The senior UN humanitarian official warns that the conflict “is not over” and says that “the vast majority” of the northern region of Ethiopia “is totally or partially inaccessible” to aid agencies.
The UN and its humanitarian partners have seen no evidence of a declared withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Ethiopia’s Tigray region, according to the world’s top humanitarian official, who also warned that the situation in the region besieged had deteriorated.
Mark Lowcock’s comments at a closed-door UN Security Council meeting on Thursday came more than two weeks after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Eritrea had agreed to withdraw Allied forces qu ‘she sent to the northern region of Ethiopia during the outbreak of conflict. there in November 2020.
“Unfortunately, I have to say that neither the UN nor any of the humanitarian agencies we work with have seen proof of the Eritrean withdrawal,” the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs told the council, according to a text of his speech. seen by Al Jazeera. .
After months of tension, Abiy sent government forces to Tigray on November 4 to arrest and disarm leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the regional ruling party that has dominated Ethiopian politics for decades. .
The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate said the move came in response to attacks orchestrated by the TPLF on Federal Army camps. The TPLF said Abiy’s government and its longtime enemy Eritrea launched a “coordinated attack” against it.
Abiy declared victory after federal forces entered the regional capital, Mekelle, on November 28, but fighting continued and analysts warn of a prolonged standoff in a conflict that has reportedly killed thousands and left over five million people in need of help. .
“The humanitarian situation in Tigray has deteriorated,” Lowcock said, adding that the “vast majority” of the region of some six million people “are totally or partially inaccessible” to humanitarian agencies.
“The conflict is not over and things are not improving”, he continued, describing the “reports of systematic rape, gang rape and sexual violence … particularly worrying and of an alarming scale” .
Civilians have been victims of “targeted violence, massacres and mass executions, and systematic sexual violence as a weapon of war.”
Thursday’s closed-door meeting was the latest in a series of similar sessions since the conflict began more than five months ago, but the Security Council has yet to issue a statement.
“The Security Council has listened to these reports, has held closed-door meetings but has remained absolutely silent,” Al Jazeera diplomatic editor James Bays told UN headquarters in New York. “The members of the Security Council failed to agree on a single statement on the situation.”
Asked by Al Jazeera on what to do to improve the situation in Tigray, UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric called for an increase in humanitarian access as well as a “real movement” on the investigations on human rights concerning the “horrible reports” of atrocities and a “true reconciliation within the various groups of Tigray”.
After months of denials, Abiy publicly admitted last month that Eritrean troops had entered Tigray. UN chief Antonio Guterres once said the prime minister had “guaranteed” that Eritrean forces were not there.
This week, Amnesty International mentionned On Monday, Eritrean troops opened fire on civilians in the town of Adwa de Tigray, in an “unprovoked” attack that killed at least three people and injured 19 others.
The regional director of the rights group, Sarah Jackson, described the shooting as “another illegal attack by Eritrean troops against civilians in Tigray”.