On Tuesday, 3 August, the Ethiopian government forced two charities working in Tigray to leave – in so doing repeating the decision by the Ethiopian government in December 1985 [see below].

Then it was the military government, the Derg, that expelled Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Now it is Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who has forced MSF out.

Both expulsions took place as thousands were facing famine.

Ethiopia Suspends Work of Two Aid Groups Active in Tigray

A convoy of trucks from Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) carrying medical supplies stops by the side of the…
FILE – A convoy of trucks from Doctors Without Borders carrying medical supplies stops by the side of the road after receiving news that the road ahead has been closed by the Ethiopian military, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, May 8, 2021.

NAIROBI – Two international aid groups said Tuesday that the Ethiopian government had suspended part or all of their operations, while the United Nations humanitarian chief warned Ethiopian authorities that blanket accusations against aid workers in the country’s embattled Tigray region and elsewhere are dangerous and must stop.

The United Nations' new Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs Martin Griffiths addresses a news conference on the…
The United Nations’ new Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths addresses a news conference on the humanitarian crisis in Tigray after visiting the region, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Aug. 3, 2021.

Martin Griffiths spoke to reporters amid a new push to get more badly needed food and other supplies into Tigray, where hundreds of thousands of people face famine conditions and Ethiopia’s government has been accused of blocking assistance. He acknowledged that his own flights into and out of Tigray had difficulties with searches and delays.

Separately, the aid groups Doctors Without Borders and the Norwegian Refugee Council said Ethiopia’s government had suspended their operations on July 30. An NRC spokesman said the stated reasons were “public advocacy” and failure to obtain proper permissions for foreign staff and that all operations were suspended.

A Doctors Without Borders spokeswoman said the operations of the charity’s Dutch section, its largest in Ethiopia, were suspended for three months in the Tigray, Amhara, Gambella and Somali regions, and the group was “urgently seeking clarification from the authorities.”

Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym MSF, warned of “dire consequences” in the regions where access to aid is already limited. MSF already had suspended operations in three major Tigray towns after three of their colleagues were killed by unknown attackers.

The Ethiopian government spokesman for the Tigray emergency task force, Redwan Hussein, alleged last month that aid groups are “playing a destructive role” in the nine-month conflict and even arming the Tigray forces that long dominated Ethiopia’s government before a falling-out with the current prime minister. Redwan didn’t respond to questions on Tuesday.

Such blanket allegations are unfair and need to be backed up by evidence, the U.N. humanitarian chief said.

Griffiths also told reporters that some progress had been made on aid delivery to Tigray after more than two weeks as 122 trucks with supplies had reached the region. The previous attempt at an aid convoy was attacked last month on the only operational land route into Tigray as fighting continues.

But some 100 such trucks are needed to enter Tigray every day, Griffiths said, adding the needs are “huge, they are urgent.”

FILE - In this Monday, Nov. 30, 2020 file photo, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responds to questions from members of…
FILE – In this Monday, Nov. 30, 2020 file photo, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responds to questions from members of parliament at the prime minister’s office in the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

He said Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during their talks asserted that he was trying to ensure more than one land route from other parts of Ethiopia into Tigray for aid. But a route from a neighboring country such as Sudan can be “politically sensitive,” Griffiths added.

The conflict recently spilled into Ethiopia’s neighboring Afar and Amhara regions after the Tigray forces rejected the unilateral cease-fire that Ethiopia’s government declared in June as its soldiers retreated. Now the Tigray forces have said they want Abiy out.

About 200,000 people in the Amhara region and 54,000 in Afar have been displaced by the insecurity, the U.N. humanitarian chief said.

On Wednesday, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Samantha Power, is visiting Ethiopia in another push for better access to the Tigray region, which remains without phone, internet or banking services.

While Ethiopia’s government has blamed the blockage of aid on the Tigray forces, a senior USAID official last week told The Associated Press that the allegation is “100% not the case.”


Source: Associated Press 4 December 1985

A French medical organization has been ordered to end its relief work in Ethiopia, and today the group’s president asserted that expulsion was the price for speaking out against Government policies that he said had killed 100,000 famine victims.

The Ethiopian Government announced Monday that it was halting the work there of Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders.

The Ethiopian Relief and Rehabilitation Commission accused the group of undermining the famine relief effort, lying, misquoting officials and engaging in a ”vicious media campaign.”

The organization’s president, Rony Brauman, speaking at a news conference here today, said aid organizations in Ethiopia were ”in one way taken hostage, becoming more or less accomplices” of the Government by staying silent.

”Or they can speak out and be expelled like us,” Mr. Brauman said.

France Deplores Move

The French Foreign Ministry today officially ”deplored” the expulsion and said the doctors had worked admirably in Ethiopia, saving thousands of lives.

Mr. Brauman insisted the program to resettle people from drought-prone northern Ethiopia to more fertile southern regions had so far cost an estimated 100,000 lives.

The Ethiopian Government hopes to move 1.5 million people south, contending that many of them would starve to death if left in the north.

An internal report provided by the medical team on Monday, only hours before the expulsion notice, suggested a death toll to date of 75,000 to 100,000. It warned that the resettlement program could kill 300,000 people if carried to completion – as many, it said, as the famine itself.

The report said Ethiopia’s resettlement program was designed to lower the population in the northern provinces where rebels are active. It also contended that the Marxist Government wanted to provide workers for new state farms.

”Each day dozens die in the transit camps,” Mr. Brauman said in an interview on Monday. ”These camps are like cesspools. There are people on top of one another who literally swim in excrement. It is abominable.”

Soldiers Are Accused

People also die in large numbers on the road to resettlement camps, he said, and survivors risk death in their first three months in camps unprepared to receive them.

He also said witnesses had reported that soldiers had beaten, imprisoned or killed some unwilling refugees.

In Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, Michel Fizsbin, head of the organization’s local office, said: ”We are facing a situation where you speak out about what you see and then you have no other choice but to leave this country. We have seen a lot and each time we have made some noise.”

Tafari Wassen, the Ethiopian commission’s chief spokesman, said the French group would be given ”a reasonable time” to leave, but he did not specify a date.

The relief commission said it would take over the French team’s operations in northeastern Ethiopia. Mr. Fizsbin said he and his 29 colleagues could be ready to leave Ethiopia within a week.

Under a contract with the Government, the doctors were responsible for medical services for 50,000 people and ran a nutrition program for 10,000.


Source: BBC

Houses torched in inter-communal clashes in Djibouti


Mary Harper, Africa editor, BBC World Service

The authorities in Djibouti say there have been clashes between the Somali and Afar communities in the capital city.

The interior minister, Said Nuh Hassan, described the situation as “very dangerous”. He said there were casualties but did not give further details.

Property has been burned, including houses.

There have been intense clashes between Afars and Somalis in neighbouring Ethiopia.

Last week, the authorities in Ethiopia’s Somali region accused Afars of massacring hundreds of civilians in the town of Gedamaytu.

It’s not clear if the violence is linked to the war in Tigray, which has spilled over into the Afar region.


This report appeared in Arabic and this is a computer translation, with all the problems associated with it.

There is no confirmation of the story, which is only from this source. It is worth noting that Eritrea’s President Isaias is very much opposed to IGAD, while Prime Minister Abiy previously rejected mediation by the African Union.

The story comes as President Isaias sent a delegation to meet the Sudanese Prime Minister. There are also reports that the Eritrean opposition is meeting in Khartoum in an attempt to bring about a united front against the Eritrean regime.

At the same time Samantha Powers, who heads the US aid effort, is arriving in Addis Ababa. Clearly there are a number of initiatives under way which could alter the course of the Tigray war and re-shape the region.


Source: Al-Sudani

Abi Ahmed accepts in principle the initiative of Dr. Hamdok to stop the war and bring peace to Ethiopia

news source /  Sudanese newspaper

News report: Abdul Qader Al-Haimi

Al-Sudani learned from its sources in Addis Ababa that the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abi Ahmed, accepted in principle; The initiative of the Sudanese Prime Minister and the head of the IGAD Organization, Dr. Abdullah Hamdok, to reach peace with the Tigray Liberation Front, and bring peace to Ethiopia.

It is noteworthy that French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday called Hamdok and Abi Ahmed and called for quick talks to end hostilities in the Ethiopian region of Tigray. “The development of the situation calls for negotiating a cessation of hostilities and the start of a political dialogue between the parties to the conflict in the framework of respect for Ethiopia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Macron said.

Abi Ahmed’s approval of Hamdok’s initiative is considered a positive step by the Ethiopian government. Accepting the initiative is a major development, regression and concession from Ethiopia following the strong military strikes of Tigray, which called on Addis to exert international pressure on Tigray for a ceasefire announced by Addis Ababa by One.

Yesterday, America said, that the Ethiopian government must allow the arrival of humanitarian aid, and stop the obstacles and restrictions that Addis Ababa put in place and prevent it from reaching the needy.

“The United States is deeply concerned about the increase in tensions and escalation, including the expansion of the TDF’s operations in the Afar and the Ethiopian government’s decision to mobilize additional regional militias,” she added in a statement. This expansion of hostilities exacerbates the already dire humanitarian situation for civilians in the affected areas, and jeopardizes the stability of the Ethiopian state. All parties to the conflict must take immediate steps to end hostilities, secure a negotiated ceasefire, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need, and preserve national unity and Ethiopia’s territorial integrity. The United States urges both the Ethiopian government and the Tigray Defense Forces to immediately initiate a dialogue to achieve these critical goals.”

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared war on the Tigray region in a campaign known as “law enforcement” in the first week of November last year, following the sharp dispute between the government of the Tigray Liberation Front “Wiani” and the center government, a constitutional dispute that eventually led to the establishment of a government. Al-Wayanyi” single elections in the region.

Since the beginning of the war, there have been international, African and regional initiatives in Addis Ababa, which rejected the calls of the United Nations, the European Group, the African Union initiative, and several other initiatives, but the most prominent initiatives were from the Sudanese Prime Minister, Dr. Abdullah Hamdouk, and the importance of the initiative lies in the fact that it was presented on behalf of the IGAD group and Hamdok, head of the current session of the IGAD.

The IGAF countries consist of Djibouti – Headquarters Country – Sudan, South Sudan, Federal Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The main objectives of IGAD are “food security and environmental protection, maintaining security and peace, promoting human rights, cooperation and economic integration.”

Hamdok’s initiative is also of paramount importance regarding the Sudanese role in particular, and its potential in the impact that it is expected to have on the parties to the Ethiopian conflict, because it is the dispute. It supported Sudan militarily and in kind and opened training camps in its territory to the Ethiopian Peoples Liberation Front under the leadership of the Tigray Liberation Front until they overthrew the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam, starting from Sudanese lands at the beginning of the war.

Abi Ahmed rejected Hamdok’s initiative, presented in the name of IGAD at the beginning of the war, and said that he needed only two weeks to enter Mekele, the capital of Tigray, and arrest the leaders of the rebellion. He did not care about any other initiatives.

But the winds do not like the ships. Tigray launched a comprehensive counterattack in which they regained their historical capital, Mekele, and most of the region’s cities, and penetrated deep into the Amhara. Which led to the disintegration of the Ethiopian army and the escalation of the operations of the Oromo armed opposition, and Gondar and Addis Ababa were threatened with invasion, while famine spread in the besieged Tigray region and international and American pressures escalated on Abi Ahmed to stop the fighting and enter into a dialogue.

Tigray also needs to stop the fighting so that humanitarian aid can reach their region, as the Addis Ababa government has used starvation as a weapon, and it has greatly affected the citizens of the region, as 4 million out of 6 million suffer from the specter of starvation, so they launched desperate attacks in the Afar in an attempt to open a safe passage to provide their region with food They crossed the Addis Ababa road to Djibouti, before the Afar stopped them, but they equally made astonishing progress deep into the Amhara, which contributed to Abiy Ahmed’s acceptance of the initiative.

If there is a ceasefire in Tigray, safe corridors will be opened to deliver relief and humanitarian aid and restore electricity and communications to the stricken region. And the return of more than 70,000 refugees in Sudan to Tigray.

The visit of Samantha Power, the Director of the United States Agency for Development, to Khartoum and Addis Ababa, aims primarily to deliver humanitarian aid to the Tigray region, provided that a cease-fire is established without preconditions and that the parties to the conflict enter into a dialogue, and Sudan has been approved as a gateway for humanitarian aid.

The Ethiopian issue is very complex and all Ethiopian nationalities need dialogue, and not only with Tigray and Oromo, but “Bani Shanqul, Welata, Afar, Qambila and the Somali Region.”

The main point of contention that led to the war remains; Will Ethiopia return to the former ethnic coalition regime that the Tigrayans and the Oromo demand after Abiy Ahmed abolished? It is too early for an answer.

Ethiopia’s new drones flying from Afar base

Tuesday, 03 August 2021 22:30 Written by


On Sunday, 1 August I published this Tweet: “Report – to be confirmed – of fresh drone supplies arriving for the Ethiopian military.”

Now confirmation has come, via Ethiopia Map

“Several pictures have been released showing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed inspecting a drone/control center at Semara air base in Afar.

Unfortunately, quality of these images is horrible, so the exact model cannot be discerned. However, it’s believed to be Chinese. Maybe Wing Loong 2.

Expect to update this if we can get an exact ID on the drone.

Not too many images of the inside of Chinese drone control centers going around which would help confirm.”

A senior Tigrayan source had this response to the arrival of the drones.

“Drones flying out of Semera targeting TDF vehicles.

Short range (70km) and low altitude and not very accurate.

Mainly a psychological weapon, may do some damage but cannot change the strategic balance.”

An aerial view of Adigrat University in Tigray, Ethiopia in 2015.
30 JULY 2021


A rapidly escalating conflict has pushed Africa's second most populous country to the edge. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert William Davison explains why the main protagonists urgently need to strike a deal to avert a downward spiral toward state collapse.

Who is involved in the expanding fighting in Ethiopia?

Ethiopia's grinding nine-month war has entered a dangerous new phase. In late July, the federal government and allied regional leaders intensified attempts to mobilise people from across the country to join the war against forces from the country's northernmost region, Tigray. Those forces, having broken the back of a combined Ethiopian-Eritrean intervention in Tigray after compelling most federal troops to withdraw on 28 June, have made incursions into the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions. In response, authorities in Addis Ababa enlisted paramilitaries from some of Ethiopia's nine other regions to buttress the flagging federal military. They then launched a mass recruitment drive, including in the capital and in the two most populous regions, Oromia and Amhara. A war that has already exacted an awful toll now seems set to expand significantly, likely leading to thousands more deaths and far greater instability countrywide.

For their part, Tigrayan forces have moved aggressively as Addis Ababa's recruitment campaign proceeds. Though federal authorities have, in effect, blockaded their region, Tigrayan fighters have been able to pursue federal and regional units into Afar, which lies east of Tigray, reportedly displacing tens of thousands of people who fled the violence. They may soon try to cut the key trade route from Addis Ababa through Afar to Djibouti, which functions as landlocked Ethiopia's main port. They have also advanced south and south west, with thousands of Tigrayan fighters pushing down main roads toward Woldiya and Gondar cities in the north of Amhara, taking control of several towns along the way.
Their objective appears to be to force Ethiopian leaders into accepting their terms for a ceasefire, which now include a demand for a "transitional arrangement" - in effect, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's ouster - as well as the withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces from Tigray. By heading toward Gondar, these fighters may well also be preparing to try pushing the Amhara regional government out of parts of western Tigray that it occupied when the ill-fated federal intervention began in early November 2020. If they succeed, Tigrayan forces would open a supply line to neighbouring Sudan. Food and other staples from Sudan would ease the humanitarian crisis inside Tigray, but exacerbate the political one, as Addis Ababa would see Khartoum as aiding a rebellion. Sudanese-Ethiopian ties are already frayed due to clashes over the fertile al-Fashaga borderlands.

Why did Tigray's commanders go on the offensive?

Authorities in Addis Ababa announced a "unilateral ceasefire" following the federal withdrawal from Tigray, which came after the region's fighters had dealt the Ethiopian armed forces a series of devastating blows in June. Addis Ababa said it had taken this step to address a humanitarian crisis in which at least 400,000 Tigrayans are experiencing famine conditions. Tigray's leaders rejected the ceasefire. Their key objection was the continued Amhara presence in western and southern Tigray and the federal blockade on the region, which Crisis Group detailed on 9 July.

This siege continues not just to keep vital aid out of Tigray but also to cut off critical services such as power and telecommunications. The head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, has said its food supplies will run out in Tigray on 30 July. The agency's vehicles have been unable to get into the region for around two weeks. WFP officials told Crisis Group that local Afar militiamen attacked an aid convoy on 18 July, forcing 170 trucks back to the regional capital, Semera, where they remain.

With the wind in their sails, Tigray's leaders indicate they plan to fight on until they have re-established supply lines and the region's pre-war administrative boundaries. They cast their offensive as a battle for survival. With famine imminent, they argue, they cannot allow Addis Ababa to asphyxiate the region, as the federal government attempted to do in the build-up to the conflict and in the war's first two months when Tigray's defences were overwhelmed.

Leaders in Mekelle, Tigray's regional capital, may well be making a further political calculation. If Tigrayan forces can compel the Amhara region to relinquish the areas it took in late 2020, which many Amhara believe Tigray's ruling party annexed in the early 1990s, that is likely to inspire considerable Amhara anger at regional and federal leaders, particularly Abiy. The ensuing heightened pressure on the premier might force him to the negotiating table on terms favourable to Tigray. Raising the stakes further, Mekelle is looking to capitalise on its gains without delay, both to alleviate the Tigrayan population's desperate plight and to back-foot the depleted federal military before it can acquire new weapons and train and absorb the new recruits.

Where could the renewed confrontation lead?

Both sides continue to pursue a military solution, imperilling not only thousands more Ethiopian lives but also the state itself. As Crisis Group warned three days before the Tigray war broke out, the fighting could tear the country apart. Each side has demonised the other, and each has a starkly contrasting narrative of why the conflict began and what is happening now. Addis Ababa casts the Tigrayans' current offensive as an attempt to fragment Ethiopia, using this pretext to call for more recruits. Tigrayan leaders, on the other hand, say they are battling not the Ethiopian state but what its spokesmen refer to as "Abiy's army" or the "PP army", in reference to the ruling Prosperity Party. For now, more bloodshed appears likely as Tigray's commanders forge ahead and Abiy sends fresh recruits to face them.

Tigrayan forces continuing their progress would lead to increasing domestic pressure on Abiy from some quarters over the failed and costly effort to bring Tigray's leaders to heel. As noted, an advance into Amhara-held areas would anger Amhara factions in particular. Tigrayan leaders now insist on Abiy's departure, saying he has prosecuted a "genocidal war" upon the region alongside their archenemy, Eritrean leader Isaias Afwerki.

In reality, there are still few obvious alternatives to Abiy as national leader. His Prosperity Party just won a landslide in an election (though some major opposition parties boycotted) and he still commands considerable popular support. Moreover, a Tigrayan advance would also galvanise some Ethiopians to double down on their support for him. Tigrayan leaders, whom many Ethiopians blame for decades of authoritarian rule after 1991, when they wielded a disproportionate share of federal power, are widely reviled in the rest of Ethiopia. Tigrayan forces are likely to encounter popular resistance as they advance. The country could descend into even greater chaos, replete with mob attacks on Tigrayan residents and intensified official persecution of Tigrayans. Similar turmoil could develop if Tigrayan forces are able to choke Addis Ababa, blocking imports such as fuel, food and medicine that are vital to the frail economy.

What steps need to be taken to pull Ethiopia back from the brink?

Key international actors such as the U.S. and European Union share a similar level of alarm about the situation. They urgently need to work in concert to prevent a further unravelling. International actors with direct access to Abiy - such as UN Secretary-General António Guterres, WFP director Beasley and United Arab Emirates ruler Mohamed Bin Zayed - should implore him not to throw more raw recruits at Tigrayan forces that have shown considerable military acumen thus far and are gaining strength as they capture hardware.

Instead, Abiy should seek some form of deal with Tigrayan leaders to avoid the country's further disintegration. Such an understanding would likely involve an Amhara withdrawal from western Tigray, perhaps in exchange for a Tigrayan pledge to have the territorial dispute addressed politically in the future, as Crisis Group recommended in June 2020, months before the war.

Tigrayan leaders, for their part, should stop their advances and soften the transitional government demand. Instead, they should give Abiy and Amhara leaders some time to withdraw forces from western Tigray. Alongside these measures, the federal government would restore basic services such as telecommunications, electricity and banking while granting humanitarian access to Tigray. For now, the parties need to shelve thorny disputes over power arrangements in Addis Ababa and Tigray's future within the federation. The priority instead must be to prevent mass starvation and check the very real risk that the Horn of Africa's pivotal state falls apart.

Read the original on the Crisis Group website.


July 29, 2021 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada

The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today spoke with Demeke Mekonnen, Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Minister Garneau shared Canada’s profound concerns regarding the dire humanitarian crisis in Tigray and urged his counterpart to facilitate the immediate and unimpeded access for all humanitarian assistance, workers, equipment, fuel and cash before the humanitarian situation gets worse.

Minister Garneau called for the Tigray People's Liberation Front and government forces to cease military action in and around Tigray. He emphasized that it is absolutely critical to bring an immediate end to targeted attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, to protect the most vulnerable and to ensure that human rights are respected. He also repeated his call for Eritrean forces to withdraw immediately. Minister Garneau stressed that inclusive political dialogue offers the only path to sustainable peace and prosperity. 

Minister Garneau urged the Government of Ethiopia to engage in dialogue with all national parties and regional partners to achieve a political solution to the crisis.


Syrine Khoury
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Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
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Media Advisory

For Immediate Release

Thursday, July 29, 2021
Office of Press Relations
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Administrator Samantha Power will travel to Sudan and Ethiopia July 31–August 4 to strengthen the U.S. Government’s partnership with Sudan’s transitional leaders and citizens, explore how to expand USAID’s support for Sudan’s transition to a civilian-led democracy, and continue to press the Government of Ethiopia to allow full and unhindered humanitarian access to prevent famine in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

In Khartoum, Administrator Power will deliver a speech on Sudan, highlighting its promising yet fragile transition, and celebrating the essential role of civil society, independent media, and the courageous Sudanese people who marched for freedom. She will meet Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Chairman of Sudan’s Sovereign Council Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and other officials in the transitional government. The Administrator will meet Ethiopian refugees in Sudan who recently fled the conflict and atrocities in the Tigray region, and travel to Darfur to assess USAID humanitarian programs to assist people displaced by conflict, as well as meet with Darfuri youth and community leaders.

While in Addis Ababa, Administrator Power will meet with humanitarian assistance partners and observe how USAID-provided food is stored and prepared for delivery throughout Ethiopia, including to the Tigray region, to feed families who need it most. The Administrator’s itinerary also includes meetings with Ethiopian government officials to press for unimpeded humanitarian access to prevent famine in Tigray and meet urgent needs in other conflict-affected regions of the country.


Aid workers say the Ethiopian government has effectively cut off the lone route into the conflict-torn region of Tigray, leading to a risk of mass starvation.

Source: New York Times

  • July 29, 2021

AFAR, Ethiopia — The road, a 300-mile strip of tarmac that passes through some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth, is the only way into a conflict-torn region where millions of Ethiopians face the threat of mass starvation.

But it is a fragile lifeline, fraught with dangers that have made the route barely passable for aid convoys trying to get humanitarian supplies into the Tigray region, where local fighters have been battling the Ethiopian army for eight months.  Now the road is barely passable, making aid delivery from the United Nations difficult.CreditCredit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Aid workers say the main obstacle is an unofficial Ethiopian government blockade, enforced using tactics of obstruction and intimidation, that has effectively cut off the road and exacerbated what some call the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in a decade.

A relief convoy headed for Tigray came under fire on the road on July 18, forcing it to turn around.

In the past month, just a single United Nations aid convoy of 50 trucks has managed to travel this route. The U.N. says it needs twice as many trucks, traveling every day, to stave off catastrophic shortages of food and medicine inside Tigray.

Yet nothing is moving.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

On Tuesday, the World Food Program said 170 trucks loaded with relief aid were stranded in Semera, the capital of the neighboring Afar region, waiting for Ethiopian permission to make the desert journey into Tigray.

“These trucks must be allowed to move NOW,” the agency’s director David Beasley wrote on Twitter. “People are starving.”

The crisis comes against the backdrop of an intensifying war that is spilling out of Tigray into other regions, deepening ethnic tensions and stoking fears that Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation, is tearing itself apart.

Inside Tigray, the needs are dire, and rapidly rising. The United Nations estimates that 400,000 people there are living in famine-like conditions, and another 4.8 million need urgent help.

Ethiopian and allied Eritrean soldiers have stolen grain, burned crops and destroyed agricultural tools, according to both aid groups and local witnesses interviewed by The New York Times. This has caused many farmers to miss the planting season, setting in motion a food crisis that is expected to peak when harvests fail in September.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

The Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, said last week that his government was providing “unfettered humanitarian access” and committed to “the safe delivery of critical supplies to its people in the Tigray region.”

But Mr. Abiy’s ministers have publicly accused aid workers of helping and even arming the Tigrayan fighters, drawing a robust denial from one U.N. agency. And senior aid officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing their operations, said the government’s stated commitment to enable aid deliveries was belied by its actions on the ground.

Aid workers have been harassed at airports or, in the case of a World Food Program official last weekend, have died inside Tigray for want of immediate medical care.

Billene Seyoum Woldeyes, a spokeswoman for Mr. Abiy, said federal forces had left behind 44,000 tons of wheat and 2.5 million liters of edible oil as they withdrew from Tigray in June. Any hurdles to humanitarian access were being “closely monitored” by the government, she said.

But on the ground, vital supplies are rapidly running out — not just food and medicine, but also the fuel and cash needed to distribute emergency aid. Many aid agencies have begun to scale back their operations in Tigray, citing the impossible working conditions. Mr. Beasley said the World Food Program would start to run out of food on Friday.

Fighting is raging along what had once been the main highway into Tigray, forcing aid groups to turn to the only alternative: the remote road connecting Tigray to Afar that runs across a stark landscape of burning temperatures.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

When I traveled the route on July 4, the war in Tigray had just dramatically reversed direction.

Days earlier, Tigrayan fighters had marched into the regional capital, Mekelle, hours after beleaguered Ethiopian soldiers quit the city. The city airport was shut, so the only way out of Tigray was on a slow-moving U.N. convoy that took the same desolate route out as the fleeing Ethiopian soldiers.

We drove down a rocky escarpment on a road scarred by tank tracks. As we descended into the plains of Afar, the temperature quickly rose.

The road skirted the western edge of the Danakil Depression, a vast area that sits below sea level with an active volcano, the saltiest lake on earth, and surreal rock formations in vivid colors that are frequently likened to an otherworldly landscape.
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Our minivan raced across a barren field of dried lava that stretched for miles. Sand drifted onto the road in places, and the van’s roof grew too hot to touch.

Our driver chewed leaves of the mild narcotic khat as he gripped the wheel, frequently steering us onto the wrong side of the road. It didn’t matter — the only vehicles we passed were broken-down trucks, their sweating drivers poring over greasy entrails.

In the handful of villages we crossed through, people sheltered from the sun inside buildings covered with tin sheets and heavy blankets. My weather app said it was 115 degrees outside. Then my phone issued a text warning that it was overheating.

We passed 13 checkpoints, the initial ones manned by militia fighters and then later ones guarded by Ethiopian government forces. We reached Semera after 12 hours.

Days later, a second U.N. convoy headed out of Tigray was not so lucky.

According to an aid worker on the convoy, Ethiopian federal police subjected Western aid workers to extensive searches along the way, and later detained seven Tigrayan drivers overnight after impounding their vehicles. The drivers and vehicles were released after two days.

On July 18, a 10-vehicle U.N. convoy carrying food to Tigray came under attack 60 miles north of Semera when unidentified gunmen opened fire and looted several trucks, according to the World Food Program. The convoy turned around, and all aid deliveries along the route have since been suspended.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

In a statement, Mr. Abiy’s office blamed the attack on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the former ruling party of the Tigray region that the national government’s forces have been fighting.

But two senior U.N. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid worsening relations with the Ethiopian authorities, said they believed the attack had been carried out by a pro-government militia at the behest of the Ethiopian security forces.

A rare humanitarian flight to Tigray four days later confirmed fears among aid workers that the Ethiopian authorities were pursuing a strategy of officially permitting humanitarian access while in practice working to frustrate it.

At the main airport in Addis Ababa, 30 aid workers boarding the first U.N. flight to Mekelle in more than a month were subjected to intensive searches and harassment, several people on board said. Ethiopian officials prohibited aid workers from carrying cash greater than the equivalent of $250, satellite phones and personal medication — the last restriction resulted in an official with Doctors Without Borders having to get off the flight. Six hours late, the flight took off.

The World Food Program publicized the flight but made no mention of the delays or harassment — an omission that privately angered several U.N. officials and other aid workers who said it followed a pattern of U.N. agencies being unwilling to publicly criticize the Ethiopian authorities.

Further complicating the aid effort: The war is now spilling into Afar.

In the past week Tigrayan forces have pushed into the region. In response Mr. Abiy mobilized ethnic militias from other regions to counter the offensive.

Mr. Abiy has also resorted to increasingly inflammatory language — referring to Tigrayan leaders as “cancer” and “weeds” in need of removal — that foreign officials view as a possible tinder for a new wave of ethnic violence across the country.

Ms. Billene, his spokeswoman, dismissed those fears as “alarmist.” The Ethiopian leader had “clearly been referring to a terrorist organization and not the people of Tigray,” she said.

Inside Tigray, the most pressing priority is to reopen the road to Afar.

“This is a desperate, desperate situation,” said Lorraine Sweeney of Support Africa Foundation, a charity that shelters about 100 pregnant women displaced by fighting in the Tigrayan city of Adigrat.

Ms. Sweeney, who is based in Ireland, said she had fielded calls from panicked staff members appealing for help to feed the women, all of whom are at least eight months pregnant.

“It brings me back to famine times in Ireland,” Ms. Sweeney said. “This is crazy stuff in this day and age.”


29 July 2021

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, today started a six-day mission to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

“It was important to me that I carry out my first official mission as the UN’s humanitarian chief to Ethiopia,” said Mr. Griffiths. “Humanitarian needs in the country have increased this year as a result of the armed conflicts in Tigray and Benishangul-Gumuz, intercommunal violence in parts of Afar, Somali and SNNP regions, and drought in Somali, Oromia and Afar regions.

“These shocks came on top of existing challenges associated with floods, the desert locust infestation, chronic food insecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of vulnerable people are now struggling and in need of help.”

During the visit, Mr. Griffiths is expected to meet with high-level Government officials and representatives of the humanitarian and donor communities.

He plans to travel to the Tigray region to hear from civilians affected by the conflict and to witness first-hand the challenges humanitarian workers face. An estimated 5.2 million people (about 90 per cent of the population) need humanitarian assistance in the Tigray region.

Mr. Griffiths also plans to meet with Amhara regional authorities in Bahir Dar city.

“The humanitarian community is committed to working with the Government and the people of Ethiopia to respond to this crisis,” said Mr. Griffiths. “This visit is an opportunity to discuss with the Government of Ethiopia’s officials and partners how the United Nations and its humanitarian partners can best serve the people of Ethiopia. I look forward to constructive discussions on scaling up the humanitarian response across the country.”

More than 9 UN agencies, along with international and national non-governmental organizations and Government agencies, are responding to the humanitarian needs in Ethiopia


Eritreans are demonstrating outside the UNHCR offices in Bole, Addis Ababa.  They are appealing to the UN to act to protect Eritrean refugees in camps in Mai Aini and Adi Harush. They say the area is a war zone and calls on the UN to evacuate them.
There are also appeals for the UNHCR to extend its protection and services to Eritreans currently in Addis Ababa and other camps.
They are calling for:
1) Relocation of the refugees from the war zone
2) Provide basic support like shelter, food, medications, blankets to the displaced
3) Give ID cards and proof of refugee registration to those who lost it during conflict
4) Bring to justice perpetrators of human rights violations in the Eritrean camps and their surroundings.