’s ousted ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has displaced more than 2 million people. The conflict broke out just before the main harvest, with each side blaming the other. The neighboring country of Eritrea and the next-door Ethiopian region of Amhara sent forces in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.
In some of his strongest public comments to date on the crisis, the UN’s top humanitarian official, Mark Lowcock, accused Eritrean forces of “trying to deal with the Tigrayan population by starving them.” In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, Lowcock said Eritrean soldiers and local fighters are deliberately blocking supplies to the more than 1 million people in areas outside government control. “Food is definitely being used as a weapon of war.”
Ethiopia’s government, the United Nations, and aid agencies have delivered food and other help to some 3.3 million Tigray residents since March, according to the UN humanitarian agency OCHA. But most of that aid is going to government-controlled areas, Lowcock said.
That the Ethiopian government disputes these findings only underscores the urgency of international involvement. G7 leaders should demand from Ethiopia and its allies the resumption of basic services, unimpeded aid delivery, and access, and make clear that any official who blocks assistance faces immediate sanctions.
The millions facing famine in Tigray cannot be explained away as a by-product of the seven-month armed conflict. Human Rights Watch research shows that warring parties have directly contributed to this man-made disaster.
Government restrictions on aid access to the region and to basic services in the early months of the fighting pushed many people over the edge. Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces have also looted property, burned crops, and attacked factories, hospitals, and other infrastructure key to people’s survival.