Will Brown, The Telegraph’s Africa Correspondent, was one of the first international journalists to reach the Ethiopian-Sudanese border after Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister launched a devastating military campaign in the country’s northern Tigray region.
A mass communications blackout meant that precious few details were emerging from Tigray. But tens of thousands of refugees were flooding over the border into eastern Sudan.
Will travelled for days to get to the Gedaref region with photographer Joost Bastmeijer. He then carefully interviewed dozens of refugees to work out what was happening on the other side of the border, as one of the most powerful armies in Africa was unleashed on its own people.
In the article ‘After the bombs they attacked with knives, claim Ethiopians fleeing peace prize winner’s war’ published in The Telegraph on the 23rd November, Will reconstructed events in the Tigrayan town Humera. He exposed potential war crimes, including days of indiscriminate artillery shelling from Eritrea and detailed horrific accounts of violence by ethnic Amhara militias.
The report was one of the first international dispatches on Ethiopia’s civil war. It showed British and international readers both what was at stake in the conflict and also the egregious level of violence the Ethiopian government had unleashed on its own people. It was one of the first articles to point towards major Eritrean involvement.
Experts and diplomats have said the Telegraph’s reporting on the conflict had a major impact on how the Tigray conflict was seen and exposed some of the heinous violence going on behind the communications blackout.
Will was asked to brief the US State Department on his reporting. A senior official told him that his accounts were passed to the US Assistant Secretary for Africa. Soon after the briefing, the US Secretary of State met with the Ethiopian PM and urged him to end the war. https://twitter.com/SecPompeo/status/1333457228624519170
UK Diplomats working in Africa also told Will his reporting on Tigray was one of the driving forces behind the alarm on both sides of the UK parliament. Shocked by reports of the violence the UK Foreign Minister met with the Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and conveyed how concerned he was.
After Will’s reporting, the Ethiopian prime minister’s office released a statement trying to discredit the refugee’s testimony in Sudan claiming TPLF agents had infiltrated the camps. However, about a week after Will published his dispatches, a flood of journalists arrived at the border confirming The Telegraph’s reporting.