Selam Woldu is trying to draw attention to the conflict raging in Ethiopia, where many of her family members live. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

Selam Woldu is trying to draw attention to the conflict raging in Ethiopia, where many of her family members live. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)

Ethiopian conflict leaves Victoria woman unsure if her family is alive

Selam Woldu hasn’t heard from her family since fighting broke out Nov. 4.

Selam Woldu doesn’t know if her family is alive or dead.

Fighting broke out in Woldu’s home country of Ethiopia on Nov. 4 after the government accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which controls the Tigray region of the country, of holding an illegal election and attacking a federal army base. She hasn’t heard from her family since.

“That day I tried to call my family to see how they were doing, and there was no phone, no internet, there was nothing,” Woldu said.

There has been a communication blackout in the last two weeks as violence has escalated and military have marched toward Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, where Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said “the final act of law enforcement will be done.” The TPLF claims that the central government is illegitimate because it postponed national elections due to the coronavirus.

READ ALSO: Changes needed to help Canada prosecute war criminals, Amnesty International says

Meanwhile, Amnesty International reported on Nov. 12 that “scores of civilians” have been massacred and 25,000 people have fled to neighbouring Sudan.

“Now the unknown is killing us. The unknown is killing me,” said Woldu, who lives in Victoria with her three children. She grew up in Ethiopia during a decades long civil war, and is no stranger to air raids and violence. Woldu said those memories haunt her at night as she imagines what may be happening to her family.

“I’ve never experienced the pain that I’m feeling right now,” she said. At night she tosses and turns, unable to sleep, but during the day she is fighting to get the attention of media, the government and the international community.

On Nov. 13 Woldu organized a rally at the legislature, calling on Canada to take action. “We can’t just sit and watch people die,” she said.

READ ALSO: Indigenous genocide finding hangs over Canada’s Myanmar court intervention

Ethiopians are also at risk of starvation. Not only are they facing war and COVID-19, but what the UN is calling the “worst locust swarm in 25 years.” Almost half a million acres of farmland have been destroyed since January.

“People need bread not bombs,” Woldu urged.

Seeing her homeland fall back into war makes her feel sick she said. “There was always unrest, but Ethiopia was booming. It was growing. Things were really good. For us to go back to where we were before 1991 just breaks my heart.”

For now, all she can do is wait and hope that her efforts make more people pay attention. “I just want the world to look at these civilians and save their lives,” she said. If it doesn’t, she added, the world will regret it.


 

Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

EthiopiaGreater VictoriaMilitarySudan

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Longlake Chateau in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak now over at seniors’ facility in Nanaimo

Island Health commends Longlake Chateau for containing the spread of the virus

Nanaimo Fire Rescue investigator Mark Jonah probes the scene of a blaze that destroyed two apartments on Sunday, April 18. The cause of the blaze has not been determined. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
UPDATE: RCMP say Wakesiah Avenue fire was arson, suspect has been arrested

35-year-old man arrested for allegedly starting fire lived in the complex

The City of Nanaimo will further investigate an initiative to set up two 12-cabin sites to create transitional emergency housing for people experiencing homelessness. (Black Press file photo)
City of Nanaimo will ask for expressions of interest to operate tiny cabin sites

Staff expresses concern about workload, councillor says sheltering people must take priority

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks at a press conference Monday, April 18. (B.C. Government image)
New COVID-19 cases tick down on the central Island

New cases held to single digits three days in a row

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

Police executed a search warrant at the Devils Army Clubhouse on Petersen road in Campbell River on August 10, 2017.
Murder trial into 2016 Campbell River killing underway in Victoria

Ricky Alexander is charged with the first-degree murder of John Dillon Brown

..
Abbotsford nurse at ‘breaking point’ pleads with public to take COVID-19 seriously

Instagram post urges general population to stay home, wear a mask and get vaccinated

Alex Mah of Chemainus spends a sunny day at Kin Beach reading to daughter Beatrice Mah. 3. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Vancouver Island’s mini-summer poised to fade

Cooler and damper this weekend, summer-like conditions not likely to return until late June

A native-to-B.C. wild queen bee (bombus melanopygus for those in the know) feeds on a periwinkle flower. (Submitted/Sarah Johnson, Native Bee Society of BC)
B.C.’s wild bees need messy gardens to survive

The year-long nesting period makes habitat a primary concern for wild bees

A wildfire has started near Gold River, and B.C. Wildfire Service crews are on scene. Photo courtesy Coastal Fire Centre
Small wildfire burning in difficult terrain near Gold River

Coastal Fire Centre investigating, but confirms blaze is human-caused

FILE – Health-care workers wave to people clapping and yelling thank you to the frontline workers during the 7 p.m.-tribute outside the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. nurses issue plea for all to follow health orders as hospitalizations spike

Nurses worried about strain COVID-19 is having on hospital capacity, care

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Lawsuit filed last summer accused Barney Williams of verbal abuse

Most Read