Authorities in Ethiopia’s Tigray on Monday accused security forces from a neighbouring region of kicking thousands of Tigrayans off their land in recent days, highlighting territorial disputes inflamed by the ongoing conflict.
Around 60 trucks and buses carrying Tigrayans have arrived in the town of Shire, in the region’s North-Western zone, from towns farther west since Saturday, Gebremeskel Kassa, chief of staff of Tigray’s interim government, told AFP.
The vehicles carried at least 3,500 people and possibly as many as 5,000, though officials in Shire were still counting the new arrivals, Gebremeskel said, adding that the relocations were “continuing”.
He blamed security forces from neighbouring Amhara region, which borders Tigray to the south and has played a major role in securing large swathes of Tigray since fighting erupted in November.
“It’s clear that the Amhara regional forces are forcibly removing people of Tigrayan origin from (the western) region,” Gebremeskel said. “We strongly condemn the forced removal of Tigrayan residents from western Tigray… They have to stop immediately,” he added.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops into Tigray in early November to disarm and detain leaders of the region’s then-ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
He said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps.
Abiy leaned on forces from Amhara to secure western and southern Tigray after the TPLF retreated from those areas, and Amhara officials set up transitional administrations in multiple cities and towns. It was a sensitive move, given that many ethnic Amharas believe the once-dominant TPLF illegally incorporated the fertile territories after it came to power in the early 1990s — and that they should rightfully fall under Amhara administration.
The Amhara regional government did not respond to a request for comment Monday. In a statement in late February, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for an “immediate withdrawal” of Amhara forces from Tigray, drawing the ire of Abiy’s government, which called the demand “regrettable”.
Doctors Without Borders, which is present in Shire, has also observed a dramatic increase of new arrivals from farther west, up to 10,000 “in the last week to two weeks,” spokeswoman Kate White told AFP Monday.
The relocations appeared to have accelerated over the weekend, she said.
Shire housed tens of thousands of displaced Tigrayans and Eritreans even before the recent influx, many at informal sites including a primary school and a high school. Resources are stretched thin, White said.
“We’re still not seeing systematic, regular food distributions,” she added, noting that food donations have mostly consisted of wheat and some cooking oil.
In a statement Friday, Doctors Without Borders said malnutrition at displacement sites in Shire was “concerning” but “not at emergency level yet”.
This article was republished from AFP.