Ethiopia is to close its embassy in Ireland next month with its responsibilities transferring to the sub-Saharan’s country’s mission in London.
The closure is one of more than 30 across the globe along with a number of consulates as the country of 90 million faces major economic difficulties compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing conflict in the northern state of Tigray, which has now become one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
Embassy staff in the affected missions have been recalled to the capital Addis Ababa. A number of diplomats who are from the Tigray region have refused to return, citing fear of arrest and stating that colleagues who did go back have been jailed. Some diplomats have sought asylum in their host countries.
Tigrayans living in Ireland have held demonstrations outside Leinster House each week since the Dáil’s return to highlight the growing humanitarian crisis in the region.
Almost 2 million people have been displaced and more than five million need emergency food aid as famine begins to take hold.
This week the Tigray demonstration outside the Dáil was matched by a counter protest at the same time of supporters of the federal government of prime minister Abiy Ahmed.
Civil war erupted in November last year after Mr Ahmed’s government launched air strikes and a ground offensive, accusing former comrades and the local ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), of armed revolt.
The conflict has intensified fears of a break-up of the country.
“The Government regrets the decision of the Ethiopian authorities to close their Embassy in Ireland,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
“The ongoing conflict in Tigray is of significant concern, and Ireland has been to the fore in raising the crisis at the UN Security Council, within the European Union, and with other partners.
“We have also conveyed our concerns directly to the Ethiopian authorities. In all cases, we have stressed the need for unimpeded humanitarian access, a ceasefire, and the need for dialogue leading to a political resolution of the conflict.”
The Ethiopian government has criticised what it called international “interference” in its internal affairs and Ireland in particular for its efforts in raising the issue at the Security Council.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney was to visit Ethiopia as part of a visit to the Horn of Africa in July but it was cut from the itinerary.
The department said that “Ethiopia remains one of Ireland’s most important partners in Africa, and home to our largest bilateral development cooperation programme, €32 million in 2020.
“Ireland’s continued priority will remain supporting the needs of the most vulnerable people in Ethiopia, including those affected by conflict in Tigray and neighbouring regions.
“Due to the conflict, we have reallocated funding to respond to the evolving humanitarian crisis. Through the Irish Aid programme, we have so far provided over €3.2 million to support the humanitarian response in Tigray and the refugee response in neighbouring Sudan, through our trusted UN and NGO partners on the ground.”
In July, the Government announced additional humanitarian funding of €2.75 million for Ethiopia, to address hunger and insecurity throughout the country, including in Tigray.