Ethiopia lifts 5-month suspension of Norwegian Refugee Council operations

By ANTONY KITIMO

Ethiopia has lifted a five-month suspension of operations against the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

The Ethiopian authorities in July 2021 suspended the NRC and the Dutch section of Médecins sans frontières, known by its French name Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), accusing them of “spreading disinformation” online.

The two aid groups work in the war-stricken region of Tigray.

NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland said the organization was ready to resume humanitarian work.

“We look forward to resuming our many years of humanitarian operations for refugees in Ethiopia and those displaced by conflict and disasters. To restart our operations for those in need, our knowledgeable and committed Ethiopian and international staff urgently need the same basic operational freedoms that we enjoy everywhere else in the world, ”he said.

The Authority for Civil Society Organizations (ACSO) ordered the suspension in late July, citing the NRC’s advocacy on humanitarian needs and access in the country, and a number of administrative issues related to the work of the organization. ACSO’s board extended the suspension to the end of October and asked further questions.

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NRC provided answers and explanations to all allegations and questions raised throughout the process.

NRC said it was informed that the AOHC Board of Directors lifted the suspension on Dec.31, 2021 and cleared the organization of most of the allegations.

On July 30, 2021, Ethiopian authorities asked the NRC to suspend all operations in Ethiopia for three months, pending an investigation into its work. The suspension was extended for another two months in October until January 3, 2022, when the organization officially received the letter informing them of the lifting of the suspension.

By the time of the suspension, the NRC had reached over 250,000 people in Ethiopia and aimed to double the amount by the end of this year.

The NRC in Ethiopia provides education, clean water, shelter, food and legal assistance to displaced Ethiopians and refugees.

“We are relieved that the suspension which temporarily interrupted our humanitarian work for hundreds of thousands of people in need has been lifted,” the organization said.

Mr Egeland said the organization’s staff were eager to re-engage with the government and that the NRC would seek urgently needed permits, visas and green lights to ensure they properly resume their jobs. and deliver aid effectively.

The secretary-general said the organization will continue to work with local, national and international partners to provide assistance and protection in accordance with international humanitarian law and principles.

“It is heartbreaking that we have not been able to meet our goal of serving over half a million people in need in Ethiopia by 2021. Now that we have to restart, it will take time to reach so many again. than before the suspension. We have lost a lot of our employees; we urgently need permits for the return of our international staff and we need to be able to pay our suppliers, ”said Mr. Egeland.


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