UN envoy visits Tigray, pleads for humanitarian access

·1-min read
UN under-secretary for humanitarian affairs Martin Griffiths visited the Tigray region of Ethiopia, where he called for greater humanitarian access amid escalating violence (AFP/Fabrice COFFRINI)

The UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs visited Ethiopia's Tigray region Sunday, pleading for greater access for aid to civilians amid escalating clashes between rebel and government forces.

During a visit to Tigrayan capital Mekele, Martin Griffiths met with the region's "de facto authorities" and insisted on "the need for humanitarian access and protection of civilians through all areas under their control," according to a UN spokesperson.

Griffiths later returned to Addis Ababa.

Other sources said Griffiths was in Mekele at the same time as Olusegun Obasanjo, the African Union's high representative for the Horn of Africa, who was there to meet with Debretsion Gebremichael, head of the Tigray People's Liberation Front.

The TPLF, which long held power in Ethiopia, was ousted by Abiy Ahmed, who became prime minister in 2018 amid anti-government protests.

Gebremichael then withdrew to Tigray, the northernmost region in Ethiopia.

After months of tension, Abiy Ahmed -- who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 -- sent the Ethiopian army to Tigray in November 2020 to remove the TPLF-backed regional authorities, who continued to defy his authority and whom he accused of attacking military bases.

Ahmed soon proclaimed victory, but TPLF fighters in June regained control of much of the region, before advancing into the adjoining regions of Afar and Amhara.

Recently the conflict has again escalated, with rebel forces advancing toward Addis Ababa, intent on overthrowing Ahmed.

Despite an intense flurry of diplomatic activity, the belligerents on both sides have been unmoved by calls from the international community for a cease-fire.

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