Africa’s biggest carrier has shrugged off claims that it transported weapons and troops to the Tigray region.
Allegations that the airline was supporting the Ethiopian government’s war effort, by transporting military personnel and weaponry to the restive region, began to appear on Twitter on 1 August with the hashtag #BoycottEthiopianAirlines.
Ethiopian Airlines dismissed the claims as “baseless and unfounded,” accusing Twitter users of using doctored and out-of-date images to “defame and tarnish their brand”.
The airline suspended flights to and from the Tigray region in November 2020, but reopened airspace temporarily to provide civilian commercial flights in the region, it said in a statement posted on Twitter.
The airspace has since closed, with no flights operating in the region over the past month, it said.
Attempts to sully the airline’s hard-won reputation were futile, said Zemedeneh Negatu, the chairman of the Fairfax Africa Fund, as he retweeted Ethiopian Airlines’ denial.
“Ethiopian Airlines is one of the largest airlines in the world. It complies with all IATA [International Air Transport Association] and U.S. FAA/DOT regulations. That’s why it flies to four U.S. cities and 135 others worldwide,” he said.
However, many others were critical of the denial.
“I would take the denial more seriously if #EthiopiaAirlines hadn’t made similar denials about discriminating against Tigrinyan staff. I interviewed several Tigrayan airline staff who had been disgracefully treated,” tweeted Martin Plaut, Horn of Africa journalist and fellow of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.
Rebels seize Tigray capital
Tigrayan forces announced they had seized full control of the regional capital Mekelle on June 28, as government forces retreated from the city and declared a unilateral ceasefire.
The Ethiopian government ousted the northern region’s ruling party, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in November, triggering a devastating civil war that has raged for nine months.
The TPLF dismissed a government ceasefire offer in early July as a “sick joke” and laid out seven demands for accepting an end to the hostilities.