In Ethiopia, while a humanitarian truce came into effect at the end of March, the Tigrayan rebels continue to occupy part of the Afar region. They left behind a region in ruins: buildings, factories, and infrastructures destroyed. The devastation of the region makes the return of the more than 300,000 displaced virtually impossible. Radio France International (RFI)’s correspondent in Addis Ababa, Noé Hochet-Bodin reported from the ground.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Operating room devastated, utensils destroyed, medications stolen. Target Hospital is in ruins. Located in the town of Konnaba and a reference hospital for nearly 200,000 people, it served as a base camp for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel forces until the end of April. They vandalized it as they left the place.
Osman Nouru is the town administrator. He sspoke to us leaning on an incubator, also smashed by the occupying forces. “The hospital served a lot of people. We can’t use anything now. They stole the machines. they destroyed everything they couldn’t take with them,” explained Osman Nouru.
From Konnaba, we could see the positions of the TPLF, about ten kilometers away. Total devastation. Vehicles were destroyed or stolen, a salt factory was sabotaged, and the few gold and salt mines were vandalized. For Osman Khalil, mayor of the neighboring town of Berhale, “here, the destruction is very extensive”, he bemoans. “We cannot accurately assess the damage. That is going to take time. It was not only in this town but throughout the area that there was destruction. It is unspeakable.”
He stood in the middle of Berhal’s commercial bank, burnt to the ground by Tigrelian forces. “They did this to get us Afars back to zero development. All the houses were destroyed. There is no place to sleep, there is nothing to eat or drink. We have no reason to ask people to come back because there is nothing left to do here.”
Erebti, ghost town
In this Muslim-majority region, even mosques have borne the brunt of the occupation. In Erbeti, the Qur’ans were torn off, the windows broken and blood can be seen on the ground. It is now a militiaman, Mohammed Dersa, who is in charge of conducting the prayer, rifle under his arm. “I make the call to prayer because the imam has fled to safety. I replace him until he comes back.”
Erebti is now a ghost town. No infrastructure stands still, not even the water circuits, while daily temperatures exceed 42 degrees. Idriss Gumhed, the mayor of the town, says pointing at the water tower, “That was the tower to supply the village and the surrounding area. The TPLF destroyed it. Now we are subjected to thirst.”
It is estimated that two years will be required to rebuild the Afar region.