Friday June 4, 2021
By Emmet Lyons, Arnaud Siad and Ivana Kottasová
(CNN) The Government of Ethiopia has defended its actions in the northern province of Tigray, saying that it "condemns all acts that put the life and dignity of civilians in danger."
In a press statement issued on Thursday, the Prime Minister's office said it "categorically rejects accusations of decimation of a people as a policy. Such is not the heartbeat of this administration."
"We will continue to strive to bring to justice those responsible for heinous crimes against civilians," the government statement added.
Ethiopia is facing a raft of intense scrutiny over its actions in Tigray. Thousands of civilians are believed to have been killed and displaced since November, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a major military operation against Tigray's ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), sending in national troops and militia fighters from Ethiopia's Amhara region.
The United Nations has in recent days expressed "grave concern" over what it has described as a "dire and deteriorating" situation in the Tigray region.
Ethiopia's government previously denied allegations of wrongdoing after a CNN investigation in April found that Ethiopian soldiers has executed unarmed men in Tigray.
A CNN team reporting on the ground also witnessed Eritrean soldiers -- some disguising themselves in old Ethiopian military uniforms -- blocking aid to desperate populations more than a month after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed pledged to the international community that they would leave.
Ethiopia's government spokesperson, Billene Seyoum Woldeyes, on Thursday accused critics of launching an "orchestrated attack that is condescending in nature; often patronising in tone; belligerent in approach and destructive in outcome."
"Over the course of the past months, there have been various efforts on the part of the government to assuage the pain and suffering of its citizens in the region," Woldeyes said. "While these efforts may have been marred by various challenges given the complexity of any armed engagement, these efforts never the less have been underway and centered on enabling the return of normalcy for our people in Tigray," she added.
The US last month condemned Eritrea and Ethiopia last month for coordinating their troops to close off a key aid route to Tigray region, following the CNN investigation.
In a statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanded Eritrea and Ethiopia "take all necessary steps to ensure that their forces in Tigray cease and desist this reprehensible conduct."