Transcript | Prime Minister’s Office Press Briefing – 28 July 2021

28 Jul 2021

Press Briefing by Billene Seyoum, Press Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, on key highlights of the week and recent developments in Tigray

28 July 2021
Addis Ababa 

[check against delivery]

Key highlights of the week:

  • On July 22nd and 23rd Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met with the Council of Ministers to review the performance of sectoral activities during the course of the Ethiopian Calendar 2013 Budget Year. Ministries have also achieved important milestones over the course of the past year while confronted with many challenges. To name a few milestones:

– Agricultural crop productivity has shown remarkable progress over the past year particularly in Ethiopia’s efforts to substitute wheat imports through enabling national productivity; these efforts will continue to realize food security and self-sufficiency
– Gold export performance has also been quite positive over the course of the past years as reported by the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum also shows and efforts are being made to grow the sector in addition to artisanal mining
– Strengthening and reach of other forms of health services have continued alongside the nation’s confrontation with the COVID19 pandemic including the provision of services to conflict displaced persons
– Despite the multidimensional challenges the nation has been confronted with, resilience has been the hallmark of the national economy with a 20% increase in export revenue

  • The annual performance aimed at reviewing key milestones and gaps in implementation against set targets has enabled better direction to be set for the coming 2014 new year and the Government is exploring ways of further strengthening the economy and achieving targets set in the National Ten-Year Perspective Plan.
  • The Prime Minister’s National Green Legacy initiative has progressed throughout the country for this year. Reports from the Green Legacy committee show a 70% performance thus far in nationwide planting. The Green Legacy initiative as we know it is an initiative that has multifaceted attributes to national needs – It supports sustainable agriculture development and food self-sufficiency; also aimed at tackling climate change; enhancing forestry, enabling sustainable water resource development. We encourage all Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia to support in meeting this year’s target by continuing to plant their print.

 

The situation in the Northern part of Ethiopia:

Moving on to current issues as it relates to the situation in the Northern part of the country, it’s to be recalled that the Government has been engaged in various rounds of humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation initiatives in the region.

Activities that transpired prior to the unilateral humanitarian ceasefire

  • First round distribution of assistance to 4.5 million people was made
  • Second round distribution to 4.5 million
  • Third round distribution to 4.9 million
  • As of June 29th, 2021, the Federal Government made an official unilateral humanitarian ceasefire enacted to also support farmers take advantage of the rainy season and focus on farming activities as interruption to this year’s farming would have devastating consequences for the region.
  • In that regard prior to the humanitarian ceasefire, 580,136 quintals of fertilizer had been purchased with 536,979 quintals stored in Mekelle and distributed to farmers through 10 cooperatives.
  • On Defence Forces exit from Mekelle, more than 400,000 quintals of wheat and 2.5 million litres of edible oil have been stocked in warehouses for distribution to those in need. Plus 14 million litres of fuel in depots.

What did TPLF do after the ceasefire? 

  • As I shared the unilateral humanitarian ceasefire enacted by the Government was solely intended to enable humanitarian assistance and for farmers to utilize the rainy season; however, the TPLF has outright rejected the ceasefire and rather pushed the people of the region at further risk.
  • Following the Government’s ceasefire, TPLF has continued with their belligerence and fatalistic approach of encroachment into other regions – namely the Amhara and Afar regions;
  • Instead of taking the opportunity to support Tigrayan farmers and those in need of humanitarian assistance, they have resorted to mobilizing civilians as human shields and violently harassing communities in the Amhara and Tigray regions. The lives of farmers in the Amhara region and pastoralists in the Afar region are being destabilized by the terrorist enterprise that has rather resorted to escalating the situation rather than de-escalating. Here international community has been shockingly mute.
  • We have reports of women’s farming monasteries in the Amhara region being targeted and looted as the women fled and hid in the forests till the TPLF recruits left.
  • Evidence has also surfaced of utilizing children as combatants by the TPLF employing illegal substances. In this regard, the Federal Government asserts to the very quiet international community on this matter that Children are Not Soldiers and civilians need not be utilized as human shields for the TPLF’s destructive exploits!
  • Reports indicate that the food assistance left in storage for the needy in the Tigray region is being exploited by the TPLF for recruitment. Humanitarian assistance in transit to the region has also been blocked from reaching those in need by the group.
  • Furthermore, we have also been receiving reports of killing of Tigrayans considered pro-government by TPLF confirming the group’s exploitation and violence against the very people it says it stands for;
  • The safety of Eritrean refugees in the Tigray region is also threatened with the presence of TPLF forces in refugee-hosting areas. Reports of up to 6 killings of refugees have come in so far.
  • Properties of the Agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs and other partners’ properties, including World Food Program warehouses, have been looted and confiscated. Refugees are being forced to contribute in-kind and cash to the rebels. Adding to all these misfortunes, all efforts by the refugees to move out of the conflict zone has been prevented by the TPLF, which is tantamount to a hostage situation. On the contrary, there are reports of forceful transportation of refugees in masses to unknown locations and attempts to relocate some of them to Hitsats and Shimelba, the refugee camps that had been closed following attacks by the same group back in November.
  • While all these overt egregious acts are being committed by the TPLF, the open and vocal belligerence against the stability and security of the State has escalated with overt and blatant statements and threats to attack other regions and the Capital.

Humanitarian Assistance following the unilateral ceasefire

  • Despite the challenges, the Government is continuing to work with partners to assuage the challenges of humanitarian assistance delivery.
  • Humanitarian aid supply and distribution system guidelines and transport system guidelines have been developed to facilitate humanitarian coordination with partners.

Public response

  • The Ethiopian public response to these aggressions against the State and to the Nations and Nationalities of Ethiopia by the TPLF terror group has been met with nationwide condemnation across the country. Ethiopians in the Diaspora have also added their voice to condemn the TPLF’s aggression and violence.
  • All across the country are mobilizing to thwart the threat declared by the TPLF and many are enlisting with the defence forces, echoing what has become a national tagline of ‘I will march to save Ethiopia’.
  • Renouncing the TPLF as a terrorist organization the need to reconcile with fellow Tigrayans who have deep roots, blood and familial ties with other nations and nationalities, has been expressed by many across the country.
  • Despite the TPLF’s attempts to wedge a rift between the people of Tigray and their fellow Ethiopians for their personal political gains, Ethiopians all over have been very vocal in differentiating between the culprits and innocent Tigrayans in whose name TPLF and their operatives continue to trade.

 

International Community + Media Response 

  • In developments following the Government’s decision to enact a humanitarian ceasefire and exit some cities, the international community’s silence has been quite outstanding!
  • A clear double standard is at play in the silence towards TPLF’s harassment and overt belligerence
  • Many that were echoing the wellbeing of Tigrayans in the region are now mute when the TPLF is:

– blocking aid;
– killing Tigrayans it considers against it;
– recruiting child soldiers
– using civilians as human shields and bullet fodder
– encroaching into other regions

  • Those that were continuously chanting Amhara forces out are nowhere to be heard now in condemning TPLF’s atrocities and encroachment into other regions. Why?
  • Three key issues to draw attention to:

– TPLF attacks the State in November 2020 dragging the Federal government into a war;
– Federal Government Enacts Humanitarian Ceasefire which TPLF rejects in June 2021;
– TPLF escalates the conflict by encroaching into two other regions and openly declares violence.

  • These three critical threats against the State and the People of Ethiopia and the international community is silent. Why?

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