GOP Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas told CNN on Thursday that “there have been ample, credible reports from human rights groups and journalists on the continuing presence of Eritrean troops, and reports that have implicated them, and other armed actors, in human rights abuses, rape and other atrocities.
“It is clear that the Government of Ethiopia and the Government of Eritrea have not upheld their public commitment to withdraw Eritrean forces out of Tigray. Now we have this on-camera evidence from CNN.”
McCaul and Rep. Gregory Meeks, the New York Democrat who’s chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have been leading a continued push for the Biden administration to “urgently use all available tools, including sanctions and other restrictive measures, to hold all perpetrators accountable and bring an end to this conflict.”
CNN has reached out to the US State Department for comment.
“My question is — what is the holdup? It’s been six months since the conflict started. The atrocities are continuing and the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate,” McCaul told CNN Thursday.
He argued that the “Biden administration needs to take action now to demonstrate we are serious when we demand accountability for atrocities.
“The status quo cannot continue in Ethiopia. Countless lives are at stake.”
He has spoken several times with Abiy about the crisis, most recently last month to press Ethiopia and Eritrea to make good on commitments to withdraw Eritrean troops “immediately, in full and in a verifiable manner.”
Despite the pressure from the Biden administration, there have been no signs that Eritrean forces plan to leave the Tigray region anytime soon.
In a joint statement Monday, the two lawmakers said they are “deeply concerned by the failure” of Ethiopia and Eritrea to “honor their public commitments to withdraw Eritrean forces from Ethiopia.”
“The continued presence of Eritrean forces, who have been credibly implicated in gross violations of human rights in Tigray, is a major impediment to resolving this conflict,” they said.
The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights is set to hold a hearing at the end of the month on the “impact of sanctions” in Africa.
Amid the humanitarian crisis, the State Department dispatched its special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeff Feltman, to the region this month. Feltman traveled to Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan in early May, meeting with government officials, the UN and the African Union. He is scheduled to brief the Senate Foreign Relations Committee behind closed doors next week.
The US has sent millions in additional funds to Tigray to assist in responding to the humanitarian crisis and has deployed a US Agency for International Development disaster assistance response team to the region.
The US ambassador to Ethiopia, members of the embassy team and one of President Joe Biden’s key congressional allies, Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, visited the region in March.
According to Coons, Abiy committed to humanitarian access, an investigation into the human rights violations, and the withdrawal of Eritrean troops.
“There was progress made on all of these fronts, but there is still more that has to be done. The Prime Minister made some important commitments. I’m going to be working closely with the Biden administration to make sure that those commitments are followed up on,” Coons said.
CNN’s Jennifer Hansler, Nima Elbagir, Barbara Arvanitidis and Eliza Mackintosh contributed to this report.