200 Days in the Death of Asmara

Starvation as a Weapon and Violations of the Humanitarian Laws of War

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Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, is a besieged city. Food supplies are running out, and there is scarcely any fuel and water. The army rules, exercising a wide range of arbitrary powers, requisitioning food at will, and preventing people from trying to ease their plight by searching for food outside the city. The civilians of Asmara are ultimately held as hostages, a human shield for the army garrison. Apart from Assab far to the south, Asmara and its immediate environs is the last area of Eritrea still controlled by the government; the rest of the population live in areas controlled by the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), which is fighting for independence for Eritrea, in a war that entered its thirtieth year this month. Asmara contains 280,000 civilians, plus people displaced by the war. The other towns and villages in the enclave contain a further 800,000 people, who suffer conditions even worse than those in the city. The garrison consists of over 120,000 soldiers. Africa Watch calls upon the Ethiopian government to observe its obligations under international humanitarian law, and appeals to both sides for a truce to allow the provision of relief to the civilian population, and to allow people to leave the enclave in safety.

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