By TESFA-ALEM TEKLE
An investigation team tasked with looking into recent aid diversion claims in Ethiopia says Eritrean forces, federal and regional government officials in Tigray were involved in the theft of humanitarian relief supplies meant for the war-affected people.
Fiseha Kidane, the Coordinator of the Tigray investigation committee, and also the regional head of peace and security in Tigray said Ethiopian Federal Government entities and Eritrean forces had the major roles in the food aid diversion.
“Tigray regional authorities, IDP camp coordinators and aid workers were also involved,” he said of the wide-scale humanitarian supplies diversion which led to international relief organisations such as the World Food Programme suspend aid supplies in the Tigray region.
The WFP and the US Agency for International Development (USAid) paused food distribution in Tigray after significant amounts of aid meant for the needy was stolen.
The two agencies then suspended food aid distributions across all of Ethiopia last week after identifying “a countrywide diversion scheme primarily targeting donor-funded food commodities.”
The massive diversion scheme “appears to be orchestrated” by federal and regional government entities, “with military units across the country benefiting from humanitarian assistance”, the memo, prepared by the Humanitarian and Resilience Donor Group (HRDG), to which USAid is a part, reportedly said.
Ethiopia’s army has denied its forces involved in the aid diversion.
The Tigray region investigative committee preliminary findings confirmed the theft of more than 860 kg of wheat and 215,000 liters of food oil.
Authorities in Tigray said they have arrested 185 suspects involved in the scheme and seven have so far been brought before court.
Regional authorities are calling on WFP and USAid to resume the food aid distributions arguing the suspension will only exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn Tigray region where hundreds of thousands rely on food aid to survive.
Ethiopian and Eritrean governments are yet to comment over the allegations.
Eritrean forces who fought alongside Ethiopia’s army in the Tigray conflict, have not completely withdrew from parts of Tigray territories.
The two-year Tigray conflict has killed near one million people and left hundreds of thousands facing famine-like conditions.
(Source: The East African)