October 24, 2021

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Ethiopia expels seven senior UN officials for interfering in internal affairs

The tough government decision comes two days after humanitarian workers and senior UN officials warned of a “siege” on Tigray’s access to humanitarian aid. The northern region has been devastated by nearly a year of armed conflict with central forces, as international organizations warn.

A serious decision after an important message and a request for humanitarian action. The Ethiopian government, led by Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiya Ahmed, has declared seven United Nations officials “persono non grata.” According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, an unprecedented move in Africa has caused a great deal of controversy.

According to Addis Ababa, workers of various humanitarian organizations in Ethiopia may have been involved in “the internal affairs of the country,” which led to the controversial conclusion. “They must leave the country within the next 72 hours,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Among the seven officials were high-ranking officials from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.


United Nations spokeswoman Stephanie Tremble announced that the organization was cooperating with the government, “in the hope that it would allow the UN to continue its important work” and to deal with the diplomatic crisis unleashed in the last hours. “I think the activities, of which, as we said, were difficult to access. Having fewer people to plan and execute humanitarian operations certainly has an impact,” Tremblay said.

Humanitarian workers “help save lives”

“All humanitarian activities of the United Nations are governed by the fundamental principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and freedom,” he defended in a statement, arguing that the mission of its officials was to “help save lives.” The fact that the population of the north of the country has been plunged into a deep humanitarian crisis for almost a year is derived from the conflict in the troubled area of ​​Tigray that erupted in early November 2020.

In fact, on Tuesday, September 28, Martin Griffiths, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, spoke of the famine in Tigris, which he called “a stain on our conscience.” The official also asked about the difficulties in sending humanitarian aid ships to the area. Griffiths pointed to the “real siege” of nearly three months carried out by federal officials.

Of the 5.2 million people living in Tigray, 90% need humanitarian assistance

These statements seem to be the impetus for the expulsion of members of the United Nations. On the same day, Ethiopia’s mission to the UN in New York argued that such claims were “inappropriate”. According to humanitarian experts on the ground, 90% of the 5.2 million people living in Tigray need help. “The Ethiopian government must do what it has promised, which will facilitate access,” Griffiths concluded two days before the eviction.

Reactions do not take long to come. The White House condemned the evictions and threatened sanctions against those who obstructed humanitarian efforts: “We are deeply concerned that this move could hamper the Ethiopian government’s supply of food, medicine and other life-saving supplies.”

“The solution to the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Tigris is to provide UN humanitarian personnel with Addis Ababa’s non-individual gratuitous (…) tragic but real,” he declared. Leader of the rebel group in the region. The FPLT has been at war with the Central Security Forces for almost a year, killing thousands and displacing millions of people. Despite the declaration of a ceasefire on June 28, fighting continues in some areas and the humanitarian emergency has worsened due to tough access by international organizations.


The situation of “out of control” in Decree

The United Nations has been warning for months that the Tigris crisis is “out of control” and that more than 400,000 people – including thousands of children – are at risk of severe famine. Federal government officials seem to be rejecting this demand, as evidenced by the dramatic eviction, with the main victims being those living in the isolated northern region.

As thousands of people went there in search of food, the dangerous situation in Tigris seems to be spreading in the areas of Amhara and Afdar. In fact, the most important point is that a famine like the one that devastated the country in the 1980s could occur.

Without the media on the ground, the true extent of the crisis would not be known, which would be exacerbated by the forced departure of UN officials and the many obstacles that agencies face while doing their job. Many humanitarian workers have been accused by the government of aiding and abetting the rebels in Tigray. Allegations that put support staff at high risk. At least 23 humanitarian workers have been killed since the conflict began.

On March 15, 2021, a girl carries a baby while queuing for food at Tsehaye Primary School, a temporary shelter for displaced people in Shire, Shire, Ethiopia. Selectors – Boss Ratner

Audit of International Humanitarian Organizations

This is not the first time an international body has been affected by the Ethiopian government. In August they accused doctors of spreading “false information” about the war, suspended borders and suspended Norwegian refugee aid groups.

For this reason, more and more companies are reluctant to provide information about what is really going on within the country, at risk of losing access to the region. “They have fists around our throats and their necks are strangling us,” an assistant employee told the AP, who did not want to be named for fear of retaliation. “They let us breathe occasionally so we don’t die.”

With AB, Reuters and local media

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