Ethiopians protest at UN headquarters in New York, demand end to humanitarian nightmare in Tigray region

A small but loud group of peaceful protesters gathered at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Thursday, calling on the global body to act fast and stop the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in the Tigray region, northern Ethiopia. Their protest coincided with a United Nations Security Council meeting.

Holding placards and chanting “stop the killings in Tigray”, the protesters called on world leaders to do everything they can for peace to return.

More specifically, they said world leaders should work toward stopping the killings, the rapes, and displacement of innocent civilians in Tigray, a region the Ethiopian government has blocked from receiving aid or support. 

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, made remarks at the closed-door Security Council meeting, holding out the possibility of elevating Ethiopia’s crises on the agenda alongside the situations in Yemen, Syria, and Myanmar. 

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield expressed her concern in the March meeting, saying, “The United States is alarmed by Ethiopia’s humanitarian and human rights situation. What’s happening in Ethiopia has had, and will continue to have, devastating consequences for thousands of innocent people, and it poses a direct threat to regional peace and security. We need to address it immediately.”

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield greets Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a working lunch for the President and his delegation at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on July 21, 2015. 
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield greets Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a working lunch for the President and his delegation at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on July 21, 2015.

She also supported a growing consensus on the situation, saying that the Ethiopian government is responsible for leading a peaceful resolution. They can end the fighting and withdrawal of Eritrean forces. Ambassador 

Thomas-Greenfield also announced the U.S. effort to expanded U.S. government humanitarian assistance, sending a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Ethiopia this week.  

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock expressed concern over what he described as a “a campaign of destruction” in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray province, saying millions of people are desperate for assistance. Lowcock agreed that “multiple credible and widely corroborated reports from Tigray involve mass killings, rapes, and abductions of civilians. 

Lowcock also said, during the closed-door meeting that, “It is now abundantly clear to all, and openly acknowledged by officials of the government administration in Tigray, that Eritrean Defense Forces are operating throughout Tigray.”

Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia during the Session "A Conversation with Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia" at the Annual Meeting 2019 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 23, 2019 
Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia during the Session “A Conversation with Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia” at the Annual Meeting 2019 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 23, 2019

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also supports Lowcock’s statements and demand for action., but there is no official press statement from this closed-door meeting.

Fighting reportedly continues in Ethiopia’s internal conflict, and there are still many hurdles to negotiating not only an end to the fighting but access to the region. Many expect the situation to improve with mounting international pressure and multiple humanitarian organizations on the ground in Ethiopia. Still, they won’t hold out on the dream of total peace in the region for a long time.

Kristi Pelzel is a Senior White House correspondent for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Kristi also covers the US Department of State and the United Nations. She holds a master's degree from Georgetown University.

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