Ethiopia’s foreign minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen has told a United Nations human rights meeting that humanitarian access in the Tigray region is improving but that security remains “a work in progress.”
“Full return to stability is a work in progress. But there is no doubt the situation keeps on improving, allowing better movement of humanitarian operations except for a few pocket areas where there is sporadic shooting by these remnants (of opposition forces). Emergency humanitarian assistance is being delivered in 36 wards of the (inaudible) region at 92 food distribution centers,” Demeke said.
He said Ethiopia took its responsibilities to all refugees very seriously, and had reached out to two million people in need of aid.
A United Nations report on Sunday sounded the alarm over a ‘very critical malnutrition situation’ unfolding in Tigray.
Conflict in Tigray erupted last November after forces loyal to the region’s governing party – the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) attacked federal army camps located in the region, killing troops and seizing weapons.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a ‘law enforcement operation to restore constitutional order’ after accusing the TPLF of waging rebellion against Addis Ababa.
The TPLF has since been ousted from power and arrest warrants issued against the region’s fugitive leaders.
Ethiopia has named a new administration for Tigray since January but it has struggled to govern. Fighting between government and rebel forces has persisted, making it almost impossible to restore services and has resulted in further displacement.
Aid agencies have lamented their inability to access some parts of the region as food stocks for the displaced and refugees and medical supplies for hospitals run low.
‘Investigate rights violations’
On Wednesday, Addis Ababa said it was welcoming 135 international organisations, including 11 broadcasters to access Tigray, which has been virtually cut off from the outside world due to rolling internet and telephone signal cuts since last November.
Amnesty International has accused both government and rebel troops of committing atrocities.
Meneke said the government was investigating reports of sexual crimes in Tigray.
“Allegations of human rights violations including sexual violence is no doubt a matter of big concern for my government,” he said in a speech delivered at the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday.
The United States and European Union have accused Eritrean forces of committing atrocities in Tigray and called on Ethiopia to expel them.
Addis Ababa has not officially acknowledged the presence of foreign forces on its soil.