Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at the UNSC on Ethiopia
Statement26 August 2021
Thank you Mr. President,
First, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the victims of today’s horrific attack in Kabul.
Mr. President, thank you for convening this meeting today, and thank you Secretary General for your insightful, yet I must admit deeply troubling briefing today. Thank you also Ambassador Taye; our colleague, it is critical to have you with us.
In the last nine months, we have witnessed a severe and deepening political crisis in Tigray, which is now expanding to neighboring regions of Ethiopia. The immediate consequences has been a massive humanitarian emergency, with more than 5.2 million people in need of assistance in Tigray alone. We deeply regret that it has come to this. We were warned months ago. We spoke of the risks here at this same table. Sadly now, if the crisis is not urgently addressed, the longer term consequences for the unity of Ethiopia, and the stability of the wider region, are potentially catastrophic. This is why Ireland has continually raised this unfolding crisis as a matter of the deepest concern. Your presence Secretary General, and your clear messages today, Secretary General, underscore just how serious this situation has now become.
Secretary General, I want to strongly echo what you called the simple truth; that there is no military solution to this conflict. We agree with you that regional partners, and in particular the African Union, have a crucial role to play in finding the political solution needed to end the crisis. We have been underlining this message since we joined this Council and I was pleased to hear today that former Nigerian President Obasanjo was appointed as High Representative for the Horn of Africa. We welcome this.
No one in this chamber underestimates the complexity of this crisis. We certainly don’t. But that is not an excuse to stand by. Today we have heard from the Secretary General about where we might start.
Today, all Council members have an opportunity to support the Secretary-General and those caught in this crisis by sending three clear and united messages:
- First, all parties to the conflict must immediately cease hostilities, come to the table to negotiate a lasting ceasefire.
- Second, all parties to the conflict must ensure full, unimpeded and safe humanitarian access as well as the restoration of public services.
- And third, conditions must be created to allow for dialogue to find a solution to the conflict in Tigray, while a broad range of stakeholders must engage in a process of inclusive dialogue to address the significant challenges affecting Ethiopia. The international community, that means us, we must stand ready to support this process.
The shocking spectre of famine continues to loom. We know that millions of people are displaced, and hundreds of thousands are already starving. There is absolutely no time to waste. This is not a time for reflection, on the contrary it is a time for action. The sad reality is that without further, immediate and scaled-up action, the horror of starvation will overwhelm parts of Ethiopia again, with harrowing echoes of past tragedy. Too many ordinary men, women and children will suffer; too many will die as collateral damage, in a war not of their making. As we have just heard in clear terms, their basic humanitarian needs – to food and shelter – are not even close to being met. I repeat this is a time for action. As humanitarian workers continue to face violence and unnecessary obstacles in carrying out their work, we say, it is past time to act.
We again call on the Ethiopian authorities and all other actors to immediately facilitate full unimpeded humanitarian access. We also urge the Government of Ethiopia to restore basic public services for the people of Tigray. Access to food, medical services and education are the very least that the people deserve. The human dignity and human rights of millions are at stake.
We also call on the Tigrayan forces to immediately end their military offensive, and withdraw from the Amhara and Afar regions. The longer the conflict persists, the greater the suffering of all Ethiopian people. We have taken careful note of the letter, referenced by the Secretary General, sent by the Tigrayan representatives, which may be an important development. We further call on the Amhara forces to withdraw from western Tigray. I also echo the call of our African colleagues for external forces to withdraw from Ethiopia.
We are horrified by the conflict-related sexual violence and atrocities that have defined this conflict. It is clear that women and girls have been systematically raped and abused throughout the conflict; communities have been traumatized. Those responsible for all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law must be held to account, not least because countering impunity is essential to preventing future violations. We await the findings of the report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. We also call on all parties to refrain from using inflammatory rhetoric and dehumanizing language, which serves only to fuel ethnic and political tensions across Ethiopia. Such dehumanizing rhetoric is never acceptable – as history tells us, nothing good can come of this.
I began today by saying that this Council has an opportunity and a responsibility to send a clear and united message. Let me come back to that.
- We need a cessation of hostilities and for the parties to come to the table to negotiate a lasting ceasefire;
- We need unimpeded humanitarian access;
- And we need a political solution to the crisis in Tigray, and an inclusive national dialogue.
Leadership to forge a path towards peace must be found among the parties to this conflict. Time is of the essence. The very lives of the Ethiopian people are at stake. Now is the time for action.