Ethiopian rebels edge closer to Addis Ababa, as fears grow over all-out war, state TV

Foreign Desk
Addis Ababa

A six-month state of emergency was announced by Ethiopian authorities and formally approved by the country’s House of People’s Representatives on Thursday morning amid growing fears over all out war as rebels edge closer to Addis Ababa, state TV reported.

The legislature’s approval is the final step in the process, meaning the state of emergency is now official.

The provision, originally announced by Ethiopian Attorney General Gedion Timothewos on Tuesday, allows for the conscription of citizens who own firearms and are of age for military service, road blocks, communication outages, the search and arrest of people deemed cooperating with “terrorist groups,” among other things.

This move comes a year to the day after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered the military assault against Tigrayan forces in the north of the country that sparked the current conflict.

The European Union on Thursday joined calls from the United States for an immediate ceasefire in Ethiopia, warning that the fighting there has created a “devastating humanitarian crisis” and reiterating that there is “no military solution” to the conflict.

As rebel forces have pushed the front line further south, the US and the United Nations have also voiced their concern over the deteriorating situation.

A State Department spokesperson said Wednesday that the US was growing “increasingly troubled by the expansion of combat operations and intercommunal violence in Ethiopia” and called on Ethiopians to “commit to peace and resolution of grievances through dialogue.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said Washington was alarmed over reports that Tigrayan forces had taken over two towns on the road to the Ethiopian capital, and urged all parties to begin ceasefire negotiations.

The US is preparing to issue sanctions against parties to the conflict, under an executive order signed by President Joe Biden in September, according to senior Biden administration officials.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet told CNN Wednesday she was “very concerned” about the recent escalation of violence in Ethiopia, which she said, “could lead to a real civil war with a lot of bloodshed and with a lot more pain and suffering.” It also risks fragmenting Ethiopia as a state, she added.

Bachelet made the comments after the release of a joint investigation by the UN Human Rights Office and Ethiopia’s state-appointed human rights commission, which found that “all parties” in the Tigray conflict were culpable for carrying out atrocities.

Bachelet called on all groups to “heed the repeated calls to end hostilities and seek a lasting ceasefire.”

A former United Nations employee in Ethiopia has called a new report on human rights violations in Tigray a “good starting point,” but highlighted the severe limitations the UN and non-governmental organizations face in the region.

David Del Conte was a UN Emergency Relief Manager for Ethiopia and now leads the #StopTigrayFamine Campaign at Refugees International, an independent humanitarian organization.

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