Ethiopian capital could fall in ‘months if not weeks’: rebels

Addis Ababa

Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa could fall within “months if not weeks”, an Oromo group allied with Tigrayan rebels told AFP Wednesday, as the fighters advanced southwards.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been fighting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government for a year, has claimed significant territorial gains in recent days, along with its ally the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA).

As fighting has dragged on, reports of massacres, mass rapes and a starvation crisis have emerged, with the UN rights chief on Wednesday denouncing the extreme brutality on display, after a joint UN-Ethiopian report warned of possible “crimes against humanity” by all sides.

Earlier on Wednesday OLA spokesman Odaa Tarbii said his group intended to topple Abiy’s government, calling his removal “a foregone conclusion”.

“If things continue in the current trajectory, then we are talking about a matter of months if not weeks,” he said, referring to OLA’s move on Addis Ababa.

The comments came hours after Ethiopia declared a nationwide state of emergency Tuesday and ordered residents of Addis Ababa to prepare to defend their neighbourhoods.

In a statement released Wednesday, Abiy urged citizens to support the war effort and accused the rebels of trying to turn Ethiopia into Libya and Syria, adding: “They are set to destroy a country — not to build it.”

Under the state of emergency, authorities can conscript “any military-age citizen who has weapons” or suspend media outlets believed to be “giving moral support directly or indirectly” to the TPLF, according to state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate.

In the capital, anxious residents voiced support for the government’s measures. “They are enemies of Ethiopia and they need to (be) dismissed, and to do that all of us need to cooperate with the state of emergency,” said Azmeraw Berhan, a self-employed man.

But TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said the measures amounted to a “carte blanche to jail or kill Tigrayans at will”.

“While the regime is teetering on the brink of collapse, #Abiy & his lieutenants are unleashing a reign of terror with a vengeance,” he tweeted Wednesday.

A joint investigation by the office of UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published Wednesday found evidence of “serious abuses and violations” by all sides in the conflict.—AFP

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