Rebels in the troubled Ethiopian northern regions have opposed what they called a unilateral decision by the Ethiopian government to invite the UN to help reconstruct facilities that were destroyed by war in Tigray.
A spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) Getachew Reda, said the group is in the dark after Addis Ababa inked a deal with the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS). UNOPS is supposed to renovate critical facilities as the parties negotiate a long-term peace deal.
“I just don’t understand what this means, much less, how it’s supposed to work," said Mr Reda, TPLF Spokesman. TPLF suggested the terms of reference needed to be agreed between the parties first. TPLF and the government have separately said they were willing to meet for talk but there has been no agreement on a mediator or even venue for talks.
The agreement with UNOPS may, however, bring in a new source of tension for parties that are still arguing over the nature of humanitarian access to be allowed in Tigray.
The agreement with UNOPS means the agency can begin rebuilding some facilities with funding from the World Bank which had announced the grant earlier in April. The World Bank through its International Development Association arm had approved a $300 million grant for Ethiopia’s Response-Recovery-Resilience programme to rehabilitate all regions affected by conflict or violence in the country.
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But it is Tigray region which has been the most affected with more than 2.1 million displaced and at least 600, 000 people in danger of starvation. This is besides the general estimate that the war has caused about $2.5 billion losses in damages infrastructure including roads, bridges and hospitals.
A dispatch from Ethiopia’s Finance Ministry said UNOPS will work in Tigray “until situations in Tigray improve to enable the government to implement the project with its own structure in which case UNOPS will hand over activities to the government.”
The agreement signed by Ethiopian Finance Minister Ahmed Shide and UNOPS representative Werknesh Mekonen said the UN agency will focus on the Tigray bit of the World Bank-funded project. Its tasks will include providing “rapid response service” including reconstructing damaged basic facilities as well as supporting “community social level institutions.” The agreement has labelled these as part of the project’s “rebuilding and improving access to basic services and climate-resilient community infrastructure.”
Since the war broke out in November 2020 between Ethiopian national forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), various agencies including the UN have documented systemic atrocities including rape, displacement and murders; committed by both sides. One of the primary tasks of the reconstruction programme will include treating war survivors, helping them resettle and addressing long-term justice needs. In April, the World Bank said the project was to support the “immediate needs of communities and rebuild infrastructure destroyed by conflict.