BY SOLOMON DIBABA
Over its last 10 sessions, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has been surprisingly preoccupied with several issues all of which were concerned with the internal affairs of Ethiopia and its sovereign rights to exercise its duties pertaining to ascertain law and order and also work with partner agencies to deliver food aid to compatriots affected by food shortage which was triggered by unprovoked terrorist TPLF war on Ethiopia.
Indeed, Ethiopia has now become a victim of global conspiracy in which UNSC has given itself the freedom to discuss on outstanding issues that are primarily outside of its jurisdiction and contrary to the UN Charter. The Secretary General officially said that “Ethiopia has no legal right to expel UN officials.” Such a statement vividly undermines the sovereignty of the country and glosses over the real reasons why the officials were expelled. The UN is composed of sovereign states with full legal rights to self determine their affairs in the context of both normative international laws and the Charter. The agenda was forwarded on the tenth session of the UNSC by the usual agenda setters.
Ambassador Taye Atsekeselassie, Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the UN reacted to the legality of the agenda itself and the mandate of the UNSC to discuss on the issue.
“I don’t want to hide my surprise in the convening of this meeting of the Security Council. We find it incomprehensible for this August body to discuss the decision of a sovereign state exercised within the domain of international law and sovereign prerogative. There have been several instances where governments had expelled the UN staff and other diplomatic envoys for so many disclosed and undisclosed reasons. Did the council ever meet to vindicate such a decision? Not to the best of our recollection. We truly hoped council members would have the insight to leave this matter to the government of Ethiopia and the United Nations. At the outset, I would like to register our position that the government of Ethiopia is not under any legal obligation to provide justifications or explanation for its decisions…. The UN staff Ethiopia expelled sidelined their oaths, the rules of professional conduct, and the principles of humanitarian assistance.”
The response from the UN Secretary General was quite vexing, he said “We believe that Ethiopia has no right to expel these [seven] members of the UN. We believe Ethiopia is violating international law in doing so and we are ready to cooperate with the government of Ethiopia in relation to any situation in which the government of Ethiopia feels that any member of the UN is not behaving in total impartiality, in total independence, as humanitarian law prescribes and humanitarian principles establish.”
Here a double standard is conspicuously visible. When the US expelled 1,000 Chinese graduate students, Russian and Cuban diplomats with a pretext of the threat they allegedly posed on the security of the US, the UNSC never uttered a word let alone setting an agenda for discussion. Why should the dust blow when Ethiopia expels 7 UN officials based on full evidence of their interference in the affairs of the country also posing a threat to the security of the nation?
The government of Ethiopia has repeatedly expressed its concern about the impartiality of these people in the UN before its decision to expel them. The government of Ethiopia has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Enhanced Coordination Mechanism for Humanitarian Access in the Tigray Regional State with UN agencies on November 29, 2020. According to the MoU, these agencies are expected to engage in the task of providing lifesaving humanitarian assistance to the affected population. However, these humanitarian agencies failed to fulfill their responsibilities independently and impartially as per the MoU and other relevant principles of the UN.
According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, the expelled individuals have breached several principles. They have engaged in diversion of humanitarian assistance to the TPLF, violating agreed-upon security arrangements, and transferring communication equipment to be used by the TPLF. Furthermore, the individuals have continued reticence in demanding the return of more than 400 trucks commandeered by the TPLF for military mobilization and for the transportation of its forces since July 2021 as well as dissemination of misinformation and politicization of humanitarian assistance. These are serious violations by any standard.
The General Secretary is also well aware of the fact that any UN official operating in Ethiopia is expected to respect the laws of the country, the UN Charter and the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. But the Secretary General seems to assert that UN officials are above the law. Besides, asserting that “Ethiopia has no right to expel UN diplomats” is tantamount to questioning the sovereignty of the country and ignoring the rule of law in the country. He tries to show that he is more concerned about Ethiopians far and beyond the Ethiopian government.
The truth is that the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Ethiopia had sent warning letters to the UN Secretary General on the intransigence and illegal actions of the officials explaining in detail what the officials have been doing in Ethiopia and yet the Secretary General says he has no knowledge of this.
If the UN intends to ease the suffering of the people, all its actions need to be legal, transparent, and it should stick to the mandates for which its officials are assigned. Ethiopia is fully determined to continue working with the UN, but this would certainly not happen by foregoing the peace, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.
Ethiopia respects the UN not only because it is a founding member of the UN but also because it believes in upholding the cardinal values enshrined in the UN Charter and the relevant treaties and conventions to which it is a party.
It seems that history is repeating itself in Ethiopia. Back in 1935 when fascist Italy declared war of aggression against Ethiopia, its leaders demanded justice to the League of Nations. However, members of the league chose to appease the aggressor and opted not to take any action to prevent the damages based on the principles which the League of Nations was formed. Such biased sentiment witnessed at the League of Nations at the time brought about the Second World War. If the League of Nations at that time had listened to the appeal made by Ethiopia and acted accordingly, the world could have prevented this disastrous calamity of the WW2.
The UNSC should therefore heed to this and preferably refrain from meddling in the internal affairs of the country. If not take concrete and independent steps to genuinely understand the reality in Ethiopia.