General Fiseha Kidanu, the head of an investigation committee established by Ethiopia’s Interim Regional Administration (IRA) of Tigray Region, announced Thursday that regional and federal authorities as well as Eritrean soldiers engaged in the theft of food aid in Tigray, Ethiopia.
Kidanu confirmed that more than 860 kg of wheat and 215,000 liters of food oil have been stolen and that Eritrean forces have diverted about 3,000 metric tons of wheat that was intended for the needy. He also stated that 7 out of 186 suspects have been taken into custody.
In light of this incident, Tigray IRA President Getachew Reda wrote that Tigray “[has] launched a high-level investigation to ensure that all culprits are held to account whatever their background or status.” He also stated that he would “like to call on humanitarian agencies to continue their multi-sectoral relief aid to save lives of the most vulnerable in Tigray.”
Nonetheless, the UN World Food Program (WFP) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) suspended food distribution in Tigray last month, alleging that substantial amounts of food aid had been stolen. According to an internal humanitarian memo, the USAID believes that food was diverted to Ethiopian’s military in a scheme orchestrated by regional and federal government entities.
While the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments did not respond to media requests for comment, the Ethiopian government stated that it is investigating the assertions of the WFP and USAID. It disapproved the agencies’ decisions to suspend food aid, holding that the suspension would escalate the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia, where more than 20 million people are in need of food assistance.