Project

War and humanitarian crisis in Tigray and Ethiopia

Goal: A humanitarian crisis has unfolded in Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia. As professionals with decades of involvement in research and development activities in Tigray, we are saddened to see the gains made after the devastating civil war of the 1980s being wiped away before our eyes.

Many citizens have lost their lives, many others are wounded, and people in Tigray and other parts of Ethiopia live in fear that their lives are at great jeopardy. Sexual violence and starvation are widespread.

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Jan Nyssen
added a research item
On Tuesday 22 June 2021, the Ethiopian Air Force targeted the market place of Addilal in Tigray's Gheralta district (north Ethiopia). Fortunately, the bomb missed the market, but it fell on the school compound. There were no students in school, as all schools in Tigray are closed since 2020. Damages to the school buildings were considerable. Up to date, the bombed-out Addilal school stands unused, as a symbol for these three years without schools in Tigray. Here we share a six exclusive photographs of the Addilal school.
Jan Nyssen
added 2 research items
The civil war in Ethiopia has resulted in the death of some 600,000 civilians, a staggering estimate for a conflict that has lasted only two years and has been focused on a single region, Tigray, of around six million inhabitants. However, in the absence of official counts, the calculations of the European Union, international organizations and experts concur on a devastating mortality rate in a war the Ethiopian government has deliberately tried to shield from international public opinion. The first to put these figures on the table was Jan Nyssen, professor emeritus of geography at the University of Ghent in Belgium. “Hunger was used as a weapon of war,” he says. ------------------- read the full article at: https://english.elpais.com/international/2023-01-27/ethiopias-forgotten-war-is-the-deadliest-of-the-21st-century-with-around-600000-civilian-deaths.html ----------------------- El País is the second most read newspaper in Spain __________ Spanish version ______________ Etiopía, la guerra más mortal del siglo: 600.000 civiles muertos en dos años Las estimaciones de las instituciones europeas y de algunos académicos achacan el grueso de los fallecimientos al bloqueo de la región de Tigray ------------------- https://elpais.com/internacional/2023-01-27/etiopia-la-guerra-mas-mortal-del-siglo-600000-civiles-muertos-en-dos-anos.html
English translation of an article in Corriere della Sera https://www.corriere.it/opinioni/23_gennaio_27/etiopia-profezia-jan-nyssen-4a6afddc-9e6a-11ed-b818-21dee78ee2f7.shtml ------------------------ The “prophecy” is in the end of the article: «They wanted - Nyssen said - to convert Tigray into a new Biafra. Depriving the civilian population of food is a war crime, but it seems that no one will be held accountable. » Unfortunately, this prediction will eventually come true. The Corriere della Sera is Italy’s most-read newspaper.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
In early November 2020, after months of growing political tensions, an armed conflict emerged between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray regional government. Numerous war crimes were committed and since July 2021, there has been a medieval siege of Tigray, hindering all humanitarian access. Our calculations of the total number of civilian deaths in Tigray, updated up to 31 December 2022, lead to an average estimate of 518k civilian victims in Tigray. The lowest estimate we could realistically make is 311k, and at the upper end a scary 808k. Of these, approx. 10% would be due to massacres, bomb impacts and other killings, 30% due to the total collapse of the healthcare system, and 60% to famine. The continuous marauding by Amhara and Eritrean troops in 2023 have led to additional civilian victims. Tigray remains inaccessible for trade, banking services, public services, and largely also food aid.
Emnet Negash
added a research item
On November 4th, 2020 a deadly civil war broke out in Tigray, Ethiopia characterized by communication blackout leaving the region without access to cell service or internet. Given agriculture is the livelihood of millions of people in Tigray, evaluation of the conflict’s impact on cultivated land and the consequent crop production is critical for government and non-government disaster relief institutions. In this study, we used time-series of Sentinel-2 and Planet data to map loss of cultivated lands in 2021 due to the war. We developed multiple cultivation detection criteria based on the peak and falling limb characteristics of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) time series, validated using limited field observations of fallow and cultivated plots from the wet season in 2021. We also employed object detection model to identify harvest piles as an additional parameter to detect farming activity. The map of regional change in cultivated land shows there is a positive correlation between loss of cultivated land and sub-regions from which higher percentage of reported internally displaced people originated from. In the absence of extensive in situ data, we demonstrate satellite imagery along with good understanding of local farming practices can help provide timely and useful information to assist humanitarian management efforts in times of crisis.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
In Ethiopia, the historical maps of Western Tigray are under scrutiny. Western Tigray is not only notable for the multiple war crimes committed there during the Tigray War, but is also a contested area between the Tigray and Amhara regions. It has been forcefully occupied by Amhara Special Forces and militias since the end of 2020. If one were to come in 50 years from now, some maps of 2020-2023 would appear with Western Tigray displayed as part of Amhara Region. For instance, on June 10th, 2021, UNOCHA and UN Geneva published a map of Tigray (presumably using information provided by their staff in Addis Ababa) with large parts of Tigray incorporated in the Amhara Region.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
Jan Nyssen hat als Erster erhoben, dass im Tigray-Krieg eine halbe Million Menschen gestorben sein könnten. Er tat das mithilfe wissenschaftlicher Werkzeuge und mit Informationen von Menschen, denen er sich moralisch verpflichtet fühlte. --- Interview by the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Switzerland). Title and header translated: «We have been doing field research for decades in villages where massacres were then committed»: how a Belgian geography professor made an invisible war visible. Jan Nyssen was the first to say that half a million people could have died in the Tigray War. He did this with the help of scientific tools and information from people to whom he felt morally committed. ---> https://www.nzz.ch/international/aethiopien-wie-ein-geographieprofessor-den-krieg-sichtbar-machte-ld.1717935?reduced=true
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
--- ETHIOPIA INSIGHT --- The principles of academic freedom have been violated amid the civil war and universities have contributed to wartime abuses in a variety of ways. ----- FULL ARTICLE ---> https://www.ethiopia-insight.com/2022/12/24/ethiopian-universities-have-infringed-on-human-rights-during-the-tigray-war/
Emnet Negash
added a research item
https://doi.pangaea.de/10.1594/PANGAEA.951344 -------> Since late 2020, one of the worst wars has been raging in Tigray, Ethiopia's northernmost region. A humanitarian tragedy has been caused by the fighting (Dedefo Bedaso 2021; Annys et al. 2021). Intense fighting occurred throughout the whole region, and looting and damage were rampant. Farmers were harvesting their crops in the middle of a desert locust infestation when the conflict began in late 2020. To record war impacts, commonly, direct expenses or losses at a particular period are quantified (Lindgren 2004). Post-conflict damage assessments typically concentrate on losses to businesses, services, infrastructure, and facilities in cities, even though the primary source of income in developing countries is the agricultural sector. Even when agricultural evaluations are done, they mostly focus on crop losses and ignore how wars affect land management. In Tigray's small-scale family farms, which use a permanent farming system based on cereals, oxen are utilized for traction (Westphal 1975). Crop agriculture has been practiced in Tigray for at least three thousand years (D'Andrea 2008; Blond et al. 2018), allowing for the gradual improvement of the agricultural system, including considerable farmers' understanding of the procedures involved in seed selection and of land suitability (Fetien Abay et al. 2008). The indigenous knowledge (sensu Bruchac 2018) also includes a broad vocabulary for different soil types (Nyssen et al. 2019), and the capacity to interpret the rainy season when selecting the crop to be sown (Frankl et al. 2013). A significant degree of equality in the extent of landholdings has resulted from the strengthening of the egalitarian land tenure system during the 1980s (Hendrie 1999). In the study region, a typical household uses two or three farmland pieces totalling less than a hectare. The ownership and management of grasslands, rangelands, and woodlands are communal (Nyssen et al. 2008). In the first half of 2021, armed forces of the Ethiopian government and from Eritrea as well as from the neighboring Amhara region were engaged in warfare against the forces of Tigray's regional government; in the second half of the year, warfare was essentially outside of Tigray, more to the south, while Tigray itself was submitted to a blockade with all telecommunication and lifelines to the outside world cut (Pellet 2021; Gayim 2021; Ramos 2021), a blockade that continued into 2022. The near-absence of economic activities, combined with limited food stocks and restricted humanitarian access resulted in 70% of the population experiencing starvation (sensu Stratton et al. 2003), i.e. high levels of acute food insecurity and excess mortality (Plaut 2021; Istratii 2021; Teklehaymanot G Weldemichel 2021; Oxford Analytica 2021; Devi 2021; Müller and Read 2021). The famine was worst from September to December 2021, as it took up to December before the years' poor harvest could be consumed REF; the lean period (also called “lean season”, “hunger season”) has been very severe. The lean season is the time in between finishing the last food that people had at hand and starting to consume the new harvest (Hirvonen et al. 2016). Farmers' main goals in these dire circumstances were to attempt to generate a better harvest in 2022 and, despite everything, to try and survive another year. We offer field data obtained by the end of August 2022, which were evaluated to determine the percentage of Tigray's land that was seeded on schedule, the types of crops sown, and the condition of these crops. Despite difficult living and travel conditions, the agricultural status in some of Tigray's reachable districts was examined for the 2022 growing season. A team of geographers visited 262 agricultural plots in an area indicative of the region's diverse bio-physical circumstances, including elevation (plots ranged from 1931 to 2600 meters above sea level), lithology, soil type, rainfall patterns, and hence cropping strategies (Alemtsehay Tsegay et al. 2019; Nyssen et al. 2019). Other land uses, such as irrigated land, grassland, barren land, bushland, and forest, were left out of the analysis. We visited ecoregions with different biophysical and agro-ecological characteristics along main roads in six districts between 24 and 29 August 2022: Tsa'ida Imba, Kilte Awula'ilo (especially croplands on the outskirts of Wukro's urban district), Dogu'a Tembien (surroundings of Hagere Selam), Samre, Hintalo (particularly Addi Gudom), and Inderta (Aynalem and Didiba). The investigations typically took place in the wider surroundings of small towns, as transect walks, observing and talking to farmers present on the land. Participatory monitoring was used to collect data for each cropland, which included recording the crop type, a group assessment of the crop's status according to local standards (good, medium, bad, failed; taking into account growth features such as plant height, greenness and density, ear length, homogeneity in crop stand), observations of whether or not neighboring farmers cropped in block, and a semi-structured interview with the farmer or a group discussion, addressing among others the use of fertilizer (Van De Fliert et al. 2000; Nyumba et al. 2018; Young and Hinton 1996). Aside from the usual crop evaluation, emphasis was paid to block wise cropping with adjacent farmers since, like three-field systems, this practice is an indicative of an internally well-organized community, and hints to a superior yield forecast as it prevents disruptions (Nyssen et al. 2008; Hopcroft 1994; Ruthenberg 1980). Data have been collected in such a way that homogeneous areas of at least 30 m x 30 m are represented, so that they can serve as calibration and validation points in remote sensing analysis. According to descriptive statistics from the dataset, at the end of August, 15% of the monitored farm parcels had been left fallow, meaning no crops had been planted (40 plots out of 262). During a similar monitoring in 2021 (Tesfaalem Ghebreyohannes et al. 2022a), 21% of the monitored lands were fallowed. However, 7 percent of the fallow plots had no weeds, indicating that the ground had been ploughed but not seeded. A further 4% of the plots were planted with flax or niger seed, which is often used to improve fallow soil quality rather than crop output. Among the cultivated parcels, 104 plots (40%) were planted with wheat, barley, or a mixture of both (hanfets) (49% in 2021), while 84 plots (32%) were planted with tef (26% in 2021). Only 1% of the land was planted with maize, and another 1% with sorghum (6% and 4% in 2021). In the plots containing crops that were examined, 46% had been seeded in block, in collaboration with the owners of surrounding lands (40% in 2021). Wheat and barley (54%) as well as tef (52%) were seeded in blocks. Three quarter (76 percent) of the wheat and barley fields were in good or medium condition. Seventy-one percent of the tef lands were in poor condition (67% in 2021). Overall, the crop stands improved slightly over those of the very bad year 2021 (Tesfaalem Ghebreyohannes et al. 2022b), and there was less fallowing. Fertilizer was used on only 56 of the 222 sampled plots with crop: on these lands, at least some mineral fertilizer was administered at sowing, after crop emergence, or manure was applied. Due to a shortage of fertilizers, farmers frequently applied insufficient amounts. Mineral fertilizer was used exclusively for cereal production. A significant issue was the farmers' inappropriate use of potassium fertilizer, which led to crop burn, particularly in Tsa'ida Imba and Samre. Overall, and adopting a very low threshold, 34% of the analyzed lands were fallowed or are expected to provide a very poor crop harvest, while 66% of the sampled fields are promising and would yield medium or excellent crops.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
Hoewel de mensenrechtenschendingen in Qatar nu veel aandacht krijgen, blijven andere humanitaire rampen compleet onder onze radar. Een schrijnend voorbeeld hiervan is Tigray (Ethiopië). Bovenop een gewapend conflict, kreeg de regio de COVID-19-pandemie en een sprinkhanenplaag te verwerken. Professor in de geografie Jan Nyssen en zijn team (UGent) ontwikkelden een humanitaire atlas die de verschillende dimensies van de situatie in Tigray in kaart brengt. De atlas gaat verder dan het puur geografische: naast klassieke kaarten vind je er ook kaarten over veldslagen, drone- en luchtaanvallen, burgerslachtoffers en zoveel meer. In deze workshop leren we hoe zo'n humanitaire atlas eruit ziet en krijgen we een idee van de toepassingen ervan. --- https://www.vrt.be/nl/over-de-vrt/nieuws/2022/11/04/11-december-supporter-mee-mensenrechten/
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
Due to war conditions, the local farmers had to largely rely on their own crop production, mainly by subsistence farming, in Tigray, North Ethiopia. We assessed the crop stands in 2021 and evaluated the level of resilience of the indigenous farming system. Quantitative data were collected from 161 farm parcels in various ecoregions of this tropical mountain region, in order to detect the share of sown land, crop types, and their status. This participatory monitoring was accompanied by semi-structured interviews. Farmers cultivated their farms late, left it uncultivated or marginally sowed oil crops as improved fallow (28%), due to lack of farming tools, oxen, fertilizer, seeds, or manpower. As compared to peace years, only few lands were sown with sorghum as there was active warfare in the sorghum planting period. The relatively good stands of wheat and barley (47%) are in line with the farmers' priority given to cereals. Teff got a large land share because it could be sown up to the middle of the main rainy season and because farmers had consumed the seeds of their major cereal crops (wheat and barley) when hiding for warfare. Seeds left from consumption were only sown by late June, when troops had retreated, and the communities could revive. With almost no external support, the local farming system has proven to be remarkably resilient, relying on indigenous knowledge and local practices, block rotation, manure, improved fallow, changes in relative importance of crops, seed exchange, and support for one another. This is the first analysis of the socio-agronomic roots of the 2021-2022 Tigray hunger crisis, with a cereal harvest that could not at all sustain the local population as the planting season had been largely missed. The ability of the indigenous farming system to partially rebounce in times of autarky is another novel finding.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
During the civil war in Ethiopia between the military “Derg” regime and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) the Dejena mountain range in Welkait became, around 1980, the main base for Tigray resistance against the Derg regime that was in power at the time. In the Ethiopian federal state, after 1991, Welkait became part of Tigray, Western Tigray zone, which is contested by the core Ethiopian Amhara elites. A rare communication document between Derg’s military command and the Ministry of Defense, dating back to 1984 has been retrieved, where they lament that the population of the Welkait and the adjacent Tselemti districts supports the TPLF, because the people are Tigrinya speakers. Up to this date, the archive is top-secret, and photos of the document were furtively taken. This typical document from the 1980s, prepared on carbon copy paper using a ge’ez font type writing machine, was shown to a well-informed Ethiopian analyst, who confirmed its authenticity.
Jan Nyssen
added 3 research items
Tot 800.000 slachtoffers: hoe kon het drama in Tigray zich onder de radar voltrekken? Aan de Gentse professor Jan Nyssen en zijn team heeft het niet gelegen. Bloedbaden, executies, hongerdoden, zij hielden de macabere score bij.
This systematic overview of academic and human rights infringements by Ethiopian universities is not about opinions ventilated by universities or professors; it is about criminal acts and universities moving away from their core activities, including large infringements against the Magna Charta. The focus is on the involvement of academic authorities, and of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. Information received through networks at Ethiopian universities, from their own announcements on university Facebook sites, and from news publications were gathered in a database, which, given the general wall of silence, remains incomplete. Colleagues Teklehaymanot G. Weldemichel, Emnet Negash, Gebrekirstos Gebreselassie and Amare Teklay scouted the universities’ Facebook sites, archived embarrassing Facebook comments before the universities could take them down, and provided a wealth of insights that helped shape this piece. VIDEO OF THE PRESENTATION MAY BE DOWNLOADED BELOW (MP4)
In early November 2020, after months of growing political tensions, an armed conflict emerged between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray regional government. As the conflict arose in the wake of a destructive locust invasion and in addition to the covid-19 pandemic, it was soon realized that the conflict would have a major impacts on the population of the Tigray region, estimated at 6 million. Numerous war crimes were also committed by the troops of the tripartite alliance (Ethiopia-Amhara-Eritrea) and since July 2021, there is a medieval siege of Tigray. Therefore, the objective of our research is to document the evolution of the humanitarian situation, using the "power of maps", and thus to make the invisible visible. For this, we collected qualitative and quantitative evidence of the situation on the ground, and prepared 26 maps on different topics, ranging from basic information on rainfall, topography, population density, land use... territorial control by the various parties involved in the conflict, humanitarian needs and access, civilian casualties, displaced persons, basic services and future crops. To prepare these maps, we drew information from secondary data sources (mainly reports from humanitarian organizations) and also collected our own data based on telephone interviews (no. > 2000) with key informants in different (sub)districts of the region. Interviews included general data collection (N > 1500), semi-structured interviews (N > 300), in-depth interviews (N > 100) and general interviews with officials at the regional, national and international levels (N > 100). Due to telecommunications interruptions, data collection has been very difficult. Our online database and Atlas document incidents with a total number of civilian casualties ranging between 6655 and 12473 deadly victims. Details are provided for 3225 fully documented casualties, as well as 288 massacres, defined as "conflict incidents in which at least five civilians were killed on the same day at the same location". The number of victims and massacres is just the tip of the iceberg, because information only becomes available gradually. We are also mapping the whereabouts of two million internally displaced people. The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has gradually increased, and currently includes about the entire population of Tigray (including surgeons at the largest hospital in the region). The 2021 harvest has been the worst in at least 30 years leading to a worsening famine, while humanitarian access remains restricted. Through this atlas, we hope to provide valuable information to humanitarian organizations and local governments, and draw international attention to the conflict – which could lead to independent investigations into war crimes. This research has benefited from financial support by « Every Casualty Counts » (U.K.)
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
A comprehensive analysis of historical maps and records by Professor Jan Nyssen, a geographer at the University of Ghent, undermines the arguments made by Amhara elites READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: https://www.ethiopia-insight.com/2022/11/17/amhara-nationalist-claims-over-western-tigray-are-a-smokescreen-for-ethnic-cleansing/
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
In view of our geographical research expertise in the tropical mountains of Tigray (north Ethiopia) since 1994, our focus was deflected from geomorphology and environmental management to casualty recording and survival strategies, after the Tigray War started in November 2020. We created the "Atlas of the Humanitarian Situation", in which we chronicled and plotted the dreadful situation in which about 6 million Tigrayans found themselves. In order to do this, we made contact with key informants in several Tigrayan districts and gathered qualitative and quantitative data about the actual state of the area at the level of districts or sub-districts. The atlas' more than 20 maps include background information on administrative divisions, social and natural resources, as well as locations of internally displaced persons, massacres and civilian fatalities, humanitarian access and needs, and distribution of humanitarian supplies. Numerous worldwide organizations used the atlas as a reference source. We also looked at how the conflict affected agricultural activity for the 2021 and 2022 growing seasons. Information on the rainfall conditions, field observations (from 262 agricultural plots) and interviews were merged with analysis of remote sensing imagery from 2019 to 2022. The 2022 field observations confirm a dramatic trend, with a largely failing cropping season. Additional research focused on the effect of the war on the woody vegetation in Tigray, which was as model region for environmental conservation since the 1990s. A meta-analysis of old maps also reveals the fallacy of the justification for the ethnic cleansing of Western Tigray. In the absence of significant international responses, Tigray continues facing acute famine and death.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
IN DUTCH: In Tigray vallen honderden hongerdoden per dag, ziet deze onderzoeker. Hoe komt dat? Het is moeilijk een beeld te krijgen van de oorlog die nog altijd woedt in de geïsoleerde Ethiopische regio Tigray. Onderzoeker Jan Nyssen schat dat er inmiddels tot 600.000 burgerslachtoffers zijn. WEBLINK: https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2022/10/20/dagelijks-honderden-hongerdoden-in-tigray-a4145876 ENGLISH TRANSLATION: Geographer Jan Nyssen: Hundreds of starvation deaths a day in Tigray. It is difficult to get a picture of the war that continues raging in the isolated Ethiopian region of Tigray. Researcher Jan Nyssen estimates that there are now up to 600,000 civilian casualties. WEBLINK: https://martinplaut.com/2022/10/21/geographer-jan-nyssen-hundreds-of-starvation-deaths-a-day-in-tigray/
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF TITLE: Ethiopian Officials Admit Using Biafra-Like Siege to Starve Tigray - Third part: Medieval siege strategy is an open secret. FIRST PARAGRAPHS OF ARTICLE: Glede na izjave najvplivnejših etiopskih oblasti sta obkolitev in embargo nad Tigrajem namerno povzročena vojna dejanja. Načrt je prisiliti prebivalce Tigraja in njihovo vlado k predaji. Treba je spoznati, da je v skladu z Ženevsko konvencijo vojni zločin tudi zadrževanje civilistov kot talcev. Uporabiti blokado humanitarne pomoči in osnovnih storitev, kot so elektrika, banke, trgovina in telekomunikacije, kot sredstvo za pogajanje je tudi moralno nesprejemljivo. Uradni izgovori za stradanje v Tigraju, ki so jih dali tujim diplomatom – na primer birokratske ovire, ali da se humanitarni kamioni niso vrnili ali spopadi ob eni od ducatov cest v regiji Afar in kolateralna škoda na infrastrukturi – so neverjetno površinski in v nasprotju z brezsramnimi izjavami, ki so jih dali etiopski vladni uradniki. Če pogledamo nazaj, so etiopski in amharski nacionalisti o načrtu, kako zdesetkati ali celo iztrebiti TPLF in Tigrajce, govorili že desetletja.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF TITLE: Ethiopian Officials Admit Using Biafra-Like Siege to Starve Tigray - Second part: Medieval siege strategy is an open secret. FIRST PARAGRAPHS OF ARTICLE: Vladni uslužbenci so odkrito izjavljali, da so ukazali obleganje Tigraja, podobno kot v Biafri, z namenom pokoriti regijo in izkoreniniti TPLF. Dne 12. junija 2021 je minister za zunanje zadeve Demeke Mekonnen izjavil, ne da bi navedel dokaze, da humanitarni delavci skušajo pretihotapiti orožje za TDF (Tigrajske obrambne sile). Take obtožbe so uporabili, da so blokirali pomoč na področja pod nadzorom TDF. Enajst dni kasneje je Abiy Ahmed v televizijskem intervjuju razpravljal o tem, da je vlada DERG med lakoto v 80-ih letih naredila napako, ko je dovolila dostavo pomoči v Tigraj. Mislil je na obtožbe, da je REST (Tigrajsko združenje za pomoč), humanitarna veja uporniške TPLF, v 80-ih letih nekaj pomoči preusmerila za vojaške namene.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
ENGLISH TITLE: Ethiopian Officials Admit Using Biafra-Like Siege to Starve Tigray (1) Medieval Siege Strategy is an Open Secret. FULL TEXT: Leta 2004 je Eskinder Nega, etiopski časnikar, aktivist in politik, v svojem časopisu Askual objavil vsaj pet kolumen, ki so Tigrajce opredelile kot etiopske Jude, in pozivale Etiopijce, naj posnemajo strategije, kot so jih uporabljali nacisti v Nemčiji. Ko je novembra 2020 izbruhnila vojna, je etiopska vlada skupaj z zavezniki iz regije Amhara in Eritreje začela uresničevati te načrte proti Tigrajcem. Primerjave s holokavstom se morda zdijo pretirane. A dogodki v Tigraju srhljivo spominjajo na nigerijsko civilno vojno med letoma 1967 in 1970. V odgovor na odcepitveno vojno, ki jo je bojeval polkovnik Odumegwu Ojukwu na območju, imenovanem Biafra, kjer živi pretežno ljudstvo Igbo, je nigerijska vlada namenoma izstradala prebivalstvo, kar je privedlo do smrti več kot milijona otrok. Kot dokaz za podobnost: v letu 2021 je državno podjetje Amhara Media Corporation izjavilo, da je prihodnost Tigraja podobna kot v Biafri, in prvi minister Abiy Ahmed se je hvalil, da je etiopska vlada tista, ki bo odločala, ali pomoč v Tigraj pride ali ne. Kljub temu da se je humanitarna situacija od aprila letos rahlo izboljšala, se genocidni načrt v Tigraju nadaljuje. Zdi se, da večina etiopske javnosti podpira tako politiko ali pa se zaradi strahu in pritiskov odločijo molčati; mednarodna skupnost pa teh načrtov ne jemlje dovolj resno. Vse kaže, da strategije, ki jih izvajata etiopska in eritrejska vlada, namenoma povzročajo lakoto v Tigraju, in so bile od začetka vojne tudi dokumentirane. Junija so nekateri odločni časnikarji, kljub blokadi, ki jo je ukazala etiopska oblast, po skalnatih pešpoteh prišli v Tigraj in v nenavadnih okoliščinah posneli grozote vojne. 2. julija je ARTE TV predvajal njihov dokumentarec z naslovom Tigraj – dežela lakote, ki prikazuje posledice namenoma povzročene lakote in opustošenje zdravstvenega sistema v regiji. Dogodki, o katerih so govorili s pričami in so opisani v 24-minutni reportaži, vključujejo pokol v Aksumu, ki so ga zakrivili eritrejski vojaki, enajstletnega dečka v bolnišnici, ki tehta le osem kilogramov, in ljudi, ki enostavno umirajo doma, saj vedo, da zdravstveni centri nimajo zalog in jim ne morejo pomagati. ZN so pred kratkim objavili praznično vest, namesto da bi po resnici povedali, da je njihovim delavcem še vedno onemogočeno priti do večine stradajočega prebivalstva v Tigraju. 29. junija so ZN na socialnih omrežjih trdili, da je od 1. aprila Svetovni program za hrano (WFP pri ZN) v Tigraj dostavil dovolj hrane, da lahko nahrani 59 milijonov ljudi na mesec. Vendar pa poročilo WFP Etiopije temu oporeka, saj ugotavlja: “V regijo Tigraj je WFP v maju dostavil pomoč v hrani za 461.542 ljudi.” OCHA, Urad ZN za koordinacijo humanitarnih zadev, je v poročilu o razmerah z dne 17. junija zapisal: “V tem tednu so sodelavci pri razdeljevanju hrane v Tigraju pomagali več kot 340.000 ljudem s 5.303 tonami hrane.” “Skupno je bilo med začetkom aprila in 8. junijem razdeljeno več kot 20.000 ton hrane več kot 1,2 milijona ljudem v regiji”, nadaljuje poročilo OCHA. V resnici pa je od aprila do junija 2022, v času treh mesecev, Svetovni program za hrano v Tigraj pripeljal samo toliko hrane, da je lahko le en mesec pomagal 5,9 milijonom ljudem. Zaradi pomanjkanja goriva je pomoč prišla le do 1,4 milijona prebivalcev Tigraja, to je približno 25 odstotkov. V tem času je etiopska vlada dovolila le 15 odstotkov potrebnega goriva in le 35 odstotkov denarja, potrebnega za humanitarne operacije v Tigraju. Kot nam je povedal eden od uslužbencev ZN: “Pravilneje bi bilo, če bi poročali o učinkih, raje kot o tonah hrane in številu tovornjakov, ki jim je uspelo priti v Tigraj.”
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
262 agricultural plots were sampled in August 2022 by a team of geographers in six Tigray districts with contrasting biophysical characteristics. 15% of the observed agricultural plots were fallowed. Cereals had been planted on three-quarters of all the parcels. 71% of the tef lands were in bad condition, while 76% of the wheat and barley fields were in good or medium condition. Spring rains were not good and there was little opportunity for growing maize, sorghum or millet. Only one quarter of all planted crops had received fertilizer, commonly in insufficient amounts. For the 2022 rainfed cropping season, less than 20% of the required fertilizer reached Tigray. Though the main rainy season was generally good, shortage of fertilizer led to poor crop stands. Improper use of Potassium fertilizer led to crop poisoning (root burn). Overall, the crop stands were slightly better compared to those of the catastrophic year 2021, and there was less fallowing. On some lands, planting was delayed in the hope of receiving fertilizer; such fields were then sown with the "latest possible" crops (tef, grasspea, chickpea).
Jan Nyssen
added 2 research items
The safety of the university community who form part of the civilian population in Ethiopia’s Tigray region is in doubt following reports of airstrikes by Ethiopia’s air force on the regional capital, Mekelle, which caused deaths and injuries. The airstrikes come amid the resumption of fighting between Ethiopian government forces and forces from Tigray on 24 August, thereby undoing a five-month truce and dealing a blow to peace efforts. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20220831143524694
There are attempts to offer a post-hoc justification of the military conquest and ethnic cleansing of Western Tigray by the combined Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces in late 2020. For this purpose, an "eternal Amharic character" of Welkait and the surrounding districts is invoked. Historical records, however, show a typical Tigrayan rural landscape. We analysed the notebooks of ethnographer Giovanni Ellero, holding field notes from Welkait in the 1930s and extracted a list of 574 place names as recorded by Ellero and his translators. The etymology of almost all place names is of Tigrinya origin, with a few of Oromo, Arab or biblical origin, as well as in the extinct Falasha language. In the whole list of place names, there are less than ten locations that in 1939 held a name of Amharic origin. More specifically, among the 574 place names, there are 229 "'Addi …" (village in Tigrinya) and 49 "May …" (water).
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
The federal government may blame the TPLF for Tigray’s suffering, but its medieval siege strategy is an open secret. In 2004, Eskinder Nega, an Ethiopian journalist, activist, and politician, oversaw the publication of at least five columns in his Askual newspaper that labeled Tigrayans the Jews of Ethiopia and called for Ethiopians to emulate the strategies used by Nazi Germany. When the civil war broke out in November 2020, such ideas have been implemented against Tigrayans by the Ethiopian government in concert with its allies in Eritrea and the Amhara region. Comparisons to the Holocaust may seem a bit extreme. But events in Tigray are eerily reminiscent of the 1967-1970 Nigerian civil war. In response to a secessionist war waged by Lt. Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu in a predominately Igbo-populated territory called Biafra, the Nigerian government purposefully starved the population—leading to the death of up to a million children. As evidence of the similarities, in 2021, the state-owned Amhara Media Corporation said Tigray’s future is “like Biafra” and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed boasted that the Ethiopian government decides whether aid gets into Tigray or not. Despite a slight improvement in the humanitarian situation since April, these genocidal plans are ongoing in Tigray. Much of the Ethiopian public seems to support these policies, or chose to remain silent out of fear and pressure, while the international community has not taken them seriously enough. READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT: https://www.ethiopia-insight.com/2022/08/11/ethiopian-officials-admit-using-a-biafra-like-siege-to-starve-tigray/
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
Due to war conditions, the local farmers had to largely rely on their own crop production, mainly by subsistence farming, in Tigray, North Ethiopia. We assessed the crop stands in 2021 and evaluated the level of resilience of the indigenous farming system. Quantitative data were collected from 161 farm parcels in various ecoregions of this tropical mountain region, in order to detect the share of sown land, crop types and their status. This participatory monitoring was accompanied by semi-structured interviews. Farmers cultivated their farms late, left it uncultivated or marginally sowed oil crops as improved fallow (28%), due to lack of farming tools, oxen, fertilizer, seeds or manpower. As compared to peace years, only few lands were sown with sorghum as there was active warfare in the sorghum planting period. The relatively good stands of wheat and barley (47%) are in line with the farmers’ priority given to cereals. Teff got a large land share because it could be sown up to the middle of the main rainy season and because farmers had consumed the seeds of their major cereal crops (wheat and barley) when hiding for warfare. Seeds left from consumption were only sown by late June, when troops had retreated, and the communities could revive. With almost no external support, the local farming system has proven to be remarkably resilient, relying on indigenous knowledge and local practices, block rotation, manure, improved fallow, changes in relative importance of crops, seed exchange and support one another. This is the first analysis of the socio-agronomic roots of the 2021-2022 Tigray hunger crisis, with a cereal harvest that could not at all sustain the local population as the planting season had been largely missed. The ability of the indigenous farming system to partially rebounce in times of autarky is another novel finding.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
RESUME EN FRANÇAIS. Massacres, aides humanitaires bloquées, famine, déportations : les gouvernements d’Éthiopie, d’Érythrée et de la région Amhara ont la volonté d’éradiquer les Tigréens. En voulant s’inspirer du génocide au Biafra et de l’Allemagne nazie. ENGLISH ABSTRACT. Massacres, blocked humanitarian aid, famine, deportations: the governments of Ethiopia, Eritrea and the Amhara region are determined to eradicate the Tigrayans. They try to get inspiration from the Biafra genocide and from Nazi Germany.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
LINK: https://blogs.mediapart.fr/jan-nyssen/blog/120722/tigray-l-holocauste-comme-cadre-theorique ABSTRACT: En 2004, Eskinder Nega, polémiste éthiopien et politicien chéri par l’Occident, a publié environ 150 chroniques appelant à l’utilisation de stratégies « nazies » contre les Tigrayens. En 2021, la très officielle Amhara Media Corporation se propose l’avenir du Tigray « comme le Biafra ». Le Premier ministre Abiy Ahmed se vante que c’est le gouvernement éthiopien qui a le dernier mot quant à l’envoi d’aide au Tigray ou non. Mi-2022, leurs plans génocidaires sont en cours au Tigray et António Guterres détourne le regard, simule la naïveté. ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In 2004, Eskinder Nega, an Ethiopian polemicist and politician cherished by the West, published about 150 columns calling for the use of "Nazi" strategies against the Tigrayans. And 2021, the very official Amhara Media Corporation envisions the future of Tigray "like Biafra". Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed boasts that it is the Ethiopian government that has the final say on whether to send aid to Tigray or not. In mid-2022, their genocidal plans are underway in Tigray and António Guterres looks the other way, simulates naivety.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
As part of our study on historical cartography and ethno-linguistic maps in Western Tigray, we have come across a unique and splendid language map: “Language in Ethiopia”, by M. L. Bender, J. D. Bowen, R. L. Cooper and C. A. Ferguson, published by Oxford University Press in 1976. Here, the map is presented, as well as its relevance in relation to the current territorial claims on Western Tigray. A high resolution version of the map is available upon request.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
There is a wide array of historical maps and records which jointly reveal that the territorial organisation of northern Ethiopia has tremendously changed over the last four centuries. Historical maps representing the Western Zone of the Tigray Region (Welkait and adjacent districts) have been retrieved from well-established repositories. Only maps prepared in the same period (co-eval maps) were used. Each map was screened for representation of internal borders, indicating sway or territorial control. Out of 109 maps, spanning the period 1607-1967, 100 were precise enough to be analysed, of which 66 display territorial control. Descriptive statistics of the dataset as a whole are presented. Starting from the late 17th C., internal boundaries are clearly shown, with 37 maps (between 1683 and 1941) displaying a boundary that is located well south of the Tekeze River, or even south of the Simien mountains. Welkait is explicitly included within a larger Tigray confederation (periods 1707-1794; 1831-1886; and 1939-1941); it is briefly mapped as part of Amhara in 1891-1894 and part of Gondar from 1944-1990. At other periods it appears independent or part of a larger Mezaga (“dark earth”) lowland region. The Amhara/Gondar – Tigray border is mapped on the Tekeze River at short intervals in 1844-1847 and 1891-1896 and then more permanently between 1944 and 1990. The meta-analyis of the historical maps shows that for the larger part of the last 300 years, Western Tigray has been under Tigray jurisdiction. However, at times of upheaval, the territory has been briefly reorganized under either the Amhara polities or was autonomous. These maps demonstrate that the argument that Welkait was “always a part of Begemdir”, or else Amhara, is not based on evidence, apart from a territorial reorganisation in the mid-twentieth century. In contrast, contemporary Tigray is a valid territory, whose legitimacy stems from modern federalism’s faculty to create a region away from concepts of the Ethiopian empire-state. In 1991-4, when the boundaries of the Tigray Region were established as part of federal Ethiopia, local self-determination was way more important than historical maps. Remarkably, the consensus of the 20th C. ethno-linguistic maps of the Ethiopian state sustains the current extent of the Tigray region. In other words: the Amhara nationalist narrative that there was continuous ancestral ownership of Western Tigray is not confirmed by a meta-analysis of the historical maps. We conclude with the suggestion to especially consider the recent and subrecent actual world, including language maps.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
Western Tigray is significant not only due to the multiple war crimes committed there since November 2020, but also because the Amhara region claims it as historical Amhara land and has unconstitutionally annexed it. According to the Ethiopian constitution, regional borders are based on ethno-linguistic settlement patterns, not historical administrative arrangements. Accordingly, western Tigray became part of Tigray as there was a predominance of native Tigrigna-speaking residents. However, many Amhara nationalists have been using the supposed historical ownership of Amhara over these areas as a justification for the annexation. Although this “historical ownership” argument is irrelevant to the current federal arrangement, closer scrutiny of such claims coming from Amhara irredentists is needed. After all, Amhara irredentism has been one of the drivers of the war on Tigray and taking away this fertile area from Tigray appears to have been part of the strategy to subjugate the region. We uncovered several maps from the mid-19th Century in which Western Tigray is clearly mapped as part of the then confederate-like arrangement of Tigray. The goal here isn’t to adjudicate the territorial claim based on specific maps, but rather to demonstrate that C.F. Weiland’s (1841) and F.H. Handtke’s (1849) maps fit in a wide array of historical maps and records which jointly reveal that territorial organization has varied tremendously over time. In other words, the Amhara nationalist narrative of ancestral ownership over Western Tigray is out of touch with the historical record. Regardless, rather than being based on debates over historical ownership, territorial disputes should reflect current realities. =========>>>> Read more at: https://www.ethiopia-insight.com/2022/05/13/unearthed-evidence-maps-out-western-tigray-dispute/
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
In Tigray, artisanal mining of gold in the low-lying areas with outcropping Precambrian rocks is one of the major off-farm income sources. The 17th C. Portuguese traveller Barradas had already mentioned gold production in Tembien. Rural youth seasonally migrate to inhospitable lowlands and gorges such as the largely uninhabited Weri’i River valley, to search for placer gold, washed out from weathered gold-containing quartz veins within the meta-sediments and meta-volcanics. In recent decades, large-scale gold exploration and mining of gold deposits has been carried out in various parts of Tigray by local (such as the Ezana Mining Development P.L.C.) and several foreign exploration companies particularly from Canada. Recently, The Ethiopia Cable exposed links between big Canadian mining interests and a renewed PR campaign (involving Canadian professor and lobbyist Ann Fitz-Gerald) to whitewash the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments. Earlier on, it had already been suggested that one of the reasons for the Canadian government being very late in officially addressing the atrocities in the ongoing Tigray war, might be related to the country’s mining interests in Tigray. Here we contextualise Tigray’s gold and base metal resources, and present a map of active and applied mineral exploration and mining licenses in Tigray. The largest exploration license areas are concessions of Canadian companies, followed by the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
Jan Nyssen
added 2 research items
An ongoing war between the Ethiopian government and its allies against Tigray, one of its northern states, has led to one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises. We have used satellite data to track how the conflict and resulting energy crisis has also broken the relationship between humans and nature. People have been forced to use firewood, causing a loss of vegetation in a region on the forefront of environmental rehabilitation. That’s the key finding of our new report published by the Conflict and Environment Observatory. Read more at: https://theconversation.com/tigray-in-ethiopia-was-an-environmental-success-story-then-the-war-undid-decades-of-regreening-181665
In this presentation we bring a site-specific interpretation of the report "The war in Tigray is undermining its environmental recovery", published by CEOBS ( https://ceobs.org/the-war-in-tigray-is-undermining-its-environmental-recovery/ )
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
There was hunger in Tigray (north Ethiopia) throughout the most of 2021 due to the effects of the Tigray conflict (which began in early November 2020). Armed forces from Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the neighboring Amhara region fought against the forces of Tigray's regional government in the first half of the year; in the second half of the year, warfare was primarily outside of Tigray, more to the south, while Tigray itself was subjected to a blockade, with all telecommunication and lifelines to the outside world cut (Pellet, 2021, Gayim, 2021, Ramos, 2021). Due to a lack of economic activity, limited food supplies, and limited humanitarian access, 70 percent of the population went hungry, resulting in significant levels of acute food insecurity and excess mortality (Plaut, 2021, Istratii, 2021, Weldemichel, 2021, Oxford Analytica, 2021, Devi, 2021, Müller and Read, 2021). The famine was at its worst from September to December 2021, as it took until December to consume the previous year's low harvest; the lean period was extremely harsh. That period of time occurs between the end of the last food supply and the commencement of the new crop (Hirvonen et al., 2016). We offer field data obtained by the end of August 2021, which were evaluated to determine the percentage of Tigray's land that was seeded on schedule, the types of crops sown, and the condition of these crops. A team of geographers visited 161 agricultural plots in an area indicative of the region's diverse bio-physical circumstances, including elevation (plots ranged from 1767 to 2598 meters above sea level), lithology, soil type, rainfall patterns, and hence cropping strategies (Nyssen et al., 2019, Alemtsehay Tsegay et al., 2019). Other land uses, such as irrigated land, grassland, barren land, bushland, and forest, were left out of the analysis. We visited ecoregions with different biophysical and agro-ecological characteristics along main roads in six districts between 20 and 30 August 2021: Tsa'ida Imba, Kilte Awula'ilo (including including croplands on the outskirts of Wukro's urban district), Dogu'a Tembien (including Hagere Selam), Samre, Hintalo (including Addi Gudom), and Inderta (including Mekelle). The investigations typically took place some hundreds of meters away from the main roads, as parallel transect walks, observing and talking to farmers present on the land. Participatory monitoring was used to collect data for each cropland, which included recording the crop type, a group assessment of the crop's status according to local standards (good, medium, bad, failed; taking into account growth features such as plant height, greenness and density, ear length, homogeneity in crop stand), observations of whether or not neighboring farmers cropped in block, and a semi-structured interview with the farmer or a group discussion (Van De Fliert et al., 2000, Nyumba et al., 2018, Young and Hinton, 1996). Aside from the usual crop evaluation, emphasis was paid to block wise cropping with adjacent farmers since, like three-field systems, this practice is an indicative of an internally well-organized community, and hints to a superior yield forecast as it prevents disruptions (Nyssen et al., 2008, Hopcroft, 1994, Ruthenberg, 1980). According to descriptive statistics from the dataset, at the end of August, 21% of the monitored farm parcels had been left fallow, meaning no crops had been planted (34 plots out of 161). However, 9 percent of the fallow plots had no weeds, indicating that the ground had been ploughed but not seeded. A further 7% of the plots were planted with flax or niger seed, which is often used to improve fallow soil quality rather than crop output. Among the cultivated areas, 62 plots (49%) were planted with wheat, barley, or a combination of both (hanfets), while 33 plots (26%) were planted with tef. Only 6% of the land was planted with maize, and only 4% with sorghum. In the plots containing crops that were examined, 40% had been seeded in block, in collaboration with the owners of surrounding lands. Wheat and barley, in particular, were seeded in blocks (53 percent). Nearly half (47 percent) of the wheat and barley fields, as well as two of the five sorghum lands, were in fair condition. In contrast, four of the seven maize-growing plots were in bad condition, and one had completely failed. 67 percent of the tef lands and 73 percent of the oil crops (mainly flax) were also in bad condition.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
In recent months reports have emerged highlighting the deteriorating situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. In August 2020, Genocide Watch issued a genocide warning for Ethiopia In October 2020, Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, warned about the high risk of further atrocities. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issue warnings of atrocity crimes in Tigray. At the end of January 2021, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten reported on serious allegations of sexual violence in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, including a high number of alleged rapes in the capital, Mekelle. In March 2021, we now hear reports of starvation being used as a weapon of war against the targeted communities. The dire situation in the Tigray region requires an urgent response. Panellists discussed the situation in the Tigray Region and considered steps that must be taken by the UK, other states and international bodies. <<<<<<<<<< https://genocideresponse.org/2021/03/spotlight-on-the-tigray-region-of-ethiopia-the-need-for-an-urgent-response/ >>>>>>>>>>
Jan Nyssen
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On 12 November 2021, Howard University organised a full-day Virtual Symposium “Crisis in Tigray: A Critical Dialogue”, with about twenty speakers, all from academics. Howard University is a “historically black university” in the U.S.; one of their alumni is Kamala Harris, current Vice-President of the USA. Full recording of the symposium (more than seven hours!) is now available at: <<<<<<<<<< https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eivJjTWqmc >>>>>>>>>> – my own presentation starts at 1:04:20 in the video You may wish to first consult the symposium overview, including Organizing Committee, Participants’ Bios and Schedule, at https://cfas.howard.edu/tigray
Jan Nyssen
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During the 2021 conflict in Tigray (north Ethiopia) crop cultivation has been hampered by warfare. Oxen have been looted and killed, farm inputs and tools destroyed by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers. Farmers felt vulnerable out in the open with their oxen. To produce, farmers evaluated risks involved with ploughing and organised lookouts. Overall, a large part of the land had been tilled in difficult conditions, and crops sown that require minimal management, without fertiliser, what led to low yields. True Colour Composite images, produced from Sentinel satellite imagery show that smallholder irrigation schemes were operational. There was a shift from commercial crops to cereals. The situation in western Tigray was particular, as there has been ethnic cleansing of the population and often the 2020 rainfed crops had even not been harvested. Overall, our findings show that the Tigrayan smallholder farming system is resilient, thanks to community self-organisation, combining common strategies of agrarian societies in wartime: spatio-temporal shift in agricultural activities to avoid the proximity with soldiers and shifts in crop types. Rather unique is the relying on communal aid, while the blockade of the Tigray region made that outmigration and off-farm income were no options for the farmers.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
How has the war in Tigray impacted its landscape level environmental restoration programme? On 26/04 the Conflict and Environment Observatory launched a new remote sensing study ( https://ceobs.org/the-war-in-tigray-is-undermining-its-environmental-recovery/ ) with Teklehaymanot Weldemichel (NTNU), Henrike Schulte to Bühne (CEOBS), and Jan Nyssen (UGent). Moderation by Doug Weir (CEOBS). NOW WITH VIDEO OF THE FULL WEBINAR https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i35YBLWqjso&t=10s
Jan Nyssen
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The Tigray War in north Ethiopia started in November 2020. A large number of war crimes has been committed (gender-based violence, massacres, deliberate starvation), and by April 2022, Tigray continued to be blockaded by Ethiopian, Eritrean and Amhara forces. The total number of civilian victims in Tigray is estimated at 250 to 500 thousand, as also mentioned in numerous media articles, such as in The Globe and Mail (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-tigray-war-has-seen-up-to-half-a-million-dead-from-violence-and/). In this presentation, we highlight details of the different categories of victims: direct killings (massacres, assassinations, air bombings), deaths by famine and starvation, and deaths by lack of healthcare. The work creating the Tigray Atlas of the Humanitarian Situation (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/349824181_Tigray_Atlas_of_the_humanitarian_situation) is also discussed, as well as the mapping work of confirmed massacres (www.ethiopiatigraywar.com).
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
Military conflicts strongly affect agricultural activities. This has strong implications for people’s livelihoods when agriculture is the backbone of the economy. We assessed the effect of the Tigray conflict on farming activities using freely available remote sensing data. For detecting greenness, a Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) was analyzed in Google Earth Engine (GEE) using Sentinel 2 satellite images acquired in the pre-war (2020) and during war (2021) spring seasons. CHIRPS data were analyzed in GEE to understand the rainfall conditions. The NDVI of 2020 showed that farmlands were poorly covered with vegetation. However, in 2021, vegetation cover existed in the same season. The NDVI changes stretched from -0.72 to 0.83. The changes in greenness were categorized as increase (2167 km²), some increase (18386 km²), no change (1.6 km²), some decrease (8269 km²), and decrease (362 km²). Overall, 72% of the farmlands have seen increases in green vegetation before crops started to grow in 2021. Scattered patches with decreases in vegetation cover correspond to irrigation farms and spring-cropping rain-fed farms uncultivated in 2021. There was no clear pattern of changes in vegetation cover as a function of agro-climatic conditions. The precipitation analysis shows less rainfall in 2021 as compared to 2020, indicating that precipitation has not been an important factor. The conflict is most responsible for fallowing farmlands covered with weeds in the spring season of 2021. The use of freely accessible remote sensing data helps recognizing absence of ploughing in crisis times.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
In northern Ethiopia, Tigray continues to be blockaded. The 2021 crop yield was just 25-50 percent of what it would be in a regular year. At the beginning of March 2022, colleagues and friends in Tigray provided us with average statistics on the cost of living in Tigray (especially food). Farmlands had been poorly ploughed and planted lately or not at all due to military targeting of farming activities. Hence, every crop has gotten more costly. As a result of distress or desperation sales, the price of live animals has dropped dramatically. Coffee, firewood, gasoline, and transportation have also seen significant price rises. Extreme shortages of food and energy supplies drive up inflation, but the fact that there are very limited amounts of cash in circulation curbs it.
Emnet Negash
added 4 research items
In this database, we attempt to document the widespread involvement of Ethiopian public universities in the war in Tigray. In general, Ethiopian universities have provided financial and material support to the Ethiopian army and allied forces, practiced discrimination of their students and staff members of Tigrayan origin, including harassment and limitation of academic freedom. Infringements against human rights by the Ethiopian Ministry of Science and Higher Education are also included.
Jan Nyssen
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Soirée TESFAY le samedi 11 décembre 2021 à Liège. Soirée de rencontre; débat sur la situation dramatique dans le Nord de l’Ethiopie. Nous aurons le privilège d’écouter le Professeur Jan Nyssen de l’Université de Gand qui, avec son équipe, a fait un remarquable travail de suivi de la situation humanitaire, d’enregistrement des violences et de sensibilisation. 50 participants. Dias en Anglais - slides in English.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
At the beginning of November 2020, after months of rising political tensions, an armed conflict emerged between the Government of Ethiopia and the - now ousted - Tigray Regional Government. As the conflict arose in the aftermath of a destructive locust plague and on top of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, soon the realization came that the conflict would have a major impact on the Tigray Region’s population, estimated at 6 million. Therefore, the objective of our research is to document as much information as possible on the rapidly evolving humanitarian situation, by making use of the ‘power of maps’, and hence to make the invisible visible. For this, we have collected qualitative as well as quantitative evidence on the situation on the ground, and have prepared 22 maps on different topics, ranging from background information on rainfall, topography, population density, land cover… to territorial control by the different parties involved in the conflict, humanitarian needs and access, civilian casualties, internally displaced people, banking and telecommunication services, and food insecurity. To prepare these maps, we have derived information from secondary data sources (mainly reports from humanitarian organizations), and also have collected our own data based on telephone interviews (n > 2000) with long-trusted key informants in different (sub-)districts of the region. The interviews comprised of general data collection (n > 1500), semi-structured interviews (n > 300), in-depth interviews (n > 100) and generalist interviews with office holders at regional, national and international levels (n > 100). Due to telecommunication blackouts, data collecting has been very challenging. As of the end of April 2021, the research results show that (i) conflict incidents still occur on a daily basis, (ii) more than 7800 civilian casualties and 200 massacres* have been reported**, (iii) more than 2200 civilian casualties have been fully documented**, (iv) up to 1.7 million people have been internally displaced, (v) more than 4.5 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, (vi) humanitarian access remains restricted due to safety issues, and (vii) many war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed. Even though many people already live in a dire situation, the continuation of the Tigray conflict may lead to another failed harvest in the 2021 cropping season and consequently could lead to a widespread famine. Via this atlas, we hope to provide valuable information to humanitarian organisations and local governments, and to raise international attention for the conflict – which may lead to independent investigations on war crimes. *A massacre has been defined as ‘a conflict incident in which at least 5 civilians were killed on the same day at the same location’. **This is only the tip of the iceberg, as information only gradually becomes available.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
At the invitation of MEPs Michèle Rivasi (The Greens/EFA) and Jan-Christoph Oetjen (Renew Europe) this presentation took place in the framework of the public hearing "Ethiopia at crossroad", mainly targeted at members of the European Parliament. Full video of the webinar is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUQUDIrQ57k
Emnet Negash
added a research item
Ethiopia and its northern region of Tigray have been in conflict for about a year now. The political power struggle that had been going on for decades escalated a year ago when Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive. The conflict is putting hundreds of thousands of people in Tigray at risk of starvation and famine. Tigray is a dry place but farmers have long known how to manage the lands for production. The blockade on Tigray by the Ethiopian government, however, has meant that necessary equipment could not reach farmers. There have also been locust attacks which have significantly damaged crops. Our guest in this episode of Pasha is Emnet Negash, who is from Tigray. He is a PhD student at Ghent University and assistant professor at Mekelle University in Ethiopia. He and his team at Ghent compared the state of ploughing in Tigray before and during the conflict. They found that 20%-30% of the land has been left fallow (compared to 5% normally) and only 20%-50% of the land was expected to produce reasonable yields – which might then be threatened by locusts again. Link: https://theconversation.com/pasha-130-the-ethiopia-and-tigray-conflict-is-worsening-hunger-in-the-region-171225
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
At the beginning of November 2020, an armed conflict emerged in Tigray, Ethiopia’s northernmost region, in the aftermath of a destructive locust plague and in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In the conflict, the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) and its allies – formal and informal military factions of the adjacent Amhara region, the Eritrean Defence Force – oppose the troops of the Tigray Regional Government, the Tigray Defence Force. The aim in this work is to document and map as much information as possible about civilian casualties, more particularly those killed by military forces and warfare. With communication lines blocked, we document pieces of a bigger puzzle, yet to be fully reconstructed. By providing spatially explicit information, we hope to transfer useful information to human rights organisations and other humanitarian and development actors. This document also serves as an explanatory note to the online database of massacres and civilian victims of the Tigray war (www.ethiopiatigraywar.com).
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
Y a-t-il une volonté suffisante pour forcer l’orgueil de quelques-uns, pour tenter d’interrompre le drame qui touche l’Éthiopie ? ----------- Par André Crismer, médecin généraliste, membre de l’ASBL Tesfay et Jan Nyssen, professeur de géographie à l’Université de Gand Voici près d’un an, le Premier ministre éthiopien, Abiy Ahmed, lauréat du prix Nobel de la paix 2019, proclamait qu’en quinze jours, il aurait éliminé une clique d’une douzaine de personnes et qu’il n’y aurait aucune victime civile. Depuis le 18 octobre, on bombarde la capitale du Tigré et des centaines de personnes meurent de faim chaque jour.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
Voici bientôt un an que le conflit armé qui ravage le Tigré a éclaté. On dénombre déjà des milliers de morts, deux millions d’exilés et des millions de civils qui ont un besoin immédiat d’aide humanitaire. La communauté internationale ne peut plus se taire.
Jan Nyssen
added 2 research items
La violence sexuelle est une stratégie militaire délibérée dans la guerre du Tigray, accompagnée d'un récit construit pour justifier le viol comme arme de guerre. Pour les auteurs des viols, il s'agit de « ne pas donner naissance à des woyane » (terme générique pour la résistance tigrayenne). Mais un leadership féministe a émergé, à la fois au Tigray et dans la diaspora. Une nouvelle génération de femmes courageuses qui donne de l’espoir pour l’avenir et pour la reconstruction du Tigray. --- https://blogs.mediapart.fr/jan-nyssen/blog/130621/les-narratifs-justifiant-le-viol-comme-arme-de-guerre-au-tigray
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
Collecting field data on 161 sampling sites in very difficult conditions has allowed us to evaluate the status of cropping in part of the Tigray region of Ethiopia, by the end of August 2021. We have observed that local farming communities are remarkably resilient, also in times of conflict and instability. Relying on indigenous knowledge and local practices, farmers have shifted to the production of crops that need minimal effort and resources. However, there have been very few lean crops planted (maize, potato), and we estimate that only 20-50% of the farmland will produce reasonable outputs, which is well below what is required to sustain the local population in a subsistence farming economy. We have no reason to believe that in other districts of Tigray, the situation would be significantly different, except for Western Tigray, where many more lands have been left fallow, due to ethnic cleansing of the population. This study tends to confirm the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) statement of 2 September 2021 that “only 25% to 50% of the normal cereal production will be available this year as the agricultural planting season has been missed in many parts of Tigray”.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
Since fighting broke out in November 2020 between the Tigrayan regional government and the Ethiopian army, the conflict has wreaked havoc on the lives of people living in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia. Over 9,500 civilian deaths have been documented, with many more unrecorded. In addition about 2 million people have been displaced and at least 400,000 are now in famine. Situated in the northern periphery of Ethiopia, about 75% of the 5.7 million population of Tigray are farmers. Most people who live there depend on local yields for survival. It’s expected that there’ll be an even greater demand on local yields this year because millions cannot be reached with aid and last year’s harvest largely failed. Hence, we set out to know what the state of farming is in Tigray. We were concerned that, due to warfare, ploughing and planting might not occur on time or at all. We investigated the status of ploughing from a distance because, due to the war, we couldn’t be present on the ground. Our main research tools were satellite imagery and telephone communications. This study covered March to early June 2021. Sadly, our findings revealed a painful situation in which farmers try to grow crops, but they’ve lost many of their assets and fear for their lives. War conditions have made ploughing very challenging as oxen, used to plough farmlands, have been looted and deliberately killed. In addition, there was hardly any access to farm inputs such as seed and fertiliser, while farm tools have been destroyed by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers. The targeted destruction of Tigray’s economic basis – especially the agricultural sector – has been framed as a deliberate attempt to starve Tigray. Farmers have been late with land preparation, but in June most rural areas came under the control of the Tigray forces. This meant that farmers could start working on their land again. Despite the difficult conditions, a big effort was made in June and July to prepare the land for crops. An analysis of True Colour Composite images (combining the red, green and blue bands of Sentinel satellite imagery) showed that, by June, most farmlands had been tilled at least once – the share of exposed dark earth was similar to that of 2019 or 2020. But this wasn’t uniform across the region. Western Tigray, for instance, remains occupied by Amhara Special Forces and militia. Most farmlands have not been tilled and, on the satellite imagery, many display the typical reddish colour of the standing unharvested sorghum from last year. We do have hope though for many farmers. Tigrayan smallholder farming systems are resilient. From interviews, we learned that farmers adapted by switching to crops that require minimal management and to fast-growing cereal landraces. Nevertheless, for many the last food that people had at hand has been consumed and the next harvest will only be in November. And we read that a fresh locust infestation is threatening. While it was in a minimal food insecurity situation before the war, the larger part of Tigray has now entered emergency and famine conditions. This corresponds to at least two starvation deaths per 10,000 inhabitants per day in areas under famine. With currently a meagre 10% of the required food aid getting into Tigray, it’s imperative that any aid blockades on Tigray are lifted. READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT : https://theconversation.com/how-ethiopias-conflict-has-affected-farming-in-tigray-166229
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
https://sites.tufts.edu/reinventingpeace/2021/06/19/from-apologies-to-atrocities-how-to-make-sense-of-leadership-statements-in-ethiopia/ ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed, several times in public discourses made fun of the use of rape and other sexual violence in the Tigray War. How are we to interpret words which, from the Prime Minister himself, seem an open acknowledgement, even an endorsement, of military tactics and strategy that holds, as its central pillar, the use of rape in war? How can the world reconcile these kinds of statements? How will the people of Tigray – and in particular the women – live with what has been said, and what has been admitted? As activists and human rights lawyers examine the evidence from Tigray and other places where women continue to suffer the onslaught of violence and ethnic cleansing, the academics remind us: governments don’t outsource violence to militias; they model it. Data on government and militia attacks against civilians in civil wars from 1989 to 2010 show that when governments target civilians — whether through massacres, ethnic cleansing or deliberate bombing and shelling — they generally do so through both their regular military forces and militia forces. And when states decide not to target civilians, militias generally hold back as well. They may influence militia behavior through training or through more informal diffusion — or both. Studies show that when governments train militias, militias are more likely to target civilians both with sexual violence and other kinds of violence. On June 17 The African Union announced the opening of the official Commission of inquiry into Tigray. As they begin to collect the statements from Tigrayan refugees and victims of sexual violence, they would be wise to also consider the various speeches and statements of Abiy Ahmed himself.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
Since November 2020, a civil war is taking place in Tigray (north Ethiopia), where about 75% of the active population are farmers. Here, we present the state of ploughing in Tigray’s war conditions, early in the 2021 rainy season and discuss contextual factors. Early May 2021, around Mekelle, very few croplands have been ploughed, as compared to the situation in previous years, verified on historical Google Earth imagery, even though the 2021 spring rains correspond to average rainfall conditions in most of Tigray. The analysis of True Colour Composite images, produced from Sentinel satellite imagery pertaining to March-May 2021, shows that, unlike plantation farms, the eleven sampled irrigation schemes with smallholder farming are all operational, with an overall increase in irrigated land by 6% as compared to 2019-2020. A partial shift from commercial crops to cereals has taken place, which requires less human presence on the fields, hence less risk for the famers to encounter soldiers and get killed. The same processed Sentinel imagery shows very poor tillage on nine sample areas with rainfed farming in western and NW Tigray (scenes of approx. 6 km x 4 km), but relatively good ploughing progress in the rest of the region with often more land ploughed than in 2020, despite less rainfall in spring. The situation in western Tigray is particular, as there has been ethnic cleansing of the population and often the 2020 rainfed crops even have not been harvested. Many lands have remained unploughed, and irrigation along the Tekeze River has been abandoned. Overall in Tigray, war conditions have made ploughing very challenging. Oxen have been looted and deliberately killed, and farm inputs and farm tools have been destroyed by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers. Furthermore, farmers who want to plough feel vulnerable out in the open; in many places, Eritrean soldiers forbid the Tigrayan farmers to plough. While trying to produce, in any case, the Tigrayan farmers evaluate all risks involved with ploughing and organise lookouts verifying that no soldiers are approaching. However, there is still hope that a large part of the land will be sown timely, in difficult conditions, with crops that require minimal management, and without fertiliser, as the Tigrayan smallholder farming system, and farmer-led irrigation schemes are resilient, thanks to the remarkable ability of self-organisation by the local farming communities.
Jan Nyssen
added a research item
The people in Tembien (Tigray) suffer from warfare, starvation and war crimes. The author narrates his motivation for four months of solidarity work.
Jan Nyssen
added 14 research items
Analysis and eye-witnesses indicate Tigray is lurching back to the dark days of manmade famine. Ever since I started research in Tigray in 1994, the fight against famine has been a major priority. With academic colleagues we tried to assist through studies and projects for environmental conservation. But now it feels like we are back to square one. For February to May, more than half of Tigray’s territory is expected to suffer “Emergency” outcomes by the U.S.’s Famine Early Warning System Network—the last stage before “Famine”. What is reported is therefore catastrophic; worse even than anticipated in our prescient paper in November. In that analysis we warned that food security in Tigray was already critical before the start of the conflict: for instance large areas were on a path towards hunger, for instance due to a desert locust invasion that significantly reduced harvests. We wrote: “The conflict not only affects the harvest season that has just begun. It also has led to a complete stop of potential aid and government funding to the region.” However, we did not anticipate the many more disasters to come, such as the countless war crimes, systemic looting, bank closures, and telecoms blackout.
Rising tensions between federal government of Ethiopia and the regional government of Tigray intensified to erupt into open armed conflict on 4 November 2020 , with its concomitant massacres, destructions, lootings and human suffering. Despite the internet black-out that still continues, at the mid of November, I have sent an email message to all my friends in Tigray, hoping that this “message in a bottle” would be picked up by some through satellite telephones and distributed somehow. That was the moment that the Ethiopian prime minister promised to conquer the town of Mekelle and the region “at any cost”, reworded later to “final offensive”. This made me fear for all my beloved. I lived in Tigray for numerous years and am cut off from all people I shared rich experiences with, in all ways of life, be it smallholder farmers or university presidents. Having lived and worked close to farmers for nearly three decades, they say that I know every stone on every footpath… The message to my friends in Tigray was written at the beginning of the war. Still, in January 2021, except for Mekelle, and a few areas that are controlled by the Amhara region, the large majority of Tigrayan people has no access to humanitarian aid, medical services and telecommunication. They are suffering huge war damage, including civilian victims, looting, rape and abduction. When saying “ኣጆኹም !”, this is not free talk, it is a commitment, and his article is the diary of my commitment for the millions of poor people in Tigray who suffer enormously these days.
Dès le début de nos recherches au Tigray en 1994, la lutte contre la famine a été une priorité majeure. Avec des collègues universitaires, nous avons essayé d’aider par le biais d’études et de projets de conservation de l’environnement. Mais maintenant, on a l’impression d’être de retour à la case départ. Actuellement, alors que la région est frappée par une guerre depuis le 4 novembre 2020, plus de la moitié du territoire du Tigray est en état «d’urgence», dernière étape avant la «famine». https://blogs.mediapart.fr/jan-nyssen/blog/240221/catastrophe-au-tigray-encore-une-fois
Jan Nyssen
added a project goal
A humanitarian crisis has unfolded in Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia. As professionals with decades of involvement in research and development activities in Tigray, we are saddened to see the gains made after the devastating civil war of the 1980s being wiped away before our eyes.
Many citizens have lost their lives, many others are wounded, and people in Tigray and other parts of Ethiopia live in fear that their lives are at great jeopardy. Sexual violence and starvation are widespread.