A group, the European External Programme on Africa (EEPA) has condemned the reported atrocities going on in Northern Ethiopia of Tigray as well as Eritrea, saying most of the crimes are committed against vulnerable people, especially women and children.
In its report by a Senior Correspondent for Europe External Programme Africa, Obinna Osigwe, the group highlighted that the extent and cruelty of the assaults, sexual violence and rape of women and girls goes unreported.
The report noted that there is still no internet there, and journalists were prevented from reaching the region for three months. “Often, these atrocities are not reported, because the facts are just too repulsive. How do you talk about such horrific incidences?
“One inventory of confirmed cases from just a handful of health clinics in Tigray found 108 women who had been raped (Ethiopia Commission on Human Rights, 11 February 2021). In Adigrat alone, the public hospital received over 174 rape survivors since the beginning of the war (Deutsche Welle, 2021). According to Dedebit media, 750 women were raped and admitted to Ayder hospital in Mekelle alone (Dedebit, 29 January 2021). There have been multiple reports of gang rape. One documented incident involved more than 10 soldiers raping a single victim. Victims include girls as young as ten as well as grandmothers,” the report stated.
According to the Deutsche report of March 6, 2020, “Women in the region are being allegedly gang-raped, drugged and gravely injured in the assaults. One woman was held captive for over 10 days, raped by 23 Eritrean soldiers, and left on the side of the road. Surgeons had to remove stones and nails that were inserted in her genital.”
Using the inhumane deployment of rape as a weapon of war, EEPA stated that there is the widespread fear that it instills in the entire civilian population. “They become paralysed and inactive. Rape, together with other forms of cruelty and torture, degrades and dehumanises the victim and their relatives. The severe trauma associated with such assaults may have long term effects, inducing in these victims a state of paralysis.”
In one of the eye-witness reports by EEPA, “A woman in a place near Wukro was raped and killed by Eritrean soldiers in front of her three sons. She was left with the sons, who were not allowed to bury her. The body, with her hands tight together, was left for three days. The sons were not allowed to move it”
From the reports, Paddy Maguinness, an international development policy member of EEPA, who had been the deputy head of the Irish NGO Concern Worldwide, said it appears that the women are targeted as a collective punishment for the war. Soldiers use perpetrating sexual assault and rape to create a human shield, to enforce compliance with their forces controlling the area. There are reports of male relatives being forced to carry out rapes on family members. If they refused, they were threatened with execution, the group report said.
Europe External Programme Africa reported that it is important to note that the violence against women is not only perpetrated against the Tigray population in Ethiopia, but also against Eritrean refugees, hosted in Tigray. In such cases, violence perpetrated by Eritrean troops on Eritrean refugees may be designed to force them into submission.
The 2017 report on the Trauma of Survivors of Sinai Trafficking highlighted that human traffickers from Eritrea also used sexual violence against men and boys as a means of enforcing their submission.
“In Tigray, women and girls are targeted as the (future) mothers of children who might (one day) take up arms against the invading army. They are being strategically targeted to humiliate them and their families as a way of diminishing the strength of the Tigrayan people. It can be seen as part of a genocidal strategy against the entire population.
“The sexual assaults and rape of women and girls in Tigray have been carried out by Eritrean forces, Amhara forces and Ethiopian National Defence Forces. A first analysis indicates that there are different patterns associated with such attacks by the different forces. The most hate-and-revenge inspired acts have been carried out by Eritrean forces, especially in areas over which they have sole control.
There is an urgent need for investigation on the ground of all such alleged crimes. This must include the use of rape as a weapon of war. It must stop the rampant attacks on innocent citizens, women, and girls,” the EEPA reported.