Rebels in Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region have been looting aid warehouses, the US aid agency said Tuesday, calling the alleged thefts a “great concern for humanitarians.”
“We know for a fact... that the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front), every town they’ve gone into they looted the warehouses, they’ve looted trucks, they’ve caused a great deal of destruction in all the villages they visited and it’s a great concern for humanitarians,” Sean Jones, head of the USAID mission in Ethiopia, told Ethiopian state television EBC.
“I do believe that TPLF has been very opportunistic. Maybe they are stealing from citizens, we don’t have proof of this. What we do have proof of is that several of our warehouses have been looted and completely emptied in the areas, particularly Amhara, the TPLF soldiers have gone into,” he said.
The TPLF could not immediately be reached for comment.
Northern Ethiopia has been wracked by violence since November, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray to topple the TPLF, the regional ruling party, saying the move came in response to attacks on army camps.
The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner promised a swift victory, but the war has instead dragged on for months, triggering a humanitarian crisis in Tigray, while the rebels have pushed into the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions.
Abiy rejected early appeals from high-level envoys from the AU for talks with Tigrayan leaders, sticking to his line that the conflict is a limited “law and order” operation.
On Thursday, the bloc announced the appointment of Nigerian former president Olusegun Obasanjo as a high representative for the Horn of Africa, saying it was part of a “drive to promote peace, security, stability & political dialogue”.
But on Sunday, TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda dismissed the initiative, saying: “We are hard pressed to know... how people would reasonably expect a constructive role from an institution that has given partiality a very bad name.”