On Thursday, according to a statement by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia ordered seven UN officials from separate UN bodies to leave the country within 72 hours after having been declared “persona non grata” for “meddling in the internal affairs” of the nation.
The list declared includes five officials from Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stationed in the country, including the head of office in Ethiopia. The other two officials declared include the UNICEF representative in Ethiopia and the monitoring, reporting and advocacy team leader for the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The statement did not provide further details but the declaration was made in connection with the agencies’ operations in the Tigray region.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his shock at the decision.
The Tigray region came under intense international spotlight after an armed conflict began between the federal government and forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on November 4.
The conflict began when the federal government launched a law enforcement operation in Tigray, one day after TPLF forces attacked the Northern Command of the Ethiopian Defense Forces stationed across Tigray, killing soldiers and looting sizable military hardware.
The 11-month conflict seems to have no end in sight as TPLF forces crossed deep into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar, taking advantage of a unilateral ceasefire declared by the government and the subsequent withdrawal of its troops.
More than two million people have been internally displaced according to the UN, while tens of thousands fled to neighboring Sudan.
Ethiopia alleges that more than 400 trucks belonging to the World Food Program, that entered Tigray to deliver humanitarian consignments, were being used by rebels for war activities.
The UN has reported both sides for human rights violations while a joint investigation is ongoing by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.