Oct 20, 2022 - World

WHO chief: "Narrow window" to "prevent genocide" in Ethiopia's Tigray

Tigrayan protesters demonstrate against the war in Tigray on Oct. 2 in Birmingham, U.K. Photo: Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images

Top UN officials this week made some of their most dire warnings yet about the deteriorating situation in northern Ethiopia's Tigray region, where nearly two years of fighting between government and rebel forces have created one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

What they're saying: "There is a very narrow window now to prevent genocide in Tigray," World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned Wednesday of his home region.

  • "There is no other situation globally in which 6 million people have been kept under siege for almost two years," Tedros added. "Banking, fuel, food, electricity and health care are being used as weapons of war. Media is also not allowed and destruction of civilians is done in darkness."

Tedros' comments echoed those of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who warned earlier this week that the "situation in Ethiopia is spiraling out of control."

  • "The social fabric is being ripped apart and civilians are paying a horrific price," Guterres said.

Driving the news: The warnings come as fighting between the Tigray People's Liberation Front and Ethiopian forces along with their Eritrean allies intensify.

  • Government forces are continuing their push into the region after capturing three key cities in Tigray earlier this week, Bloomberg reported.
  • The fighting this week marked a major escalation in the war, which began in November 2020 and has led to what the UN has described as a de facto aid blockade on Tigray. Thousands have been killed in the fighting, and some reportedly due to starvation and disease.
  • Some aid arrived to the region after a ceasefire temporarily halted the worst of the fighting earlier this year, but that truce broke down in August. Fuel shortages and a communication blackout have since compounded humanitarian efforts.

What to watch: Redwan Hussein, the Ethiopian prime minister’s national security adviser, tweeted Thursday that the African Union has rescheduled postponed peace talks for Oct. 24 in South Africa.

  • "We have reconfirmed our commitment to participate," he said. "However, [we] are dismayed that some are bent on preempting the peace talks & spreading false allegations against the defensive measures," he added without elaborating.
  • It's unclear who will mediate. TPLF officials did not immediately comment on the announcement.

The bottom line: "There is no military solution" to the Tigray war, Guterres said on Monday. "The international community must rally together now for peace in Ethiopia."

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