ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia wants to pass a supplementary budget worth 122 billion birr ($2.5 billion) to help finance programs to rebuild areas destroyed by war and provide humanitarian aid, the Finance Ministry said.
The budget is much larger than previously reported in the country.
The government-affiliated media outlet Fana said on Monday that the government was seeking a $102 million supplementary budget “to be used for rehabilitation of people affected by war and conflict.”
“The additional budget will be spent on security of the country, humanitarian aid ... and other necessary government works,” the ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page. The request will have to be approved by parliament which is expected to give its approval, but the ministry did not say how the money would be raised.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the federal government and its allies have been at war for more than a year.
The ongoing conflict has killed thousands and displaced millions.
Among those who have borne the brunt of the conflict are humanitarian workers.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR said in a statement on Thursday that one of its staff members had been killed in northern Ethiopia.
Filippo Grandi, the head of UNHCR, tweeted that the staff member had been killed on Dec. 28.
Ethiopian MPs have approved a bill to establish a commission for national dialogue, amid international pressure for negotiations to end the conflict.
The Federal Parliamentary Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor with 287 votes for, 13 votes against and one abstention.
“The commission’s establishment will pave the way for national consensus and keep the integrity of the country,” the bill states.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has promised to create such a commission to establish a common ground on contentious issues.
The commission, however, will not at this stage engage with the Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front or the Oromo Liberation Army, both of which have been declared terrorist organizations by the government.
Some government officials have said specifically that the new commission will not be engaging in talks with the Tigray organization.
But the commission’s creation may be an effort to respond to the international community’s persistent calls for a cease-fire and inclusive dialogue to resolve the conflict, said Tsedale Lemma, CEO of Jakenn Publishing, publisher of the prominent Addis Standard media outlet.
“When the international community requested holding inclusive dialogue to address Ethiopia’s deepening crisis, there is no ambiguity on the need for such dialogue to be truly inclusive by having various stakeholders, including armed groups, be a part of the process,” said Tsedale.
The government so far has a strict policy of no negotiations with the armed groups, she said.
“With this as a background, it’s safe to say that the National Dialogue Commission is just an extension of the government’s inadequate attempt at scratching the thick surface in Ethiopia’s otherwise multi-layered and complex political crisis,” she said.
The US Embassy in Ethiopia continues to urge its citizens wishing to leave the country to do so by taking commercial flights.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on the situation in Ethiopia, spokesman for the US State Department, Ned Price, said.
“They agreed on the urgent need for a cessation of hostilities, unhindered humanitarian access, an end to human rights abuses and violations, and a negotiated resolution to the conflict,” Price said.
But Ethiopian officials have continued to protest that the US and other Western countries are interfering in the country’s internal affairs.
“These (Western) countries, especially the US, are supporting the Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front in addition to putting various pressures on Ethiopia,” said Zadig Abrha, an official within the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s office.
Ethiopia’s federal army and its allied forces recaptured swathes of areas in the Amhara and Afar region in recent weeks that were in the hands of Tigray forces since July.