Vicky Ford MP
Minister for Africa
King Charles Street
House of Lords
5 October 2021
Dear Lord Alton
Thank you for your correspondence of 20 March about the situation in Ethiopia. I am replying as the Minister for Africa. I apologise for the delay in responding.
As you are aware, we remain concerned deeply by the impact of the continued fighting in Tigray, and surrounding regions, which it is clear is causing considerable suffering to the civilian population with over 400,000 people now living in famine-like conditions. We have consistently urged all parties to end the conflict, prioritise the protection of civilians and allow unfettered humanitarian access. The former Foreign Secretary pushed these points directly with PM Abiy when they spoke on 5 August.
We are deeply concerned about ongoing human rights abuses and violations. All parties to the conflict must respect human rights and avoid civilian loss of life at all costs. We continue to call for independent, international, investigations into allegations of human right abuses and violations. The British Ambassador to Ethiopia and I have raised the need for perpetrators of violence and human rights abuses to be held to account with the Government of Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) are conducting a joint investigation into the human rights abuses committed by all parties in the context of the Tigray conflict. The UK will support the OHCHR to ensure that their investigations are independent, transparent and impartial and that those responsible for these human rights abuses are held to account. The UK is working closely with humanitarian organisations to make sure aid reaches civilians affected by the fighting.
UK-funded aid agencies in Tigray are working hard to deliver support in challenging circumstances, including shelter, water and healthcare. We have consistently raised the need for unfettered humanitarian access, to enable the delivery of much needed humanitarian assistance. The UK has provided £47.7 million of support to people affected by the conflict in Tigray. This is delivering critical food aid, safe drinking water, sanitation and nutritional supplies and medical care. We have also raised concerns about looting and other disruption to essential services in Tigray, such as the education system.
The UK has made clear to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), most recently at a discussion of the situation in Tigray on 26 August, our concerns at the continued lack of progress with humanitarian access, the role of Eritrean forces in the conflict, and human rights abuses and violations. The UK will continue to work with our colleagues on the UNSC to bring attention to this matter, as well as in other multilateral fora.
As the Foreign Secretary stated in the House on 20 April, the UK has been at the
forefront of the international effort to de-escalate the very grave humanitarian situation in Tigray. We welcome the unilateral ceasefire announced by the Government of Ethiopia. All fighting needs to cease. There can be no military solution – conflict can only be resolved through a political settlement.
Vicky Ford MP