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United Nations: Tigray conflict may exacerbate instability in Ethiopia

Mark Lowcock, the United Nations humanitarian and emergency relief coordinator, said the conflict in the Ethiopian province of Tigray could destabilize the wider country in the country, warning of a worsening of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the north.

In remarks Lowcock made during a closed online briefing to the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, he said that hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans had not received assistance and that the United Nations was unable to fully assess the situation because it did not have the ability to enter the territory freely.

He said that there have been reports of increased insecurity elsewhere, which may be due to the vacuum created by the redeployment of forces and sending them to Tigray, noting that the United Nations is concerned about the possibility of instability on a larger scale in the country and the region.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister Abi Ahmed ordered air strikes and a ground attack on the fourth of November on the region’s rulers, who are from the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front, to challenge his powers. The Abi Federal Army expelled the front from Maqli, the provincial capital, but the fighting is still ongoing on a limited scale.

Thousands are believed to have died and 950,000 have fled their homes since the fighting began in the province, which has a population of more than five million.

Lowcock said the Abiy government controls between 60 percent and 80 percent of Tigrayans, but it does not have complete control over the Amharic and Eritrean forces operating there either.

Dozens of witnesses say that Eritrean forces are in Tigray to support the Ethiopian forces, but the two countries deny this.

The United Nations has received reports that the police are operating at a fraction of their previous capacity, and Lowcock stressed that if protection and aid are not quickly increased, the humanitarian situation will deteriorate.

He said there were troubling charges of gender-based sexual violence.

Several senior UN officials visited the country recently to urge easier entry to the region. Lowcock said he hoped for tangible progress in the coming days to allow for an increase in aid.

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