Ethiopia: rebels threaten to march on capital, US envoy sent

#Other countries : The American envoy for the Horn of Africa will visit Ethiopia on Thursday and Friday to call for a peaceful solution in this country, where rebel groups threaten to march on the capital Addis Ababa.

The rebels of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which have been fighting the Ethiopian army for a year in the north, claimed this weekend to have taken the towns of Dessie and Kombolcha, located at a strategic road junction 400 kilometers north of Addis Ababa.

At the same time, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a rebel group allied with the TPLF, announced that it had seized localities further south, along the highway leading to the capital.

>>> READ ALSO: Ethiopia: the capture of Addis Ababa, “a matter of months, even weeks”, according to Oromo rebels

“If things continue in the current dynamic, then (the capture of Addis Ababa) is a matter of months, if not weeks,” the OLA spokesperson told AFP on Wednesday. Odaa Tarbii, assuring that the fall of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is “a foregone conclusion”.

On Wednesday evening, a spokesperson for the TPLF, Getachew Reda, said that the organization was now trying, alongside the OLA, to take control of Kemissie, some 325 kilometers from the capital.

“Joint operations will continue in the days and weeks to come,” Getachew added on Twitter.

The government denies any advance by the rebels, but on Tuesday declared a state of emergency throughout the territory, while the inhabitants of Addis Ababa were called upon to organize to defend their city.

>>> READ ALSO: Ethiopia: far from the front, the Tigrayans targeted by arbitrary arrests

Communications are cut off in much of northern Ethiopia and journalists’ access to this area is restricted, making it difficult to independently verify positions on the ground.

– Detentions –
The escalation of the last few days worries the international community.

“The United States is increasingly concerned about the growing scale of combat operations and intercommunal violence,” a spokesman for American diplomacy said on Wednesday, announcing the visit Thursday and Friday of its envoy to Ethiopia for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday accused the rebel alliance of “destroying the country”, turning it into Libya or Syria.

In Addis Ababa, worried residents affirmed their support for the government on Wednesday. “They are enemies of Ethiopia, they must (be) pushed aside and, for that, we must all submit to a state of emergency,” said Azmeraw Berhan, a self-employed worker.

As part of the state of emergency, the authorities will be able to enroll “any citizen of fighting age and possessing a weapon” or suspend media suspected of “providing direct or indirect moral support” to the TPLF, according to state media Fana Broadcasting Corporate.

Getachew Reda called the measures “carte blanche to imprison or kill Tigrayans”.

>>> READ ALSO: Ethiopia: the government declares a state of emergency throughout the country

Two lawyers tracking the arbitrary detentions of Tigrayans told AFP on Wednesday that they had received reports of dozens of people arrested by police in Addis Ababa since the announcement of the state of emergency.

Triggered in November 2020, the conflict in Tigray has seen a dramatic turnaround in recent months.

Abiy Ahmed, Nobel Peace Prize 2019, proclaimed victory on November 28, after sending the army to the region to remove dissident authorities from the TPLF whom he accused of attacking federal military bases.

But in June, partisan fighters of the TPLF took over most of the region. The government then withdrew its troops and declared a unilateral ceasefire on June 28, but the rebels continued their offensive in the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara.

– “Crimes against humanity” –
The period from November 3 to June 28 was marked by numerous abuses, “some of which may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity”, believe the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Commission Ethiopian human rights in a joint investigation released Wednesday.

This report mentions in particular extra-judicial executions, torture, kidnappings, sexual violence – including collective rapes of women and men – and looting.

>>> READ ALSO: Ethiopia: violent fighting around the city of Kombolcha between army and rebels

The High Commission said it also documented abuses committed after the period covered by the investigation, which in particular resulted in the deaths in September of 47 civilians in the Amhara village of Chenna, held by the TPLF.

Abiy Ahmed stressed that this report did not establish any evidence of genocide in Tigray, but the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet replied that the investigation had neither established nor established. dismiss these charges which require further investigation.

The twelve months of conflict also plunged northern Ethiopia into a serious humanitarian crisis, with several hundred thousand people on the brink of famine.