US sanctions Ethiopia and opponents over Tigray war

The US became the first country to impose sanctions on parties on both sides of the Tigray war on Sunday, as international outcry over the humanitarian crisis grows louder.


Image : Alex Brandon/AFP

The United States has imposed restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia in a sign that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s ongoing war in Tigray is damaging its global standing. 

US secretary of state Anthony Blinken said in a statement that visa restrictions will be placed on Ethiopian and Eritrean officials, security forces and irregular fighters, as well as their opponents in the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), as reports of atrocities in the region mount. 

Blinken also said the US had imposed “wide-ranging restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia” and said it would restrict and control the export of defense and military related technologies to the country. Blinken said the US will continue humanitarian assistance and other critical aid to Ethiopia in areas such as health, food security, basic education, and support for women and girls. The US gave around $1bn in aid to Ethiopia last year, according to the USAID database

The restrictions reach beyond the Ethiopian government to target a wide range of actors in the conflict. The measures target Eritrean forces supporting the Ethiopian campaign to pacify the breakaway region as well as officials from the TPLF, who are waging the struggle against the federal forces and its allies. Forces from the Amhara region are also subject to restrictions. 

“The parties to the conflict in Tigray have taken no meaningful steps to end hostilities or pursue a peaceful resolution of the political crisis,” Blinken said.

The US denounced the conduct of the war, highlighting killings, arrests, sexual violence and the destruction of infrastructure in Tigray.

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the killings, forced removals, systemic sexual violence, and other human rights violations and abuses. We are equally appalled by the destruction of civilian property including water sources, hospitals, and medical facilities, taking place in Tigray. We call on the Ethiopian government to meet public commitments to hold accountable all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, to protect civilians, and to ensure unhindered humanitarian access.” 

Blinken also called for Eritrean troops to leave the battlefield, warning that a continuation of the fighting could worsen food insecurity in the area and lead to famine. 

Troops from Ethiopia’s northern Amhara region and from neighbouring Eritrea joined the conflict in support of the government, after war erupted between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian military in November.

Washington’s move comes after Ethiopia delayed its parliamentary election for the second time on Thursday, with organisers citing logistical and security challenges.

The announcement was seen as a blow to Ethiopia’s democratic transition process, with Tigray, and parts of Amhara and Oromia not taking part in the June 21 vote.

Local elections have also been delayed indefinitely, leading critics to question the validity of the upcoming vote.

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