Saturday, June 15, 2024

France advises its citizens to leave Ethiopia as Tigray rebels advance on Addis Ababa

France has advised its citizens to leave Ethiopia, as Tigrayan rebels advance on the capital. South Africa and Kenya have called on the rebels and the government, who have been fighting since last year, to commit to an immediate ceasefire.

“All French nationals are formally urged to leave the country without delay,” the French embassy in Addis Ababa said in an email sent to French citizens.

Fears of a rebel advance on the capital have prompted several other countries, including the US and Britain, to pull out non-essential diplomatic staff.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has said it is pressing towards Addis Ababa, claiming control of Shewa Robit town, 220 kilometres northeast of the capital by road.

On Monday Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said he would “mobilise to the front to lead the defence forces” and called on Ethiopians to “rise up for your country.”

Moving towards the capital

The government has been fighting the TPLF since November 2020, when it sent troops to Tigray, Ethiopia’s northern most province, in response to what it said were TPLF attacks on army camps.

Abiy promised a swift victory, but the TPLF had regrouped, and by June had retaken most of Tigray, pushing the army to largely withdraw from the region.

Since then the TPLF has pushed into neighbouring regions and formed alliance with other insurgent groups including the Oromo Liberation Army, which is active in the Oromia region surrounding Addis Ababa.

In early November Abiy’s government declared a six-month state of emergency.

South Africa, Kenya call for ceasefire

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, following a visit to South Africa by the Kenyan president, said they had discussed the “grave situation” in Ethiopia.

“We expressed our conviction that there… is an urgent need for all parties to the conflict to commit to an immediate indefinite, negotiated ceasefire, and an all inclusive political dialogue,” said Ramaphosa.

The war has already killed thousands of people, and pushed hundreds of thousands into famine-like condition, according to the United Nations, which on Tuesday launched a major drive to deliver food aid to two towns in northern Ethiopia.

Famine-like conditions

The World Food Programme operation is aimed at more than 450,000 people over the next two weeks in the Kombolcha and Dessie in the northern Amhara region, which were the scene of fighting in recent weeks, as they lie at a strategic crossroads on the main highway to Addis Ababa.

The aid will be distributed, despite looting of warehouses in Kombolcha.

The WFP called on all parties to respect humanitarian operations and assets and allow unimpeded passage of relief to civilians in need.

To date, WFP has delivered emergency food and nutrition assistance to 2.6 million people in the Tigray region, 124,000 people in Afar and 220,000 people in Amhara, despite fighting hampering access.

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