- Ethiopian peacekeepers in Abyei on 14 August 2016 (UNISFA photo)
February 22, 2021 (JUBA/ADDIS ABABA) – 15 Ethiopian peacekeepers who accomplished their duty with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) are reportedly being harassed indiscriminately by the Ethiopian army for their Tigray ethnicity.
Reports indicate that the peacekeepers of Tigrayan origin are being detained and physically abused at Juba airport by Ethiopian soldiers are believed not to be the Tigrayan descent.
Currently, 15 of the peacekeepers are reportedly being protected by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), a spokesperson for the UN said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters in New York, the spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, Stephane Dujarric said169 members of the Ethiopian contingent were due to rotate out of Juba to be replaced by fresh contingents as part of a normal rotation.
“I must say that the Ethiopians have been providing a very good support and work to our peacekeeping mission there,” said Dujarric.
He added, “We’re trying to get the details, but I do understand about 15 members of the contingent chose not to board the flight at Juba airport. They have now asked for…they’ve asked to stay”.
The peacekeepers are being supported by South Sudanese authorities, according to the UN official.
“UNHCR is also aware, and they’re in contact with the South Sudanese authorities,” stressed Dujarric.
“It’s important to underscore that any person in need of international protection has the right to seek asylum”, he added.
In November last year, three Ethiopian peacekeepers from the Tigray ethnic group were withdrawn and repatriated back to Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is the largest troop contributor to UN’s peacekeeping missions with over 8,300 uniformed personnel, the vast majority of them serving in Abyei (UNISFA), South Sudan (UNMISS) and Darfur (UNAMID), according to UN Peacekeeping’s November 2020 report.