Anti-farming 'campaign' under way in Tigray: state official

·2 min read

A deliberate "campaign" to prevent farming is unfolding in Ethiopia's war-hit Tigray, a top regional official said, warning that the result will be "starvation."

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray in November to topple the region's once dominant ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

"There is a campaign that has been started to prevent farming. Regrettably, this campaign is being done by some of those tasked with law enforcement," Abebe Gebrehiwot, deputy head of Tigray's interim government, said in an interview with a state-run network that aired Monday night.

The effort includes telling Tigrayan farmers they aren't allowed to farm and blocking seeds from reaching parts of the northern region, said Abebe, an official appointed by the Addis Ababa government who is in charge of economic affairs.

Affected areas include Shire, currently home to tens of thousands of displaced Tigrayans, and Hawzen, which has seen intense fighting in recent days, he said.

Vehicles transporting seeds are being blocked from moving beyond an area known as Kobo, just south of Tigray, he said.

"Efforts to prevent the entry of seeds and efforts to stop farming have no other message than perhaps, 'Let the people of Tigray perish with starvation,'" Abebe said in the interview with Tigray TV.

Abebe did not specify who was behind the "campaign," but his comments pointed to some of the tensions in the region.

Prime Minister Abiy had promised the fighting -- which he said came in response to TPLF attacks on army camps -- would end quickly.

But more than six months later fighting continues and world leaders are warning of a pending humanitarian catastrophe.

In addition to the Ethiopian military, troops from Eritrea and from Ethiopia's Amhara region -- which borders Tigray to the south -- are active in the conflict.

Last month AFP obtained documents from the interim government indicating that Eritrean soldiers were blocking and looting aid in Tigray, an allegation Asmara denied.

- 'Significant strides' -

Abiy's government, for its part, says normalcy is returning while highlighting its efforts to provide food and other aid.

On Saturday his office said "significant strides" had been made towards reconstruction.

And on Tuesday his office said that the latest round of aid had reached 2.7 million people with "food and other essential items."

"We welcome the international community's support in efforts to scale up humanitarian assistance and close existing gaps," it said on Twitter.

Last week Mitiku Kassa, head of Ethiopia's national disaster commission, told a press conference that foreign aid groups were intentionally playing up the gravity of the humanitarian situation.

"International agencies are in a rush to collect wealth just like in Syria and Yemen. They believe that unless they shout, aid won't come to Ethiopia," he said.

"There is international competition. It's an industry."