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ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Ethiopia is expelling seven senior U.N. officials, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday, two days after the U.N. aid chief warned hundreds of thousands of people in the northern region of Tigray were likely experiencing famine due to a government blockade of aid.
The move comes amid increasing international criticism over conditions in Tigray, and as all parties to fighting in northern Ethiopia face the possibility of sanctions https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/us-paves-way-more-sanctions-over-ethiopias-tigray-conflict-2021-09-17 from the United States government.
Many fear that Ethiopia’s conflict, Africa’s second largest nation and an important regional diplomat heavyweight could lead to further instability in the already fragile region.
The UNICEF and OCHA country leaders are being expelled. According to the Ministry, they have 72 hours for departure. They were accused of interfering with internal affairs.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres released a statement saying he was stunned by the expulsions.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t immediately reply to inquiries for comment.
The conflict broke out in November between federal forces, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s (TPLF) political party which holds the region.
Tigrayan troops seized most of the region in June. They then moved on to the neighboring areas of Afar (TPLF), causing thousands of refugees from their homes.
On Tuesday, United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths – the head of OCHA – said a nearly three-month long “de-facto blockade” of Tigray’s borders has restricted aid deliveries https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/un-aid-chief-ethiopia-famine-tigray-get-those-trucks-moving-2021-09-28 to 10% of what is required.
Griffiths explained that the problem is “man-made”, and can be solved by an act of government. Griffiths noted that almost a quarter of Tigray children are severely malnourished.
OCHA expelled five people; UNICEF expelled six. The Office of the High Commissioner For Human Rights is expelled seven. OCHA’s human rights commission in Ethiopia is jointly investigating reports of Tigray mass murders, gangrapes, or other abuses.
Ethiopian authorities had previously accused aid workers, without providing any supporting evidence, of favoring Tigrayan troops and arming them.
Ethiopia stopped operations in August for both the Dutch Medecins Sans Frontieres branch (MSF), and Norwegian Refugee Council. They accused them of supporting “rebel” groups.
So far, 23 aid workers have been killed https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/three-msf-employees-killed-ethiopias-tigray-aid-agency-says-2021-06-25 in Tigray.
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