Spare a thought for Tigray

The following open letter from the Secretary General of the Next Century Foundation has been compiled by signatories whose names we have withheld but who are variously citizens of Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and the United Kingdom:

We, the signatories of this Open Letter – Africans in the diaspora, and friends of Africa from different countries – urge you, leaders of Africa, to give urgent attention to the on-going tragedy in Tigray region, Ethiopia.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), security in Tigray remains unstable and unpredictable, and fighting continues in many parts of the region. There are also reports of rising hunger, sexual violation and other abuses, of refugees from Tigray still arriving in Sudan. Furthermore, there are reports of Eritrean refugees being killed or taken to Eritrea by Eritrean military who are involved in the war in Tigray.

Millions are depending on aid, and others could not harvest their crops because of the fighting and displacement from their homes. Access to people in need of food, water, and medicine is constrained due to the ongoing insecurity. Other obstacles include delays in the federal government’s or local authorities’ permission for humanitarian aid to be delivered. Failure to act has already led to vast numbers of deaths, and we believe that without urgent intervention, there will be catastrophic numbers of civilian casualties in the near future.

We appeal to the Summit, in view of the threat of potentially longterm instability in an already fragile region, to call for:

  • A ceasefire in the Tigray region to help the flow of food and medicine and ensure the safety of civilians.
  • The Eritrean government to withdraw its forces from the region, which will reduce the insecurity of local residents and Eritrean refugees, and prevent further human rights abuses.
  • All obstacles preventing humanitarian aid organizations from reaching all parts of the region to be removed.
  • Telephone communications and internet services to be restored to all parts of the region, so that civilians can communicate with their families and friends, and enable the aid organizations to communicate with people in the region and with their staff.
  • Banks to be opened in all parts of the region to enable residents to access their savings and receive financial aid from their relatives and friends.
  • Protection to be provided for civilians in Tigray and the Eritrean refugees according to national, regional and international conventions and treaties.
  • Recognition that the conflict in Tigray is creating potentially longterm instability in an already fragile region with border tensions and refugee flows.

We strongly believe that African problems should have Africa solutions, and we consider the problem in Tigray region is the worst problem that the continent is currently facing. The credibility of the AU is at stake. We appeal to African leaders to take responsibility to find an African solution to this tragedy.

We are united in the belief that no individual or group has all the wrong or all the right on its side – all sides bear some part of responsibility. Our concern is the suffering of innocent civilians. It is never too soon to begin laying the foundations for honest conversation and forgiveness. It is in this spirit that we write this letter.

Yours sincerely,

William Morris LL.D., Secretary General, The Next Century Foundation

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