UN Chief: More people have died in Tigray, Ethiopia than in Ukraine

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gestures during an interview with Reuters at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., September 15, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

NAIROBI, Kenya - There is a possibility that more people have died in the troubled Tigray region of Ethiopia than in Ukraine which Russia has been invading for the last several months, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said, noting that leaders should protect ambitious peace pacts.

While there is no accurate number of those who have died, the two-year-old war has led to the separation of families, deaths of thousands of people, and displacement of millions according to projections given by the aid agencies which have been working in the Horn of Africa nation.

The Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF], Eritrean troops, and Amhara regional militia were accused of killing innocent civilians in the pretext of pursuing the Tigray People's Liberation Front [TPLF] fighters, and in the final phase of the war, drone strikes became common in towns such as Mekelle and Shire.

But the parties have since agreed to embrace a ceasefire, following an agreement signed in Pretoria and Nairobi under the leadership of the African Union. It is not clear if the parties have agreed to embrace the deal, even after TPLF said it has withdrawn 65 percent of fighters from the frontline.

In his speech at COP15, Antonio Guterres expressed concerns that the war in Tigray may have left more people dead than in Ukraine, where already thousands of deaths have been reported. The number of those dead includes the soldiers fighting against each other in the country.

He described the peace deal as “an opportunity that Ethiopia cannot miss, that Africa cannot miss, and that the world cannot miss.” The African Union, the United States, and other stakeholders have warned either party against violation of the current peace deal, noting that there will be "severe" consequences" in the event of a violation.

"With our bottomless appetite for unchecked and unequal economic growth, humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction. At COP15 I am urging leaders to adopt and deliver an ambitious peace pact with nature — and deliver a green, healthy future for all," he added.

Tigray region was the epicenter of the worst war which mainly targets children and women, but the peace deal has been lauded by stakeholders for giving a " glare of hope". Ironically, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize of 2019 for promoting peace in the Horn of Africa.

Reports from the Tigray region indicate essential services such as banking has been restored after the government connected main towns to the national grid after disconnection for over two years. Ethiopia is also battling with internal challenges with sections of Oromia also facing rebellion.


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