Delegates Say Targeting Civilians Must Stop, Humanitarian Access Increased
The unity of Ethiopia and regional stability beyond its borders are at stake, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres cautioned the Security Council today as it met to discuss the spread of the military confrontation in that country and the attendant humanitarian catastrophe.
Reiterating his call on all parties to immediately cease hostilities and enable unrestricted humanitarian access, he noted that the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire by the Government of Ethiopia on 28 June did not lead to a comprehensive ceasefire. Further, the Tigray region has remained largely under a de facto humanitarian blockade, he said. At least 400,000 people are living in famine-like conditions. While humanitarian partners have mobilized, their efforts are constrained by delays and arbitrary restrictions, he pointed out.
Also noting the escalation of the conflict through the activation of regional armed groups, inflammatory rhetoric and ethnic profiling, he pointed out that the political, economic and social impact of the conflict is being felt beyond the borders of Ethiopia. Voicing concern about reports of horrific sexual and gender-based violence, as well as human rights violations, he said the fighting has already drained over $1 billion from the country’s coffers.
Stressing the importance of an Ethiopian-led political dialogue, he noted that it is particularly heart-breaking to see many of the country’s young people being mobilized in the war. Adding that all foreign forces should leave the country and reaffirming the Organization’s willingness to work together with the African Union and other key partners, he said, “there is an opportunity to address the conflict peacefully”.
In the ensuing discussion, Council members stressed the importance of improved access for humanitarian actors. The representative of the United States expressed regret at the lack of progress since the declaration of the ceasefire. With Eritrean forces re-entering the country, a wider regional war may erupt, he cautioned, also noting the killing of “heroic” humanitarian workers. Just 7 per cent of World Food Programme (WFP) projections of needed supplies reached Tigray, he said, describing this as a possible war crime that is “happening on our watch”. Noting that Ethiopia is the largest recipient of his country’s humanitarian and development assistance, he voiced his Government’s commitment to resolving this conflict.
China’s delegate called on the international community to respect the sovereignty of Ethiopia while scaling up humanitarian assistance. Voicing concern about foreign interference in Ethiopia’s internal affairs in the name of human rights and humanitarianism, he stressed the importance of solving African problems in an African way. Cautioning that imposing unilateral sanctions on Ethiopia will only interfere with the political settlement, he voiced support for the efforts of the African Union and regional countries.
Also addressing the meeting today was Kenya’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the “African 3+1” group, which includes Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia and his country. “Our values as a continent demand respect for the sanctity of human life and the condemnation and rejection of impunity,” he said. Recalling how Ethiopia’s resistance to colonialism raised African spirits, he reminded its people that they cannot break each other’s spirits and succeed in building a united country. Calling for an Ethiopian-owned process to mediate the deep divides, he cautioned against conflating political opposition with that identity. While recommending that the Council call on Eritrea to withdraw forces, he also called on Ethiopia’s Government to acknowledge the existence of legitimate grievances and urged armed actors in Tigray to withdraw from neighbouring regions. The targeting of civilians must stop immediately, he said, stressing the need for unfettered humanitarian access before famine returns to any part of Ethiopia.
Speaking at the end of the meeting, Ethiopia’s delegate expressed concern about the saviour mentality that seeks to undermine the sovereign rights of a State. Emphasizing that the Government of Ethiopia will apply any means necessary to ensure law and order, he called upon the Council to be cautious about facts. The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front is not the victim, it is the culprit, he said, adding that there is clear coordination between internal treasonous elements and external actors.
The Front controlled Ethiopia for three decades until it was dislodged in 2018, he said, adding that it has since refused to disarm. The ceasefire declared in June was supposed to allow for a peaceful farming season, as well as rebuilding of the region. However, the Front called the ceasefire a joke, and blocked humanitarian aid, he said, adding that Ethiopian children in Tigray are now forced into recruitment to serve as cannon fodder. While public services cannot be resumed till there is peace in Tigray, he noted that Ethiopia will provide clearance to humanitarian convoys and has allowed humanitarian flights to operate.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Ireland, Estonia, France, Norway, United Kingdom, Viet Nam, Russian Federation, Mexico and India.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 4:34 p.m.