Ethiopia: TDF accuses UN of lying as Tigray conflict escalates

File photo of Ethiopian government soldiers ride in the back of a truck on a road near Agula, north of Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. | Photo: AP

NAIROBI, Kenya - The Tigray Defense Forces [TDF] has accused a top UN body of misleading the public over alleged deaths at Galicoma in the Afar region, where the separatist group was blamed for opening fire, killing children, and innocent women.

Henrietta Fore, the UNICEF Executive Director, issued a statement last week, accusing the TDF of killing over 200 people in Galicoma, mostly children and women. The attack, she argued, also left thousands of people without food and shelter.

“UNICEF is extremely alarmed by the reported killing of over 200 people, including more than 100 children, in attacks on displaced families sheltering at a health facility and a school in Afar region on Thursday, 5 August. Crucial food supplies were also reportedly destroyed in an area that is already seeing emergency levels of malnutrition and food insecurity," she noted.

“The intensification of fighting in Afar and other areas neighbouring Tigray is disastrous for children. It follows months of armed conflict across Tigray that have placed some 400,000 people, including at least 160,000 children, in famine-like conditions," she said.

"Four million people are in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity in Tigray and adjoining regions of Afar and Amhara. More than 100,000 have been newly displaced by the recent fighting, adding to the 2 million people already uprooted from their homes."

TDF has been closing into Afar and Amhara regions, where it is keen to keep off "expansionist" forces from retaking most parts of Tigray. This has resulted in the escalation of the conflict, which started sometimes last year when the Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF] launched an operation in Tigray.

But Getachew Rada, the spokesperson of TDF, now says the UNICEF gave the federal government unsubstantiated "claims" which are now being used to paint the force as an enemy of the people. According to him, Addis Ababa owns up such allegations, destroying the reputation of the forces.

Although he did not admit or deny TDF being responsible for the deeds, Rada asked the UNICEF to work closely with the TDF administration to establish what may have happened in Afar. He also vowed that the Tigray force will not leave the two regions "until our security is guaranteed".

"UNICEF has a lot of explaining to do why they came up with a statement that’s being used by Abiy Ahmed to cast aspersions on the integrity of our forces in Galicoma, Afar. While it is natural that they respond to such allegations as promptly as they could, checking the facts on the ground would have spared them from a potentially awkward position," he said.

"We in the Government of Tigray would once again express our readiness to cooperate with the UNICEF or other relevant agencies on an independent investigation into the matter. We are against impunity."


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