by Tesfa-Alem Tekle
January 16, 2023 (NAIROBI) – Amhara’s Fano militia group, which has been fighting Tigray forces alongside the Ethiopian federal forces and allied Eritrean troops, admitted committing widespread atrocities in Ethiopia’s northernmost Tigray region.
A leaked video seen by SudanTribune shows a Fano leader confessing various war crimes the Amhara forces committed during the two-year conflict in the Tigray region.
The footage exposed Fano members explicitly accepting the grave crimes including rape and gang-raping they committed against women and girls in Tigray.
“Haven’t a Tigrinya’s women been gang-raped for three? Didn’t you rape?” The Fano leader says collectively accuses his colleagues at a meeting addressing a crowd of Fano members.
In 2021, an Amnesty International report accused the Ethiopian military and its allies including Fano militia forces of being responsible for widespread sexual violence against women in Tigray, using rape as a strategy of war.
The report then said the Tigray violations scale amounts to war crimes.
According to the human rights group’s findings, one Tigrayan woman was gang-raped in front of her children.
In a debate in front of the British parliament, Labor Party politician Helen Hayes estimated that at least 10,000 women in Tigray have been raped since the beginning of the war.
In the leaked video, the Fano leader also speaks about a large sum of money and food grains looted from Tigray.
“I possess in my hand evidence of 21 million ETB (roughly $ 400,000) looting by our members,” he said adding “We will not let them get away with it”.
“Didn’t we loot Teff grains? 86 quintals of food grain were looted from a house of one farmer.”
The looting of food grains was taking place as 80 % of Tigray’s estimated 7 million people were in urgent need of food and other humanitarian aid.
According to the Fano leader’s testimony, public schools and hotels were also among the victims of looting.
The leader is seen harshly confronting wrongdoings by members of the group.
He accused the Fano members of putting the looting blame on Tigray forces.
“46 laptops were looted from one school, not by TPLF, it is my friends who stole sold and shared the money”
“Didn’t we loot fridges? Haven’t entire fridges and bed sheets been looted from a hotel? TPLF didn’t loot Timuga school. Tell me who did?” the Fano leader asked the crowd who were listening in a mood of guilt.
“Didn’t we loot refrigerators?” Wasn’t an entire refrigerator and bed sheets looted from a hotel? The TPLF did not loot Timuga’s school. Tell me who did it? Fano’s leader asked the crowd who listened with a sense of guilt.
“I am carrying all these crimes in my heart,” he told the crowd.
He further spoke on incidents where Fano members kill each other following a dispute over looted items.
The circulation of the leaked video comes only a few days after Addis Ababa said Amhara forces were withdrawing from Tigray.
Ethiopia’s military last Thursday said members of the neighbouring Amhara forces had left the Tigray town of Shire and surrounding areas two months after a peace agreement in the Tigray conflict.
The Amhara forces, like those from neighbouring Eritrea, were not a party to the November 2022 peace agreement signed between the Ethiopian government and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Hence their continued presence in Tigray has been a major challenge to the implementation of the Pretoria peace deal.
Fighting broke out in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in November 2020 after the central government accused Tigrayan fighters of attacking a federal army base and sending forces to the region to depose Tigray leaders.
The death toll from the civil war reached about r 600,000, making it one of the world’s deadliest conflicts of recent times, according to the African Union’s lead mediator.
“The number of people killed was about 600,000,” former Nigerian president and African Union envoy Olusegun Obasanjo told the Financial Times in an interview this week.
He recalled that on November 2 last year, the day the peace agreement was signed in Pretoria, Ethiopian officials said: “We have stopped 1,000 deaths every day.”