Ethiopian authorities have arrested and detained about 70 aid truckers who were contracted by the United Nations and other organizations last week, the United Nations said on Wednesday, since the government declared a state of emergency amid ongoing civil war and famine.
It is the latest government crackdown on the UN in the wake of the recent dismissal of seven UN staff members and the arrest of at least 16 local workers as tensions continue to mount over what the UN calls a "humanitarian blockade" in Ethiopia's Tigray region.
Wednesday's statement said the U.N. seeks the reasons for the arrest of the drivers which took place from 3 Nov. in the city of Semera, the port of the Tigray. Government spokesman Legesse Tulu did not respond to any questions.
The Ethiopian government has declared a state of emergency as the rebels continue
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On Tuesday, the UN said 16 local workers had been arrested in recent days in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. They are all Tigrayan nationals, who say witnesses say they have been swept away by thousands since an emergency was declared following reports that Tigray troops were fighting Ethiopian troops approaching the capital.
Government spokesman Legesse told the Associated Press that 16 U.N. employees. The government says it is detaining people accused of supporting Tigray troops.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Wednesday said at least nine workers had been arrested, and the UN had not yet received a "formal explanation" for the arrests.
A new UN statement said many of the arrested drivers were "of different nationalities," but included Tigrayans.
The arrests are another challenge to efforts to bring humanitarian aid to the millions of people in Tigray, who have not received much-needed assistance including food, medicine and fuel since Ethiopian troops began bombing the Tigray capital in October. before that, only 15 percent of the required trucks entered Tigray from mid-July, the UN said.
The protester holds an Ethiopian flag as he participates in an Addis Ababa national military rally on Sunday.EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP via Getty Images
Another arrest of UN staff took place as UN aid chief Martin Griffiths was in Ethiopia meeting with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and other officials to press for more information. The U.N. called the talks “positive.”
"It is estimated that 80 percent of essential medicines are no longer available" in the region, the UN humanitarian agency said last week. The Ethiopian government has warned that civilian assistance may be diverted to support Tigray troops, and has accused humanitarian organizations of arming the militants and raising the level of the problem falsely, without providing evidence.
In a statement this week, Griffiths said the women he met during a visit to Tigray were "very focused on daily survival."
World War II in Africa has killed thousands of people and left millions dead. Now Tigray forces rule the national government for 27 years before a political dispute with Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, approaches the Ethiopian capital.
Urgent efforts by the African Union and the United States to end the rapid-fire and negotiations reported little opportunity this week, but Tigray military spokesman Getachew Reda on Twitter on Wednesday insisted that "most" 'peace efforts' were about saving. (Ethiopian prime minister) ... Attempts that fail to tackle our situation and the tendency to mix human and political issues will fail! ”