The United States through its Secretary Of State Anthony Blinken, on Thursday strongly condemned the decision by Ethiopia’s government, to expel seven United Nations officials at a time of looming humanitarian crisis; the U.S has called for an immediate reversal of the decision.
“The expulsion is counterproductive to international efforts to keep civilians safe, and deliver lifesaving humanitarian assistance to the millions in dire need.” said Anthony Blinken in a statement.
Ethiopia’s foreign ministry on Thursday said that it had expelled seven U.N. officials, who have since been declared “persona non grata” for “meddling in the internal affairs of the country”. The officials include the head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), whose work the U.S says is critical to the ongoing humanitarian relief effort. The announcement came after the head of OCHA-Martin Griffiths, on Tuesday warned that a nearly three-month-long “de-facto blockade” of Tigray’s borders, had restricted aid deliveries to 10% of what is required, warning that a man-made famine was also taking hold in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has previously denied blocking food aid, and its authorities have in the past also accused aid workers of favouring and arming Tigrayan forces, although they have provided no evidence to back their accusations. Ethiopia to this extent suspended the operations of the Dutch branch of medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and the Norwegian Refugee Council in August this year, accusing them of arming “rebel groups”.
On September 17 this year, U.S President Joe Biden issued an Executive Order establishing a new sanctions regime, which authorizes the imposition of targeted economic sanctions allowing for sanctions against the warring parties in northern Ethiopia, if they fail to commit to a negotiated settlement. The order authorizes the Treasury Department to sanction the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), among other parties.
Following Ethiopia’s decision to expel the seven U.N. officials, the U.S has said it will not hesitate to apply necessary pressure on the nation’s government to ensure humanitarian aid is accessed by those who need it. The U.S has echoed its plans to impose sanctions and urged the country to work with the U.N. and international partners.
“We will not hesitate to use this authority or other tools to respond to those who obstruct humanitarian assistance to the people of Ethiopia. We call on the international community similarly to employ all appropriate tools to apply pressure on the Government of Ethiopia and any other actors impeding humanitarian access. We urge the Government of Ethiopia to collaboratively work with the UN and international partners to allow and facilitate safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all in need.” said Anthony Blinken in a statement.
The expulsion of the U.N. officials has indeed raised worries across the region and the globe, over the humanitarian response in war-torn Tigray region, which has been caught up in conflict since November. A statement from U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said he was “shocked” by Ethiopia’s decision.
“We are now engaging with the Government of Ethiopia in the expectation that the concerned UN staff will be allowed to continue their important work.” said U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
One of the officials in the list of those the Ethiopian government has decided to expel, works for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is conducting a joint investigation with the country’s state-appointed human rights commission into reports of mass killings of civilians, gang rapes and other abuses in Tigray region.
Fear continues to grow among many countries that say the intense fighting in Ethiopia, which is considered Africa’s second-most-populous nation, might further destabilize the region. Conflict erupted between federal forces and those aligned with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in November. Tigrayan forces took back most of the region at the end of June this year, and then pushed into the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara, forcing hundreds of thousands of people residing there to flee their homes.