The UN Secretary-General told Ethiopia’s government on Wednesday that it should show any documents or evidence to substantiate charges related to the expulsion of seven senior humanitarian officials from the country.
In a rare and unusual public exchange, Antonio Guterres occupies the floor of the United Nations Security Council after the Ethiopian ambassador made allegations against the staff, which he said increased the number of people in need of aid by 1 million. and reported deaths that never occurred.
“I want to ask you one thing, Mr Ambassador,” said Guterres, directing his remarks to Ethiopian envoy Taye Atske Selassie, who was sitting at the council table. “If any (seven) members of the United Nations who have been expelled have provided any written document to any United Nations institution by the Government of Ethiopia, I would like to obtain a copy of that document, as I There is no information on any of them, and it would be very useful to me.”
Guterres further said that he had told Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed twice that if he had concerns about the lack of impartiality of UN staff, he should raise them directly with him so that he could investigate.
“So far, I have no response to this request,” said the secretary general.
He said Addis Ababa’s move to expel the officials was a violation of international law. UN employees are protected by immunity conventions.
Guterres stressed that he seeks cooperation with the government so that humanitarians can do the necessary work to ease the suffering of millions of Ethiopians.
“We have no other interest than to help stop that suffering,” he said.
Journalists outside the council asked him about the exchange.
Guterres replied, “It is my duty to protect the honor of the United Nations.”
On 30 September, Ethiopia announced that the seven had 72 hours to leave the country, accusing them of interfering in their internal affairs and sending aid and telecommunications equipment to the Tigre People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The government has been fighting the TPLF in the north of the country for almost a year now.
On Monday, the United Nations confirmed that seven are no longer in the country.
At Wednesday’s council meeting, Ethiopia’s envoy Selassie appeared to make new allegations.
He said there were “a lot of violations”, including attempts by staff to create a “Darfur-like” situation, referring to the massive humanitarian crisis in Sudan in the early 2000s.
“They suddenly and overnight killed one million victims,” he alleged.
“We have evidence that the whole effort was created by a higher and more sophisticated motivation that seeks to undermine the Ethiopian state and save the TPLF,” he said without elaborating.
The humanitarian situation in the Tigre and neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar is deteriorating. Guterres said on Wednesday that seven million people in the three conflict-affected regions are in need of food aid and other assistance. He warned that the barriers “crippled” humanitarian work.
Council members also expressed concern over the expulsion of UN staff.
US envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “There is no justification for the Ethiopian government’s action.” “Not at all.”
He said the evictions follow a “pattern of increasing blockage” by the government that must be reversed.
“And if these calls for humanitarian access remain unheeded, the Security Council must act,” she said. “We can ensure that the UN is permitted to render impartial assistance. We must immediately consider all the tools at our disposal to facilitate this, including a Security Council resolution to save lives and promote international peace and security. needed.
African members of the council – Kenya, Niger and Tunisia – urged “quiet diplomacy” to resolve the rift between Addis Ababa and the United Nations, along with China.
Russia’s representatives were more outspoken, saying the expulsions were regrettable and should not be “dramatised”.
“We are certain that the pressures associated with the UN Security Council, the threats and resolutions, and the imposition of illegal unilateral sanctions and creating a toxic environment in the media, are counterproductive,” said Russian Deputy UN Ambassador Anna Evstigneeva.