Ethiopia denies MSF president permission to visit Tigray region

Gil was also unable to meet with members of the government to address the killing of three NGO workers in 2021

TPLF accuses Govt. of impeding visits to Tigray and standing “in the way of humanitarian access.”

The president of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Spain, Paula Gil, said Tuesday that she did not receive permission from the authorities to visit the region of Tigray (north) during a six-day visit to the country coinciding with the anniversary of the murder of three NGO workers in this region, mired in conflict since November 2020.

Gil said he concluded his six-day visit to Ethiopia “with great disappointment” and added that, one year after the murder of three colleagues in the Tigray region on July 24, 2021, he hoped to meet with the bereaved families and “continue discussions with the Ethiopian federal government on the case.”

“Instead, the authorities did not grant me permission to visit Tigray, which meant I could neither pay tribute to the families of Tedros and Yohannes, our two Ethiopian colleagues who were brutally murdered, nor inform the families about the progress of MSF’s internal review of the incident,” he has explained.

Thus, he has stressed that he was unable to meet with representatives of the Ethiopian government “to continue the discussion on its investigation” into the murder of his three colleagues, “despite requests sent to the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Defense.”

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“We are distressed that, after more than a year of engagement with the Ethiopian authorities, we still have no credible answers about what happened to our colleagues that day,” Gil has lamented, according to a statement released by MSF via its website.

In this sense, he has stressed that he hoped that his visit “would be a decisive step” in these efforts and added that “it is time to reflect on the next steps.” “We will continue to seek accountability for the murder of our colleagues using all possible means and avenues,” he has argued.

“After 20 months of conflict, now coupled with increasing food insecurity and malnutrition, I am extremely concerned about the dire situation faced by populations without access to vital medical services,” Gil reiterated.

For his part, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) spokesperson Getachew Reda accused the country’s authorities of “preventing planned visits to Tigray by UN members and country representatives as well as ambassadors” and noted that “the regime in Addis Ababa is standing in the way of humanitarian access by blocking access to Tigray and reneging on its promises on the restoration of basic services.”

“It is also preventing travel to diplomats trying to facilitate peace. This is the pattern of behavior of the regime, which has little intention of achieving peace and is interested only in confusing the international community,” he said in a message disseminated through his Twitter account. “It is strange that no one has asked the regime for explanations for this,” he has insisted.

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MSF commemorated on June 24 the killings of three of its colleagues, including a Spanish aid worker, in Tigray and expressed sadness and outrage at the lack of answers about this incident, for which no group has taken responsibility.

The conflict in Ethiopia erupted following an attack by the TPLF on the main army base in the Tigray capital of Mekelle, after which the Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, ordered an offensive against the group following months of political and administrative tensions. A “humanitarian truce” is currently in force, although both sides have accused each other of impeding the delivery of aid.

The TPLF accuses Abiy of whipping up tensions since his arrival in power in April 2018, when he became the first Oromo to accede to office. Until then, the TPLF had been the dominant force within Ethiopia’s ruling coalition since 1991, the ethnically-supported Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The group opposed Abiy’s reforms, which it saw as an attempt to undermine its influence.

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