The Ethiopian government has imposed an air travel ban for passengers flying via the Ethiopian Airlines from Mekelle, capital of the northern Tigray region to Addis Ababa, credible sources told The East African Daily.
The new travel restriction comes a little over one week after the Ethiopian Airlines resumed passenger flight operations to the war-torn Tigray region in over two years.
Any passenger was allowed to travel between Mekelle and Addis since commercial flights resumed on 28 December following the November peace deal signed between Tigray regional authorities and the federal government of Ethiopia.
Amidst the fragile peace deal that allowed restoration to long halted basic services, a travel ban however is now imposed against Tigrayan youth intending to fly out of the region.
Per the new travel restrictions, only the elderly, children and patients with medical referral letters can only fly out of Tigray to the Ethiopian capital.
Travelers who already bought round tickets from Addis will also have access to return back.
The unexpected ban means the hundreds if not thousands of Tigrayan youths who have recently flown to Tigray via Ethiopian Airlines to reunite with their families won’t be able to return back to Addis Ababa if they don’t have a round ticket.
The travel ban started during the weekend when dozens of Tigrayan youth who had bought air tickets in advance went to Mekele Airport to fly but only to be denied boarding access by the Ethiopian Airlines.
According to eyewitnesses, a large number of passengers who were denied boarding were seen sitting at the airport kept waiting for hours.
It is not yet clear why such travel ban – which only targeted the Tigrayan youth – was imposed after an AU brokered peace deal that ended a two-year bloody conflict which has claimed over half a million people.
But when asked for reasons on bans why, security guards at Mekelle Alula Abanega International airport said “it was an order from the federal government” without giving any further details.
Speaking to a local radio station, Tigray officials yesterday said they were not aware of the matter and said they will discuss it with federal officials.
Today, a well-known Tigrayan activist, Hapthom Berhe, who has been trying to investigate the situation, after speaking to both Tigray authorities and Ethiopian Airlines, claimed that Tigray authorities were aware of the decision but said they were not part of the decision.
Per his findings, it was the Federal government that imposed the restrictions for some undisclosed reasons.
“Tigray authorities have asked the airlines and the federal government to reconsider the decision” he said.
Meanwhile, ethnic Tigrayans passengers who made it from Mekelle to Addis Ababa today were being taken to a “special” place for investigation and registration of their specific addresses.
(The East African Daily)