'Tigrayans don't die easily, shoot again': Survivor of ethnic cleansing narrates ordeal

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  • "Bodies were falling one after the other," Tigrayan war survivor tells researchers.
  • Ethnic attacks started when about 60 Tigrayan civilian residents were massacred at the Tekeze River bridge.
  • HRW and AI have called for an international peacekeeping force commanded by the African Union.

"Tigrayans don't die easily, shoot again."

These were the words of a survivor of ethnic cleansing in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

His and many other survivors' stories are contained in a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) titled "We Will Erase You from this Land" which has largely been condemned by the Ethiopian government.

Another survivor said: "They shot all of us, me included. Bodies were falling one after the other."

The report claimed the turning point in the ethnic genocidal operation was when Amhara Special Forces (ASF) on 17 January last year took about 60 Tigrayan men to the Tekeze River bridge that same day and summarily executed them.

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Residents - and a sizeable number of those who survived and spoke to the two international human rights groups during the compilation of the report - said the massacre was a revenge attack after ASF suffered heavy losses during fighting with Tigrayan forces near the river the previous night.

The gory details would be with the survivors for the rest of their lives.

"For several weeks, Tigrayans who fled across the Tekeze bridge could see the bodies, which had remained unburied, and served as a terrifying reminder of the atrocities committed," the report said.

Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, who co-wrote the report, said during a Twitter spaces meeting on Tuesday that for lasting peace to be established in the area, there was need for an international peacekeeping force to move in.

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"The Amhara militias and rocket militias are currently in control of the area, and so we believe that a neutral, international peacekeeping force is, you know, the the best option to protect civilians despite its imperfections," he said, adding that the AU was best positioned to lead the process. 

While ethnic cleansing was not a recognised crime under international law, the writers said violent means were used on a large scale, which usually constituted crimes against humanity. 

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.
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