Claims made earlier this year by hundreds of Somali families that male relatives were sent to fight in Ethiopia could very well be true as a report has affirmed that the United Nations collected evidence of troops from the Somali National Army fighting in Tigray.
The report, which was published earlier in the week, alleges that the Somali soldiers fought alongside soldiers from Eritrea. Ethiopia had earlier denied the involvement of Eritrean soldiers but later acknowledged that they were involved in the war against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The claims by the Somali families have been accruing since the turn of this year. They alleged that their family members were taken as mercenaries. Eritreans fighting in Tigray are from that country’s national army and according to the United States government, were sent on an order by President Isaias Afwerki who is looking to mend long-broken ties with Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia said it would ask Eritrea to withdraw its forces.
The UN also stated a number of human rights violations that have been occurring since the war broke out about six months ago. The Ethiopian government has been accused by both Tigrayans and foreigners of having meting out various degrees of cruelty to the people in the area of Aksum.
In May, the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Abune Mathias, said he believes national forces are committing genocide in Tigray.
In his first statement since war broke out, Patriarch Abune Mathias recorded a video message, saying “I don’t know why they want to wipe the people of Tigray off the face of the earth.” He is the leader of the largest Christian church in a country where about 40% of people identify as orthodox, and he is also Tigrayan.
In December too, the Ethiopian government had to apologize for shooting at and detaining a UN team in the war zone. That incident was also initially greeted with denial by Addis Ababa only for a government spokesperson to accept Ethiopian responsibility.
The UN team was in an area they were not supposed to be, according to government spokesman Redwan Hussein.
The AFP quoted Hussein saying: “Some of the UN staff were actually detained and some were shot at. They broke two check-points to drive to areas where they were not supposed to go, and that they were told not to go. When they were about to break the third one, they were shot at and detained”.
The ongoing war between Addis Ababa and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Force (TPLF) has assumed dimensions that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed would not have expected. Shortly before Ethiopia launched an offensive in the regions, Ahmed promised it was going to be a quick battle and emphatic victory.
Ethiopia has captured the provincial capital of Mekelle but the war does not seem to be nearing its end, observers say.