According to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide rose to 90 million by the end of 2021, propelled by new waves of violence or protracted conflict in countries including Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Burma, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2022, the war in Ukraine has displaced 8 million within the country and forced some 6 million to flee the country as refugees. This has pushed the total displaced to over 100 million for the first time.
In Episode 122 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the ongoing conflict in Somalia in light of both climate change and Great Power politics. Despite a pseudo-withdrawal of US forces, the Pentagon continues drone strikes against the Shaabab insurgents—as the Horn of Africa faces it worst drought in a generation, with millions on the brink of extreme hunger and possible starvation. A paradox of the situation is that "government-controlled" Somalia (the southern third of the country) is not controlled by any government, but wracked by insurgency. In contrast, the unrecognized de facto independent state of Somaliland in the north is a bastion of comparative stability and even social progress. Reports of Russian designs on Somaliland as a potential site for a naval base threaten to draw it into the imperial contest for control of the strategic Horn. Progressives in the West can demand international recognition for an independent and non-aligned Somaliland. We can also loan solidarity to the Sufi resistance now fighting both the Shaabab and the "recognized" Mogadishu quasi-government. Most importantly, we can support the secular and pro-democratic voices of civil society that are standing up for human rights and basic freedoms at great risk to themselves, and in spite of everything. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Security threats are preventing aid groups from bringing relief supplies into Ethiopia's northern Tigray region, even as the government has declared a unilateral truce following 17 months of conflict with forces aligned to the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). In a statement on March 24, federal authorities promised to facilitate aid access into Tigray, having imposed a months-long blockade that has left a population of six million people bereft of basic health supplies and facing extreme food shortages.
Russia announced on March 1 that it intends to host an international "Anti-Fascist Conference"—with hideous irony, on the same day its forces bombarded a Holocaust memorial site in Kyiv. Russia struck the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial in a raid apparently targeting a nearby TV tower, killing five people. The memorial marks the site of the murder of 33,771 Jews by the Nazis in one of the most heinous acts of World War II. Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s first Jewish president, last year attended a ceremony for the opening of a synagogue at the site. He responded to the missile attack on the monument by tweeting: "To the world: what is the point of saying «never again» for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar? ...History repeating…"
Ethiopia's parliament voted on Feb. 15 for an early end to a six-month state of emergency, with the government citing its improved military position. The measure—introduced as Tigrayan rebel forces threatened Addis Ababa in November—gave the government power to detain citizens without charge, and thousands of Tigrayan civilians were rounded up. Tigrayan forces have since withdrawn to their stronghold in the country's north. Before doing so, they committed atrocities, including gang rapes, in the contested Amhara region, according to a report by Amnesty International. Government forces and their Eritrean allies are also accused of widespread abuses. Both sides are under international pressure to find a political solution to the war—with the release of detainees held under the state of emergency seen as an important step to dialogue. But fighting continues in Tigray and Afar, and the humanitarian situation remains dire. Medical supplies this month reached Tigray for the first time since July 2021—but there is no fuel for distribution of these critical supplies. The last time the government allowed in fuel for humanitarian operations was in August.
In Episode 101 of the CounterVortex podcast, we present the audio from a panel at the Ninth Biennial International Conference of the Herbert Marcuse Society, held in October at Arizona State University in Tempe. The panel, "The Responsibility to Protect in the Twenty-First Century," features two presentations. Javier Sethness speaks on "Realism, Egalitarianism, and Internationalism," providing a theoretical and historical framework for the question, including a discussion of Herbert Marcuse's work with US intelligence in World War II. Bill Weinberg, speaking via Zoom from New York, follows with "For Solidarity; Against Dictators and Campism," discussing contemporary examples, including Syria, Libya, Burma and Taiwan. A third presentation was to have been offered by Anner G. in Ethiopia, on "The Responsibility to Protect in Tigray," but she was unable to join. The work of her group, Horn Anarchists, is briefly discussed in Weinberg's presentation. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
A joint investigation by the independent Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the UN Human Rights Office has found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that all parties to the conflict in Tigray have, to varying degrees, committed violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. In a report published Nov. 3, the Joint Investigation Team details violations and abuses including unlawful killings and extra-judicial executions, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced displacement of civilians.
Eritrean troops have re-entered the northern Ethiopian province of Tigray—a region they had largely vacated in June under military pressure from the rebel Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). The new Eritrean deployment, in support of the Ethiopian government, is reportedly to the contested western part of Tigray, around the towns of Adi Goshu and Humera—a target for the TPLF. The United States has demanded the withdrawal of all Eritrean forces from Ethiopia and on Aug. 23 imposed sanctions on Eritrea's top general, Filipos Woldeyohannes, for "despicable acts" of rights violations. While much of Tigray has been declared "fully" accessible for aid deliveries, fighting in Afar province—a key supply route—between the government and TPLF has blocked aid getting into Tigray itself. Since July 15, only some 320 trucks have entered the region, a fraction of the cargo required to meet the humanitarian needs of at least 5.2 million people, according to the UN relief agency, OCHA.