Sr. Jecinter Antoinette Okoth, FSSA
Europe External Programme with Africa and Europe External Policy Advisors (EEPA) have warned against the ongoing sexual violence against women and girls in Ethiopia’s Tigray region lamenting that the situation is horrifying an alarming.
“The Tigrayans have suffered. We say enough is enough!” EEPA leadership decry in a communique issued Tuesday, May 25, hours after a Webinar series on “voices from Tigray,” adding that the situation has reached an alarming point that the global community can no longer consider it as an internal crisis in Ethiopia.
According to members of EEPA, the team has documented testimony-based incidents of “rape, killing, maiming, torture against women and killing and smashing heads of newborn babies”.
“Regrettably, the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) have joined Eritrea soldiers to rape their fellow countrywomen,” reads part of the Tuesday’s communique.
The EEPA noted that according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), “22,500 women would require support as a consequence of conflict-related sexual violence.”
Speaking during the Tuesday Webinar themed “Conflict-Related Sexual Violence against Women in Tigray,” Ms. Assita Kanko a human rights activist and member of European Parliament has termed the situation “unacceptable” calling for urgent response to save the women and girls who are suffering and in dare need of help.
Ms. Kanko a Belgian journalist who has been a leading voice against gender-based violence on women in Tigray disclosed in her key-note address that economic, family, and social consequences of Tigray’s situation are huge.
“Women’s fear of going to work or to shops is causing economic deprivation and hunger. It takes great courage for any woman to speak about her experience of rape or sexual assault, especially in traditional and conservative families and communities,” Ms. Kanko decries.
“It is up to us, to try and give them back their power. Every voice matters in urging the international community to act. We cannot waste another moment in trying to stop this crime against humanity,” the human rights activist laments and highlights further, “There is more than one way to commit genocide, the damage of rape as a weapon of war, is as powerful as any gun or bomb,” she adds.
The EEPA members, in their statement, appeal to the global community to take stand and ensure withdrawal of all foreign troops, particularly those from Eritrea; all parties in Tigray to end with immediate effect the impunity of the use of rape as a weapon of war; and the community also to act on the referral of the deployment by Eritrea of National Service in a foreign jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court.
Highlighting some of the testimonies from Tigray women the external advisors noted, “Not only are women and girls being sexually abused: these abuses are also followed by other acts of cruelty. It has become common to hear about hospitals being occupied with women that have foreign bodies like stones, sand, metals, inside their uterus in order to make women of Tigray infertile. These acts and verbal confirmation of the intention of the acts by perpetrators are signs of genocide.”
Europe External Programme with Africa and Europe External Policy Advisors (EEPA) are two non-profit legally separate and independent entities that collaborate closely in the pursuit of a common goal.