East Africa: Ethiopia - Thousands Flee to Sudan As Tigray Conflict Escalates

Map of the regions of Ethiopia, showing the boundary between the Tigray region (in dark pink) and neighbouring countries.
11 November 2020

As tensions remain high between Ethiopia's federal government and local leaders in the northern region of Tigray, thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighboring Sudan.

Thousands of people fled to neighboring Sudan on Tuesday as the conflict escalated between Ethiopia's federal government and local leaders in the northern region of Tigray.

Over 6,000 Ethiopians had crossed into Sudan's border provinces of Kassala and al-Qadarif by the end of Tuesday, according to the country's state-run SUNA news agency. The number is expected to go up to 200,000 in the coming days.

"The number is increasing around the clock," said Alsir Khaled, an official from the refugee commission in Kassala. "These people need shelter and medical treatment and food, and there is a great shortage."

"If the conflict continues, we expect an increase in the flow of refugees," Khaled added.

Those fleeing conflict also included at least 30 armed Ethiopian troops seeking protection as the fighting escalated in northern Ethiopia, where Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has launched a military offensive against Tigray's regional government, which the federal government considers illegitimate.

Calls for dialague

The fighting has resulted in hundreds of deaths on both sides, which has prompted an international intervention.

"Civilians and humanitarian access must be protected," said British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who also spoke to Abiy and called for de-escalation. He was joined by leaders of the African Union, who urged an immediate ceasefire and an "inter-Ethiopian effort in the pursuit of peace."

Despite international calls for dialogue, Abiy has said there will be no negotiations till local leaders are arrested and their well-stocked arsenal destroyed.

While Abiy has maintained that the military operation would yield swift results, experts warn that fighting in Africa's second-most-populous country could drag on, destabilizing the region.

(AP, Reuters)

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