In November 2021, militants with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) took over and occupied the campus of Wollo University during a period of intense armed conflict with Ethiopian government forces.
TPLF forces took over the campus when fighting with Ethiopian government forces reached the town of Dessie, located in Ethiopia’s Amhara region and home to Wollo University.
Reports indicate that TPLF forces fired weapons that hit university structures, leading to an evacuation of the campus. Drone strikes by Ethiopian government forces targeting TPLF forces on the campus also caused damage to university infrastructure.
During their occupation, TPLF forces reportedly looted the campus, taking computers, medical equipment, and other items. Images of the university show windows smashed and doors blown out, empty classrooms strewn with trash and debris, and caved-in roofs.
The university’s Vice President Amare Mitiku told reporters that the damage inflicted and looting that occurred amounted to approximately 10 billion Ethiopian birr (equivalent to around 200 million USD).
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the occupation and destruction of university facilities in armed conflict. Parties to a conflict may only occupy and attack legitimate military targets. Where a party suspects that a civilian facility — such as a university building — is being used for military purposes, that party has a duty to take every action practicable to verify that this suspicion is correct before initiating an attack. In the event of such an attack, parties must take all practicable precautions to avoid or minimize damage to civilian facilities. Further, parties must refrain from launching attacks which may be expected to cause disproportionate damage to civilian facilities.