May 16, 2022

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Ethnic arrests in Ethiopia are totally unacceptable

On Tuesday, the United States condemned the arrests on the basis of ethnicity in Ethiopia, after the Ethiopian authorities arrested 16 UN employees during raids targeting people from Tigray region under a state of emergency.

State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, “Harassment by security forces and arrests on an ethnic basis are totally unacceptable.”

More than 12 Ethiopian staff members of the international organization were arrested in Addis Ababa during raids targeting people from Tigray region under the state of emergency, sources at the United Nations and humanitarian agencies reported on Tuesday.

A picture of one of the armed men in Tigray

One of the sources said: “Some of them were arrested from their homes,” while a United Nations spokeswoman in Geneva said requests for their release had been submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Last week, the government headed by Abi Ahmed declared a state of emergency in the country for a period of 6 months, amid growing fears of the advance of the fighters of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Oromo Liberation Army towards the capital, Addis Ababa.

Humanitarian organizations, including Amnesty International, condemned the imposition of a state of emergency that allows for the search and arrest of every person suspected of supporting “terrorist factions” without a warrant.

Lawyers said that the random arrests of Tigrayans increased last week, affecting thousands of them.

Law enforcement officials stated that these arrests were part of a legitimate crackdown on the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front and the Oromo Liberation Army.

Earlier, the African Union and the United States said there was little chance of ending the fighting in Ethiopia, while the United Nations warned that the risk of Ethiopia plunging into full-scale civil war was “very real”.

The African Union’s envoy for the Horn of Africa, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and the UN Political Coordinator, Rosemary DiCarlo, briefed the UN Security Council.

On Monday, the US State Department also announced that Washington believes there is a small window to work with the African Union to make progress in ending the conflict with the return of the US envoy to the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, to Addis Ababa.

On Monday, the African Union held a closed meeting to discuss the crisis.

The origin of the conflict

It is noteworthy that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front controlled the political and security apparatus in Ethiopia for nearly thirty years, after it took control of Addis Ababa and overthrew the Marxist military regime represented by the “Interim Administrative Military Council” in 1991.

Abi Ahmed, who was appointed prime minister in 2018, removed the front from power, and the latter retreated to its stronghold of Tigray.

But after months of quarrels, Abiy Ahmed sent the army to Tigray in November 2020 to expel the regional authorities of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which he accused of attacking military bases.

He declared victory on November 28, but in June, the LTTE fighters recaptured most of Tigray and continued their offensive in the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara.