NAIROBI, Kenya – Hundreds of Tigrayans have reportedly been detained in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, amid the conflict between the Tigrayan defense forces. [TDF] and the federal government takes on a new dimension, probably at increasing levels.
In a detailed report released by Reuters, police have been on the run, targeting innocent Tigray civilians, since the Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF] lost Mekelle, the regional administrative capital of Tigray.
The detentions in the Ethiopian capital are the third wave of what dozens of Tigrayans, rights groups and lawyers have described as a nationwide crackdown on Tigrayans since November, when fighting erupted between the military and the TPLF in Tigray, the northernmost region of the country.
Authorities in Addis Ababa have confirmed the closure of Tigrayan-owned businesses over alleged ties to the TPLF, also known as the Tigray Defense Force [TDF]. The Ethiopian administration has often called the TPLF “terrorists” throughout the operation in Tigray.
But Addis Ababa police spokesman Fasika Fanta said he had no information about any arrests or business closures. Federal Police spokesman Jeylan Abdi said: “People could be suspected of a crime and be arrested, but no one has been targeted because of their ethnicity.
The Ethiopian attorney general has previously said there is no government policy to “purge” Tigrayan officials. He said he could not rule out that innocent individuals could be involved in arrests, but that the TPLF has a large network in Addis Ababa and Ethiopia must err on the side of caution.
Officials from the prime minister’s office, the attorney general’s office and a government task force on Tigray did not respond to requests for comment on reports by released detainees of a wave of arrests or on individual cases.
Tesfalem Berhe, a Tigrayan lawyer for a Tigrayan opposition party, told Reuters he knew of at least 104 Tigrayans arrested in the past two weeks in Addis Ababa and five in the eastern town of Dire Dawa.
The names were provided by colleagues, friends or family members, and most of those detained are hotel owners, traders, aid workers, day laborers, shopkeepers or waiters, a- he declared.
He had not spoken directly to the detainees and said he did not represent them well as he passed the information on to organizations such as the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.
“They don’t appear in court within (the legal deadline of) 48 hours and we don’t know where they are – their families or lawyers can’t visit them,” he said.
Lidia Girma, deputy head of the Addis Ababa city’s peace and security department, told Reuters the government acted against companies linked to the TPLF. “It was not random and has nothing to do with ethnicity. It was based on surveys,” she said.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appears to have suspended the ceasefire earlier this week, accusing the TPLF of the continued attack on “innocent civilians” in the Tigray region. The TPLF announced victory after the ENDF, Eritrean troops and Amhara regional forces left most areas of Tigray.
The TPLF captured the town of Alamata in southern Tigray, which was occupied by Amhara regional forces. The two sides threatened to go on the offensive against each other in the latest development, raising concerns about the region’s future.