The conflict between Ethiopia and Tigray – which is believed to have resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives – appears to be heading for a partial resolution, which has at least one Minnesota State student cautiously optimistic.
“I heard the Ethiopian government before saying these peaceful allegations against the Tigray government, but nothing changed and the fighting continued, and the genocide continued,” said Kidus Asgedom, president of the Association of Tigray students in the state of Minnesota.
The Ethiopian government and Tigray have agreed to a truce after two years of conflict that culminated in a war that affected millions of people. According to the Associated Press, the two warring sides in Ethiopia have agreed to put an end to the conflict that is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions over the duration of the two-year war.
Hospitals, schools and businesses were reportedly looted and destroyed by Ethiopian and Eritrean armed forces. There were also restrictions on humanitarian access. More than 2 million people have fled their homes, including thousands into Sudan, leaving at least 2.3 million people in need.
“I hope it gets better, and they talked about humanitarian aid and serving the people of Tigray, but I can’t really talk about that until I see something change,” Asgedom said.
The TSA members agreed and said they hoped for the best but still don’t know if the deal will hold.
“That might make most Tigrayans smile, that’s a good thing,” Asgedom said.
The challenges ahead include getting all parties to lay down their arms or withdraw. Eritrea, which fought with Ethiopia, did not participate in the conversation of the peace talks. It is unclear whether they will follow Ethiopia and honor the deal. The draft agreement between Ethiopia and Tigray stipulates “collusion with any external force hostile to either party”.
The day before the truce agreement was announced, the TSA held a candlelight memorial for those still dealing with the crisis overseas. More than two dozen students gathered at MSU’s Wiecking Center. This was the group’s first official meeting as RSO where the students came to show their support and dedicate their candles to their loved ones still in Tigray.
The TSA became an officially recognized student organization this semester and plans to continue educating people and celebrating its culture despite its challenges. One of their main goals as a new organization is to raise awareness of what is happening in Tigray.
“We wanted to share knowledge about what is happening in Tigray and what Tigray is. There is little to no media coverage of the situation,” Asgedom said.
Being in Tigray when the war started and now having lost contact with his family for over a year, he found it crucial to find a community in the United States.
“Finding my people here, there is hope. They make me feel strong and keep me fighting,” Asgedom said. “They made me realize that I was not alone and that I could do this.”
Asgedom was about to be deported because his student visa requires him to be a full-time student as well as pay tuition and international student insurance costs.
“I was close to not being able to go to school anymore and being an international student you have to go to school full time. Once that’s gone they kick you out which is not an option for me being from Tigray,” Asgedom said.
Finding supportive peers during this time has been difficult due to the lack of coverage amid the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
“We didn’t have a lot of support on campus because a lot of people didn’t know about it,” said TSA vice president Rediet Gebretsadik. “A lot of people don’t want to talk about it. None of the students will understand unless it happens to them.
Schools and other service buildings were closed during the war.
“None of the schools are open at the moment and recently a school for children was bombed. People are moved and it’s really terrible,” Gebretsadik said.
TSA not only wants to educate people about the Tigray War, but also to share and celebrate the culture.
“We try to share our culture and get some members to perform at the International Festival again and share the culture through dance,” Asgedom said.
In the future, they plan to organize a fundraiser for those who have been displaced either in neighboring countries or abroad. The TSA holds weekly meetings on Tuesdays at the library.
Header photo: The Tigray Students’ Association held its first official meeting on Tuesday evening with a candle-lit memorial. The students were encouraged to dedicate their candle to those still in Tigray. More than two dozen students came to the event at the Wiecking Center. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)
Write to Julia Barton at [email protected]