Eritrea has deployed most of its army in Tigray region of Ethiopia. This is no secret. At minimum, 12 divisions have been fighting inside Tigray.

At first, the United States gave Eritrea a free pass, expressing “thanks to Eritrea for not being provoked” into retaliating after a TPLF rocket attack on Asmara. Later it admitted that Eritrea was a belligerent. The United Nations Secretary General repeated Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed’s assertion that Eritrean troops had not crossed the border. The Chairperson of the African Union has carefully said nothing on the issue.

It is lawful for a state to request the military assistance of another state. The involvement of Eritrea in Ethiopia isn’t illegal per se.

But there is mounting evidence that activities of Eritrean troops include perpetrating war crimes on a vast scale. Every report from the northern parts of Tigray speaks about Eritrean soldiers looting. They ransacked the town of Shire. They shelled Humera close to the Sudanese border. They systematically dismantled the university and pharmaceutical factory in Adigrat. They stole cars, generators, and high value goods. Now we hear that they are combing ordinary houses in towns and villages, taking such basic items as furniture, doors, and jerrycans. Eritreans are said to have emptied food stores and looted cattle, sheep and goats.

Catholic priests in Eritrea were horrified by the looted items coming into Eritrea from Tigray and admonished anyone buying them. Despite the information blackout, journalists have pieced together enough information on these actions.

International criminal law prohibits a belligerent from removing, destroying or rendering useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. The fast-approaching humanitarian crisis with at least 2 million displaced is due not only to fighting but to starvation crimes such as these.

Eritrean troops overran and emptied four refugee camps where Eritreans who had escaped their country had been living, until last month under the protection of the Ethiopian government. That’s another violation of international law.

As the weeks pass, it is becoming ever clearer that President Isseyas Afewerki has long planned this war with the intention of annihilating the TPLF and reducing Tigray to a condition of complete incapacity. His strategy is to say nothing and make a fait accompli on the assumption that the world will, in due course, come to live with it.

If anyone should doubt Isseyas’s intent, they should reflect on the way in which he has dealt with domestic opposition. In September 2001, while international attention was consumed by the al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington DC, he arrested eleven high-ranking colleagues, heroes of the liberation war, who had called for democratization, and ten journalists. They have never been seen since. After PM Abiy Ahmed visited Asmara in 2018 to end the long-dormant peace process between the two countries, Eritrea did not liberalize or demobilize its army. Nothing was said about political prisoners. Eritreans complained that nothing changed for them. For Pres. Isseyas, it wasn’t peace—it was a new opportunity to consolidate despotism.

Who will call out Eritrea’s role in the destruction of Tigray?

Alex de Waal is executive director of the World Peace Foundation and Research Professor at the Fletcher School, Tufts University. He has worked on the Horn of Africa, and on conflict, food security and related issues since the 1980s as a researcher and practitioner. He served as a senior advisor to the African Union High Level Panel on Sudan and South Sudan. He was listed among Foreign Policy’s 100 most influential international intellectuals in 2008 and Atlantic’s 29 ‘brave thinkers’ in 2009 and is the recipient of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Huxley Award. De Waal’s recent books include: The Real Politics of the Horn of Africa: Money, War and the Business of Power (Polity 2015), Mass Starvation: The history and future of famine (Polity 2018), New Pandemics, Old Politics: 200 years of the war on disease and its alternatives (Polity 2021), and (as co-author), Sudan’s Unfinished Democracy: The promise and betrayal of a people’s revolution (Hurst and Oxford 2022).

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45 Responses to Who Will Call Out Eritrea’s War Crimes in Tigray?

  1. Kisanet Haile Molla says:

    This is an amazing article! You put all the stories and frustration we were feeling into meaningful words! thank you, Alex, God bless, and happy holidays!

  2. Tigist haile says:

    #StopWarOnTigray #OpenTigray #TigrayGenocide #reconnecttigray

  3. Kudusan says:

    Ertrean soldiers are killing innocent people in Tigray.

  4. rahwa says:

    i lost my cousens in adigrat and wukro.i lost my uncle in shire by eritrean troops.they kill them the ethiopian troops and eritrean troops are killing innocent peaple is sefering.the ethiopian pm dosent care about living in the capital city but am not safe.every body here is looking us as the second citizen.we cant go anywhere.the polices and the federals hit our brothers if they know they are tigreans.they are so mant tigreans the gov displaced them from their job.please be the voice of my voiceless people.i am begging by the name of GOD.thank you

  5. Philip says:

    Alex DeWaal, Martin Plaut and the likes are busy, these days, publishing stories about the conflict in Ethiopia. A closer look at their articles tells their motives and timing. DeWaal and his likes had strong personal relationships with Tigray Liberation Front(TPLF) elites who dominated Ethiopia from 1991 to 2018. The TPLF represented just 6% of Ethiopia’s population but introduced a “new” Governance system that pitied one ethnic group against another, which DeWaal and devout TPLF supporters called “revolutionary”. This ethnic-based Governance bitterly divided Ethiopians and resulted in ethnic-based conflicts. A silent genocide against some ethnic groups had been going on for years, orchestrated by TPLF. The architects of ethnic division, the TPLF, have now fallen victim of their own doing as the chicken has come home to roost. What we are witnessing in Ethiopia now is the doing of the last 30 years. For DeWaal and his likes, instead of trying to resuscitate the TPLF from its deathbed by publishing misleading articles, it is better to shed light on what caused all these. If truth is told, may be a healing would come to the nation.

  6. Haben Bezabeh says:

    War crimes in tigary

  7. Gebrehiwo Hailegiorgis says:

    International community should bring Abiye and Esyas to ICC.

  8. Mefree says:

    It was already clear that the Eritrean regime would not let go of its fingers. I’m curious what will come of it. The Ethiopian Chancellor will soon face the embarrassment. Thanks for this article

  9. Hanna says:

    Eritea has deployed most of its army in Tigray region. None stope Airstikes,Indiscriminate killing of civilians , sexual violence against women ,Looting of properties

  10. Fishpro says:

    Very interested to see someone under the guise of alleged neutrality, his obscure political intentions, with unprovable claims, to deform Eritrea as a nation. Since the Liberation Organization existed, i.e. Even as a non-state-organized army, the Eritrean armed forces were a disciplined army subject to the Geneva Convention. To portray them as a marauding army is a mess. What he, who calls himself a journalist, was done by the Tplf armed forces in 1999 and 2000 in Eritrea. There is only a political intention behind this intention to portray Eritrean forces as criminals. It’s ridiculous and stupid.

  11. Tekle gebre says:

    Thank you, Alex.

    Your article is very informative up to the point. President Isaias Afewerki has been the troublemaker in the Horn of Africa since he assumed power in 1991. Isaias involvement in the war on Tigray to help Prime Minister Abiy is well documented. He is going to build Eritrea with stolen and looted Tigray properties. What a shame. PM Abiy has allowed a foreign Army to invade an Ethiopian territory, massacre Ethiopian citizens beyond belief. Isaias Afreweki and Abiy Ahmed have committed the most heinous war crime against humanity, genocide and gross human rights abuses including rape of women and young girls in Tigray.

    Isaias Afreweki and Abiy Ahmed are sick and mentally incapacitated to be leaders. The war in Tigray will stain and shame the Amhara and Eritrean people

    The Ethiopian Army, Eritrean Army and Amhara militias are destroying and looting industrial machineries, hospital equipment, universities, church artefacts, private properties including kitchenware and beddings and transporting the looted goods to Eritrea and Amhara. This is the most shocking ever seen in the 21 century.
    Nonetheless, the people of Tigray will build their economy again as they are resilient and have the ability to do it. From now on Tigray must be independent as the people of Tigray cannot live with the savage Amhara people.

    The dysfunctional African union is unwilling to stop the war on its doorstep i.e. in Tigray and Ormon. The AU harbours dictators and war criminals. The UN also seems to listen to the most corrupt African Union and the UN is not doing anything. It is very disheartening the world leaders shut their eyes and ears to allow the massacres to happen in Tigray. It is shameful the world is deaf and blind. It is another Rwanda happening in Tigray. Tigray will shame the world.

  12. gash Tef says:

    This is is not even the whole story. The international community is allowing the Ethiopian and Eritrean dictators to destroy a people.

  13. Abby Snyder says:

    Eritrean soldiers are killing civilians in Tigray, it’s war crimes against civilians

  14. Tigist says:

    #StopWarOnTigray #StopGenocideOnTigray #EritreaOutOfTigray #reconnect Tigray

  15. Magda S Nur says:

    Definitely war crime. Our family is slaughtered by the Eretrian military. Justice to the Tigray people.

  16. Melake says:

    I have called my friends in Mekelle city of Tigray and the situation they are telling me every single day is terrbible. Its totally inhuman war.eritrean soldiers are raping underages and kill them after to destroy witnesses , looting everything they find in the houses including cooking utensils like dishes, spoons,and kill any men they ask them why they are doing like that. They also burn crops in farmlands. They will also cut big trees calling it as “agame trees” Agame is a word they have been using it to insult Tigrian People . Agame in their meaning is beggers where infact they are trashy refugees themselves.

  17. Hiwat G says:

    It’s the most horrific act of terror, killing, stabbing,heading, happening to the Tigray people, by the Eritrean troop and Ethiopian Government also UAE drone. So many innocent children, woman, young men and elderly people lives are lost. In addition, properties destroyed purposely, banks, schools, Hotels, restaurants, groceries including innocent peoples house while they’re in the house. Many woman are raped including young girls by this cowers. The world is ignoring the cry for help from the Tigray people!!! This genocide is like Rwanda. many properties been taken from Tigray to Asmera by the Eritrean troops. I can’t even write properly I’m just so sad, I am out of words, it’s just such a horrific act of hatred toward the Tigray people. Thanks so much

  18. Kidane says:

    Yes I support go-ahead thank you.

  19. Alga Mokonen says:

    I am signing really Eritrea is involved in the war crimes occurred
    In Tigray by the with Abiy Ahmed.

  20. Senait Berhane says:

    Eritrean Army have had killed Tigrayan civilians. Isseyas and Abiy Ahmed Ali are killer and dictator.

  21. Sara Assefa says:

    Stop Eritrea trips to kill Tigray’s people.

  22. Haile Yibrah says:

    You are a man of principle!!
    The worled is waching while a ful nation is being destroyed to ashs and a genocide is underway in day light.

  23. cobol crox says:

    Alex de Waal is supporting the Woyan criminals. Never believe his propaganda.

  24. Ermias says:

    I call for both Isayas & Abyi should be accountable to the ongoing genocide in Tigray.

  25. Marta says:

    Eritrea military committed war crime in Tigray region in Ethiopia. The Eritrea military with Ethiopia defences forces, Amhara Melissa and Amhara fano did killed large amounts of civilians burned, looting and robbing people property’s, rape women and under age children.therefore the Eritrea military needs to bring to international court.

  26. Nurit Adem says:

    The Eritrean army is undisciplined, unorthodox, beast that have been caged for years by his master. Your are vicious, dangerous, bitter, hateful, angry, jealous, resentful of other people’s success. I truly feel sorry for you, and I have to say I am ashamed to share East Africa with you. Your mind have been controlled and possessed by your master and you have killed and made disappear your own people who fought for your freedom. You have driven your youth out of their country to be refugees and immigrates all over the world against their wishes. You have forbidden them never to come back to see their birth places. Take all the cell phones you want, cars, trucks, trailers, buses, factory items, house hold goods since they are new to you. Boy your master have managed to keep you in darkness since 1998. You are ignorant and way, way behind. Your precious time have been wasted engaging in different wars with your neighbors. Your master have been teaching you hate instead of new technology. Stop terrorizing, killing innocent people. HABESA, OOH.. HABESA I cry for you.
    My prayer to innocent people of Ethiopia, Tigray, Oromo, Amhara, Benishangal-Gumug Afar, and the rest.

  27. dawit says:

    Alex de Waal
    What concrete proof do you have that Eritrea is engaged in the war in Tigrai Ethiopia? You wrote

    “But there is mounting evidence that activities of Eritrean troops include perpetrating war crimes on a vast scale. Every report from the northern parts of Tigray speaks about Eritrean soldiers looting. They ransacked the town of Shire. They shelled Humera close to the Sudanese border. They systematically dismantled the university and pharmaceutical factory in Adigrat. They stole cars, generators, and high value goods. Now we hear that they are combing ordinary houses in towns and villages, taking such basic items as furniture, doors, and jerrycans. Eritreans are said to have emptied food stores and looted cattle, sheep and goats.”

    How do you write such outrageous allegation without any proof or reliable source when Ethiopian Government and the UN, AU and Eritrean Government. From your writing it seems you have deep haltered to Eritrea, its people and its leaders!!

    Mr. Alex de Waal it is not surprising to Eritreans that you have developed such hate. because they are used to such wild allegation and lies for the last 80 years after WWII in 1940!

    The World Peace will not be achieved through Lies.


  28. Arrefaine Tewelde says:

    You are absolutelly right Sir.
    Issaias,is a Criminal, we know from long time.The real problem is also the coardis of his people, above all thoses who are in the military who betraid the people and the country.
    Then lets say,the powerful countries like 1)European Union, they give him money every year sayin ( for economy aid, for infrastracture,to stop fleeng his people and not arrive in Europe etc.)
    We as Eritreans allerted Bruxel, At the begining when Mr.Michel a Belgian, who was one of the responsible on that departement on EU.but their stupid answer was, ( It is only, humanitarian aid ) You know, whhat he said to the deligate of EU when they went to Asmara to meet him,to explain him that EU wil l give Eritrea milloons of US dollar to help your country. The answer was ( Who thought you that we have economy problem ? ) I never asked you anything. The EU deligate guided by above mentioned Mr Michel, they tried to persued him. At last he thought them, if you insist ok,give the money,but ( Remember, that you are insisting to give me the money, and I don’t want to hear, that I asked you for help) What a humiliation.
    From that time, EU never stoped to give him money.
    The strange thing is, they never saw the economical,infrastractioral, or even the shadow of humanitarian right of his people, instead of economy development, he constracted more than 300 prison.Every body nows this.
    When the powerful counties like USA, EU,(the so called dimocratic countries )doesn’t want to say anything about countries like Eritrea,for their interest ( the case of Eritra is the nevralgic position in the mediteranean sea )
    The billioner arabe countries EAU,Saudi Arabia are the papets who work to their Boss USA.
    So,you see,we Eritreans we are the victim of theses all Makiavelic mashine.

  29. Yonas Mebrahtu says:

    This report seems exact copy Tplf pressing.

  30. Amleset Gebretsadik says:

    Does the intl community need to hear it from #Isaias? #Tigray Rgnl govt, victims’ testimonies, photos and videos published by intl journalists, and satellite images from the US govt is not enough evidence? #EritreanArmy #StopWarOnTigray #TigrayGenocide

  31. Abraham okn says:

    Good move sir!
    our people are diying of unspeakable ways!!
    we are wondering how the world see and say nothing!
    one hour can save some lives!
    we expect some human organization act to save our people!
    help help help.this is what our dying innocet people saying.

  32. Abeba Kidanemariam says:

    What is doing the African Union Commission when bombs fall down over the innocent people in Tigray, when innocent people put in jail and when several people leaving their homes and became refugees in another country. They could make a quick decision to stop the conflict peacefully when human rights are violated. There have not been such human violations worldwide before. It’s not funny for all to destroy houses that people live with and it’s also a remarkably to destroy the lives of innocent people.
    The people of Tigray are being treated badly by Mister Abiy Ahmed and his supporter. It’s a crime to dismantle everything that the people have built up throughout their lives.
    The Tigray people have not more strength to accept bad treatments from Mister Abiy Ahmed and his followers rather than being independent. I mean the Tigray people need freedom to do what they want to do. It’s time the Isaias afwerki’s soldiers to leave immediately from Tigray, who plunder the Tigray assets, such as Church books and magazines, instruments and materials of schools / universities, small factories and hospitals, they bombed houses and dismantled, they burned farmer’s crops or loaded by Ethiopian / Eritrean soldiers, even they killed animals, they cut down plants and trees, it’s not funny to laugh when people cry until the history pays. I know no one needs to call or negotiate with dictators like Isaias afwerki and Mister Abiy Ahmed because those two despotisms leaders ignores what people says and thinks. But they do not have more power than the African Union Commission, human rights (FN), the European Union and the United States. In order to have a power thanks to Mister Abiy Ahmed the country is going to divided into different ethnic groups. I think it’s not wrong for Tigray to become independent there is nothing left to live together I see an endless disaster and also as a Tigray people no development at all, it will not be easy to live together again unless doing as the people need. Please help the innocent people, as a leader he needs to negotiate with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and end the war peacefully, let the country’s economy use in welfare instead of war.

    Thank all in advance for your participation to solve this conflict!

  33. Zerai Tesfai says:

    What you have written is correct.the world Community musst bring the criminal undand Warmogerer who committed a lot of unjustice to justce
    for.his atrocities.

  34. Semhal says:

    Thanks for being a voice to the voiceless people of Tigray! I have confirmed the looting and killing by Eritrean soldiers from my relatives in Wukro and Adigrat in Tigray.

  35. Tekste says:

    You’re wrong brother we don’t have business in tigren if you sure where is the evidence because of tigray we do have right to fight because we now TPLF is dead 5years ago and our land is in our hand so keep of your hand on eritrea this is Eritrean cancer. Thankyou

  36. Eritrea is already involved in Tigrai,
    Eritrean Soliders has killed more than
    5000 civillians

  37. Abraham tesfay says:

    I have read the article and found it lacking a credible source and somehow exaggerated facts.until now there is no one who independently checked the facts and the tplf leaders have been trying every means to make the world get sympathetic with them. The rockets sent to asmara are one of the means used. Secondly there is allegation that tplf military have been given similar dressing with the Eritrean military and trying to distribute hatred among the citizens both countries. Please try to bring fact based and credible information.

  38. Tsige says:

    The war meant different things for different people. For most non Tigrian Ethiopians is was a revenge of 27 years of complete power by Tigrian rulers. For Abbiy it was asserting his power. For Issias Afeworki it was revenge against Meles against prosperity and development in Tigray. All at the expense of poor Farmers in Tigray who have nothing more than a small holding. abbiy needs a repairation to Tigray civilian and the international community needs to hold Isaiays accountable in order to move on

  39. merkeb says:

    Isayas afewerki is killing innocent Tigray people Eritrea soldiers are in Tigray they are killing sooo many citizens Tigray people everywhere Isayas afewerki army’s are destroying Tigray properties, homes, factories, buildings, and other properties burning homes and homes, factories Eritrean soldiers are stealing, looting Tigray properties and alsoso many cars , cargos even animals too like cows . Oxes , goats etc.. stop genocide Tigray people stop killing innocent our brothers n sisters stop genocide children’s stop killing our fathers Isayas afewerki is a terrorist Isayas is a criminal pm Isayas afewerki must go to the international criminal court Isayas afewerki killed thousands of innocent Tigray people Isayas must go

  40. Adulis Tarik says:

    This is something that could not even pass on an editorial board in a tabloid let alone in an academic page like this. I know you have a personal hatred for everything Eritrean, but putting your academic value at stake is something I can never understand. In recent days, Tigrian sources, including the Mayor Mekelle, have begun exposing all the false “reports of Eritrean thefts” and more are coming. Will you feel any shame then?
    If you care to answer one question. You write “They systematically dismantled the university and pharmaceutical factory in Adigrat.” What is your source and where us the evidence?

  41. Nathan Belay says:

    Based on confirmed source, 90% of Eritrean troops are involved in Tigray war helping Ethiopian federal troops. And they looted, destroyed and burned factories and Private companies. They also massacred thousands of innocent Tigrayans including pregnant woman and infants to elderly people. They rape teenagers and even pregnant lady with 5 guys in once. This isbthe most heartbreaking genocide in history.

  42. Gizaw Legesse says:

    Why is Tufts involved in such disinformation? I have to say I am glad my daughter decided not to go to Tufts if the professors have not faith in the truth. Alex de Waal is believes in Meles Zenawi – a narrow nationalist that instituted ethnic apartheid in Ethiopia. Proving the arch of freedom bends to justice ethnic politics lost, and Alex’s party (TPLF) lost a war it began by killing 100s of soldiers while asleep. Alex, the cult believer, can’t accept it but TPLF is dead and Ethiopia will be free from ethnic apartheid and march towards democracy.

  43. Welday says:

    Yea Eritrea army killed them civilian in tigray stop war in tigray.

  44. Yonas says:

    Stop war in tigray