By Ismail D. Osman
As both federal and resistance forces continue to escalate a brutal and devastating civil war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, this week the United States imposed sanctions on Filipos Woldeyohannes, the chief of staff of the Eritrea Defense Forces (EDF), citing the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and accusing the Eritrean military leader of serious human rights abuse.
In a press release published on Monday, August 23, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control indicated that “Today’s action demonstrates the United States’ commitment to imposing costs on those responsible for these despicable acts, which worsen a conflict that has led to tremendous suffering by Ethiopians. We urge Eritrea to immediately and permanently withdraw its forces from Ethiopia and urge the parties to the conflict to begin ceasefire negotiations and end human rights abuses.”
This is a power move by the United States Government, and it is a good first step in putting an end to the crisis in Tigray. But it is not nearly enough.
Every year, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations (UN) submits a report to the Human Rights Council (HRC) and the General Assembly (GA) responding to individual complaints, conducting studies, providing advice, and undertaking country visits to assess specific human rights situations.
In June, the UN Rapporteur released a report indicating that there was strong evidence that Somali trainees were transported to Ethiopia to engage as part of Eritrean forces and that these Somali trainees took part in the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region.
The report released by the UN also indicated that “…that Somali soldiers were moved from military training camps in Eritrea to the front line in Tigray, where they accompanied Eritrean troops as they crossed the Ethiopian border.”
Although the report did not specifically indicate the number of military troops sent into Eritrea, some Somalia federal lawmakers have claimed upwards of 10,000 recruits were deployed to Eritrea to participate in the Tigray conflict, without the consent or knowledge of the parliament.
The situation in the Tigray region has become a massive humanitarian catastrophe, and that is probably not worded strongly enough. Blockades have hindered the delivery of both food and medicine. The licenses of humanitarian organizations like Doctors without Borders have been underhandedly and inconceivably revoked, preventing life-saving access to the thousands of individuals experiencing famine, sexual assault, eviction, and execution.
This war has killed thousands of people and, regrettably, civilians have not been spared. The Associated Press have reported many accounts of gang-rapes, destruction of necessary infrastructure (health centers and hospitals), the burning of crops and forced civilian expulsions. The statement released by the US Treasury Department indicated that the “EDF troops have raped, tortured, and executed civilians; they have also destroyed property and ransacked businesses. The EDF have purposely shot civilians in the street and carried out systematic house-to-house searches, executing men and boys, and have forcibly evicted Tigrayan families from their residences and taken over their houses and property.”
Sending Somalia troops to Ethiopia to escalate this criminal behavior and further this crisis is both abominable and unacceptable. But deploying Somalia troops to Ethiopia in an illegal backroom deal brokered under the cover of darkness and veiled in secrecy is dishonest and immoral and it needs to be condemned in the strongest possible language by the strongest nations on Earth. Including, and especially, the United States.
Make no mistake about it, in as much as the EDF is responsible for the daily atrocities occurring in the Tigray region, the Somalia government is just as liable. And it is incumbent and just that the international community stand as one and condemn the actions of the Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, His Spy Chief Fahad Yasin hold them all accountable to the International Court for the war crimes being committed in Tigray Region of Ethiopia.
This week, the United States Government strongly and justly condemned the actions of the Eritrea Defense Forces. Now they must do the same for the actions of the Somalia Government.
Many of the Somali troops remain missing. Many more are surely dead. And their parents are confused, outraged and demanding answers. Their teenage sons were deceitfully and illegally recruited and then hypnotized by promises of education and money before being sent off to an illegal war with little hope of ever returning.
The parents deserve to know the truth. They deserve to know not only where their boys are, but why they were sent there in the first place.
Author: Ismail D. Osman Writes in Somalia, Horn of Africa Security and Geopolitical focusing on governance and security. You can reach him email@example.com