Letter to the editor of DEVEX

We have come across an article issued by your media outlet under the title “EU envoy says Ethiopia in ‘denial’ over Tigray” dated 23 February 2021, which was based on the briefing given by the Finnish Foreign Minister, H.E. Mr. Pekka Haavisto, on the current situation in Tigray region of Ethiopia after his visit to Ethiopia on behalf of the HR\VP of the European Commission. It is regrettable that the statement and facts given by Mr. Pekka Haavisto about the situation in Ethiopia do not reflect the reality on the ground and contain unsubstantiated claims. Therefore, the Embassy of Ethiopia would like to set the record straight to the esteemed readership by stating the following facts about the situation in Ethiopia particularly in Tigray.
The Finnish Foreign Minister, during his visit to Ethiopia in mid- February, was accorded the opportunity to be briefed on the situation in Tigray by relevant higher government officials of Ethiopia, including with H.E. the Prime Minister. The Government of Ethiopia was also more than willing to facilitate travel to the region for the Foreign Minister to have first-hand account of the situation in Tigray region. However, Minister Haavisto, showed no interest to travel to the region, but instead resorted to visit the refugee camp in neighboring Sudan and extrapolate grossly inadequate information to provide unfounded claims that put unnecessary pressure on the Government of Ethiopia.
The assertion made by the Minister stating that “When it comes to the conflict in northern Ethiopia, the federal government in Addis Ababa has no common understanding of events and is in “denial” over the scale of the problem…” does not reflect, by any means whatsoever, the tangible progress being registered thus far. As has been verified by many including humanitarian aid providers on the ground, the fact is that so far 3.5 million people have benefitted from the humanitarian aid distributed in 34 woredas/districts out of 36 in the region.
The Minister’s inaccurate narrative does not also go along with the testimonies given by officials from different international humanitarian organizations operating in the region. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, who also travelled to Ethiopia this month to assess the situation in Tigray, has alluded that “… we have also established a system of coordination between civilian organizations like ours [and] the military (the Ethiopian military in the Tigray region) … all these foundations now will allow for this humanitarian operation to speed up and reach the people in need, who are in the millions.” Similarly, recent reports from UN agencies such as WFP and UNOCHA, indicated that there is an improved access for humanitarian supplies and personnel and the process of assessing, distributing, and delivering food items has continued.
The Foreign Minister’s assertion that “… the government themselves do not have a clear picture, particularly areas controlled by Eritreans, probably areas controlled by Amhara militias,” is what one would not expect from a person in the high office and representing the European Union, as there was no such confusion with regards to such critical matter of the control of the government of its own territory. Such statement is by far an erroneous claim and at best a condescending view towards Ethiopia. Ethiopia with a long history of statehood and as a sovereign country is capable of handling its affairs. It would have been easier for the distinguished Minister to take note of the facts on the ground that the Tigray operation is over on the 28th of November, whilst like in any conflict some remnants of TPLF leadership and militias out of the loop are out there and are being dealt with. It seems that he did not get his facts right. If there is any concern from any corner what Ethiopia appreciates is not a patronizing attitude, but a constructive engagement.

H.E. Ambassador Hirut Zemene
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to Belgium, Luxembourg and EU Institutions