International calls for a ceasefire in Ethiopia increase as rebels advance towards the capital

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

The United States special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, arrived in Addis Ababa to press for a cessation of military operations and the start of ceasefire talks.

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

The European Union and the East African bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) 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 way to peace.

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

I hosted Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, US 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 for dialogue and political solutions.

– Moussa Faki Mahamat (@AUC_MoussaFaki) November 4, 2021

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he had spoken with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday and offered to help create the conditions for a dialogue.

The Abiy government declared a state of emergency on Tuesday when Tigrayan forces threatened to advance on Addis Ababa.

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

The US Embassy in Addis Ababa authorized the voluntary departure of some staff and family members due to the escalation of hostilities. Washington said on Wednesday it was “deeply concerned” by 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 from their homes and left 400,000 people in Tigray facing famine.

The United States, the European Union and the United Nations said an end to the de facto government blockade on Tigray is needed to prevent a full-scale famine.

No humanitarian convoys have entered Tigray since Oct. 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. The fight has spread to #Amhara and #Afar. Humanitarian workers continue to be prevented from delivering critical aid, even as 900,000 face famine. This suffering cannot continue; the fight must end.

– Samantha Power (@PowerUSAID) November 2, 2021

Addis arrests

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

“There are rumors about the rebels’ rapprochement. People debate the conflict, most people accuse the government of 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 are only arresting 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 city police stations in accordance with a government directive issued Tuesday for people to prepare to defend their neighborhoods.

“Some even come with bombs and heavy weapons. We are also searching them,” he said.

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

Jason Mosley, Research Associate at Oxford’s Center for Africa Studies, comments on the conflict

One year 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 had dominated national politics for nearly three decades, but lost much influence when Abiy took office in 2018.

The TPLF later accused him of centralizing power at the expense of Ethiopia’s regional states, a charge Abiy denies.

The Tigrayan forces and their Oromo allies have made significant progress in the past week. Getachew spokesman pledged Wednesday to minimize casualties in his campaign to take Addis Ababa.

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

A regional analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the TPLF is likely to delay any progress in Addis Ababa until they secure the road from neighboring Djibouti to the capital.

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

Ethiopian military spokesman Col. Getnet Adane and a spokesman for the Afar regional government did not respond to requests for comment.

Abiy spokesman Billene Seyoum accused the international media of being “excessively alarmist” in their coverage of Ethiopia.

“Perpetuating terrorist propaganda as truth from offices far off the ground is highly unethical,” he said in a tweet.


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