With the Ethiopian conflict entering its 13th month, the situation seems to be worsening. The government has advocated for private citizens to take up arms, while the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) continues to strengthen, and recently entered into a coalition with the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). The TPLF’s gains have been rapid, and it is now around 300 km’s away from the capital, Addis Ababa.
Speaking to Radio Islam International, Dewa Mavinga, Southern African director at Human Rights Watch, expressed his concern at the situation in Ethiopia, which is now even seeing diplomats from Addis Ababa flee, as they fear the conflict’s intensification. Dewa reiterated that some of the abuses “may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and abuses which include extrajudicial killings and executions, widespread violence, and forced displacements, arbitrary detentions and violations of economic, social, and cultural rights.” Worryingly, these include the rights to worship, food and access to aid organisations, which have been blocked by Addis Ababa.
Meanwhile, President Ramaphosa recently visited Eswatini, and an agreement for a national dialogue was concluded. However, the government has continued to suppress protests very heavy-handedly. The crackdown since June has left around 50 dead and over 250 seriously injured, as the armed forces violently crackdown on citizens’ protests for more inclusion, popular participation and “justice”. Mavinga expressed his concern at the fact that no one has been held to account thus far, and that even after Ramaphosa’s visit, the levels of violence have not decreased: “What we also know is that there hasn’t been an attempt to bring those responsible to account.. and at this point it’s [the heavy handedness] not been less, the excessive force that has been used by the security forces continues.”
Further, in Sudan, there is now increasing unanimity on the need for a civilian led transition following the coup. However, agreement between the military and civilians continues to remain elusive, with the military continually arresting individuals close to the Hamdok government. The UN Human Rights Commission recently unanimously agreed to designate a special rapporteur to the country, as protests against the military continue. Mavinga noted the continued heavy-handed ness of the protests and the need to release imprisoned ministers of the Hamdok government.
Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, alienated members of the ruling Zanu PF have taken President Mnangagwa to court, arguing that his ascension to power was through force and not through democratic and constitutional means. This is occurring in the run-up to the 2023 poll, in a context wherein Mnangagwa is increasingly unpopular as the country continues to struggle economically. Significantly, the challenge is from within the ruling party, which has in recent times sought to use the courts as arbiter and enforcer. According to Mavinga, the case may “actually result in the president’s leadership being set aside.”