The situation in northern Ethiopia is deteriorating day by day. Fighting between pro-government forces and Tigrayan rebels raged on Tuesday, November 2, a few hundred kilometers north of Addis Ababa, where authorities in the Ethiopian capital called on the population to organize and prepare to defend their rights. neighborhoods.
The Ethiopian government has declared a state of emergency across the country, state media reported on Tuesday. The Tigrayan rebels, who have been clashing pro-government forces for a year, claimed this weekend the capture of two strategic towns. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) claimed responsibility for the capture of Dessie and Kombolcha, located at a strategic crossroads 400 kilometers from Addis Ababa, without ruling out marching on the capital.
The government denied having lost control of these towns. If confirmed, this decision would mark a new major stage in the conflict that has lasted for a year. “The state of emergency aims to protect civilians against the atrocities committed by the terrorist group TPLF in several regions of the country”, reported Fana Broadcasting Corporate, a state media outlet.
For his part, Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations called on Tuesday, through his spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, to “An immediate cessation of hostilities and unhindered humanitarian access in order to provide urgent life-saving aid”. He also pleaded for a national dialogue “Inclusive” to resolve this crisis and “To create the basis for peace and stability throughout the country”.
Communications are cut off in much of northern Ethiopia and journalists’ access is restricted, making it difficult to independently verify positions on the ground. But in Addis Ababa, authorities have asked the five million residents to register their guns within two days and prepare to defend the city. “All residents must organize themselves into blocks and neighborhoods to protect peace and security in their area, in coordination with the security forces”said the head of the capital’s peace and security department, Kenea Yadeta.
“Young people from the city will be recruited and organized to work in coordination with the security forces (…) in their neighborhood “, he added, quoted by state media. Mr. Kenea asserted that “All sectors of society” were to participate in the vigilance effort, including home and hotel owners who check and have copies of IDs of tenants and visitors. He also demanded the cessation of ” fake news “ on social networks.
Washington puts pressure on its historic ally
These measures follow calls for unity by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who said victory was possible if the “Full force” of the country was opposed to the rebels. In a speech on Monday, he said foreigners were fighting alongside the TPLF, without further details. The only confirmed presence of foreigners on the battlefield so far is that of Eritrean troops who have supported the Ethiopian army in its offensive in Tigray.
The international community has expressed concern at the recent upsurge in fighting and renewed its calls for an immediate ceasefire and peace talks. The conflict in Tigray, which erupted in November 2020, has seen a dramatic turnaround in recent months. Abiy Ahmed declared victory on November 28, after sending the army to the region to remove dissident local authorities from the TPLF. But in June, pro-TPLF fighters took over most of the region, forcing government troops to largely withdraw. They continued their offensive in the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar and now seem to threaten the capital Addis Ababa.
US President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that he was canceling major trade benefits for Ethiopia, stepping up pressure on its historic ally over human rights violations perpetrated as part of the military campaign around the dissident region of Tigray. At the same time, the American envoy asked the Tigray rebels not to march on the capital, Addis Ababa. “We oppose any movement of the TPLF towards Addis Ababa or any action aimed at besieging Addis Ababa”, underlined the envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman, during a speech at the American Institute for Peace.
The United States has been among the most vocal critics of the Ethiopian prime minister’s waging of a nearly year-long war in northern Ethiopia. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced “Acts of ethnic cleansing” during this conflict marked by massacres and mass rapes.
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Ethiopia: government declares state of emergency across the country