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U.N. says at least 16 staff, dependents detained in Ethiopia -Breaking


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO – A Tigrayan soldier reads a book while he protects Mekelle’s headquarters for the Tigrai mass media agency, which is the capital city of Tigray, Ethiopia. July 7, 2021. REUTERS/Giulia Paravicini/File Photo

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK, (Reuters) – At least 16 United Nations personnel and dependents were detained in Addis Ababa on Tuesday amid widespread reports of Tigrayan ethnic Tigrayans being arrested.

Stephane Dujarric from the U.N. spoke to reporters in New York, saying that they were working closely with Ethiopia’s government for their release.

The question regarding the ethnicity of the detained was declined by Mr. A., who stated: “These are United Nations staff, they’re Ethiopians…and we would like them to be released, whatever their ethnicity may be on their identification cards.”

According to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, which was appointed by the state, it received numerous reports about Tigrayans being arrested in Ethiopia’s capital. This included mothers and their children.

Daniel Bekele was the head of this commission and told Reuters Tuesday that it was watching “the arrests in Addis Ababa of hundreds Tigrayans”.

The police have claimed that they were only making arrests for ethnic reasons and are not targeting rebel Tigrayan fighters against the central administration.

Fasika Fasika, Addis Ababa Police spokesperson, and Legesse Tulu, Government spokesman told Reuters, they have no information regarding the arrests U.N. staff.

Legesse stated that “those who have been held are Ethiopians who break the law.”

Since the TPLF pushed to the south, the year-old conflict in northern Ethiopia has escalated. Tigrayan and other allies threatened to attack the capital.

Ethiopia declared a state of emergency on Nov 2. This allows the government to arrest anyone who is suspected of working with terrorist groups arbitrarily without any court orders. The TPLF has been designated a terrorist group by parliament earlier this year.

Britain has tightened its travel advisory on Tuesday. It advised citizens to depart Ethiopia before commercial flights become available. This follows a recommendation by the United States, Nov. 5, which advised citizens to flee Ethiopia as quickly as possible.

The foreign ministry of Zambia said Tuesday that Zambia had evacuated all non-essential personnel in Ethiopia.


Diplomatic efforts are continuing to attempt to make the groundwork for negotiations and to avert an attack against the capital home to five million people.

Vicky Ford from Britain, Britain’s minister to Africa said that “our position is that there cannot be a military solution for this conflict” and that only dialogue could produce a lasting peaceful resolution.

Olusegun Obasanjo (former Nigerian president) is visiting Ethiopia to promote talks. Getachew Rela, spokesperson for the TPLF, stated to Reuters that they had spoken with him.

“He wanted to know if we believe there is the possibility of a political solution to this problem. We said yes,” he told Reuters. But, Getachew added, “we are not willing to retreat because of the siege, because of the blockade.”

U.N. accused Tigray of operating a blockade that prevented humanitarian aid from reaching Tigray. Blockading aid has been denied by the government.

Getachew stated that there was an official air strike by the government which had claimed the lives of dozens in Chefa Robit. He also mentioned the drone strikes and attacks on Wollo University, Dessie, and Chifra In Afar.

Reuters could not independently verify his story as communication to these areas is down. Calls to the military and government spokespeople were not returned.

On Monday, the U.S. State Department stated that Washington sees a window for cooperation with the African Union in order to achieve peaceful resolution of the conflict. A special envoy was sent back to Addis Ababa.

Legesse, spokesperson for the government, and Dina Muffti spokesperson for the foreign affairs ministry did not immediately reply to queries about the talks.