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A small group fears an end when the Tigray war enters the 6th month | Conflicting Issues


Teklay Hailay * has been anxious since November 4 until she has trouble sleeping. That’s when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced in a televised address the start of the Ethiopian military operation in Tigray in response to what he called “insurgency”.

The disappointment came as tensions ran high between the government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controlled the northern region of about six million people.

Abiy, who in 2019 won the Nobel Peace Prize in another way in an attempt to resolve the seventh conflict with neighboring Eritrea, rushed to announce his victory in the TPLF at the end of November when government troops entered the provincial capital, Mekelle. But the fighting went on and on great cruelty keep coming out, which causes fear of long arguments and destructive to the local population.

What has caused little concern, however, are the Teklay-type problems: the Irob, a small group with their own language that lives among the larger Tigrayan population in the region. With about 60,000, who are said to be about 35,000 living in the arid highlands of northeastern Eritrea, Irob is now facing more difficulties than the effects of the war, human rights activists say.

Teklay, who lives in the capital Addis Ababa, told Al Jazeera: “Irob groups have changed completely.” “Most, probably up to 50 percent of the first population … fled to the cities of Tigray and even to Addis Ababa, leaving many of the elderly and children.”

Since the early days of the war, the Irob region has been under the control of Eritrean troops who have traveled to Ethiopia to support its forces in fighting the TPLF.

The Eritrean government of Isaias Afwerki and the TPLF, which for many years controlled Ethiopian politics until Abiy came to power three years ago, has long harbored a vicious cycle of territorial, economic, and political strife that in 1998 was a brutal two-year war that killed thousands. .

Since the Irob area has been unavailable and the radio has been shut down for the past six months, Teklay has only received notification of aid from people who have fled south to other cities in Tigray and Addis Ababa.

“I have helped to create memorial services [in Addis Ababa] Of the 63 Irob natives killed by the Eritrean military, some of them are my relatives and friends, ”he said. “Of the 63 victims, there is a young man, whose father was a farmer who was abducted by Eritrean soldiers more than 20 years ago, never to be found again.”

The 40-year-old said the protests in Irob’s place made it “impossible to identify dead people” – but that was not the only thing that made him worried. There is a great fear of hunger, too.

“The conflict started when the harvest season was about to start, a major concern in an area where there is no food before,” he said.

Teklay and other Irob people living across Ethiopia are not inferior, especially after the earlier arrest of Dori Asgedom, the leader of the Irob Assimba Democratic Party for refusing to fight, according to human rights activists.

This means that it has fallen on deaf people like Fissuh Hailu to try to make people aware of the plight of the Irob group.

Fissuh, Deputy Manager of the Irob Advocacy Global Support Group, said the recent restoration of telephones last year in major Tigray cities such as Mekelle and Adigrat allowed him to pick up “small, but destructive” items from witnesses fleeing the Irob region.

“Ever since the war began, Eritrean troops have been carrying out non-election violence and shelling in Irob,” Fissuh said.

“People are scared and scared all the time [a] the next group is killing civilians and being kidnapped by insurgents. Human resources have already been seized in the area. ”

Fissuh also said he had received reports that Eritrea had already appointed circuit overseers, and “Eritrean troops continue to threaten, starve people and force[m] slay their flocks for food ”.

The report could not be verified by itself.

While the Irob team, like all other Tigrays, has endured the effects of the conflict, which has killed thousands and displaced some two million people, Irob fears that if peace comes one day, it could be their fault.

This is because the Ethiopia-Eritrea Border Commission (EEBC) which was established after the 1998-2000 war provided about one-third of Irob’s territory in Eritrea, although this election did not take place. Addis Ababa refused to use it illegally and instead called for talks. Eritrea said there was no need to negotiate and stressed that the only way was to establish border controls.

“If the EEBC’s vision is realized as it is, this small country of Irob and the people will be divided into two opposing nations. This, then, almost, will be the end of the existence of a small Irob group as a possible group,” Fissuh said.

He also said that the villagers had not been cured of the deadly war of 1998-2000 when the attack hit Irob six months ago. “During the two-year war, the Irob group, as it stands, was under Eritrean rule, with the Eritrean military evacuating the area and forcing 96 civilians,” Fissuh said.

Martin Plaut, who has been in charge of politics in the Horn of Africa for a long time, says Irob is probably looking forward to a hopeless future, where community divisions, as evidenced by the EEBC, are the real deal.

“The Irob region has been taken over by Eritrea, which considers them part of it,” he told Al Jazeera. “The links with Ethiopia as a whole seem to be cut off and aid maps show that no one seems to be coming to this area – leaving people hungry,” Plaut added.

“It’s as if Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy has washed his hands of Irob.”

Al Jazeera spoke with the Eritrean Ministry of Information and Eritrea’s mission to the African Union to discuss, as well as the office of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, but no response was received as of press time. This article is subject to change if you receive a reply.

* Names have been changed to protect their name


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