Ethiopia: nine rebel groups ally against the government, the United States calls on its nationals to leave the country “as soon as possible”

In Ethiopia, nine rebel groups announced on Friday (November 5th) the creation of an alliance against the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, in a « front uni » led by northern fighters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (FPLT), who threaten to march on the capital, Addis Ababa.

In front of ” climbing “ conflict, the United States called on its nationals in Ethiopia to “Leave the country as soon as possible”. “We strongly recommend that US nationals refrain from traveling to Ethiopia, and those currently in Ethiopia start preparing to leave the country”, said the US Embassy in Addis Ababa on Twitter.

The federal government has been at war for more than a year in the north of the country against FPLT fighters, who have recently advanced beyond their region, notably into Amhara. They said on Wednesday they had reached the Amhara locality of Kemissie, 325 kilometers north of the capital, where they joined fighters from the Oromo Liberation Army (ALO), an armed group of the Oromo ethnic group with which they concluded. an alliance from August. The two groups did not rule out marching on the capital to bring down Abiy Ahmed. The government has however denied any loss of land or threats in Addis Ababa.

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“Publicity stunt”, according to the Ethiopian Attorney General

On Friday, the FPLT and the ALO announced that they were uniting against the government with seven other lesser-known organizations of uncertain scope. These are groups from various regions (Gambella, Afar, Somali and Benishangul-Gumuz) or ethnic groups (Agäw, Kimant, Sidama) that make up Ethiopia. “Our intention is to overthrow the regime”, declared Berhane Gebre-Christos, representative of the FPLT at the signing in Washington of this alliance, called “United Front of Federalist and Confederalist Forces of Ethiopia”. The latter is formed “In response to the many crises facing the country” and “To cancel the harmful effects of the power of Abiy Ahmed on the populations of Ethiopia and elsewhere”, the organizations said in a statement.

They estimate ” necessary “ from “Work together and [de] join [leurs] forces towards a transition ” in Ethiopia. Ethiopian Attorney General Gedion Timothewos called the alliance ” publicity shot “, stressing in particular that some of these organizations “Do not really have a popular base”. The impact on the conflict of this « front uni » remains uncertain, however. “If they are really serious in their determination to take up arms against the government, it is potentially a real problem” for Abiy Ahmed, a diplomat told Agence France-Presse, while conceding that he did not know most of these groups, their numbers and their resources.

This new alliance seems to demonstrate a willingness of the FPLT to show that it has support beyond Tigray. The organization had already established a coalition with other ethnic and geographic groups in the late 1980s, before overthrowing the autocrat Mengistu Hailé Mariam in 1991. This coalition of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (FDRPE), largely dominated by the FPLT, then ruled the country for nearly thirty years, before a protest movement that brought Abiy Ahmed to power in 2018.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is sworn in in Parliament in Addis Ababa on October 4, 2021.
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As Prime Minister, Mr. Ahmed gradually removed the FPLT from federal power. After months of tension, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner sent the army to Tigray in November 2020 to remove the regional authorities, from the FPLT, whom he accused of having attacked federal military bases. He had proclaimed victory on November 28. But in June, FPLT fighters took over most of the region and continued their offensive in neighboring Afar and Amhara regions.

A “false sense of insecurity”

The government has denied any major rebel advance in recent days, assuring that it will win this “Existential war”. Billene Seyoum, the spokesperson for the Prime Minister, blasted on Friday a ” disinformation “ led by the FPLT to create “A false sense of insecurity”. “There is an alarmist speech that creates a lot of tension (…), including in the international community ”, she declared, assuring that“Addis Ababa lives with a feeling of normalcy”.

The US State Department had, however, already reinforced its warning to American travelers on Tuesday by recommending that they not go to the country at war, or to“Consider leaving if they are already there”. But the statement released on Friday goes further by calling on US nationals to leave.

The United Nations Security Council has also expressed its “Deep concern” in the face of escalating conflict. His members “Call for an end to hostilities and to negotiate a lasting ceasefire”, they said in a joint statement read to the press by the Mexican ambassador to the United Nations, Juan Ramon de la Fuente Ramirez. The fifteen member countries have thus “Expressed their deep concern about the extension and intensification of military clashes in northern Ethiopia”, as well as “Repercussions of the conflict on the humanitarian situation” and “The stability of the country and the whole region”. A public council meeting, scheduled for Friday, has been postponed to Monday.

The defense ministry called on army retirees to re-enlist on Friday “To protect the country from the plot to disintegrate it”. A state of emergency was also declared on Tuesday throughout the country, allowing the authorities to detain without a warrant any person suspected of supporting “Terrorist groups” or to suspend the media which “Provide moral support directly or indirectly” at the FPLT.

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Amnesty International criticized these measures on Friday, which constitute a “Escalation plan for human rights violations (…), especially against human rights defenders, journalists, minorities and government critics ”, according to its director for East Africa, Deprose Muchena. Lawyers have said thousands of Tigrayans have already been arrested since the state of emergency was announced.

The World with AFP

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Ethiopia: nine rebel groups ally against the government, the United States calls on its nationals to leave the country “as soon as possible”