UNSC to meet on Ethiopia under AoB today; meeting first ever request from A3 members APRIL

Addis Abeba – Following the briefing and consultations on Yemen, Security Council members will discuss the situation in Ethiopia under “any other business” today, a standing item in closed consultations. The meeting was requested by the A3 members of the Council (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya). Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths is expected to brief.

This is apparently the first time that a meeting on the situation in Ethiopia has been requested solely by the A3. The 8 November 2021 open briefing on Ethiopia, which was held under the agenda item “Peace and Security in Africa”, was requested by Mexico, Ireland and the “A3 plus one”–then comprising Kenya, Niger, Tunisia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The first meeting on the conflict in Ethiopia was held on 24 November 2020 under “any other business” at the request of the Council’s European members, who called for the meeting after the African members of the Council had withdrawn their initial request for a discussion, citing the need to give regional engagement more time to bear fruit.

Council members last met to discuss the situation in Ethiopia on 27 January, also under “any other business”. The meeting was requested by Albania, France, Ireland, Norway, the UK, and the US and had a humanitarian focus. It was held after the Tigrayan forces announced in December 2021 that they would withdraw to the borders of Tigray and declared an immediate cessation of hostilities, which was followed by a declaration by the Ethiopian government that its forces would not continue their counter-offensive within Tigray.

It seems that today’s meeting will focus on the humanitarian situation in northern Ethiopia in light of recent developments. On 24 March, the Ethiopian government declared “an indefinite humanitarian truce effective immediately”. The declaration came shortly after a visit of US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa David Satterfield to Addis Abeba. (On 12 April, Foreign Policy reported that Satterfield, who was appointed in January, is expected to leave his post, although the timeline for his departure is currently unclear.) In response to the federal government’s declaration, the Tigrayan leadership said on the same day that they are committed to the cessation of hostilities, provided that adequate and timely humanitarian assistance reaches Tigray. Several international interlocutors–including Secretary-General António Guterres, Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Workneh Gebeyehu–welcomed the truce.

On 1 and 2 April, a humanitarian convoy consisting of 20 trucks of food and nutrition supplies and one fuel tanker entered the territory controlled by Tigrayan forces. While humanitarian supplies have been reaching Tigray by air, this was the first time since mid-December 2021 that aid arrived to the region by road. In a statement on 6 April, Guterres welcomed the trucks’ arrival to Tigray and Afar and called on “all parties to keep the momentum and to follow through on their commitments to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance to all people in need”. He further reiterated previous calls for commercial access and the restoration of public services in Tigray, including telecommunications, electricity and banking.

Griffiths is expected to provide an update on the humanitarian situation in northern Ethiopia. The latest OCHA Situation Report, issued on 7 April, says that airlifted supplies “cannot fill in the significant gap between the needs on the ground and the supplies delivered”. It notes that, as at 4 April, the total amount of medical and nutrition supplies airlifted since 24 January is equivalent to only 11 trucks of humanitarian supplies. (According to the UN, around 100 trucks per day are required to meet humanitarian needs in Tigray.) The report says that only eight percent of the cash needed for humanitarian operations and programs has entered Tigray since 12 July 2021. Council members may be interested in Griffiths’ assessment of the challenges of humanitarian access to Tigray.

on 12 April, the Tigrayan leadership announced the withdrawal of their forces from Erebti, in the Afar region, adding that they expect to see immediate improvements in humanitarian access. It is possible that this step may allow a new humanitarian convoy to travel to Tigray. In January, the Tigrayan leadership stated that, despite the ceasefire, they were forced “to take robust actions” in Afar in response to attacks from an armed entity, which they identified as the “Red Sea Afar Force”, claiming that this group is “organized by [President of the Afar region] Awol Arba’s special police forces along with the Eritrean government”.

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