Ethiopian authorities have rounded up and detained more than 70 individuals employed by U.N. and other organizations as part of a mass crackdown on those suspected of sympathizing with or aiding the northern Tigray rebel forces. Ethiopia has put very harsh measures in place to suppress internal opposition as the Tigray forces advance on the capital of Addis Ababa. The war in Ethiopia has escalated slowly over the last year but tension is rising quickly now.
Ethnic conflict escalating
All of the detained individuals, including 16 contracted to the U.N. in the capital, are reported to be ethnic Tigrayans. Ethiopian authorities have reportedly been rounding up thousands of ethnic Tigrayans.
This is a worrying sign which indicates the degree to which the conflict has become an ethnic one, as it has seemed primarily to be.
Both sides have been accused of atrocities, including acts which appear to specifically target rival ethnic factions which fall under their territorial control.
Observers have reported that mass rape has been weaponized by both sides, along with other crimes associated with ethnic cleansing campaigns.
The fighting erupted initially from a contested election and a threat from the federal government to invade the region of Tigray and depose its disobedient government.
The U.N. has expressed concern about the situation repeatedly and the United States has advised that American citizens make plans to leave the country.
U.N. employees targeted
The emergency declaration put in place by the government gives the Ethiopian military extensive permissions to target, search, and detain any individuals suspected of sympathizing with the rebels.
The U.N. contractors may be simply guilty of being ethnic Tigrayans; the government is now allowed to search houses arrest individuals for any degree of suspicion.
A politician who objected to the mass arrests was himself arrested. Public protests against the rules or the government are banned under the state of emergency.
Tigrayan rebels have positioned themselves for an eventual attack on the capital, a development which has prompted increasingly heavy handed measures from the government.
Uniformed police even arrested a bartender and a priest, showing that the government’s attentions are not limited to prominent leaders or active rebels.
The U.N. has done little in response to the arrests, which come even as its negotiations in Ethiopia are, according to its own reports, seeing productive results.