UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “shocked” by Ethiopia’s decision Thursday to expel seven senior UN officials from the African nation, which faces the threat of famine in the war-torn Tigray region.
“I am shocked by the information that the Ethiopian government has declared seven UN officials as persona non grata, “Guterres said in a statement after the announcement of the Ethiopian foreign ministry, which accused the officials of” interfering. “
Guterres said the international agency was “providing lifesaving assistance – including supplies of food, medicine, water and sanitation – to people in greatest need” in Ethiopia.
“I have full confidence in the UN staff who are in Ethiopia to carry out the task,” Guterres continued.
He reiterated the UN’s commitment to the mission in Ethiopia, saying the agency is in touch with the Ethiopian government “with the hope that the UN staff concerned will be allowed to continue their important work.”
The expulsions have raised concerns over humanitarian efforts in Tigray, which has been mired in conflict since last November.
The seven UN officials, including several local chairs of the UN children’s fund UNICEF and its humanitarian coordination office, have been declared “persona non grata” for “interference in the country’s internal affairs,” according to a statement published on the Facebook page. Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“According to the letter addressed to each of the UN officials, all of them must leave Ethiopian territory within the next 72 hours,” the letter stated. [mg/jm]