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Ethiopia Expels Seven UN Officials

Ethiopia is expelling seven high-level United Nations officials for allegedly interfering in the country’s internal affairs.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page Thursday the officials were informed they must leave the country “within the next 72 hours” for allegedly “meddling” with internal matters, without being specific.

The announcement came two days after a senior U.N. official reiterated that hundreds of thousands of people in Ethiopia’s embattled northern Tigray region were probably experiencing famine.

Among the seven who were ordered to leave Ethiopia are the heads of the United Nations Children's Fund and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The remaining five are OCHA officials.

Armed conflict over Ethiopia’s Tigray region erupted in November 2020 among federal and allied regional forces and forces backed by the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front.

U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths said Tuesday that a nearly three-month-long blockade has limited aid shipments to 10% of what is needed in the region.

Without evidence, Ethiopia has alleged that unnamed aid workers have supported Tigrayan forces.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement he was “shocked” by the expulsions and that the organization’s humanitarian operations “are guided by the core principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence.”

He said the U.N. “is now engaging” with the Ethiopian government “in the expectation that the concerned UN staff will be allowed to continue their important work.”

(VOA's Margaret Besheer contributed to this story. Some information in this report comes from AFP, AP and Reuters.)

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