Hundreds of ethnic Tigrayan United Nations peacekeepers fear their return to Ethiopia and face potential forced detentions amid the country’s Tigray conflict.
According to reports, two Tigrayan peacekeepers said they and hundreds of colleagues had ended their U.N. peacekeeping stint in Abyei, a region contested by Sudan and South Sudan, and expected to return to Ethiopia.
The two peacekeepers said that Ethiopian authorities at the camp told the Tigrayans they would not be harmed if they returned home but Tigrayans opted to shelter with newly arrived peacekeepers from Ghana.
Sgt. Angesom Gebru said the remaining Tigrayan peacekeepers could only walk away safely once they were at a local airport for flights back to Ethiopia, which began this week.
However, Tigrayans refused to board them, Gebru said, for fear of retaliation.
Ethiopia’s government has sought to portray a return to normal at home after the Tigray forces withdrew into their region in December.
In February 2021, more than a dozen Tigrayan members of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in South Sudan refused to board a flight home when their stay ended.
In April, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said several Ethiopians in the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Sudan´s Darfur region sought “international protection” as several hundred troops were being repatriated.
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