Prime minister asks security forces to take orders from his office
MOGADISHU, Dec 27 (Reuters) – Somalia’s president said on Monday he had suspended the prime minister for suspected corruption, a move the prime minister described as a coup attempt, escalating a power struggle between the two leaders.
The raging, months-long dispute is widely seen as distracting the government of the Horn of Africa country from fighting an Islamist insurgency.
It will also raise concerns about the prospect of renewed clashes between factions in the security forces allied to each side.
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President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed accused Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble of stealing land owned by the Somali National Army (SNA) and of interfering with a defence ministry investigation.
In response, Roble said the move was unconstitutional and aimed at derailing an ongoing election. He also ordered the security forces to start taking orders from him, instead of the president.
The steps taken by Mohamed “were an open coup attempt against the government and the national constitution”, Roble said in a statement posted on the Facebook page of Somalia state news agency SONNA.
“The aim of the illegal, crooked steps … is to derail the election and illegally remain in office.”
Somalia begun holding parliamentary elections on Nov. 1 which were supposed to be completed by Dec. 24 but only a few of the 275 representatives have been elected read more
In separate tweets, the U.S. and U.K embassies urged both sides to de-escalate and to refrain from violence.
Monday’s developments were the latest round in a long-running dispute between the two leaders.
Mohamed also said he had also removed the commander of marine forces, General Abdihamid Mohamed Dirir, from office while a similar investigation was being carried out.
Dirir was not immediately available for comment.
Assistant Information Minister Abdirahman Yusuf Omar Adala said earlier on Monday the deployment of security forces around Roble’s office would not prevent Roble from carrying out his duties.
Mohamed and Roble on Sunday each accused the other of holding up the parliamentary elections in Somalia, a country riven by militant attacks and clan rivalries.
In September, Mohamed suspended Roble’s power to hire and fire officials in a dispute nominally over a murder investigation that generated months of tension. read more
Somalia, which has had only limited central government since the civil war began in 1991, is trying to reconstruct itself with the help of the United Nations.
It had intended to hold its first direct elections in more than three decades this year amid chronic instability.
Mohamed and Roble first clashed in April, when the president unilaterally extended his four-year term by two years, prompting army factions loyal to each man to briefly seize rival positions in the capital, Mogadishu.
The confrontation was resolved when the president put Roble in charge of security and organising delayed legislative and presidential elections and parliament reversed the presidential term extension.
According to Somalia’s indirect electoral process, regional councils are meant to choose a senate. Clan elders are then meant to pick members of the lower house, which then picks a new president at a date not yet fixed.
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Writing by James Macharia Chege and George Obulutsa; Editing by Elias Biryabarema and Nick Macfie
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Secret meetings with a dictator. Clandestine troop movements. Months of quiet preparation for a war that was supposed to be swift and bloodless.
New evidence shows that Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, had been planning a military campaign in the northern Tigray region for months before war erupted one year ago, setting off a cascade of destruction and ethnic violence that has engulfed Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country.
Mr. Abiy, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate seen recently in fatigues commanding troops on the battlefront, insists that war was foisted upon him — that ethnic Tigrayan fighters fired the first shots in November 2020 when they attacked a federal military base in Tigray, slaughtering soldiers in their beds. That account has become an article of faith for Mr. Abiy and his supporters.
In fact, it was a war of choice for Mr. Abiy — one with wheels set in motion even before the Nobel Peace Prize win in 2019 that turned him, for a time, into a global icon of nonviolence.
Tigrayans routed the Ethiopian troops and their Eritrean allies over the summer and last month came within 160 miles of the capital, Addis Ababa — prompting Mr. Abiy to declare a state of emergency.
Recently, the pendulum has swung back, with government forces retaking two strategic towns that had been captured by the Tigrayans — the latest twist in a conflict that has already cost tens of thousands of lives and pushed hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions.
Analysts say that Mr. Abiy’s journey from peacemaker to battlefield commander is a cautionary tale of how the West, desperate to find a new hero in Africa, got this leader spectacularly wrong.
“The West needs to make up for its mistakes in Ethiopia,” said Alex Rondos, formerly the European Union’s top diplomat in the Horn of Africa. “It misjudged Abiy. It empowered Isaias. Now the issue is whether a country of 110 million people can be prevented from unraveling.”
The Nobel Committee Takes a Chance
Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2019, Mr. Abiy, a former soldier, drew on his own experience to eloquently capture the horror of conflict.
his first months in power, Mr. Abiy, then 41, freed political prisoners, unshackled the press and promised free elections in Ethiopia. His peace deal with Eritrea, a pariah state, was a political moonshot for the strife-torn Horn of Africa region.
Even so, the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee knew it was taking on a chance on Mr. Abiy, said Henrik Urdal of Peace Research Institute Oslo, which analyzes the committee’s decisions.
announced to applause that he was nominating Mr. Abiy for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Back in Sweden, Dr. Kontie persuaded Anders Österberg, a parliamentarian from a low-income Stockholm district with a large immigrant population, to join his cause. Mr. Österberg traveled to Ethiopia, met with Mr. Abiy and was impressed.
at least two nominations for Mr. Abiy that year.
In selecting Mr. Abiy, the Nobel Committee hoped to encourage him further down the path of democratic reforms, Mr. Urdal said.
Even then, though, there were signs that Mr. Abiy’s peace deal wasn’t all it seemed.
reopened borders, were rolled back or reversed in a matter of months. Promised trade pacts failed to materialize, and there was little concrete cooperation, the Ethiopian officials said.
Eritrea’s spies, however, gained an edge. Ethiopian intelligence detected an influx of Eritrean agents, some posing as refugees, who gathered information about Ethiopia’s military capabilities, a senior Ethiopian security official said.
The Eritreans were particularly interested in Tigray, he said.
Mr. Isaias had a long and bitter grudge against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which dominated Ethiopia for nearly three decades until Mr. Abiy came to power in 2018. He blamed Tigrayan leaders for the fierce border war of 1998 to 2000 between Ethiopia and Eritrea, a former province of Ethiopia, in which as many as 100,000 people were killed. He also blamed them for Eritrea’s painful international isolation, including United Nations sanctions.
For Mr. Abiy, it was more complicated.
He served in the T.P.L.F.-dominated governing coalition for eight years and was made a minister in 2015. But as an ethnic Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, he never felt fully accepted by Tigrayans and suffered numerous humiliations, former officials and friends said.
visited the ancient Amhara city of Gondar in November 2018, chanting, “Isaias, Isaias, Isaias!”
Later, a troupe of Eritrean singers and dancers visited Amhara. But the delegation included Eritrea’s spy chief, Abraha Kassa, who used the trip to meet with Amhara security leaders, the senior Ethiopian official said. Eritrea later agreed to train 60,000 troops from the Amhara Special Forces, a paramilitary unit that later deployed to Tigray.
advocated an effective merger of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti — a suggestion that dismayed Ethiopian officials who saw it as straight from the playbook of Mr. Isaias.
Aides also saw the remarks as further proof of Mr. Abiy’s impulsive tendencies, leading them to cancel his news conference during the Nobel ceremonies in Oslo 10 months later.
Irreconcilable Visions Lead to War
Mr. Abiy viewed the Tigrayans as a threat to his authority — perhaps even his life — from his first days in power.
The Tigrayans had preferred another candidate as prime minister, and Mr. Abiy told friends he feared Tigrayan security officials were trying to assassinate him, an acquaintance said.
At the prime minister’s residence, soldiers were ordered to stand guard on every floor. Mr. Abiy purged ethnic Tigrayans from his security detail and created the Republican Guard, a handpicked unit under his direct control, whose troops were sent for training to the United Arab Emirates — a powerful new ally also close to Mr. Isaias, a former Ethiopian official said.
The unexplained killing of the Ethiopian military chief, Gen. Seare Mekonnen, an ethnic Tigrayan who was shot dead by a bodyguard in June 2019, heightened tensions.
violent clashes between police officers and protesters erupted across the Oromia region, culminating in the death in June 2020 of a popular singer.
publicly appealed to both sides to halt “provocative military deployments.” The next evening, Tigrayan forces attacked an Ethiopian military base, calling it a pre-emptive strike.
Eritrean soldiers flooded into Tigray from the north. Amhara Special Forces arrived from the south. Mr. Abiy fired General Adem and announced a “law enforcement operation”in Tigray.
Ethiopia’s ruinous civil war was underway.
A New York Times reporter contributed reporting from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
NAIROBI, Kenya — The family was startled awake by a loud bang in the middle of the night on the gate of their home on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
Police officers barged in without a warrant, ransacking the living room and looking under the beds. They seized three members of the family, among them a 76-year-old, one-legged amputee yanked from bed while his sons begged to go in his place.
“They showed him no mercy even after he cried, ‘I am disabled and diabetic,’” said the man’s nephew, Kirubel, who would give only his first name for fear of reprisals.
The family is among hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of Ethiopians belonging to the Tigrayan ethnic group who have been rounded up and detained in the capital and beyond in recent weeks.
routed the Ethiopian army in Tigray, swept south, recently captured two strategic towns and threatened to advance toward the capital.
On Nov. 2, the government declared a state of emergency, and the resulting roundups have swept up anyone of Tigrayan descent, many of whom had no ties to the rebels or even affinity for them. They were not just young men and women, but also mothers with children and the elderly, according to human rights advocates and interviews with nearly a dozen family members and friends of detainees.
They have been seized off the streets, in their homes and even in workplaces — including banks, schools and shopping centers — and taken to overcrowded cells in police stations and detention facilities.
Tigrayans have been targeted by the police based on a mix of hints: their surnames, details listed on identification cards and drivers licenses, even the way they speakAmharic, the national language of Ethiopia.
said Tuesday through a spokeswoman. “Its provisions are extremely broad, with vague prohibitions going as far as encompassing ‘indirect moral’ support for what the government has labeled ‘terrorist groups.’”
The ethnically motivated detentions come amid a significant rise in online hate speech, which is only adding fuel to the civil war tearing apart Africa’s second-most populous nation. Reports of massacres, ethnic cleansing and widespread sexual assault by all sides in the conflict have undermined the vision of Ethiopian unity that Mr. Abiy, the prime minister and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, promised when he rose to power more than three years ago.
The war between Ethiopian federal forces and their allies and Tigrayan rebel fighters has left thousands of people dead, at least 400,000 living in famine-like conditions and millions displaced. It risks engulfing the whole of Ethiopia and the wider Horn of Africa.
Mr. Abiy’s determination to prosecute the war seems to have been only hardened by economic threats from the Biden administration, which has imposed sanctions on his military allies in neighboring Eritrea and suspended Ethiopia from duty-free access to the U.S. market.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who is traveling to Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal this week, has expressed worry that Ethiopia could “implode.”
defend the capital “with our blood” even as African and Western envoys sought to broker a cease-fire.
Police officials have defended the arrests, saying they were seizing supporters of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the country’s former dominant party, which Ethiopia now classifies as a terrorist organization.
Activists, however, say the state of emergency provisions are so nebulous that they give security officials unfettered latitude. The provisions allow for the search of any person’s home or their arrest without a warrant “upon reasonable suspicion” that they cooperate with terrorist groups.
Laetitia Bader, the Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said “the state of emergency is legitimizing and legalizing unlawful practices” and creating “a real climate of fear.”
Many ethnic Tigrayans say they now fear leaving home. Almost all those who agreed to be interviewed declined to be identified by name for fear that they might be arrested or face retaliation.
began a military campaign in the country’s northern Tigray region, hoping to vanquish the Tigray People’s Liberation Front — his most troublesome political foe.
Rebels turned the tide. Despite Mr. Abiy’s promise of a swift campaign, the Ethiopian military suffered a major defeat in June when it was forced to withdraw from Tigray. Now the fighting is rapidly moving south.
Tigrayan forces close in. In late October, Tigrayan rebels captured two towns near Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital. The government declared a state of emergency and called on citizens to arm themselves.
No end in sight. President Biden has threatened to impose sanctions on the country to coax the sides to the negotiating table, but the war’s current trajectory could cause the collapse of Ethiopia.
In Addis Ababa, security officers have demanded that landlords identify Tigrayan tenants. In one secondary school, a teacher said four Tigrayan teachers had been taken into custody as they ate lunch after officers arrived with a letter from the intelligence service containing their names.
A merchant in Addis Ababa, 38, was picked up by security officers after he opened his mobile phone accessories shop. A nearby shop owner phoned that news to the seized merchant’s wife, who said she left their two children with a neighbor and rushed to the shop — only to find it closed and her husband gone.
After a three-day search, the wife said, she found her husband in a crowded Addis Ababa detention facility with no proper bedding or food.
In Addis Ababa, rights groups say, police stations are so full of detainees that the authorities have moved the overflow to heavily guarded makeshift facilities, among them youth recreation centers, warehouses and one major prison. With no access to lawyers, some relatives of detainees say they will not approach these facilities, fearful they could be arrested too.
whistle-blower, have long accused Facebook of failing to moderate hateful incitement speech. With pressure mounting, Facebook this month deleted a post by Mr. Abiy urging citizens to “bury” the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
Twitter also disabled its Trends section in Ethiopia, citing “the risks of coordination that could incite violence or cause harm.”
Timnit Gebru, an Ethiopian-born American computer scientist who spotted and reported some of the posts on Facebook, said the measures were insufficient and amounted to “a game of whack-a-mole.”
For now, many Tigrayans worry that it’s only a matter of time before they are seized. One businessman, who paid a $400 bribe for his release, said officers had told him they would come for him again.
It’s a fate Kirubel said he worried about as his disabled uncle and cousins remained detained.
“My children worry that I will not come back when I leave the house,” he said. “Everyone is afraid.”
Employees of The New York Times contributed reporting from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Military forces detained Sudan’s prime minister early on Monday in an apparent coup that endangered the northeast African nation’s fragile transition to democracy from authoritarian rule.
The Sudanese Ministry of Culture and Information said in a Facebook post that the joint military forces had placed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok under house arrest and pressured him to release a “pro-coup statement.” After refusing to “endorse the coup,” the ministry said, Mr. Hamdok was then moved to “an unknown location.”
The military also detained several top cabinet members and civilian members of the Transitional Sovereignty Council, the ministry said.
The detentions came about one month after the authorities said they had thwarted a coup attempt by loyalists of the deposed dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
As news of the arrests spread, protesters filled the streets of the capital, Khartoum, early Monday. Television stations showed people burning tires in Khartoum, with plumes of smoke filling the skies. The information ministry also said that internet connections had been cut and that the military had closed bridges.
The possibility of a coup has haunted the country’s transitional government since 2019, when Mr. al-Bashir was overthrown, and Sudan has been rocked by protests from two factions. One side had helped topple Mr. al-Bashir after widespread mass protests, and the other backs a military government.
On Monday, pro-democracy demonstrators chanted: “The people are stronger. Retreat is impossible.” Some clapped, and the procession of demonstrators grew larger.
Relations between the leaders of the transitional government, which is made up of civilian and military officials, have been strained. In recent days, pro-military protesters have demanded the dissolution of the transitional cabinet, a step many pro-democracy groups have denounced as setting the stage for a coup.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, the main pro-democratic political group, had warned on social media that the military was preparing to seize power. The association urged residents on Monday to take to the streets to resist what they called a “military coup.”
“The revolution is a revolution of the people,” the group, which is made up of doctors, engineers and lawyers organizations, said in a Facebook post. “Power and wealth belongs to the people. No to a military coup.”
As the protests intensified on Monday, NetBlocks, an internet monitoring organization, said there had been a “significant disruption” to internet services affecting cellphone and some fixed lines in the country. That disruption, it said, “is likely to limit the free flow of information online and news coverage of incidents on the ground.”
For months, the country has been wracked by political uncertainty and the challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic, and Sudan’s economy is in a precarious state, with growing unemployment and rising food and commodity prices nationwide.
The army chief of staff had been expected to hand over leadership of the transitional cabinet to Mr. Hamdok in November, which would have given him a largely ceremonial post, but one that would have signified full civilian control of Sudan for the first time in decades.
On Saturday local time, Jeffrey Feltman, the United States special envoy for the Horn of Africa, met with the Sudanese prime minister and reiterated the Biden administration’s support for a civilian democratic transition.
On Monday, Mr. Feltman said the United States was “deeply alarmed at reports of a military takeover of the transitional government.”
“This would contravene the Constitutional Declaration and the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people and is utterly unacceptable,” Mr. Feltman said in a statement. “As we have said repeatedly, any changes to the transitional government by force puts at risk U.S. assistance.”
After the detentions on Monday, state television played national patriotic songs, and local news reports said that Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the sovereignty council, was expected to make a statement about the unfolding events.
After President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for nearly 30 years, was ousted in a coup in 2019, the country began taking tenuous steps toward democracy, but has been plagued with unrest and an attempted military takeover.
His government was replaced by an 11-member sovereign council consisting of six civilians and five military leaders, who were given the task of preparing the country for elections after a three-year transition period.
The council appointed Abdalla Hamdok, an economist who has held several United Nations positions, as prime minister, and his government immediately embarked on an ambitious program designed to placate pro-democracy demonstrators and rejoin the international community.
Mr. Hamdok’s government eased decades of strict Islamist policies, scrapping an apostasy law and abolishing the use of public flogging. It also undertook a political and economic overhaul. It revived talks with rebel groups, and began investigations into the bloody suppression of the Darfur region under Mr. al-Bashir, promising to prosecute and possibly hand over to the International Criminal Court those wanted for war crimes there.
But stubborn obstacles to progress remained, including the coronavirus pandemic, stagnant economic growth and continued violence in Darfur. Mr. Hamdok survived an assassination attempt, and concerns of a coup swirled when the country entered lockdown last year to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Last month Sudanese authorities said they had thwarted an attempted coup by loyalists of Mr. al-Bashir. Soldiers had tried to seize control of a state media building in the city of Omdurman, across the Nile from the capital, Khartoum, but they were stopped and arrested.
Mr. Hamdok blamed the failed coup on Bashir loyalists, both military and civilian, and described it as a near miss for the country’s fragile democratic transition.
The army chief of staff had been expected to hand over leadership of the sovereign council next month to Mr. Hamdok — a largely ceremonial post, but also one that signifies full civilian control of Sudan for the first time in decades.
Three years ago Sudanese protestersprotested against the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who had ruled the country for three decades since a 1989 coup.
Mr. al-Bashir had led his country through disastrous wars and famine, but it was anger over the rising price of bread that incited the first protests in December of 2018. After nearly four months of demonstrations and dozens of deaths at the hands of security forces, Mr. al-Bashir was forced from power in April 2019.
He had ruled Sudan longer than any other leader since the country gained independence in 1956, and was seen as a pariah in much of the world. He hosted Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, leading to American sanctions, and in 1998 an American cruise missile struck a factory in Khartoum for its alleged links to Al Qaeda.
Mr. al-Bashir presided over a ruinous 21-year war in southern Sudan, where his forces pushed barrel bombs from planes onto remote villages. The country ultimately divided into two parts in 2011, when South Sudan gained independence. But Mr. al-Bashir kept fighting brutal conflicts with rebels in other parts of Sudan.
In addition, he sent thousands of Sudanese soldiers to fight outside the country, including in the civil war in Yemen.
Mr. al-Bashir, 77, has been imprisoned since his ouster. He has been wanted by the international court in The Hague since 2009 over atrocities committed by his government in Darfur, where at least 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million displaced in a war from 2003 to 2008, the United Nations estimates.
The international court has been pressing Sudan’s transitional government, which took over after Mr. al-Bashir was deposed, to hand him over along with other leaders accused of crimes in Darfur.
Sudanese courts convicted Mr. al-Bashir of money laundering and corruption charges in late 2019 and sentenced him to two years in detention. He still faces charges related to the 1989 coup, and could be sentenced to death or life imprisonment if he is convicted.
The U.S. envoy for the Horn of Africa was in Sudan as recently as Saturday, urging the military and the civilian leadership to continue the country’s planned transition to democracy as protests broke out.
Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, met in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on Saturday. They were joined by other leaders, including Lt.-Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who heads the military and the sovereignty council, and Gen. Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, another senior military member of the council.
Mr. Feltman “emphasized U.S. support for a civilian democratic transition in accordance with the expressed wishes of Sudan’s people,” the American Embassy in Khartoum said on Twitter. He called on all parties to stick by the constitutional declaration that the military and opposition signed after Mr. al-Bashir’s ouster and a peace agreement reached last year by the government and rebel groups.
Sudan spent the better part of three decades isolated from the world, as its former leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir housed terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, engaged in bloody wars with his own people and squandered revenue from oil production.
Since Mr. al-Bashir was ousted in 2019, the leadership of the nation, part civilian and part military, has made overtures to Israel, the United States and the international criminal court in The Hague, where its former leader is wanted. The country’s hope was that by normalizing relations with former antagonists it could lure badly needed investment.
In 2011, South Sudan split from Sudan and formed it own nation, taking with it claims to more than 90 percent of the region’s oil reserves. That was a blow to Sudan’s economy, already beleaguered by sanctions.
After the new government formed in 2019, it began taking steps to improve foreign ties.
The United States, which lifted many sanctions on Sudan in 2017, took the country off the list of nations that support terrorism last year. President Trump had announced the decision, saying the removal was made in exchange for a $335 million compensation payment to the victims of the 1998 Qaeda attacks on American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
That deal was made possible after Sudan agreed to recognize Israel, part of a Trump administration effort to pressure Arab nations to normalize relations with the country. Sudan’s move, however, appeared short of actually establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel.
Sudan’s cabinet also voted in August to ratify the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the criminal court, and said it had agreed to extradite Mr. al-Bashir.
But his extradition remains a contentious issue in Sudan, and could now be in serious doubt. Some of the country’s military leaders were implicated along with Mr. al-Bashir in the atrocities in Darfur, a western region. If he were to be extradited, he might give evidence that could expose Sudan’s military leaders to prosecution.
Famine is now knocking on the door of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where a civil war that erupted last year has drastically cut the food supply and prevented relief workers from helping the hungry, the top U.N. humanitarian official has warned.
In a confidential note to the United Nations Security Council, the official, Mark Lowcock, the under secretary general for humanitarian affairs, said sections of Tigray, a region of more than 5 million people, are now one step from famine — in part because the government has obstructed aid shipments.
The note, seen by The New York Times, was submitted Tuesday under a Security Council resolution requiring such notification when conflicts cause famine and widespread food insecurity.
“These circumstances now arise in the Tigray region of Northern Ethiopia,” Mr. Lowcock said in the note. While below-average rain, locusts and the Covid-19 pandemic have all contributed to food scarcity, he said, “the scale of the food crisis Tigray faces today is a clear result of the conflict and the behavior of the parties.”
since last November. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and neighboring Eritrea ordered their military forces into the region to crush Mr. Abiy’s political rivals and strengthen his control.
What Mr. Abiy, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, predicted would be a short operation has instead become a quagmire that threatens to destabilize the Horn of Africa. Ethiopian and Eritrean troops have been accused of ethnic cleansing, massacres and others atrocities in Tigray that amount to war crimes.
While the United Nations and international relief organizations have achieved some cooperation from the Ethiopian authorities in gaining access to deprived areas of Tigray, Mr. Lowcock said in his note, such cooperation has deteriorated in recent months. “Humanitarian operations are being attacked, obstructed or delayed in delivering lifesaving assistance,” he wrote, and at least eight aid workers have been killed.
“As a result of impediments and the effect of restrictions, not nearly enough support is being provided,” he wrote. He urged Security Council members “to take any steps possible to prevent a famine from occurring.”
His warning was echoed by Samantha Power, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, the main U.S. government provider of humanitarian assistance to needy countries. Ms. Power, a former American ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement that one of the aid workers killed had worked for the agency she now runs.
took the unusual step of penalizing Ethiopia over growing American exasperation with Mr. Abiy’s actions in Tigray. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced visa restrictions on officials linked to the conflict, preventing their travel to the United States.
Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry reacted angrily, calling the restrictions “extremely regrettable” and suggesting they would “seriously undermine this longstanding and important bilateral relationship.”
NAIROBI, Kenya — Growing American frustration over the war in the Tigray region of Ethiopia spilled over into an open confrontation on Monday when Ethiopian officials lashed out at Washington over new restrictions including aid cuts and a ban on some Ethiopians traveling to the United States.
The restrictions, announced by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Sunday, amount to an unusual step against a key African ally, and a pointed rebuke to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize winner whose troops and allies have been accused of ethnic cleansing, massacres and others atrocities that could amount to war crimes.
Despite “significant diplomatic engagement,” Mr. Blinken said in a statement, “the parties to the conflict in Tigray have taken no meaningful steps to end hostilities or pursue a peaceful resolution of the political crisis.”
American visa restrictions will apply to all actors in the Tigray conflict, Mr. Blinken said, including current and former Ethiopian and Eritrean officials, ethnic Amhara militias and Tigrayan rebels.
a statement on Monday, Ethiopia’s foreign affairs ministry reacted with an expression of regret and what appeared to be thinly veiled threats. It accused the United States of meddling in its internal affairs and trying to overshadow national elections scheduled for June 21.
And it said that Ethiopia could be “forced to reassess its relations with the United States, which might have implications beyond our bilateral relationship.”
gave $923 million, according to USAID, although the vast majority of that money was for humanitarian purposes — health care, food aid, education and democracy support — that will not be hit by the new measures.
The United States had already suspended $23 million in security aid to Ethiopia. Officials say the new measures will preclude any American arms sales to Ethiopia, although much of the country’s weapons come from Russia.
Still, there could be other impacts. Western diplomats say the United States could block international funding to Ethiopia from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund — integral to Mr. Abiy’s economic plans.
dispatched by President Biden in March, and Jeffrey Feltman, the recently appointed Horn of Africa envoy.
American officials worry that the growing chaos in Tigray could destabilize the entire Horn of Africa region, or jeopardize efforts to mediate a high-stakes dispute with Egypt over the massive hydroelectric dam that Ethiopia is building on the Nile.
The growing humanitarian crisis, including the threat of a famine within months, is also driving the sense of urgency.
Those responsible for the Tigray crisis “should anticipate further actions from the United States and the international community,” Mr. Blinken said. “We call on other governments to join is taking these measures.”