Gov’t Delivers Food Aid to Tigray, Rejects UN’s Request for ‘Unfettered Access’

ADDIS ABEBA – Authorities said on Tuesday at least 44 trucks loaded with 18,200 quintals of food items have arrived in Shire town while rejecting United Nations requests for unfettered access to the Tigray region.

“The distribution of humanitarian aid will take place in and around Shire,” the Ministry of Peace announced on Monday.

On the same day, Mitiku Kasa, Disaster Risk Management Commissioner, confirmed that the government has dispatched food and non-food assistance to 250,000 people in Tigray region.

“Most of the commodities have reached major sites in the region,” he said.

The commission has deployed eight coordination teams tasked to coordinate and facilitate the delivery of food and non-food items to the people in need of support.

“Our effort will continue and we are working with international partners,” Commissioner Mitiku said during a press briefing he gave together with Ambassador Redwan Hussein, spokesperson of the Command post in charge of the state of emergency in Tigray Region.

Call for unfettered access

Last Friday, United Nations aid coordinators said they were “working at full speed” to secure full aid access to Tigray, after a deal with the government was struck to help tens of thousands of civilians displaced during the three-week long law enforcement operation in the region.

The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also called for “unfettered access” to fully operationalize the agreement in the region.

But an incident last week that showed a lack of respect to the country’s law from the UN side has already cast a shadow on effectiveness of the agreement.

A UN team, who chose to ignore government’s instruction, ignored authorities’ instruction and broke two checkpoints to go to areas where they were not allowed to.

This has angered authorities in charge of the command post set up in the region.

Ethiopia is Not ‘No Man’s land’

The team broke “two checkpoints to drive hastily to areas where they were not supposed to go”, Redwan said, “But they indulged themselves into a kind of adventurous expedition”.

“When they were about to break the third one they were shot at and detained. Of course, they are now free,” he said.

Ambassador Redwan said it must be clear that “this is Ethiopia, a country which has thousands of years of statehood. So no one can have a free ride. If anybody is told not to go, then they have to abide by…There is no such a thing as unfettered access in every corner of Ethiopia”.

“You can only have unfettered access when you reach to nomads land. And this is not nomads land. It is a country of sovereign nation. It is a county of a government to function. It is a country whose government is used to all sorts of difficulties,” he said.

He underlined that the government is in charge of the aid delivery operation in the country.

Access will be regulated

“Government always makes sure that its people would not suffer. Whenever government has difficulties, we only seek for assistance,” he said.

“The agreement signed is for assistance to be led and coordinated by the Ethiopian government. No entity, multilateral or unilateral can supplant the responsibility of the government,” he said. “The UN has been given access within a government-led coordination framework crafted by a sovereign nation”.

“So whenever the government creates access to operate humanitarian action, then UN agencies would be aboard. Whenever we say, ‘it is not safe to be accessed’, then UN agencies and other entities and our partners have to comply,” Ambassador Redwan said.

Close to 60% of food assistance for humanitarian relief comes from government coffers.