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

Andre Robert won $500,000 through a Lotto Extra ticket on Dec. 23, 2020. Photo: Jeanne d’Arc Allard
Creston resident wins $500k through Lotto ticket

“I was surprised. I wasn’t sure if it was true or not.”

Pioneer Arena is closing for the season. Photo: John Boivin
Castlegar’s Pioneer Arena and Nelson Civic Centre closing for season

RDCK is closing the ice at two of its arenas due to financial concerns related to COVID-19

A juvenile sturgeon in a B.C. rearing facility. The wild population in the Upper Columbia is estimated at 1,100 individuals, enhanced with roughly 5,500 hatchery fish. (file photo)
B.C.’s Upper Columbia sturgeon endure long battle with local extinction

Decades of monitoring and intervention is ongoing to save the prehistoric fish

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

A Polyphemus cocoon. Photo: Ed McMackin
Out There: Wrapped Up for the Winter

“Probably, one of the most intricate works done for winter is completed by some species of moths that spend the winter in the pupa stage — the stage between larva and adult — enclosed in a protective covering.”

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)

Most Read