Conflict in Ethiopia: Diaspora Calls for Sanctions on TPLF Leaders

July 20, 2021

Following confirmation of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s (TPLF) use of child soldiers, leaders of the American-Ethiopian diaspora community have written to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken calling for sanctions to be imposed

By American Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee (AEPAC)

WASHINGTON: Last week the photojournalist Finbarr O’Reilly posted images on his Instagram that shocked the American-Ethiopia diaspora. His images taken during a New York Times commissioned trip to Tigray, Ethiopia, showed a number of children holding weapons and receiving training from leading members of the TPLF.

Mr O’Reilly posted on his Instagram page:

“On multiple occasions, I saw Tigrayan children carrying weapons. Under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, conscripting or enlisting children into armed forces or groups constitutes a war crime in both international and non-international armed conflicts.”

For weeks unverified images have circulated on social media alleging the use of child soldiers by the TPLF, but no confirmation had been made by an international media source until last week.  

The Executive Chairman of the American Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee (AEPAC), which represents 13 diaspora organisations and reflects the majority of the more than 1 million strong American-Ethiopian diaspora community has written to the Secretary of State and leading Members of Congress to urge public condemnation and sanctions on the leadership of the TPLF.

In the letter the Chairman Mesfin Tegenu calls for:

• The Biden administration to immediately condemn the TPLF by name for the use of child soldiers, acknowledging that it constitutes an international war crime.

• The U.S. to impose sanctions on the TPLF’s leadership to compel the rebel group to end its practice of arming children. 

•  And the U.S. demand that the TPLF and all combatants also adopt an unconditional ceasefire similar to the Ethiopian government as the necessary first step to stem the humanitarian crisis and create a path toward political dialogue.

It is the first time real questions have been asked of the TPLF who have been raging an insurrection in Ethiopia since November 2020. They recently rejected the Ethiopian Government’s ceasefire and have initiated attacks in neighbouring provinces raising concerns within the United Nations and other humanitarian aid organisations who are desperate to deliver resources to the most vulnerable in the region.

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