NAIROBI, Kenya — Ethiopia said Thursday it was kicking out seven United Nations officials and accused them of “meddling in the internal affairs of the country,” as pressure grows on the government over its deadly blockade of its Tigray region.
A foreign ministry statement said the officials must leave Ethiopia within 72 hours. They include five people with the U.N. humanitarian agency, one with the U.N. human rights office and the UNICEF representative in the country. The statement did not give details of their alleged interference.
A spokesman for the U.N. humanitarian agency did not immediately comment.
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The spokeswoman for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Billene Seyoum, did not immediately respond to a request for details.
The U.N. humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, this week told The Associated Press that the crisis in Ethiopia is a “stain on our conscience” as children and others starve to death in the Tigray region under what the U.N. has called a de facto government blockade of food, medical supplies and fuel.
It was one of the most sharply worded criticisms yet of the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade after nearly a year of war in the country.
Memories of the 1980s famine in Ethiopia, which killed some 1 million people and whose images shocked the world, are vivid in his mind, “and we fervently hope is not happening at present,” Griffiths said.
The U.N. officials declared persona non grata by Ethiopia’s government include U.N. deputy humanitarian coordinator in the country Grant Leaity and UNICEF representative Adele Khodr.
Ethiopia’s government has accused humanitarian workers of supporting the Tigray forces who have been fighting its soldiers and allied forces since November, which aid workers have denied. Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict.