In Ethiopia, rebels threaten to march on capital, US envoy sent

The American envoy for the Horn of Africa will visit Ethiopia on Thursday 4 and Friday 5 November to call for a peaceful solution in this country, where rebel groups are threatening to march on the capital Addis Ababa.

The rebels of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which have been fighting the Ethiopian army for a year in the north, claimed this weekend to have taken the towns of Dessie and Kombolcha, located at a strategic road junction 400 kilometers north of Addis Ababa.

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At the same time, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a rebel group allied with the TPLF, announced that it had seized localities further south along the highway leading to the capital.

“If things continue in the current dynamic, then [la prise d’Addis-Abeba] is a matter of months, if not weeks ”, Odaa Tarbii spokesman Odaa Tarbii told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Wednesday, assuring that the fall of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is “Run in advance”.

On Wednesday evening, a spokesperson for the TPLF, Getachew Reda, said that the organization was now trying, alongside the OLA, to take control of Kemissie, some 325 kilometers from the capital. “Joint operations will continue in the days and weeks to come”, Getachew Reda added on Twitter.

Emergency state

The government denies any advance by the rebels, but on Tuesday declared a state of emergency throughout the territory, while the inhabitants of Addis Ababa were called on to organize to defend their city. Communications are cut off in much of northern Ethiopia and journalists’ access to this area is restricted, making it difficult to independently verify positions on the ground.

The escalation of the last few days worries the international community. “The United States is increasingly concerned about the growing scale of combat operations and intercommunal violence”a spokesman for the American diplomacy said Wednesday, announcing the visit Thursday and Friday to Ethiopia of its envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday accused the rebel alliance of “Destroy the country”, transforming it into Libya or Syria. In Addis Ababa, worried residents affirmed their support for the government on Wednesday. “They are enemies of Ethiopia, they must [être] discarded and, for that, we must all submit to the state of emergency ”, says Azmeraw Berhan, a self-employed worker.

As part of the state of emergency, the authorities will be able to recruit “Any citizen of fighting age and possessing a weapon” or suspend media suspected of“Provide direct or indirect moral support” at TPLF, according to state media Fana Broadcasting Corporate. Getachew Reda called these measures “Carte blanche to imprison or kill Tigrayans”.

Two lawyers tracking the arbitrary detentions of Tigrayans told AFP on Wednesday that they had received reports of dozens of people arrested by police in Addis Ababa since the announcement of the state of emergency.

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“Crimes against humanity”

Triggered in November 2020, the conflict in Tigray has seen a dramatic turnaround in recent months. Abiy Ahmed, Nobel Peace Prize 2019, proclaimed victory on November 28, after sending the army to the region to remove dissident authorities from the TPLF whom he accused of attacking federal military bases. But in June, partisan fighters of the TPLF took over most of the region. The government then withdrew its troops and declared a unilateral ceasefire on June 28, but the rebels continued their offensive in the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara.

The period from November 3 to June 28 was marked by numerous abuses including “Some may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity”, believe the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission in a joint investigation made public on Wednesday. This report mentions in particular extra-judicial executions, torture, kidnappings, sexual violence – including collective rapes of women and men – and looting. The High Commission said it also documented abuses committed after the period covered by the investigation, which in particular resulted in the deaths in September of 47 civilians in the Amhara village of Chenna, held by the TPLF.

Abiy Ahmed stressed that this report did not establish any evidence of genocide in Tigray, but the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet replied that the investigation had neither established nor established. dismiss these accusations which require further investigation. The twelve months of conflict also plunged northern Ethiopia into a serious humanitarian crisis, with several hundred thousand people on the brink of famine.

Read also Ethiopia: Amnesty International denounces hundreds of cases of rape, sexual slavery and mutilation in Tigray

The World with AFP

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In Ethiopia, rebels threaten to march on capital, US envoy sent