Ethiopian women raped in Mekelle, says soldier


Soldiers and police in the northern Ethiopian city of Mekelle have expressed concerns about insecurity, with one saying women were raped this week, after the city fell to federal forces during a war late last year.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government declared victory in its conflict with the Tigray region’s former ruling party after seizing Mekelle, the local capital and home to half a million people, on 28 November.

Though the government says it is restoring law and order, aid agencies, residents and the United Nations are concerned at ongoing instability and shortages.

At Friday’s meeting in Mekelle broadcast on ETV, a state TV channel, an unidentified man in Ethiopian military uniform spoke of repeated abuses against women.

“I was angry yesterday. Why does a woman get raped in Mekelle city? It wouldn’t be shocking if it happened during the war because it is not manageable and could be expected for such a thing to happen,” he said.

“But women were raped yesterday and today when the local police and federal police are around. We need to communicate among ourselves and act together and strengthen our chain of command.”

No more details were given and Reuters was unable to verify his account. Communications and access to Tigray remain hard.

Mekelle’s mayor did not answer phone calls seeking comment, while national military and police spokesmen, Abiy’s spokeswoman and the spokesman for a government taskforce on Tigray did not immediately respond to questions.

At the meeting on state TV, the new government-appointed mayor of Mekelle, Ataklti Haileselassie, said security forces would work more closely to guarantee peace and security.

Another soldier complained that when criminals were arrested, there was no one to hand them to. “Basic institutional structure has been destroyed,” he said.

A policeman said he and colleagues had not been paid.

Air strikes and battles since early November in Tigray are believed to have killed thousands of people. Fighting is continuing in some parts and more than 2 million people need aid, the United Nations said this week.

Fugitive leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) had vowed to continue to fight from the mountains, but Reuters has been unable to contact them for weeks.