Ethiopia: News - World Food Program Trucks En Route to Mekelle and Semera Forced to Return From North Wollo

Addis Abeba — Nine trucks of World Food Program (WFP) carrying food aid en route to Mekelle, Tigray and Semera, Afar states, were forced to return from North Wollo zone North Wollo Zone of Amhara State, local authorities told Ethiopia Insider, an independent Amharic online publication.

The trucks which were forced to park in North Wollo Zone, Meket Woreda, Filakit Gergera town for three days were returned today because the local communities in the area refused to let them through, the authorities told the news portal.

Meket woreda administrator Berihun Terefe said the WFP-branded vehicles arrived in their woreda the day before yesterday. The vehicles were stopped at Felaket Gergera, the woreda's capital, because the locals wanted to block the vehicles," Ethiopia Insider quoted Berihun as saying.

"Because there was a feeling that [the passing vehicles] were inappropriate, we used our security structure and have stopped them to keep them safe," he said. "[The vehicles] couldn't pass; the local community will not let them pass by; they will be in danger," the administrator said, describing the circumstances.

The administrator further said that the local youth prevented the trucks from passing through saying the food aid they were carrying should instead be distributed among IDPs in Meket woreda. The local youth also questioned why the food aid was going to one region alone when it's an international help, the administrator said describing the views of the yough as "radical."

According to the administrator, currently, more than 200,000 people who are displaced from various parts of Ethiopia are sheltered in the North Wollo Zone, of whom more than 2,500 are in Meket district alone.

The youths who blocked the passage of the trucks and wanted to unload the food aid to distribute it among IDPs are youths organized under an "informal structure". As a result, local authorities put away the trucks for safekeeping at a "police station" to ensure the safety of the vehicles. Meket Woreda Police Commander, Wodeje Mekonnen, said the vehicles were parked at the police station for their own safety.

Commander Wodaje further said that the nine trucks belonging to WFP took off from Gonder and had two other escort vehicles which were operating without problems in Felaket Gergera town.

Although the woreda administrator and the police commander insist that the vehicles were stopped 'for their own safety', another woreda official indicated that the woreda administration received an order from North Wollo zone peace and security bureau to hold the vehicles in the woreda until further notice.

When asked about the said order from the zonal security bureau, the woreda administrator responded by saying "We did not receive any orders." Another personnel at North wollo zone communication bureau also spoke of the reports of trucks being stopped at Mekit woreda for three days, while corroborating the woreda administrators statements by saying "There were no orders from the zonal administration."

On the other hand, the head of the communication bureau of the woreda explained that the woreda doesn't have a mandate to search the trucks, "The trucks belong to an international aid organization so the federal police should do the searching." The police commander on his part stated that the vehicles were not searched while they were held. AS

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