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On 22 July 2022, Ethiopian activists demonstrated in front of the Italian Embassy in Brussels at the corner of Rue du Commerce and Rue Joseph II. The demonstrators accused the Italian government of providing hidden political, financial and military support to the Ethiopian central government in the armed conflict with the Tigray region. One of the banners read that the Italian government was sponsoring the “genocide” in Tigray with 22 million euros.
The demonstrators held the Italian government jointly responsible for the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Tigray and called on it to stop supporting the Ethiopian government in its actions against the people in Tigray.
The current situation in Ethiopia/Tigray
The background to this demonstration is the renewed civil war that broke out in Ethiopia in November 2020. It mainly affects the Tigray region in the north of Ethiopia, but also the Amhara and Afar regions. The conflict erupted over Ethiopia’s national and regional elections, originally scheduled for August 2020. With reference to the Corona pandemic, these elections were canceled by the Ethiopian government. The Tigray regional government saw this as an attempt to introduce a centralist regime in Ethiopia and held the regional elections anyway. In the following weeks, the conflict escalated to such an extent that the Ethiopian central government removed the regional government in Tigray on 7 November 2020. However, the conflict did not end, but escalated further, now militarily, between militias of the regional government and the Ethiopian military. In the course of the military clashes, there occurred massive violations of human rights and massive supply difficulties for the population in Tigray. In order to facilitate humanitarian aid, the Ethiopian government announced an indefinite ceasefire on humanitarian reasons on 24 March 2022. In June 2022, despite this ceasefire, a massacre of civilians took place in the region. This conflict has not ended until today. Further details on this civil war can be found in the Wikipedia article “Tigray War” (retrieved 23.07.2022).
Historical background: The relationship between Italy and Ethiopia
From 1887 onwards, the then-Italian King Umberto I attempted to acquire colonies on the territory of present-day Ethiopia. In 1895/96, a first colonial war broke out between Ethiopia and Italy, in which the Italian colonial army was devastatingly defeated (cf. Wikipedia article “First Italo-Ethiopian War (1895-1896)”; retrieved 23.07.2022). In October 1935, Italy began a second colonial war against Ethiopia. From May 1936 to November 1941, the war was followed by an occupation of the country, which was associated with a brutal regime of terror by the Italian occupiers (cf. Wikipedia article “Second Italo-Ethiopian War“; retrieved 23.07.2022).