Outgoing United States Ambassador to Ethiopia Michael Raynor called for humanitarian assistance programs to be accelerated in the country’s Tigray region.
As he prepares to finish his term next week, the ambassador said that after almost three months of the outbreak of fighting between Ethiopian government troops and the dissident Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), enough humanitarian assistance is not reaching the most vulnerable areas. “Much more needs to be done to ensure that humanitarian organizations, both Ethiopian and international, have full and secure access to the region to provide life-saving support to the millions of people who are suffering”, Raynor told local reporters in Addis Ababa on Monday.
Commenting about the aftermath of the fighting, Raynor noted: “I will say that we have been clear from the outset that we didn’t see, don’t see equivalence between the two sides,” Michael Raynor said. “One was a federal state with an obligation for territorial integrity, the safety of its people, and the other was an armed insurrection, illegitimate and very unfortunate.”
He said there is never clear aftermath of war. “It has always a messy aftermath and unfortunately that what our focus is, as the United States right now, in particular making sure people’s rights and safety are respected, ” the ambassador noted.
“Any government has a right and the obligation to defend itself against armed resurrection. I want to be clear on that point. My concern is and my government‘s concern I think is focused more on the current aftermath of that defense and what it is, unfortunately, appearing to be a prolonged situation of humanitarian need,” Raynor said.
Bringing up the U.S. assessment that neighboring Eritrea was helping Ethiopian federal forces in the Tigray conflict, the ambassador said: “We continue to be troubled by the activities of Eritrean actors in the Tigray region. We continue to call for an immediate halt to, and independent investigation of, all credible reports of atrocities, sexual violence, and human rights violations of all kinds in Tigray and other places, such as Metekel,” he said.
“This is a pivotal time for Ethiopia,” Raynor said. “What Ethiopia does in the coming months — particularly in promoting democracy, organizing free and fair credible elections this year, protecting basic human rights including freedom of the press and freedom of expression, resolving conflict and addressing ethnic tension, maintaining regional harmony and promoting economic opportunity — will impact this country’s prospects for generations to come.”
Before his arrival in Addis Ababa in September 2017, Raynor has held top diplomatic positions in Benin, Zimbabwe, and Djibouti.