Ethiopia says U.N. staff will face penalties if they break the law

Written by on November 11, 2021

November 11, 2021

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) -Ethiopian staff working for the United Nations or African Union do not live “in space” and will be punished for any lawbreaking, the government said on Thursday, after the arrest of several U.N. employees for unspecified offences.

Ethiopia declared a state of emergency on Nov. 2 after rebellious forces from the northern region of Tigray and their allies made territorial gains and threatened to march on the capital.

Since then, hundreds of Tigrayans have been arrested in Addis Ababa, families and colleagues say, along with 16 U.N. https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/un-says-least-nine-staff-dependents-detained-ethiopia-2021-11-09 staff members whose ethnicity has not been disclosed.

Seven of the U.N. staff were later released.

Police say the arrests are not ethnically motivated.

“U.N. staff who reside in Ethiopia should respect the law of the country,” foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti told a news conference. “They live in Ethiopia, not in space. Whether it is a U.N. or AU staff member, they shall be held accountable.”

An Italian aid worker was arrested on Saturday with two Ethiopian colleagues, said Italy’s foreign ministry and Volontariato Internazionale Per lo Sviluppo (VIS), the organization that employs them.

Dina reiterated the government’s stance that it will not hold ceasefire talks with leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) because its forces have not yet withdrawn from the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions.

The AU envoy for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, and U.S. Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman, have both visited Ethiopia this week to push for a ceasefire.

Also on Thursday, state-affiliated broadcaster Fana reported that the Ethiopian military, fighting alongside regional forces and allied militias, repulsed attacks by Tigrayan forces near the town of Kemise in Amhara.

The TPLF said last week it had seized Kemise, 325 km (200 miles) from the capital Addis Ababa. Reuters was unable to independently verify that.

Fana also reported soldiers pushed back Tigrayan forces trying to capture the town of Mille in Afar, which lies along the highway linking the port of Djibouti to landlocked Ethiopia.

The TPLF spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The spreading conflict has killed thousands of civilians and forced more than two million people from their homes.

Two diplomatic sources said on Thursday that the European Union is evacuating non-essential staff from Ethiopia. Several other nations have advised nationals to leave.

(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom;Additional reporting by Ayenat Mersie in Nairobi;Writing by Maggie FickEditing by Giles Elgood and Andrew Cawthorne)


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