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UNICEF, US Department of State condemn Ethiopian Govt’s decision to suspend UN officials from the country, call for immediate reversal

Uganda’s President Museveni held bilateral talks with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Ahmed Abiya in Entebbe (PHOTO /Courtesy)

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has protested the Ethiopian government’s move to order United Nations officials from the country and said it has caused very deep concern.

In a statement on Friday, UNICEF said the Ethiopian Government’s decision to expel the UNICEF representative in the country – along with other members of the UN leadership team – is regrettable and alarming.

“UNICEF has been present in Ethiopia for more than 60 years, working to advance and protect the rights of the most vulnerable children. As the humanitarian situation in the country deteriorates – with children bearing its biggest brunt – our work is more urgent than ever. We have full confidence in the teams working on the ground to save children’s lives, guided – as always – by the principles of impartiality, humanity, neutrality, and independence. Our programmes will continue. Our one and only priority are to support the children who urgently need our help, wherever they are,” the statement added.

The move on Thursday came as humanitarian workers have been sounding the alarm about the limited access to the embattled Tigray region, which has been racked by conflict for nearly 11 months.

The other officials from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), have also been declared “persona non grata” and given 72 hours to leave the country, a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday.

Grant Leaity, deputy humanitarian coordinator for OCHA, and Adele Khodr, UNICEF representative in Ethiopia, were among those expelled.

OCHA’s Kwesi Sansculotte, Saeed Moahmoud Hersi, Ghada Eltahir Midawi, and Marcy Vigoda were also ordered to leave, along with Sonny Onyegbula, of the UN Office of the high commissioner for human rights.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “shocked” by the expulsion, the UN spokesperson Stephanie Tremblay told a news briefing.

“We are now engaging with the government of Ethiopia in the expectation that the concerned UN will be allowed to continue their important work,” Tremblay said.

Separately, the US said it will impose sanctions related to Ethiopia’s “absent significant progress,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki explained.

In a statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US “strongly” condemned the decision and called for its “immediate reversal” noting that the UN was critical to humanitarian relief efforts amid the growing risk of famine.

“The expulsion is counterproductive to international efforts to keep civilians safe, and deliver lifesaving humanitarian assistance to the millions in dire need,” Blinken said.

‘This was expected to come’

Fighting in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region has been raging between federal forces and those aligned with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) since November 2020. Thousands of people have died in the conflict marked by gang rapes, mass expulsions and the destruction of medical centres.

Findings from a joint investigation into the war by the UN human rights office and the government-created Ethiopian Human Rights Commission — a rare setup that has drawn concern and criticism — are scheduled for release on November 1. It was not immediately clear if the probe will be affected by the expulsion of Onyegbula, a UN member of the joint team.

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  1. Pingback: 16 local UN officials detained in Ethiopia during a campaign to end the war • UgStandard

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