U.S. to Freeze Funding for Ethiopia as Tigray Abuses Surface

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The U.S. has asked multilateral development banks to suspend funding to Ethiopia as fresh reports of human rights abuses surfaced from the war-torn Tigray region.

The unending conflict in Tigray, a region that borders with Eritrea, has resulted in a famine-like situation, Robert Godec, the acting assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs told a Senate panel on Thursday. The U.S. on May 24 imposed “wide-ranging” economic sanctions against Africa second-most populous nation.

“There are confirmed reports of Tigrayans dying from malnutrition and starvation,” Godec said. As a result, the U.S. is “withholding support for new lending from multilateral development banks that does not address basic human needs and are asking our allies to do likewise,” he said.

The latest move will result in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund withholding funding to a nation led by Nobel laureate Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who wooed foreign investors by pledging to open up the large African economy. Ethiopia received $1 billion of U.S. aid last year.

Hundreds of cases of gender-based violence including rape in the Tigray region have been documented in a report compiled by the region’s government.

At least 1,246 women have been recorded as victims of serious gender-based violence in Tigray since war broke out in November, according to the report seen by Bloomberg and confirmed by the Ethiopian government and United Nations officials.

The data on cases of sexual violence are the most detailed yet to come out of the region and includes information compiled from 11 health centers in towns such as Mekele, Axum, Adigrat, Shire and Wukro.

Billene Seyoum, a spokesperson at Ethiopian prime minister’s office, and officials from the Tigray interim government, didn’t reply to questions about the document. Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize two years ago for ending a protracted conflict with neighboring Eritrea.

Violence engulfed Tigray in November, when Abiy ordered an incursion after forces loyal to the state’s dissident ruling party attacked a federal military camp in the region.

At least 3 million people in Tigray are in need shelter but authorities are refusing to allow displaced people to stay inside schools and colleges, according to the report. Most of those who have been forced to flee their homes are unregistered and many are sleeping outdoors, it said. The report stated there is a 77% shortfall in the need for shelter and non-food items in Tigray.

Roadblocks established by armed people who were not identified in the report have been purposefully established to curtail food distribution efforts, with some beneficiaries being forced to walk as much as 50 kilometers (31 miles) to receive food.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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