International calls for a ceasefire in Ethiopia escalate as rebels

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African and Western nations on Thursday called for an immediate ceasefire in Ethiopia after Tigray forces from the north of the country made advances towards the capital this week.

The US special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, has arrived in Addis Ababa to call for a halt to military operations and the start of ceasefire talks.

African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said he met Feltman to discuss dialogue efforts and political solutions to the conflict, which pits the central government against the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF) and its allies.

The European Union and the East African bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), have joined the chorus of organizations calling for a ceasefire. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni announced an IGAD meeting on November 16 to discuss the war.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta urged rival parties to lay down their arms and find a path to peace.

“The fighting must stop! “He said in a statement.

I received Amb Jeffrey Feltman, United States Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, to exchange views on developments in #Ethiopia and #Sudan, including our respective efforts with national and regional actors working to dialogue and political solutions. pic.twitter.com/GwbU8aSEu6

– Moussa Faki Mahamat (@AUC_MoussaFaki) November 4, 2021 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he spoke to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday and offered to help create the conditions of a dialogue.

Abiy’s government declared a state of emergency on Tuesday as Tigrayan forces threatened to advance towards Addis Ababa.

TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said on Wednesday that TPLF troops were in the town of Kemise in Amhara state, 325 km (200 miles) from the capital.

The US Embassy in Addis Ababa has authorized the voluntary departure of some staff and their families due to the intensification of hostilities. Washington said on Wednesday it was “gravely concerned” about the situation and called for a halt to military operations and ceasefire talks.

The year-long conflict has killed thousands of people, forced more than two million people from their homes and left 400,000 people in Tigray facing famine.

The United States, the European Union and the United Nations have said it is necessary to end the de facto government blockade in Tigray to avoid large-scale famine.

No humanitarian convoy has entered Tigray since October 18 and no fuel has entered to aid the humanitarian response since early August, according to the United Nations.

This week marks 1 year since the brutal conflict began in # Tigray, Ethiopia, displacing millions of people. The fighting spilled over into #Amhara and #Afar. Humanitarians continue to be prevented from providing critical aid, even as 900,000 people face famine. This suffering cannot continue; the fighting must stop. pic.twitter.com/MnXladSN4U

– Samantha Power (@PowerUSAID) November 2, 2021

arrests in Addis

The streets and shops of Addis Ababa, a city of around five million people, were bustling as usual Thursday morning, although some residents said there was a sense of precarious calm.

“There are rumors about the rebels approaching. People are debating the conflict, most blaming the government for what happened,” said one man, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Police have arrested “many people” in Addis Ababa since the government declared a state of emergency, police spokeswoman Fasika Fanta said on Thursday.

Residents told Reuters on Wednesday that many Tigrayans had been arrested, but Fasika said the arrests were not based on ethnicity.

“We only arrest those who directly or indirectly support the illegal terrorist group,” he said. “This includes moral, financial and propaganda support.”

He also said that many people were registering guns at the city’s police stations in accordance with a government directive released on Tuesday for people to prepare to defend their neighborhood.

“Some even arrive with bombs and heavy weapons. We register them too,” he said.

Government spokesman Legesse Tulu did not respond to requests for comment.

One year old conflict

The conflict began last November when forces loyal to the TPLF, including some soldiers, seized military bases in Tigray. In response, Abiy sent more troops to the northern region.

The TPLF dominated national politics for nearly three decades, but lost a lot of influence when Abiy took office in 2018.

The TPLF then accused him of centralizing power to the detriment of Ethiopia’s regional states – a charge Abiy denied.

Tigrayan forces and their Oromo allies made significant progress over the past week. Spokesman Getachew pledged Wednesday to minimize the number of victims in their campaign to take Addis Ababa.

“We don’t intend to shoot civilians and we don’t want bloodshed. If possible, we would like the process to be peaceful,” he said.

A regional analyst, who requested anonymity, said the TPLF would likely delay any progress on Addis Ababa until it has secured the highway from neighboring Djibouti to the capital.

This requires seizing the city of Mille, in the Afar region. Getachew said on Tuesday that Tigrayan forces were closing in on Mille.

Ethiopian army spokesman Col. Getnet Adane and an Afar regional government spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

Abiy spokeswoman Billene Seyoum accused international media of being “too alarmist” in their coverage of Ethiopia.

“To perpetuate terrorist propaganda as the truth from offices far away and off the ground is highly unethical,” she said in a tweet.

(REUTERS)

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