, 13 November, 2020 / 9:25 PM
Bishops in Eastern Africa have expressed their solidarity with the people of God in Ethiopia amid reportedly escalating violence pitting the Federal government against the local authorities of the country’s Northernmost Tigray region.
In a Friday, November 13 statement availed to ACI Africa, the leadership of the Association of Member Episcopal conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) says that the Bishop members in the region have “noted with great concern the escalating of tension between the Ethiopian Federal government and the Northern Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).”
“I write to express our solidarity with you, the entire Catholic Bishops Conference of Ethiopia (CBCE) and all the people who are so much affected by the worsening situation in Tigray so much that hundreds of people are already reported to have died and thousands have fled to Sudan,” the Chairman of AMECEA, Bishop Charles Kasonde says in the statement.
Although AMECEA Bishops believe that the conflict can be resolved peacefully and a civil war avoided, they express their awareness that a peaceful resolution “can only happen if there is political will for negotiation for a peaceful solution.”
The leadership of the nine-member country forum cautions, “Without quickly reaching a peaceful resolution the discord between the two warring sides in a political landscape, which is already characterized by ethnic alliances is likely to result in more casualties on the troops, more blood shade among the civilians, destruction of properties and displacement of millions of the people.”
“We join hands with the Holy Father Pope Francis and you our brother Bishops in Ethiopia in appealing to the Federal Government of Ethiopia and TPLF to stop fueling this conflict by military operations and accusing each other for the deadly events that are happening,” AMECEA Bishops say in their November 13 solidarity message addressed to CBCE President, Souraphiel Cardinal Berhaneyesus who is the immediate former AMECEA Chairman.
On November 8, Pope Francis called for a rejection to the temptation of armed conflict and invited everyone “to prayer and to fraternal respect, to dialogue and to a peaceful end to the disagreements.”
“We too discourage them from use of military power as it will only transform the conflict into civil war, making the beautiful country of Ethiopia to become a more destabilized country. Instead, we appeal for peaceful dialogue,” the leadership of AMECEA says in the November 13 solidarity message.
The landlocked Horn of Africa nation has been experiencing clashes since November 4 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed-led government ordered a military offensive against the authorities in the Tigray region, which borders Eritrea.
The military offensive was in response to the alleged takeover of Ethiopia’s largest military base located in Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, by forces loyal to the region’s government.
The intervention is the culmination of escalating tensions between the authorities of the two regions that started in September when the ruling party in Tigray, the TPLF organized elections in the region, against the advice of the federal government.
Ethiopia’s parliament postponed the elections scheduled for August due to COVID-19, but the Tigray government defied the order, terming the authority of Prime Minister Abiy as illegal and unconstitutional.
As Africa’s second most populous nation and one deemed critical to the Horn of Africa’s stability, security experts have, by way of caution, argued that continued hostilities between the two regions could easily escalate into a civil war that could rope in neighboring countries, including Eritrea and Sudan.
While getting an accurate picture of the situation on the ground remains a challenge considering that Internet and phone connections to the area were cut off, the leadership of Amnesty International (AI) says it has “confirmed the massacre of a very large number of civilians” in Mai-Kadra town in the South West Zone of Ethiopia’s Tigray Region, particularly on the night of November 9.
AI leadership has further said that its Crisis Evidence Lab has “examined and digitally verified gruesome photographs and videos of bodies strewn across the town or being carried away on stretchers.”
Amid the reportedly escalating violent conflict, AMECEA Bishops commend their counterparts in Ethiopia, religious leaders and other stakeholders for their efforts towards restoring peace to the Tigray region and supporting those affected.
They invite the people of God in the Eastern Africa region and all over the world to “continue praying for the leadership of the Federal Government and the TPLF.”
“We remain united with you that all the key stakeholders play a positive role that can foster the restoration of peace in the Tigray region, reconciliation among the ethnic groups and the (restoration) of stability to Ethiopia as a country,” AMECEA Bishops say in their solidarity message.
They add, “We remain united with you the Bishops, the Federal government of Ethiopia, the TPLF and all the people of good will trusting in God for whom all things are possible.”
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa