US slaps sanctions on Eritrea military, ruling party for interference in Ethiopia

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The Humera border crossing between Eritrea and Ethiopia, seen from the Ethiopian side in 2020 (AFP/EDUARDO SOTERAS)

The United States slapped sanctions on Eritrea's military and ruling party Friday, accusing them of contributing to the war in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region.

The sanctions targeted the Eritrean Defense Force and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki's political party, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice.

Also blacklisted were the head of the Eritrean National Security Office, Abraha Kassa Nemariam; the Hidri Trust, the People's Front's holding company; and Hagos Ghebrehiwet Kidan, an economic advisor for the party.

The US Treasury said in a statement that since a conflict erupted in the Tigray region in 2020, Eritrean forces have taken part, stoking the violence.

"Eritrean forces have operated throughout Ethiopia during the conflict and have been responsible for massacres, looting, and sexual assaults," it said in a statement.

The statement accused the EDF and the People's Front of contributing to the crisis and obstructing efforts to reach a ceasefire or peace deal.

It said EDF soldiers have disguised themselves in old Ethiopian military uniforms, blocked critical aid routes, and threatened staff in a key northern Ethiopia hospital.

“We condemn the continued role played by Eritrean actors who are contributing to the violence in northern Ethiopia, which has undermined the stability and integrity of the state and resulted in a humanitarian disaster,” said Andrea Gacki, the head of the Treasury Department's sanctions office.

The sanctions came nearly four weeks after President Joe Biden issued an executive order authorizing punitive action against people and bodies contributing to the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia.

Before that, on August 23 the United States imposed sanctions on General Filipos Woldeyohannes, EDF chief of staff, for "serious human rights abuse" by his forces in Tigray.

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