On Thursday, Washington vowed to impose more sanctions on Ethiopian officials, against the backdrop of Addis Ababa’s decision to expel 7 employees working in United Nations relief missions.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a news briefing that Washington “strongly condemns the Ethiopian authorities’ expulsion of United Nations staff.”
She added, “The White House is threatening Ethiopian government officials with more US sanctions if they continue to obstruct humanitarian aid from reaching Tigray.”
Earlier in the day, Ethiopia announced the expulsion of 7 senior staff of the United Nations, designating them “persona non grata”.
The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said on Twitter that the expulsion of these high-ranking officials of the UN agencies came for their “interference in the internal affairs of the country”, and demanded that they leave its lands within 72 hours.
She indicated that prominent officials from the United Nations Children’s Fund “UNICEF” and the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs in Ethiopia are among the persons covered by the expulsion decision.
The expulsion decision came after suspending the activities of two humanitarian organizations operating in Tigray for a period of 3 months, namely, the Dutch branch of Doctors Without Borders and the Norwegian Refugee Council, accused of “spreading misleading information”.
For his part, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his “shock” at the Addis Ababa decision, stressing that “all UN humanitarian operations are guided by the fundamental principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence.”
Human Rights Watch said the expulsions would affect “millions of Tigrayans and many Ethiopians in need.”
In a statement, she added, the decision was “a new sign of the shrinking environment in which humanitarian workers can operate.”
For more than three months, the United Nations has been warning that some 400,000 people in Tigray province have “crossed the famine threshold”.
On November 4, 2020, clashes erupted in the region between the Ethiopian army and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, before Addis Ababa announced on the 28th of the same month, the end of a “law enforcement” operation to control the region, despite reports of continued violations rights in the region.
On March 23, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, acknowledged the occurrence of atrocities against civilians during the conflict in Tigray, including rapes committed by soldiers, stressing the accountability of those involved.