France urges citizens to leave war-stricken Ethiopia “without delay”
ADDIS ABABA – France on Tuesday became the latest country to advise its citizens to leave war-torn Ethiopia as Tigrayan rebels claimed to be moving closer to the capital Addis Ababa.
“All French nationals are formally invited to leave the country without delay,” said the French embassy in Addis Ababa in an email addressed to French citizens.
Embassy staff were taking steps to facilitate the departure of citizens by reserving seats on commercial flights and would organize a charter flight “if necessary”, the email said.
Countries including the US and UK have issued similar advisories in recent weeks while also removing non-essential staff.
A French embassy official said there could be “voluntary” departures of embassy staff, especially those with families.
Northern Ethiopia has been in the throes of conflict since November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to the Tigray region to overthrow his ruling party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF).
The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate promised a quick victory, but by the end of June the TPLF had regrouped and recaptured most of Tigray, including its regional capital Mekele. Since then, the TPLF has grown in the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara.
He also formed an alliance with other insurgent groups, including the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), active in the Oromia region surrounding Addis Ababa.
The TPLF this week claimed control of Shewa Robit, just 220 kilometers (135 miles) northeast of Addis Ababa by road.
Some TPLF fighters have reportedly reached Debre Sina, about 30 kilometers closer to Addis Ababa, diplomats briefed on the security situation said. A communication failure in much of the conflict-affected area made movement on the battlefield difficult to verify.
The government has not responded to inquiries regarding Shewa Robit’s status.
The African Union’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, is waging a frantic campaign to negotiate a ceasefire, but so far there has been little concrete progress.
On Monday, Abiy appeared to question the prospects for a peaceful solution, announcing he was heading to the front “to lead the defense forces.”