Ethiopia rejects independent probes into Tigray conflict

NAIROBI, KENYA (AP) – Ethiopia’s government is rejecting calls for independent investigations into the deadly conflict in its Tigray region, saying it “doesn’t need a baby-sitter”.

The declaration comes amid international calls for more transparency into the month-long fighting between Ethiopian forces and those of the fugitive Tigray regional government that is thought to have killed thousands, including civilians. At least one large-scale massacre has been documented, and others are feared.

Senior government official Redwan Hussein told reporters on Tuesday evening that Ethiopia will invite others for assistance only if it feels that “it failed to investigate”. To assume the government can’t carry out such probes “is belittling the government”, he said.

Frustration is growing as the northern Tigray region remains largely cut off from the outside world, with food and medicines desperately needed by the population of six million — some one million of them now thought to be displaced.

The lack of transparency, as most communications and transport links remain severed, has complicated efforts to verify the warring side’s claims.

It also hurts efforts to understand the extent of atrocities that have been committed since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on November 4 announced that fighting had begun with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which dominated Ethiopia’s government and military for nearly three decades before he came to power and sidelined it.

Each government now regards the other as illegal, as the TPLF objects to the postponement of national elections until next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and sees Abiy’s mandate as expired. Ethiopia’s government has pushed back against what it calls outside “interference”, from efforts at dialogue to delivering aid, drawing on its history as the rare African country never colonised, a source of deep national pride.

The government has made it clear it wants to manage aid delivery, and on Tuesday it said its forces had shot at and detained United Nations (UN) staffers who allegedly broke through checkpoints while trying to reach areas where “they were not supposed to go”.

Tigrayans who fled the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, prepare dinner in front of their temporary shelters at Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan. PHOTO: AP