Ethiopia Releases Few Detained UN Staff

According to a UN spokesman, the Ethiopian government has released about half of the UN’s contracted aid drivers arrested last week

While speaking at a briefing in New York, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on Monday that 34 drivers had been released but 36 others were still being detained.

He hoped that the remaining contract workers and 10 UN national staff arrested by the authorities on Friday would be freed.

“I can say, the 10 UN staff members that we said were detained last Friday are still detained. However, a little bit of good news that, regarding the contracted drivers, we’ve been informed that 34 have been released, while 36 of them are still detained,” Farhan Haq said during a press conference.

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“These are not UN staff but subcontractors, but we’re still very happy that any of them have… that about half of those held over the past few days have been let go,” he added.

“It’s good that the drivers have been released, but we certainly want to see more happen. We want to see all of the drivers released, as well as, of course, all of our staff, but in addition to that, we want to see that the convoys that are sent into places like Tigray can actually get to their intended destination” Haq said.

The UN drivers were arrested after Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government declared a state of emergency in early November as Tigrayan forces and their allies threatened to march on the capital Addis Ababa.

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The emergency was declared as rebel Tigray fighters threatened to march on the capital, Addis Ababa.

The state of emergency allows the arbitrary detention of anyone the authorities deem to be supporting “terrorist groups.” Thousands of Tigrayans have been detained since the announcement of the state of emergency.

On Monday, the UN spokesman also announced that the UN had released $40m (£29.8m) in emergency funds to Ethiopians.

The spokesman said, “These funds will help scale up emergency operations in Ethiopia’s conflict-affected northern regions and support early response to the drought in southern Ethiopia,”

Thousands of people have been killed and millions of others displaced in the year-long war between the Ethiopian authorities and the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) fighters.

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