Escalation in Ethiopia

Escalation in Ethiopia

The civil war in Ethiopia is increasingly deteriorating. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has accelerated its military advance towards the capital of the nearly 120 million-nation beginning of October.

The TPLF said that it had made further territorial gains in the Amhara region, taking them closer to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. A TPLF spokesperson said that they had captured Kombolcha city and that their only aim was to break a siege of Tigray. The TPLF have also claimed that they have seized the nearby town of Dessie in the Amhara region. The Ethiopian government has denied the claim.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister in a statement on Sunday said federal troops are fighting on four fronts against the Tigray forces and “we should know that our enemy’s main strength is our weakness and unpreparedness.”

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has urged his supporters to use any weapons they have to stop an advance by Tigrayan rebel forces. Ahmed, on his appeal on Facebook, said it was the duty of citizens to, “block, destroy and bury” the forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Later on, Facebook deleted the Prime Minister’s posting, calling it “incitement to violence”.

Government declares state of emergency

Ethiopians have been told to prepare to protect the capital Adis Ababa against rebel forces from the Tigray and Oromia regions. Following comments by a rebel alliance that it was considering marching on to the Ethiopian capital, state media in Ethiopia reported that the authorities in Addis Ababa are urging residents to register their private weapons within the next two days. The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front “has now linked up with fighters from an Oromo force – giving the rebels a major boost in their ability to threaten Addis Ababa,”, reported the BBC News.

On November 3, the Ethiopian government has declared a nation-wide state of emergency. The move came after Tigrayan fighters, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), captured two strategic towns in the Amhara region and indicated that they might advance south toward the capital, Addis Ababa. The six-month state of emergency allows the government to exercise broad power to disrupt movement, impose curfews, and detain without a warrant anyone suspected of having a link with “terrorist” groups. Ethiopian Justice Minister Gedion Timothewos stated: “our country is facing a grave danger to its existence, sovereignty and unity. And we can’t dispel this danger through the usual law enforcement systems and procedures”, reported Al Jazeera

UN Secretary General “concerned”, calls for “ceasfire”

The UN Secretary General expressed “concern” about the declaration of the state-of-emergency, stating “The stability of Ethiopia and the wider region is at stake.”

Previously, the Ethiopian government had expelled UN members from Ethiopia on accusation of meddling into domestic affairs.

The UN’s International Organization of Migration (IOM) head for Ethiopia, Maureen Achieng, had confirmed the accusation in interviews to the press, where she claimed US staff was siding with the TPLF, calling the guerilla “dirty and vicious”. The UN recalled Acheng and put her on administrative leave.

Addis Ababa city officials have told the capital’s five million residents to register all firearms within two days and prepare to defend the city from Tigrayan forces, the news outlet added.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has pledged to bury his government’s enemies “with our blood,” as he marked the start of the war in the Tigray region one year ago. “The pit which is dug will be very deep, it will be where the enemy is buried, not where Ethiopia disintegrates,” Ahmed said in a speech at an event at the military’s headquarters in Addis Ababa according to Reuters.

TPLF establishes coalition to take down government

Nine anti-government factions in Ethiopia are to form an alliance against the Ethiopian government today. The new alliance, called the United Front of Ethiopian Federalist and Confederalist Forces, includes the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been fighting the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government in the Tigray region for a year. “Two of the groups, the Oromo Liberation Army and the Agaw Democratic Movement, confirmed the announcement was genuine. Several of the groups have armed fighters although it was not clear whether they all do,” reported the Guardian.

The new United Front of Ethiopian Federalist Forces seeks to “establish a transitional arrangement in Ethiopia” so that Ethiopia’s prime minister can go as soon as possible, organizer Yohanees Abraha, who is with the TPLF, has said. “The next step will be, of course, to start meeting and communicating with countries, diplomats and international actors in Ethiopia and abroad,” Abraha told The Associated Press. “He said the new alliance is both political and military. It has had no communication with Ethiopia’s government, he added,” reported AP.

US position: forcing the Ethiopian government to negotiations with separatists

But US Secretary of State Blinken confirmed the capture, while calling the TPLF advance “alarming”.

The US State Department called for “ceasefire negotiations without conditions to find a sustainable path towards peace”. It stated:

“We call on the Government of Eritrea to remove its troop from Ethiopia.  We call on the forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) to immediately stop the current advance towards Addis Ababa.  All parties must also allow and facilitate humanitarian access so that life-saving assistance can reach people in need.  We urge all parties to open ceasefire negotiations without preconditions to find a sustainable path towards peace.  The international community stands ready to assist the Ethiopian people to end this conflict now.”

Washington has urged the rebels not to try and take Addis Ababa. “We oppose any TPLF move to Addis or any TPLF move to besiege Addis,” Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, said.

In a speech delivered November 1, US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltmann, Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa announced the cancelation of trade permits to Ethiopia and the consideration of sanctions against members of the Ethiopian government.

“The United States and others cannot continue “business as usual” relations with the Government of Ethiopia”, Feltmann said. Feltman, is set to travel to Ethiopia this week.

The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry reacted to the US decision, commenting it would only help “to embolden a terror group”.

Hundreds March in Washington to Denounce Ethiopian Government on 1st Anniversary of Tigray Conflict, reported the US Voice of America.

Africanews on the other hand reported that thousands of Ethiopians filled a stadium in the capital Addis Ababa to show their support for new military recruits, as the country’s year-long war escalates quickly.

“There is no victory without sacrifice,” Addis Ababa mayor Adanech Abebe said in her address to the crowds. “We are not allowed to get tired at this critical time.”

Turkish drones in Ethiopia?

While the government continues its military operations against the TPLF, including air strikes on separatist-controlled areas, the British Guardian reported that Ethiopia wants to buy Bayraktar TB2 drones after military cooperation agreement was signed with Ankara.

Reminding that Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister, signed a military cooperation agreement on a visit to Ankara in August with Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Guardian cited a Reuters article that quotes a “Turkish official” saying that Ethiopia had requested purchases of Bayraktar TB2 drones in agreements that could also include spare-part guarantees and training.

In his speech cited above, Feltmann had criticized the Ethiopian government for “using drones from questionable sources, including reportedly from U.S. adversaries”.

The Ethiopian Foreign Ministry on the other hand has retweeted national news on Erdoğan’s congratulations to Abiy Ahmed for being elected to the post of Prime Minister on October 26, almost two months after the elections were finished and a month after Ahmed had been sworn in.  

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December 2021