I am deeply concerned by the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia. Reports of hundreds of casualities and tens of thousands of refugees, as well as hundreds of thousands in need of assistance, are deeply worrying. The UN has reported that some 43,000 refugees have now crossed into Sudan.
The Shadow Minister for Africa has repeatedly pressed the UK Government on the situation in Ethiopia – including raising it with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, and has met with humanitarian and human rights organisations operating in the region, as well as raising concerns directly with the Ethiopian Government.
It is crucial that there is an immediate de-escalation of this crisis, an end to fighting and attacks on civilians, and a return to inclusive dialogue. The potential for regional destabilisation and escalation is deeply concerning.
I believe the priority must be the return to peaceful dialogue, involving the African Union and the UN, the protection of civilians, ensuring full humanitarian access, and allowing independent human rights monitors in – and restoring communications.
All sides must commit to finding political solutions to this conflict to avoid a looming humanitarian crisis and the spread of fighting and suffering to other countries in the region. Human rights must be respected by all and attacks on civilians must end. I believe the UK Government must assist in every way it can to help de-escalate the situation and restore peace.
The war and famine in Ethiopia in the 1980s are seared into the memories of the British people and the world. As a crucial partner to Ethiopia and the wider region in tackling poverty over many years, and as the Ethiopian people face the brink of another tragedy, I think this situation is also yet another sad demonstration of why I believe it is wrong for the Government to cut our 0.7% commitment to humanitarian assistance at this time.
My Labour colleagues and I will continue to follow the situation in Ethiopia closely.