UNITED NATIONS — The Ethiopian government has detained at least 70 truckers contracted to the United Nations and a number of international nongovernmental organizations hauling aid cargo into Tigray, a UN spokesman said on Wednesday.
The truck drivers were detained in Semera, Afar region, which borders Tigray. The circumstances of their detention were unknown, and the trucks are secured, said Stephane Dujarric, the chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“We are calling for their release.” “One can only imagine the impact of detaining 70 truckers who are driving trucks that are filled with desperately needed humanitarian goods,” Dujarric said.
“It sure doesn’t help the humanitarian situation. Those trucks are not moving and we desperately need them to move.” Nine Ethiopian nationals who were working with the United Nations remained detained by the Ethiopian government on Wednesday, said Dujarric.
He said Tuesday that 16 UN national staff members were detained. The spokesman did not explain the discrepancy from Tuesday.
“I want to get exact numbers, and I know you deserve exact numbers. The challenge is one of communications. We’re also trying to determine the exact status of some of the people that have been detained,” he told reporters.
The United Nations has not received any official explanation for the detentions, the spokesman said. Earlier in the week, published accounts said the Ethiopian government began detaining ethnic Tigrayans following reports of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Oromo Liberation Army rebels joining together and heading toward Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa.