The United Nations has accused TPLF fighters of stealing 12 fuel trucks, containing 570,000 liters of fuel from a World Food Program warehouse in Mekelle, Tigray’s capital, on Wednesday August 24, 2022.
In a press briefing, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the U.N. secretary-general stated: “This fuel was intended solely for humanitarian purposes with the distribution of food, fertilizer, and other emergency relief items,”.
Following the press statements by UN, WFP chief David Beasley also tweeted “Millions will starve if we do not have fuel to deliver food. This is OUTRAGEOUS and DISGRACEFUL. We demand return of this fuel NOW,”
In a statement released by WFP, the agency said that the fuel had recently been purchased by WFP and arrived days before it was “forcibly seized” by a group of armed men.
The authorities of Tigray released a statement response calling Beasley’s accusations “an unhelpful emotional public outburst.” It said that a few months ago it loaned WFP over 600,000 liters of fuel, with the understanding the government would be paid back in-kind, and that it “simply demanded that it be paid back in accordance with the agreement we had,” adding that WFP was “unilaterally revising the terms of the deal.”
After TPLF’s statements public outrage in Ethiopia was palpable. As people wanted to know how the TPLF could get a hold of this much fuel while complaining about fuel shortages and while failing to distribute humanitarian aid that has been more or less rotting away in warehouses. Public pressure coming to bare on TPLF authorities in Tigray is perhaps a turning point for the fate of millions in need of respite from war and hunger.
A few months prior similar stories appeared whereby Tigray rebel forces attacked and then looted humanitarian aid supplies in the Afar and Amhara region of Ethiopia. USAID chief of country Sean Jones has made similar comments in August of 2021.
Historically Tigray People’s Liberation Front has misused humanitarian aid, including channeling aid to its supporters in the Tigray region. The groups more or less controls the distribution of aid, which gives it tremendous advantages, including using promise of food to forcibly recruit fighter from families in the Tigray region.