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UN Aid Officials Expelled by Ethiopia Depart for ‘Safety’ Reasons

October 04, 2021
Margeret Besheer/VOA

343Seven U.N. humanitarian officials expelled by Ethiopia are no longer in the country, the world body confirmed Monday.
“They have been moved from the country to ensure their safety,” U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said.

“Our priority is to make sure that our staff can go about their work safely,” he said when questioned further by reporters. “And if we cannot do that, then we have to take other steps.”

On Thursday, the federal government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed gave the officials 72 hours to leave Ethiopia. The government alleged that they had meddled in the country’s internal affairs and leveled other charges against them, including diverting aid and telecommunications equipment to the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

FILE - Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, speaks to reporters during the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, September 20, 2021.
FILE – Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, speaks to reporters during the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, September 20, 2021.

On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his “shock” at the announcement, and spoke by phone with Abiy on Friday.

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The officials who were declared “persona non-grata” include the U.N. deputy humanitarian chief, the deputy humanitarian coordinator, and the U.N. children’s agency (UNICEF) representative.

The United Nations said Ethiopia does not have a legal basis to expel the staffers. U.N. staff are protected under immunity conventions and the U.N. Charter. The organization maintains that such expulsions can only happen on a country-to-country basis.

“We stand by the neutrality and the even‑handedness and professionalism of our staff,” spokesman Haq said of the staffers.

The Ethiopian government has said the U.N. may replace the expelled officials, but Haq said there are currently no plans to do so.

“At this stage, we believe that the staff that the secretary‑general and the U.N. secretariat have deployed are the people who are fit for the job, and we believe that they should be allowed to go about their work without hindrance,” he said.

He added that the U.N. is evaluating its options as it continues to do its work in Ethiopia.

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The U.N. Security Council discussed the matter on Friday, and diplomats said it could meet again this week for another round of discussions.

Millions in need

The Ethiopian federal government has been engaged in an armed conflict with TPLF rebels in the northern Tigray region for nearly a year. The TPLF succeeded in pushing government forces out of the region, and the conflict has now spilled into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar.

Of the six million people who live in Tigray, the U.N. says 5.2 million need some level of food assistance. More than 400,000 people are already living in famine-like conditions, and another 1.8 million people are on the brink of famine.

People who fled the war from May Tsemre, Addi Arkay and Zarima gather around in a temporarily built internally displaced people (IDP) camp to receive their first bags of wheat from the World Food Program in Debark, 90 kilometers of the city of Gondar, Ethiopia, Sept. 15, 2021.
People who fled the war from May Tsemre, Addi Arkay and Zarima gather around in a temporarily built internally displaced people (IDP) camp to receive their first bags of wheat from the World Food Program in Debark, 90 kilometers of the city of Gondar, Ethiopia, Sept. 15, 2021.

The U.N. has said for months that it has encountered difficulties in reaching the people of Tigray. One hundred aid-filled trucks are needed daily to meet the soaring needs, but since mid-July, only 606 have been allowed into the region.

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“The U.N. has not been allowed to bring in fuel since the end of July, leading to some of our partners having had to severely reduce or suspend their activities,” Haq told reporters. “Cash to run operations is also running out. Medical supplies are depleted, with nearly 200,000 children having missed critical vaccinations.”

Last Wednesday, U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said that after 11 months of conflict and three months of a de facto government blockade, the humanitarian crisis in Tigray is spiraling out of control.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Griffiths said the humanitarian crisis there is a “stain on our conscience,” as civilians starve because aid workers are being blocked from getting enough supplies to them.

The next day, the government in Addis Ababa said it was expelling the seven high-ranking U.N. staffers.

3 Comments

  1. I am disappointed to see this first-class Ethiopian website act indifferent to the truth and lend itself to VOA propagandists. I am sure the zehabesha editors are not aiming to propagate falsehood and provide help to spread the western media lies on their platform by Margaret Basheer of VOA. Please read the following intentionally inserted phrase that emboldens TPLF through systematically invented falsehood stories.
    ’’… The TPLF succeeded in pushing government forces out of the region, and the conflict has now spilled into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar.’’
    I am sure Zehabesha editors are well aware of the fact that TPLF is not pushing government forces out of the region. It has been reported widely and the world knows that the government announced a unilateral ceasefire and pulled its troops from the Tigray region. And the editors also know well that the conflict was not spilled into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar. Instead, it was TPLF’s fighting strategy that they moved their forces in droves to break the blockade through the western Amhara region and Afar, and what their forces did to Amhara and Afar people is history.
    The followers of your website are not asking too much for you to do the right thing when you put any article that its facts are bent, distorted, and biased. You could not censor their writing if you know it has falsehood in the article but you could stop posting anything that has twisted propaganda that hurts your country and audience at large. If you are indifferent to the truth, however, it is sad you are helping our adversaries to propagate their lies on your website and you will be part of them in disseminating falsehood to your readers. I, therefore, urge you to stop posting such propaganda that has stains on the truth.

  2. Listen every one! I am Not leaving! I’m telling you I’m Not leaving!
    Ok, Ittu! First time you were telling us you were not eating then you were not going. What is it now that you are not leaving from?
    Yes I told you I was not eating then and I did not eat anything for 42 days straight.
    Wait a minute Ittu. You told us last time you did not eat for 35 days and it is 42 days? How is that?
    Well I was using a lunar calendar system designed by the Amhara Winnie the Pooh. I am now using a scientific calendar designed by homeboys in Minnesota.
    Wow! People in Minnesota are now designing scientific calendars?
    Not everyone in that state. Only my homeboys are capable of doing that. So for 42 scientific days I did not eat or drink. Now I am not leaving.
    From where Ittu?
    Not only me but also 6 other friends are not also leaving from Ethiopia. We cannot be expelled.
    Aha! We got it now. But the host country, Ethiopia wants you to leave the country.
    No it cannot do that. Ethiopia has no right to expel us.
    Why not? It is a sovereign nation recognized as such by the UN itself. Can you do that to the USA?
    No USA is a different arrangement.
    How about in Europe?
    No Europe is a different clause.
    How about Asia, Oceania and Latin America?
    Those are in a different arrangement also.
    How about in Africa?
    Yes it applies there since 99% of them are not the founding members
    Ittu, that would be a re-introduction of colonialism.
    No it is called super vision. Remember I said ‘super vision’ not supervision. Don’t try to put words in my mouth.
    So Africans need super vision but not Europeans or Asians?
    Yes and that is right there in the unwritten but conceived UN constitution. So I’m not, we are not leaving!!! Ethiopia is the property of the UN.

  3. On the coming days meeting if UN running to make any imposition in sovereignty of Ethiopia, it will be one of a wrong decision and blind move after a mess had been done 50 years back at time of Italian aggression. history will repeat again but you will be on wrong direction and sooner or later you will be liable for any mess and catastrophic that following you decision.

    Hence those countries; like, Russia, China, India, African countries(though most prefer to keep silent) and other who struggling for truth and justice have to show their strong stand persistently for interference and sabotage that trying to make in Ethiopia since truth prevail and make a remark that UN is against the charters and driving it self to wrong direction. Thanks to you!!

    Long live to Ethiopia!!

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