Addis Ababa, 6 June 2021 – United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres is due to present the situation in the Ethiopian region of Tigray to the Security Council this afternoon as part of the “Peace and Security in Africa” agenda item. The meeting was requested by Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States. A representative of the Ethiopian government is likely to participate.
Today’s meeting will be the tenth time that Council members will discuss the situation in Ethiopia since the crisis erupted in the Tigray region in November 2020. This will be the second meeting since the Ethiopian government announced on September 30 that seven UN officials from UNICEF, the OCHA Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has been declared a “persona non grata” and had 72 hours to leave Ethiopia. The Council discussed these developments at its meeting on 1 October in the context of “all other business”, including at the request of Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Ireland appears to have proposed a draft press release after the meeting on 1 October, but has not received the necessary support. The statement would express the shock of Council members at the announcement of the Ethiopian government, reiterating the expectation of full cooperation between Ethiopia and the UN, and calling on all parties to allow unhindered humanitarian access. However, the ‘A3 plus one’ (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), China and Russia appear to have seen the statement as useless at a time when Ethiopia and the UN had to find a way forward.
Following the announcement by the Ethiopian government, the UN, together with the Ethiopian authorities, persuaded them to reverse the decision to expel the officials. As Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq explained on October 1, the UN legal position is that the doctrine of “persona non grata” applies to “diplomatic agents accredited by one country to another” and not to UN officials. The UN communicated this position to the Ethiopian authorities, inter alia with a verbal note from the UN Office of Legal Affairs and during a same-day call between Guterres and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Guterres also addressed a letter from the President of the Security Council in which he said that Ethiopia’s decision to expel seven officials “creates another obstacle to the achievement of Ethiopians, at a time when all efforts should be focused on working together to save and protect lives”. human rights and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe ”. The letter further states that “[a]attempts to politicize humanitarian aid “undermine UN efforts to support the people of Ethiopia.
In a statement issued on October 1, the Ethiopian government called on the United Nations to “quickly replace” seven officials. This request was repeated on 4 October tweet Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the UN Ambassador Taya Atske Selassie. In a statement, the Ethiopian government accused officials of “redirecting humanitarian aid” to the Tiger People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and “spreading misinformation and politicizing humanitarian aid.” The UN has denied the allegations, and Haq told a news conference on October 4 that the organization stands for the “neutrality, uniformity and professionalism” of its staff. At the same press conference, he confirmed that none of the seven officials are currently in Ethiopia, some were already out of the country during the government visit, and the rest were “relocated from the country to ensure their safety”. Asked whether the UN would replace officials, Haq said: “We believe that the staff seconded by the UN Secretary-General and the UN Secretariat are people suitable for the job, and we believe that they should be allowed to carry out their duties smoothly. works ”.
On October 4, British Ambassador to the UN in Geneva Simon Manley, on behalf of more than 40 countries, issued a statement expressing shock at Ethiopia’s decision and calling for its repeal to allow officials to return to Ethiopia to continue their work. The statement said the exiled OHCHR official was working on a joint investigation by the OHCHR and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission into alleged violations of human rights, humanitarian and refugee law by all parties to the Tigray dispute. The joint investigation report is expected to be published by 1 November.
At today’s meeting, Guterres and several members are expected to highlight their serious concern over the expulsion of seven UN officials. The meeting is also likely to focus on the deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in northern Ethiopia. The OCHA reported that on October 4, 5.2 million people in Tigray needed food aid, of which 400,000 lived “in starvation-like conditions”.
On October 4, after the June and September elections, Prime Minister Abiy was sworn in for a new five-year term. (The election was reportedly boycotted by some opposition groups and did not take place in Tigray, which is controlled by forces opposing the federal government.) According to media reports, Ahmed promised in his inaugural speech that he would protect the country from foreign interference. In addition, it is in line with 5 October Sky News article, “thousands of soldiers” were spotted near the town of Dessie in the northern Ethiopian region of Amhara, raising concerns about an imminent new federal government offensive.
At today’s meeting, council members can stress the need for the government to start ongoing ceasefire negotiations and a political solution to the conflict. They may stress the need for an immediate ceasefire and renew their calls for unhindered humanitarian access. Sending Security Council reports.