Ethiopia is at a critical political transition period. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian Government has been implementing bold reforms since April 2018, which are intended to gradually broaden the political and economic space and improve the human rights landscape. While these reforms will eventually address the root causes of recurrent inter-communal violence that drove a significant amount of the humanitarian need since September 2017, in the interim, large scale displacements, civilian injuries and deaths continue to be reported. At least 2.4 million people are currently displaced by inter-communal violence across the country, including along the Somali-Oromia border; Gedeo-West Guji border; Benishangul Gumuz – Oromia border.
Localized small-scale resource-based clashes and displacements have always existed in the country, mainly resulting from clashes between communities over pasture and water rights, which were mostly quickly resolved by community elders and the Government/Ministry of Federal Affairs. Most of the areas where recent violence is being reported have always been hotspots of such inter-communal clashes; however, the scale and severity are unprecedented. Long-existing and effective traditional conflict resolution mechanisms have so far not been fully successful in abating the violence.
Contrary to what this report `Aid Community Silenced in Ethiopia’ has inferred, the Ethiopian Government is not denying this crisis. A representative of the Ethiopian government was part of the Global Humanitarian overview launch two weeks ago where he spoke about the country’s IDP crisis and called for international support. International partners in Ethiopia are committed to continuing to work with Government counterparts to aid internally displaced people in areas of displacement and areas of return.
I have been working as an international humanitarian actor in Ethiopia for over 3 years and have traveled through many of the internally displaced camps. I have reported unabated on what I have seen and witnessed. At no point in time have any government or national official denied me access or challenged my reports from my missions.
Humanitarian partners have access to almost all people currently displaced by violence. While advocating for protection and access for few places where they do not have access humanitarian partners need to scale up response for the large areas they have access to, and where response is still inadequate and the situation dire.
I am very perturbed about where the information in this report has come from, as this has not been my experience or that of the partners I am working with on the ground.
Reports like this fuel the continued stereotyping of African governments as impeding the delivery of humanitarian assistance which is not factual. In the last few months the Government of Ethiopia has conferred Human Rights monitoring mandate to the UN Human Rights body in the country, this is following an extensive UN human right mission in the country two months prior. The Government also established Emergency Operation Centres where humanitarian partners and regional/national authorities, the UN agencies and NGOs work together to address the needs of displaced people. There are over 400 humanitarian partners in the largest response site.
So much traction has been gained over the last three years in coordinating humanitarian assistance with the Government support in Ethiopia. Inflammatory statements as is reflected in this report distracts from the urgent task of meeting urgent humanitarian needs.