'Don't forget about Tigray crisis' says Black Country campaigner

A campaigner with roots in Ethiopia is appealing to the public not to turn its back to fighting in the country's Tigray region due to attention being given to Ukraine.

Leandra Gebrakedan(cor) whose family are missing in Tigray, Ethiopia
Leandra Gebrakedan(cor) whose family are missing in Tigray, Ethiopia

Leandra Gebrakedan, of Willenhall, has not heard from her relatives in the East African state for 14 months due to a phone and internet blackout caused by the chaos and disruption due to the conflict.

She is part of advocacy group Mekete Tigray UK which is backing democratic elections and campaigning to raise awareness of the crisis, which has so far taken an estimated 500,000 lives and seen families displaced.

Miss Gebrakedan said: "I have an aunt, uncles and cousins living in Tigray. For over 18 months there has been a civil war, classified by Jeremy Hunt as a genocide.

"We have had some support in the Government here in helping to raise the profile of the problems in Tigray, but we need more, we need intervention as 500,000 have been killed so far.

"The Food Aid has been blocked apart from 40 trucks. People are being starved to death as well as being shot, and killed by drones. Due to the lack of intervention people are now being burned to death and there has been a communication blackout. I don’t know if my family is dead or alive."

The Tigray region, highlighted. Image: Google

A recent report by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch found that Amhara regional officials and militias were responsible for the removal of Tigrayans from Western Tigray.

While former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has been among high profile critics of Ethiopia’s leader, Abiy Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for ending his country’s stalemate with neighbouring Eritrea. But since then Mr Abiy's government has been in a bloody conflict with rebels from Tigray.

The grave situation resulted in Mr Hunt stating in a parliamentary debate that "there is a genocide happening in Tigray".

Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz was among 43 MPs to sign an motion noting the first anniversary of the conflict on November 3, 2021.

Miss Gebrakedan explained that during her last visit to Tigray in August 2019 the region had been peaceful with no hint of trouble, but the situation changed in spring 2020 triggered by tensions relating to historic land and ethnic disputes.

"Due to the pandemic the prime minister delayed the election. Then what started off as military action escalated from there. Tigray is on the border with Eritrea and there are issues with both sides. As far as observers can tell it is a genocide situation similar to what happened in Rwanda.

"However, it doesn't appear to be getting much attention on the world stage and the people need help. Although what's happening in Ukraine is also overwhelming and rightly attracting attention, we would appeal to people not to forget the Tigrayan people who are also suffering."

For more details visit meketetigrayuk.org.

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