Ethiopia expels 7 UN officials under pressure from blockade
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – Ethiopia on Thursday said it was expelling seven United Nations officials it accused of “interfering” in the country’s internal affairs, as pressure increases on government following blockade murderer from his region of Tigray.
The expulsions are the most dramatic measure ever taken by the Ethiopian government to restrict humanitarian access to the region of 6 million people after nearly a year of war. The UN has been increasingly outspoken as the flow of medical supplies, food and fuel has been almost halted for weeks.
A foreign ministry statement said officials must leave Ethiopia within 72 hours. They include five people from the United Nations humanitarian agency, one from the United Nations human rights office and the UNICEF country representative. The statement did not give details of their alleged interference.
A spokesperson for the UN humanitarian agency did not immediately comment. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Dina Mufti did not immediately respond to a request for details.
UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told The Associated Press this week that the crisis in Ethiopia is a “stain on our conscience” as children and others die of hunger in the Tigray region under what the UN has called a de facto government blockade.
It was one of the sharpest criticisms to date of the world’s worst food crisis in a decade after nearly a year of war in the country. Memories of the 1980s famine in Ethiopia, which killed some 1 million people and whose images shocked the world, are vivid in his mind, “and we fervently hope that is not happening now,” said Griffiths.
Last week, the PA, citing testimony and internal documents, reported the first starvation since the Ethiopian government imposed the blockade in June in an attempt to prevent support from reaching Tigray forces, who have been fighting its soldiers and allied forces since November. Thousands of people have died in the conflict.
The Ethiopian government accused aid workers of supporting Tigray forces, which aid workers denied. Previously, he had suspended the operations of two major international aid groups – Doctors Without Borders and the Norwegian Refugee Committee – accusing them of spreading “misinformation” about the war.
UN officials declared persona non grata by the Ethiopian government include Deputy UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country Grant Leaity and UNICEF Representative Adele Khodr.