MADRID, 15 Jan. (.) –
The African Union (AU) mediator for the Tigray conflict in northern Ethiopia, Olusegun Obasanjo, estimates that around 600,000 people died during the war that began in late 2020 between the Ethiopian Army and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (PFLP) in this northern state of the country.
The former Nigerian president has indicated, in an interview with the ‘Financial Times’, that the number of deaths “is around 600,000” after recalling that, during the signing of the ceasefire peace agreement in Pretoria (South Africa) in November Last year, Ethiopian officials congratulated themselves on stopping a conflict that until then was killing “a thousand people a day.”
The conflict in Tigray erupted in November 2020 after a TPLF attack on the main Army base, located in Mekelle, after which the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an offensive against the group after months of political tensions. and administrative, including the TPLF’s refusal to recognize an electoral postponement and its decision to hold regional elections outside of Addis Ababa.
The TPLF accuses Abiy of stoking tensions since he came to power in April 2018, when he became the first Oromo to take office. Until then, the TPLF had been the dominant force within the coalition that has ruled Ethiopia since 1991, the ethnically based Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The group opposed Abiy’s reforms, which it viewed as an attempt to undermine his influence.
A RULE ESTIMATE
Groups of international experts consulted by the newspaper consider that Obasanjo’s estimate could be “approximately correct.”
The researcher at the University of Ghent (Belgium), Tim Vanden Bempt, calculates that the number of civilian deaths alone would oscillate “between 300,000 and 400,000”, either due to the atrocities of war, hunger or lack of access to medical care.
The expert has qualified that other estimates that point to between 200,000 and 300,000 casualties in combat have not been able to be verified with sufficient accuracy.
Ethiopian officials on condition of anonymity consider that these estimates are exaggerated, but acknowledge that the conflict could have left between 80,000 and 100,000 fatalities, the newspaper explains. The head of the Ethiopian Commission for Human Rights, Daniel Bekele, calls for caution anyway.
“We will probably never know the total number of fatalities and we have to be very cautious when dealing with estimates that could be exaggerated,” he said.