'We don't talk a lot about Ethiopia': EU foreign policy chief says Ukraine focused on more than Tigray crisis

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High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Fontelles at the European Council in Brussels in Belgium on 15 December 2022  (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Fontelles at the European Council in Brussels in Belgium on 15 December 2022 (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says he spent the entire year "very frustrated" by Ethiopia's civil war.
  • He has blamed the EU for paying more attention to Russia's war in Ukraine than the Tigray crisis in Ethiopia.
  • Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden has been criticised for being cosy with Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has been accused of war crimes.

European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says the conflict in Ethiopia kept him "very busy, very sorry and very frustrated" for the greater part of 2022.

Speaking at the 24th EU-Non-Governmental Organisation Forum on Human Rights in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday, Borrell said it infuriated him that "not enough people talk about it".

"We do not talk a lot about Ethiopia," he added.

He said the war in Ukraine was getting more attention from the EU, although it was "relatively smaller" than the civil war in Ethiopia's Tigray, where between 700 000 and 800 000 lives were lost.

"We complain rightly about what is happening in Ukraine, but what is happening in Ethiopia is really awful. There is not such a mortality in any other place in the world caused by a war," he added.

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He said it was painful that most of the Ethiopians died of famine. "Most of them (were killed) by famine – not fighting, but by famine, cutting humanitarian support, cutting electricity, cutting any kind of public services."

Borrell added that the situation in Ethiopia occurred under the watch of what he termed an internationally celebrated leader.

"I remind you that this is being done by a government whose prime minister (Abiy Ahmed) is a Nobel Prize laureate," he said.

At the recent US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, pictures went viral of US President Joe Biden watching the FIFA World Cup match between Morocco and France on television and being jovial with Ahmed. Biden was then criticised for somewhat endorsing an alleged war criminal.

This also didn't go down well with civil society activists, who accuse Abiy of genocide and war crimes.

Borrell said it was a tragedy that innocent lives were lost because of the political machinations of the ruling elite.

"You can discuss politically who is to be blamed for the reasons for the war to start, but the result is that for months and months there has been a continuous violation of human rights at a massive scale," he said.

An agreement for the cessation of hostilities in Ethiopia was reached in November after the facilitation of statesmen from South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria at the behest of the US, who had worked with the African Union.

The EU was not involved in the process despite the British Council, Alliance Francaise, the Goethe Institute and the Italian Cultural Institute making up the four-member European Union National Cultural Institutes cluster in Ethiopia.

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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