Ethiopian soldiers seeking asylum in Sudan fear returning home

Ethiopian soldiers seeking asylum in Sudan fear returning home
Ethiopian soldiers seeking asylum in Sudan fear returning home

Up to 550 Ethiopian troops stationed in Sudan have requested asylum rather than return home, an official with firsthand knowledge of the plan said on Tuesday.

The troops, who numbered between 525 and 550, were assigned to a United Nations peacekeeping force stationed in Abyei, a disputed oil-rich region on Sudan’s border with South Sudan, a refugee response officer told newsmen on condition of anonymity.

Legesse Tulu, the Ethiopian government’s spokeswoman, and Col. Getnet Adane, the military’s spokesman, did not immediately reply to Shauntv’ request for comment on the troops requesting refuge. Neither did representatives of the United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR, or the United Nations peacekeeping office.

According to the official, the troops were stationed in the peacekeeping mission’s rear post in Kadugli, South Kordofan, and UNHCR planned to relocate them to a walled camp near an Eritrean refugee camp in Sudan’s Gadaref state.

Thousands of Tigrayans, including civilians and military, have been imprisoned in dismal circumstances in Ethiopia without prosecution since November 2020, when fighting broke out in the Tigray area.

Ethiopia’s government and supporters are at odds with dissident Tigrayan troops loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a political group that formerly dominated national politics and currently dominates the Tigray province.

Since the violence began, rights organisations have reported that ethnic Tigrayans have been jailed without trial on many occasions. According to the state-appointed rights committee, hundreds of ethnic Tigrayans were jailed last year, including the elderly, nursing mothers, and infants. At the time, authorities said they were not targeting any ethnic community, but rather suspected TPLF supporters.

According to the United Nations, at least 15,000 Tigrayan citizens have been detained or imprisoned across Ethiopia since November’s declaration of a state of emergency, which was rescinded in February.

Tigrayan police and troops were disarmed and placed in safe places at the start of the conflict. It is unknown whether or not they have been released.

Previously, Tigrayan peacekeepers serving in United Nations operations in Darfur requested refuge.

The government has consistently said that it is fighting the TPLF, not all Tigrayans.