Ethiopia is expelling seven high-level UN officials for allegedly interfering in the country’s internal affairs.
The foreign ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page on Thursday that officials were informed that they would have to leave the country “within the next 72 hours” for allegedly “interfering” in internal affairs, without being specific.
The announcement came two days after a senior UN official reiterated that hundreds of thousands of people in Ethiopia’s troubled northern Tigre region were probably experiencing famine.
Among the seven who were ordered to leave Ethiopia are the heads of the United Nations Children’s Fund and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The remaining five are OCHA officers.
Armed conflict over the Tigre region of Ethiopia erupted in November 2020 between federal and allied regional forces and forces supported by the Tigreyan People’s Liberation Front.
UN aid chief Martin Griffiths said on Tuesday that a nearly three-month-long blockade has limited shipments of essential aid to the region by 10%.
Without evidence, Ethiopia has alleged that unidentified aid workers supported Tigrayan forces.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement that he was “shocked” by the expulsion and that the organization’s humanitarian operations are “guided by the fundamental principles of humanity, fairness, neutrality and independence.”
He said the UN is “now engaging” with the Ethiopian government in the hope that relevant UN staff will be allowed to continue their important work.
(VOA’s Margaret Beshir contributed to this story. Some of the information in this report comes from AFP, AP and Reuters.)