Ethiopia Gives 7 U.N. Officials 72 Hours to Leave Country, Accuses Them of 'Meddling'

Seven U.N. officials accused of "meddling" in Ethiopia's internal affairs must leave the starving country within 72 hours, the foreign ministry said Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

The country has been monitored recently by the U.N. for the blockade of the Tigray region, halting flow of food, medical supplies and fuel, causing the world's worst hunger crisis in a decade after nearly a year of war in the country.

U.N. Humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths this week told AP that the crisis in Ethiopia is a "stain on our conscience" as the blockade continues to cause starvation and death.

The seven officials ordered to leave are five U.N. humanitarian agency workers, one U.N. human rights worker and the UNICEF representative for Ethiopia.

A statement from the foreign ministry gave no details about the "meddling." Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti didn't respond to a request for details of the alleged interference.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

The U.N. voices concern over Tigray crisis
Ethiopia's foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday that it is kicking out seven United Nations officials and accused them of "meddling in the internal affairs of the country" as pressure grows on the government over its deadly blockade of the Tigray region. Above, Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Demeke Mekonnen Hassen addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters on September 25, 2021. (Kena Betancur/Pool Photo via AP, File) Kena Betancur/Associated Press

Memories of the 1980s famine in Ethiopia, which killed some 1 million people and whose images shocked the world, are vivid in Griffiths' mind, "and we fervently hope is not happening at present," he said.

The AP last week, citing witness accounts and internal documents, reported the first starvation deaths since Ethiopia's government imposed the blockade in June in an attempt to keep support from reaching Tigray forces, who have been fighting its soldiers and allied forces since November. Thousands of people have died in the conflict.

Ethiopia's government has accused humanitarian workers of supporting the Tigray forces, which aid workers have denied. Earlier, it suspended the operations of two major international aid groups—Doctors Without Borders and the Norwegian Refugee Committee—accusing them of spreading "misinformation" about the war.

The U.N. officials declared persona non grata by Ethiopia's government include the U.N. deputy humanitarian coordinator in the country, Grant Leaity, and UNICEF representative Adele Khodr.