August 29, (THEWILL) – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned the Security Council the conflict in Ethiopia has spread beyond the Tigray region and “a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding before our eyes”.
“Inflammatory rhetoric and ethnic profiling are tearing apart the social fabric of the country,” he told the 15-member council on Thursday. “All parties must immediately end hostilities without preconditions and seize that opportunity to negotiate a lasting ceasefire.”
Guterres said more than two million people have been displaced from their homes and millions more are in immediate need of life-saving humanitarian assistance – including food, water, shelter and healthcare.
“The human price of this war is mounting by the day … At least 400,000 people are living in famine-like conditions,” the UN chief said. Meanwhile, Debretsion Gebremichael, leader of Tigray forces that the government attacked in November, expressed his group’s commitment to a “negotiated end” to the nine-month war.
In a letter to Guterres, Debretsion said the Tigray side requires an impartial mediator, among other conditions. “The aim is to exterminate Tigrayans by starving them to death,” his letter alleged.
He warned the African Union, whose headquarters is in Ethiopia, “cannot provide any solution to the war” that the continental body “endorsed” early in the fighting. That complicates the AU initiative announced on Thursday to appoint former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo as its special representative to the Horn of Africa.
The prospect for talks between Ethiopia’s government and the Tigrayan leadership, which dominated the national government for 27 years before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office, remains deeply challenging.
Ethiopia’s government earlier this year declared the Tigray People’s Liberation Front a “terrorist group”. The United States told Thursday’s meeting the government has “not responded positively” to calls for talks.