ADDIS ABABA – Top government officials shed light on the progress achieved and the challenges observed regarding outstanding issues in Tigray during a high-level consultative meeting with Addis Ababa-based diplomats on Thursday.
Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen presided over the meeting attended by government officials, diplomats as well as humanitarian partners operating in Tigray, according to the ministry of foreign affairs’ statement.
The minister said challenges remain to be tackled in many intervention areas in the region, However, he said, denying the progress achieved so far by sticking to unfounded claims is “morally, politically, and legally unacceptable”.
During the meeting, Minister of Peace Mufariat Kamil has tabled a presentation touching upon various intervention areas in the region to create clarifications on what has been done so far.
On humanitarian response
Regarding aid delivery, she reiterated that the government, with a lion’s share, has addressed the humanitarian needs of 4.5 million people in the first round of aid.
A total of 4.9 million people were reached in the second and third rounds, according to the minister.
Muferihat also spoke about the efforts to address 1.9 million IDPs in the region highlighting that the government has taken the initiative to facilitate dialogue with the Amhara and Tigray regional states to resettle IDPs that were displaced from Western Tigray.
Aside from establishing centers for mobile health services, the minister said 46.5% of the health centers in the region are made functional so far.
The minister also said some schools have been occupied by IDPs as makeshift shelters where the government is working to relocate them to better areas.
She, however, downplayed reports of using schools for military purposes,
Officials also said the government is providing seeds and farming equipment to farmers, where 70%of the land has been made ready for cultivation involving 1.2 million farmers in the region.
Speaking about the rehabilitation and reconstruction of destroyed infrastructures and disrupted public services, Muferihat said, some factories in the region, including textile and cement factories have already started operation.
Reiterating the government’s policy of zero tolerance to human rights abuses and appreciating the joint EHRC-UN investigations, she said the military, the federal and regional justice systems are working in concert.
At least 60 suspected soldiers were brought to justice, of whom some are convicted and sentenced subsequently, according to the government.
Among the challenges observed in the region, the foreign ministry’s statement said the “most crucial ones” are the unverified reports that misrepresented the facts on the ground.
Misunderstandings by humanitarian partners on the security concerns of military personnel at some checkpoints as facts for denial of access to the region is another challenge pointed out by the ministry.
The government also said the process of withdrawing Eritrean troops has already begun.
Despite the media hype, Defence Minister Kenea Yadeta said TPLF is not in a position to fight the Ethiopian Defence Forces although “it sparks sporadic clashes at very few pocket areas”.
Some pocket areas, according to the ministry, are West of Maichew, Gura, and Temben.
In these areas, General Alemeshet Degefe, said TPLF, a group the ethiopian parliament designated as the terrorist group, has tried to impede access to humanitarian support “envisaging famine in the areas as a political strategy to garner support from aggrieved people”.
The Ethiopian Defense Forces are well known for taking military discipline very seriously as witnessed in serving in various UN peacekeeping missions, he said adding that there is no reason for our soldiers to go wild and be lenient when it comes to protecting the well-being of our own people in Tigray.
On Communication tools
Dr. Shumete Gizaw, Director General of Information Network Security Agency explained the types of communication tools that are allowed to be in the hands of civilians and added quests by the humanitarian agencies to possess gadgets that should only be restricted to military personnel are not acceptable.
He said quests to possess communication equipment shall be entertained if the equipment is in alignment with the mission of the aid agency, does not compromise national security and can make services more efficient.
He also questions why the government has been reluctant to announce the misuse of privileges by some aid agencies that were caught while attempting to transport ammunition to the terrorist group and unduly repressing and firing Ethiopian staffers in the organizations.
On request for access
Dr. Abraham Belay, Head of the Tigray Region administration, said access has been granted for aid workers in all but some pocket areas.
Dr. Abrham said he could not understand the motives of reports that denied the reality on the ground.
He said the federal and regional governments have been using their scarce resources to rebuild most of the infrastructures and public services, such as telecommunication, electricity, banking, and financial services that were destroyed by TPLF.
What we need now is material and financial support, he said, adding that many IDPs in the region need to go back home armed with basic facilities.
The meeting also discussed the possibilities of opening Shire and Humera Airports, including the modalities required to extend visas granted to aid agencies, according to the foreign Ministry.
In delivering concluding remarks, Foreign minister Demeke said the government will facilitate similar consultative platforms soon adding that it is committed to getting the region into normalcy by making an all-inclusive dialogue with stakeholders.