Ethiopia’s government has accused the United States of taking a “partisan” approach by alleging that its forces, and Eritrean troops, had committed war crimes during the two-year conflict in Tigray.
“The US statement is inflammatory,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, a day after Washington accused all parties to the conflict of committing war crimes but singled out Ethiopian, Eritrean and regional Amhara forces for crimes against humanity, without mentioning forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Later on Tuesday, Eritrea’s foreign ministry said the allegations were “unsubstantiated and defamatory” and constituted a “continuation of unwarranted hostility and demonisation that US administrations have pursued against Eritrea since 2009 to advance their ulterior political agendas.”
Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made his first visit to Ethiopia since a November 2022 peace deal between the federal government and Tigrayan rebels. On Monday, after returning to Washington, he made a forceful call for accountability.
Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the conflict, with some estimates placing the death toll as high as 600,000. There were also reports of rapes, massacres of civilians, forcible deportations, and ethnic cleansing.
Blinken said the State Department carried out a “careful review of the law and the facts” and concluded that war crimes were committed by federal troops from Ethiopia and its ally Eritrea, as well as by the TPLF and forces from the neighbouring Amhara region.
“Many of these actions were not random or a mere byproduct of war. They were calculated and deliberate,” Blinken said as he presented the annual US human rights report.
He added that the State Department also found crimes against humanity by Ethiopian, Eritrean and Amhara forces, including killings and sexual violence, although he did not mention the TPLF.
In its response on Tuesday, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said the US statement “unfairly apportions blame among different parties in the conflict”.
“This partisan and divisive approach from the US is ill-advised,” it said, calling it “unwarranted” and unhelpful to the peace process.
The war badly soured US relations with Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation and long one of Washington’s major partners on the continent.
During his visit, Blinken praised progress in implementing a peace deal in the country and announced $331m in aid but stopped short of readmitting it to a US trade programme.