Ethiopia threatens to penalise UN officials for misconduct

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Ethiopian staff working for the United Nations or African Union will be punished for any law breaking, the government said on Thursday, after the arrest of several UN employees for unspecified offences.


Ethiopia had declared a state of emergency on November 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 UN 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.

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


Foreign citizens have also been caught up in the wave of arrests.  A very small number of British nationals have been detained, and the UK government has formally raised their cases with the Ethiopian authorities, requesting immediate consular access.


A US State Department spokesperson also said the United States is concerned about reports of detentions of a number of US citizens and is in discussion with the Ethiopian government about it.


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 would not hold ceasefire talks with leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) because its forces have not yet withdrawn from the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions.


He said the other two conditions for a ceasefire were that Tigrayan forces stopped their attacks and recognised the government’s legitimacy.


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


Reuters/Olajumoke Adeleke

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