Ethiopia declares state of emergency as Tigrayan rebels threaten to march on Addis Ababa

Obelisk of Axum: The monument of an ancient Ethiopian city

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Africa’s second most populated nation announced it had entered a state of emergency after rebel forces claimed to have captured the towns of Dessie and Kombolcha. While the two towns are located some 160 miles north east of Addis Ababa, a United Nations official said rebels have since been seen marching southward.

According to the Guardian, the Tigrayan rebels also joined with forces from the nation’s Oromo population.

Oromo forces, which come from the nation’s single largest ethnic group, were fighting against Abiy’s Government before joining together with rebels from Tigray.

However, the announcement from Abiy Ahmed’s administration came just two days after the Ethiopian Prime Minister urged his compatriots to take up arms against the so-called Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

The TPLF, who still dominate the regional assembly in the northern region, lost much of their political influence following Abiy’s ascent to power in 2018.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, shortly after he entered office, after he helped ease the conflict with Eritrea.

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Reports suggest the six-month state of emergency has enabled the Government to introduce sweeping powers to arrest, detain critics, impose curfews and restrict access to news media.

Justice Minister Gedion Timotheos also told a press conference any Ethiopian over 18 could be conscripted to take up arms and added citizens could be “obliged” to hand over weapons to the Government.

But Ethiopia, which has a population of around 115million, has been gripped in conflict for almost an entire year.

On November 3 2020, forces from the TPLF seized military bases in Tigray.

The conflict has resulted in the deaths of thousands, forced over two million people in the north to flee from their homes and plunged around 400,000 people in Tigray into famine.

Since the outbreak of war, Abiy has also been accused of overseeing human rights violations and massacres.

Following the state of emergency, Ethiopians appeared split on how the country should move forward.

According to a report in the New York Times, a taxi driver named Dereje said: “I am not going to sit in my house and wait for the enemy.”

“I will fight for my kids and my country.”

But the report also said an unnamed teacher had now lost faith in Abiy’s administration.

“They lied to us that TPLF have been defeated,” he said.

“I am terribly worried about what is going to happen.

“May God help us.”

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The US has declared Abiy’s administration has committed “gross violations of internationally recognised human rights” and said they will remove Ethiopia from a key American trade program.

Washington’s Africa envoy, Jeffrey Feltman, added: “We can proceed down one path that inevitably leads to sanctions and other measures or we can go down another path where we can revitalise the partnership that started when prime minister [Abiy Ahmed] took office.

“The US wants the latter.

“Prolonging the war, dodging genuine negotiations to lead to de-escalation and a ceasefire, and refusing unhindered humanitarian access to avert catastrophe are actions that are taking Ethiopia [in] a dangerous direction.”

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