Kenya calls on Ethiopia to depoliticise humanitarian aid in Tigray

Kenya's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Martin Kimani. [Courtesy]

Kenya has called on Ethiopian authorities to depoliticise humanitarian aid in the Tigray region.

While assuming the presidency at the United Nation’s Security Council for the month of October, Nairobi said it is concerned with how Ethiopia is handling the crisis.

Kenya's Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Martin Kimani, said although they expect to receive a detailed report from the Secretary-General on the crisis, the issues will be debated by the council under AoB.

This comes after Ethiopia declared seven UN officials as persona non grata for aiding humanitarian support in the Tigray region. Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they had been granted 72 hours to leave the country.

The move came a day after UN aid chief warned that the government's aid blockade is likely forced hundreds of thousands of people in Tigray into famine.

There is increasing international warning of the worsening humanitarian situation in Tigray and Ethiopia could face sanctions from the U.S. government.

Ethiopians who have just crossed a river from Ethiopia to Sudan to flee from the Tigray region, walk towards the Hamdeyat refugee transit camp. [Reuters]

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the United States condemns the expulsions and will not hesitate to impose sanctions against those who obstruct humanitarian efforts.

Earlier on, the UN had termed Ethiopia’s move illegal saying a persona non grata declaration only applies to states and not officials of organisations like the UN.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that severe restrictions on desperately needed aid to the conflict-wracked Tigray region have created a humanitarian and human rights crisis that is spiralling out of control.

Guterres said at least 5.2 million people in the region need humanitarian assistance including at least 400,000 living in famine-like conditions.

He also said child malnutrition levels are now at the same level as they were at the start of the 2011 famine in Somalia.

Ambassador Kimani said the UN has always, and will continue to push for a negotiation that aims at safeguarding the security of humanitarian officials.

“The security and safety of humanitarian aid must always be safeguarded. We, therefore, ask Ethiopian authorities to depoliticise the matter.

Ethiopians fleeing from the Tigray region walk towards a river to cross from Ethiopia to Sudan, near the Hamdeyat refugee transit camp. [Reuters]

Kimani said as it pushes for amicable solutions, it will abide by the calls from the A3+1 nations that have raised concerns over the matter.

Conflict erupted between federal forces and those aligned with the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party that controls the region, in November 2020.

Tigrayan forces retook most of the region at the end of June, and then pushed into the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara, forcing hundreds of thousands of people there to flee their homes.