UN says half of drivers detained in Ethiopia released

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Half of the World Food Program’s drivers who were arrested in Ethiopia last week have been released, a UN spokesman said on Monday.

“I can say, the 10 UN staff members that we said were detained last Friday are still detained. However, a little bit of good news that, regarding the contracted drivers, we’ve been informed that 34 have been released, while 36 of them are still detained,” UN spokesman Farhan Haq said during a press conference.

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“These are not UN staff but subcontractors, but we’re still very happy that any of them have… that about half of those held over the past few days have been let go,” he added.

“It’s good that the drivers have been released, but we certainly want to see more happen. We want to see all of the drivers released, as well as, of course, all of our staff, but in addition to that, we want to see that the convoys that are sent into places like Tigray can actually get to their intended destination” Haq said.

The UN drivers were arrested after Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government declared a state of emergency early November as Tigrayan forces and their allies threatened to march on the capital Addis Ababa.

The state of emergency allows the arbitrary detention of anyone the authorities deem to be supporting “terrorist groups.” Thousands of Tigrayans have been detained since the announcement of the state of emergency.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) formed an alliance with eight other anti-government factions to oust Abiy’s government, the latest development in a year-long war that has claimed the lives of thousands and displaced more than two million people.

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