World’s deadliest conflict reaching a tipping point

The conflict in Tigray has taken an unimaginable human toll since it first erupted in November 2020. From the outset, the war has been marked by brutality and a stark disregard for civilian life.

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Editorials

October 26, 2022 - 4:54 PM

Ethiopian refugees who fled fighting in Tigray province are pictured at the Um Rakuba camp in Sudan's eastern Gedaref province, on Nov. 19, 2020. (Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

One of the world’s worst humanitarian crises has escalated dramatically over the past two months — but has received scant attention from the international community. In Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, where federal forces have been battling regional rebels, the resumption of fighting has resulted in civilian casualties, the destruction of critical infrastructure and the displacement of tens of thousands of people since August. As peace talks between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan representatives begin this week, it is imperative for regional and world leaders and multilateral institutions to press for an immediate cessation of hostilities — and serious, sincere negotiations.

The conflict in Tigray has taken an unimaginable human toll since it first erupted in November 2020. From the outset, the war has been marked by brutality and a stark disregard for civilian life. According to an international commission convened by the U.N. Human Rights Council, there is evidence to suggest combatants on all sides have engaged in serious human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, mass rapes and deliberate starvation. The full scale of the devastation is difficult to gauge, thanks to a two-year internet blackout and restrictions on access to Tigray. Yet researchers from Ghent University estimate the war, resulting famine and lack of health-care services have claimed between 385,000 and 600,000 lives. Millions more have been displaced.

When a humanitarian truce was agreed to in March, some hoped it would herald a lifting of Ethiopia’s “de facto blockade” and set the stage for broader peace negotiations. But fighting recommenced in August. In recent weeks, Ethiopian forces have seized control of several key towns in Tigray, including the strategic city of Shire.

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