Ethiopian parents urge UN to evacuate students stuck in Tigray
What you need to know:
- Some students had tried to leave Tigray via the only remaining main route in the Afar region, but that exit was blocked after rebels launched offensives there a few days ago.
Thousands of parents and other relatives of university students stranded in the Tigray region on Friday staged protests in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, calling for their urgent and safe evacuation.
About 2,000 people from across the county rallied outside the UN-ECA office in Addis Ababa to push for the evacuation of at least 6,000 students, who had been attending different universities in Tigray.
This comes after the Ethiopian government last month withdrew its forces from the Tigray capital, Mekelle, and the region at large, in what it said was a “unilateral ceasefire,” but which the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) said was a major defeat.
TPLF forces recaptured Mekelle on June 28 after about eight months of fighting, in a major military operation that saw thousands of government soldiers killed and others captured.
Shortly after the rebel forces took control of the State capital, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government issued a unilateral ceasefire and withdrew the National Defence Force.
Tigray’s interim government, which was appointed by the central government, then fled to Addis Ababa as TPLF advanced towards Mekelle.
The unexpected withdrawal of the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) and the interim government left thousands of university students stuck in a region without a government.
The developments in the conflict have angered parents across the country, including many supporters of PM Abiy.
For the last three weeks, hundreds of them have demonstrated at the Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Ethiopia, and at the PM’s office, seeking the government's help and explanation on the circumstances and whereabouts of their children.
However, they say, nothing has been done so far.
On Friday, the protesters accused the United Nations of failing to address their protest concerns.
The ministry earlier said it was consulting stakeholders regarding the situation of students in the Tigray region, further asking parents for patience.
Some students had tried to leave Tigray via the only remaining main route in the Afar region, but that exit was blocked after rebels launched offensives there a few days ago.
Their only option now is to be airlifted from Tigray, which can only be done via a UN fleet that has resumed flight operations that were halted in June.
As UN resumes regular flights to Tigray twice a week, the Ethiopian parents are hoping their children will be evacuated.
No basic services
Meanwhile, Tigray is now under a telecommunications blackout and there are no banking, electricity and other basic services.
Ethiopia has frozen all bank accounts opened in Tigray, causing a shortage of cash across the region.
There are no phone and internet services in the region so parents have no way to communicate with their children and keep trying to reach them through the Red Cross.
Many say they sent their children to university because they had faith in the government, when it called for members of the public to join the institutions of higher learning, giving 100 percent security guarantees in Tigray.