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A Plea: End Violence in Tigray

An open letter from 350 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who have served in Ethiopia and Eritrea — signed by former U.S. ambassadors and more

 

By Jake Arce

 

AS BLOODSHED IN THE TIGRAY REGION of Ethiopia drew toward the end of its third month, more than 350 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and a trio of former U.S. ambassadors issued an appeal to Congress asking for the U.S. to condemn the violence and demanding better humanitarian access, heightened protection of civilians, a U.N. investigation into human rights violations, and the lifting an information blockade. The returned Volunteers were joined by scores of former Fulbright fellows and other concerned citizens. They did not advocate for any political entity but “in support of human dignity.” 

Violence in the region was triggered by an election in Tigray in November 2020 that the government of Ethiopia deemed unconstitutional. Fighting flared between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and government forces, sending tens of thousands of people fleeing into neighboring countries. Now more than 2 million people have been displaced.

 

“We ask that the United States does not forget that its strongest allies are not simply constituted of politicians in Addis Ababa,” the letter states. “They are also the students, teachers, farmers, and healthcare workers that Peace Corps Volunteers collaborated with in the urban and rural communities currently embroiled in turmoil.” 

 

There have been extensive reports of civilians killed, tortured, or internally displaced, as well as destruction of infrastructure, including health clinics, which are crucial during a deadly COVID-19 pandemic. In late March the prime minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, confirmed the presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray, with many organizations reporting human rights abuses — including extrajudicial killings and the ransacking of Eritrean refugee camps by these forces. 

 

Mother and child, refugees in Sudan: some of the more than 2 million people displaced by violence in Tigray. Photo by Nariman El-Mofty / Associated Press

 

The letter was written by returned Volunteers who served in Ethiopia and Eritrea and sent in February. It urged humanitarian aid to Tigray amid reports of starvation. Over 5 million people remain food insecure; famine stalks.

“We ask that the United States does not forget that its strongest allies are not simply constituted of politicians in Addis Ababa,” the letter states. “They are also the students, teachers, farmers, and healthcare workers that Peace Corps Volunteers collaborated with in the urban and rural communities currently embroiled in turmoil.” 

In March, the U.S. State Department declared it was looking into cases of human rights abuse in Tigray and offered additional humanitarian aid in response to the conflict.