United Nations (UN) admitted on Friday that authorities in the rebel-held Tigray forced U.N. humanitarian flights to be suspended. UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the UN “received instructions to abort landing by the Mekelle airport control tower,” referring to personal of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) controlling the airport at the capital of Tigray province.
This UN revelation contradicts the inaccurate western media reports that the Ethiopian government stopped the UN aid flights. In fact, “the UN humanitarian flight has been cleared by federal authorities” in Addis Ababa, said Dujarric. But the TPLF forced the latest UN flight – containing food, money and medicine – to return back to Addis Ababa without delivering the humanitarian aid in Tigray.
On Friday, Ethiopian government spokesman Legesse Tulu said “this is further evidence that TPLF prioritizes its power over the humanitarian needs of Tigrayan people.“
Speaking on the airstrikes that hit a weapons depot and rebel training facilities, Legesse said the direction, time and locations of those government airstrikes were far away from UN aid flights. Legesse added that this unilateral TPLF aid obstruction news coverage has also spotlighted how the Ethiopian government had been delivering medicine and direct aid flights to Tigray “repeatedly for several months.”
This is not the first time the rebels prevented the flow of aid however. After invading the Afar province thru which more UN aid was delivered since July, the TPLF rebels were accused of diverting food, fuel and hundreds of aid trucks, in order to use for their own military logistics. Since then, World Food Program (WFP) spokeswoman Gemma Snowdon said TPLF’s diversion of aid trucks has been “the primary impediment to moving humanitarian aid into Tigray.” California-based Tigrayan journalist working for US media agency CBS, Hermela Aregawi, has been the most outspoken critic blaming the TPLF for prolonging the suffering of Tigrayan civilians to maintain its power, effectively using them as hostages. Due to her comments, some pro-rebel Tigrayan extremists have harassed and bullied Hermela online.
TPLF leader Getachew Reda recently justified his forces diverting aid and not returning aid trucks, by claiming that Tigrayan drivers fear harassment. However, according to the latest report by John Sparks, a SKY NEWS correspondent on the ground at the Afar aid routes, Tigrayan drivers say they are not facing harassment. “I haven’t had any problems. I’ve gone back and forth safely,” said a Tigrayan aid truck driver, according to Sky News.
Historically, the TPLF was famous for weaponizing aid and exploiting malnourished Tigrayans (who can’t join its rebellion) as hostages. A BBC report and a former top member of the TPLF, Aregaw Berhe, previously blamed the TPLF leadership for wasting Western aid money to buy weapons, which led to the death of tens of thousands of non-combatant Tigrayans and other Ethiopians in the 1980s. At that time, the marxist TPLF rebels exploited the ensuing suffering of non-combatant Tigrayans to gain political support and sympathy from unsuspecting Western diplomats and organizations.
Hermela, who previously worked with pro-TPLF activists since the war began in 2020, said TPLF supporters are warmongering and do not care about the average Tigrayan. She then made headlines after revealing that the strategy of TPLF activists on social media was to push “the narrative of Tigray Genocide since day-two,” even before the federal government began responding to the TPLF insurrection last November. In this regard, Nairobi-based AP journalist Cara Anna, who is famous for utilizing pro-TPLF sources, has been the biggest proponent of this “Tigray genocide” narrative, going as far as promoting the idea during US State Department virtual press briefings. She has been criticized for downplaying atrocities by TPLF rebels, in one case even blaming some Amhara victims for fighting back as many were slaughtered opposing the TPLF military occupation which is better armed with heavy weapons.
On October 16, European Commission Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) officer Mathias Eick debunked Cara Anna’s AP report about blockage of food and medicine shipments. On top of UN aid flights, Mathias Eick said EU humanitarian aid flights with food and medicine had already “reached Mekelle via Humanitarian Air Bridge.”
Despite facts on the ground about atrocities and ongoing insurrection by the TPLF rebels, most Western media and officials have refused to highlight and condemn the violent militants who began the war in Tigray region.