The UN announced on November 9 that at least 16 of its local staff had been detained in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and a government spokesman claimed they were being held for their “participation in terror “under a state of emergency.
Around the same time, Ethiopian authorities arrested, arrested and detained some 70 truckers contracted by the United Nations and other groups to deliver humanitarian aid. The UN announced on November 18 that they had all been released.
Dujarric said on Friday that the United Nations had repeatedly raised the issue of detained UN personnel and “never really understood why they were detained in the first place.”
“But at this point, we’re really, really happy that they’re released,” he said.
According to the UN, the first arrest took place on October 31, 2021, with the majority of arrests taking place in November, although there were also arrests in December and January. The first versions arrived in mid-November.
UN Under-Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, who returned from Ethiopia last week, said she had raised the issue of the last three staff members still detained in meetings with the country’s leaders.
The arrests have strained relations between the United Nations and the Ethiopian government.
“I think we were stunned by the response we got from the Ethiopian government, but I think it’s on the mend.” Mohammed told reporters last week. “The Ethiopian people’s perception that we cannot be trusted needs to be corrected and Ethiopian leaders need to start helping us do that.”
The Under-Secretary-General said she believed her visit had served to show that the UN remained in the country and was “true to our commitment to support the Ethiopian people”.
Months of political tension between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the northern Tigray leaders who once dominated the Ethiopian government erupted into war in November 2020.
After some of the fiercest fighting in the conflict, Ethiopian soldiers fled Tigray’s capital, Mekele, in June 2021, and the government declared a national state of emergency with sweeping powers. A drone-assisted government military offensive has disrupted the Tigrayans’ approach to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. In December, the Tigrayans retreated to Tigray.
The war is believed to have caused the deaths of tens of thousands and the displacement of millions.
Although the conflict has subsided in several places, including Tigray and neighboring Amhara regions, and lawmakers voted earlier this week to lift the state of emergency, concerns remain over fighting in the northeastern Afar region.
Dujarric told reporters that the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, reported on Friday that they were working with Ethiopian authorities and partners to provide emergency assistance to thousands of Eritrean refugees who fled a refugee camp in the Afar region due to fighting.
“Refugees who traveled the long distance to the regional capital of Semera told UNHCR that armed men stole their belongings and occupied their homes,” he said. “According to their testimonies, at least five refugees were killed and several women were kidnapped.
Dujarric said UNHCR remains concerned about the safety and well-being of thousands of Eritrean refugees caught up in the conflict, “along with another severely affected refugee camp”.
On the humanitarian front, aid to millions of people in the Tigray region remains severely limited under what the UN has described as a “de facto humanitarian blockade”.
On Monday, the World Health Organization said it had been authorized to send medical supplies to Tigray for the first time in six months, but said fuel shortages were hampering its distribution.