NEW YORK/NAIROBI — The U.N. secretary-general warned Monday that the situation in northern Ethiopia is “spiraling out of control” and he sees no military solution to the conflict.
“Violence and destruction have reached alarming levels; the social fabric is being ripped apart,” Antonio Guterres told reporters at U.N. headquarters. “Hostilities in the Tigray region of Ethiopia must end now – including the immediate withdrawal and disengagement of Eritrean armed forces from Ethiopia.”
The U.N. chief said the international community must come together to end the nearly two-year-old conflict, which has killed and injured thousands and left millions on the brink of starvation.
“The United Nations is ready to support the African Union in every possible way to end this nightmare for the Ethiopian people,” he said. “We need the urgent resumption of talks towards an effective, lasting political settlement.”
His call joins others, including from Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission, who called Saturday for a new cease-fire and resumption of humanitarian services.
U.N. Security Council diplomats said on background that the council’s three African envoys — from Gabon, Ghana and Kenya — have requested an urgent private meeting to have a briefing from the African Union and the U.N. humanitarian department.
The Ethiopian government said Monday that it is committed to a peaceful resolution of the conflict through African Union-led talks, while the Tigray regional government said it would respect an African Union call for an immediate cease-fire.
The government and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have yet to agree on who should lead the reconciliation process. Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is currently the AU’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa and has led several missions there.
Planned peace talks for this month in South Africa failed to take off due to technical and logistical issues.
Each side has blamed the other for violating a March cease-fire after fighting resumed in Tigray in August.
Also Monday, Ethiopian authorities said their forces will take charge of the aviation, transport and communication infrastructure in the embattled Tigray region.
The head of the Horn International Institute for Strategic Studies, Hassan Khannenje, told VOA the government’s goal is to control the movement of the rebels and humanitarian services in the Tigray region.
“Any limitations to the ability to transport and move around and communicate tends to heighten an existing situation such as the humanitarian situation is ongoing right now in Ethiopia,” Khannenje said. “In fact, humanitarian organizations are going to find it harder to reach in those areas, and communication is going to be limited in regards to assisting for help or humanitarian assistance. So, of course, that is going to make things worse for those who are already vulnerable.”
The government defended its move to take over key facilities in the Tigray region, saying it will protect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and speed up humanitarian aid to those who need assistance.
U.N. aid flights have been suspended to Tigray since August 25 due to the resumption of hostilities, further hampering efforts to assist people in need. The situation is also dangerous for humanitarians. On Saturday, the International Rescue Committee said one of its staffers had died of injuries after an attack in Shire Town in Tigray.
The conflict began in November 2020 in the Tigray region between the government forces and the Tigray rebel group and has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people. Rights groups accuse both sides of committing widespread human rights violations.
The U.N. humanitarian office says 20 million Ethiopians need humanitarian assistance. Millions of people in the northern regions of Tigray, Amhara and Afar have been displaced due to the conflict.
Source: Voice of America