Eswatini Daily News

By Giulia Paravicini

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Regional and federal government officials, as well as Eritrean soldiers, were involved in the theft of food aid in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the head of an investigation by the Tigrayan authorities said on Thursday.

The U.N. World Food Programme and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) paused food distribution last month in war-scarred Tigray because they said significant amounts of aid had been stolen.

The two agencies then suspended food aid across all of Ethiopia last week for the same reason. An internal humanitarian memo said USAID believes food has been diverted to Ethiopian military units as part of a scheme orchestrated by federal and regional government entities.

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More than 20 million people need food assistance in Africa’s second most populous nation, largely due to the Horn of Africa’s worst drought in decades and a two-year civil war in Tigray that ended in a truce last November.

General Fiseha Kidanu, the head of peace and security in Tigray’s interim regional administration, told Tigrai TV on Wednesday that the investigation he leads had confirmed the theft of more than 7,000 tonnes of wheat and 215,000 litres of food oil.

Investigators have identified 186 suspects involved in the scheme and detained seven, he said, without naming any.

Spokespeople for the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Ethiopia’s government has said it is investigating the allegations made by USAID and WFP but said their decisions to cut aid would escalate the country’s humanitarian crisis.

Ethiopia’s army has denied its forces benefited from any stolen food aid.

Eritrean forces fought alongside Ethiopia’s army in the Tigray conflict, which killed tens of thousands of people and left hundreds of thousands facing famine-like conditions.

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