The United States is targeting Eritrean and Ethiopian officials over the Tigray genocide

The United States is targeting Eritrean and Ethiopian officials over the Tigray genocide

ADDIS ABEBA – The Foreign Ministry is targeting an unknown number of officials in Eritrea and Ethiopia for sanctions, foreign policy reports, in connection with the massacre in several parts of the Tigray region, following reports of civilian deaths.

Troops from the two countries have been pitching tents in the Tigray region since November following an attack on the Northern Command, which was reportedly designed by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. [TPLF].

Several complaints have been filed about possible genocide in the region despite Ethiopia’s denial. The international community has pushed for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops accused of mass murder in the region.

And the United States is understandably planning visa restrictions targeting top officials from Addis Ababa and Asmara over the Tigray conflict, which has left hundreds dead and thousands displaced.

The conflict has given rise to widespread reports of atrocities, possible mass violence along ethnic lines and war crimes against civilian populations of forces in Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea.

The Biden administration has become increasingly frustrated with Abiy’s response to the crisis after months of high-level diplomatic talks. The conflict began in November last year when Ethiopian federal forces launched an offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the country’s former ruling party, in response to a TPLF attack on an Ethiopian military base.

The Ethiopian government has dismissed criticism of its handling of the crisis and insisted that soldiers who commit atrocities will be held accountable. The UN has said that all sides in the conflict may have committed war crimes.

The visa restrictions are seen as a shot in the arm, signaling growing American frustration over Abiy for his handling of the conflict and his failure to address growing international concerns over the ensuing humanitarian crisis.

Officials and congressional aides familiar with the matter said the Biden administration plans to further increase pressure on Abiy in other ways, including stopping US security funding for Ethiopia and targeting the World Bank and International Monetary Fund programs in the country. Officials said discussions were underway on a possible leveling of sanctions against Ethiopian or Eritrean officials involved in Tigray’s atrocities, but no final decision had been made.

The United States has long regarded Ethiopia as a critical partner in East Africa, but visa sanctions may be the first sign of a strategic pivot away from Addis Ababa, said Cameron Hudson, a former US diplomat and intelligence officer now at the Atlantic Council.

“This is a major strategic change in the Horn of Africa, going from an anchor state to making US interests a potential adversary to US interests,” Hudson said. “It’s a strategic change that we have not wanted to make, and that is what US diplomacy has recently done to try to save something that can no longer be saved.”

The expected announcement by the United States on visa restrictions comes before the central election in Ethiopia, which will be held on June 21 and is seen as a major test of whether Abiy’s democratic reforms in the country will take root.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs did not respond to a request for comment, including questions about who will be targeted at the visa restrictions. The Ethiopian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Foreign Policy said.

On Friday, the Ethiopian government announced that it had convicted three soldiers of rape and one of killing a civilian, the first public statement that members of its military were found guilty of crimes in Tigray. More than two dozen soldiers are facing trial on charges of rape and killing civilians, as Reuters reported.

Elsewhere, on Friday, Ethiopia accused for the first time troops from the Eritrean neighborhood of killing 110 civilians in a massacre in the war-torn Tigray region.

The Attorney General’s office strongly opposed law enforcement officials who claimed earlier this month that the “vast majority” of those killed in the city of Axum were fighters, not civilians.

The murders in Axum at the end of November represent one of the deadliest incidents in the six-month-old war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The United States and the European Union have repeatedly called on the Eritreans to withdraw.

“The continued presence of Eritrean forces in Tigray further undermines Ethiopia’s stability and national unity,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement last week. “We reiterate our call on the Eritrean Government to withdraw its forces from Tigray.”

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been accused of not living up to the spirit of nationalism even after winning the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for carrying out extensive reforms in Ethiopia, but recent ethnic clashes and the Tigray conflict seem to be tarnishing his reputation as a statesman.



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