Rebels say Ethiopia capital could fall within weeks as US plans to send envoy

A man holds a newspaper in a downtown area of the city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on November 3, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa could fall within “months if not weeks,” an Oromo group allied with Tigrayan rebels told AFP Wednesday, as Washington announced it would send a US envoy to the country to hold talks.اضافة اعلان

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been fighting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government for a year, has claimed significant territorial gains in recent days, along with its ally the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA).

As fighting has dragged on, reports of massacres, mass rapes and a starvation crisis have emerged, with the UN rights chief on Wednesday denouncing extreme brutality after a joint UN-Ethiopian report warned of possible “crimes against humanity” by all sides.

In Washington, the US State Department said it was sending Jeffrey Feltman, special envoy for the Horn of Africa, to the country this week.

He will hold talks on Thursday and Friday to urge “all Ethiopians to commit to peace and resolution of grievances through dialogue,” it said.

Earlier Wednesday, OLA spokesman Odaa Tarbii said his group intended to topple Abiy’s government, calling his removal “a foregone conclusion.”
“If things continue in the current trajectory, then we are talking about a matter of months if not weeks,” he said.

Ethiopia declared a nationwide state of emergency Tuesday and ordered residents of Addis Ababa to prepare to defend their neighborhoods. 
Abiy on Wednesday urged citizens to back the war effort and accused the rebels of trying to turn Ethiopia into Libya and Syria, as anxious residents of the capital voiced support for the government’s measures.

“They are enemies of Ethiopia and they need to (be) dismissed, and to do that all of us need to cooperate with the state of emergency,” said Azmeraw Berhan, a self-employed man.

Under the state of emergency, authorities can conscript “any military-age citizen who has weapons” or suspend media outlets believed to be “giving moral support directly or indirectly” to the TPLF, according to state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate.

TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said the measures amounted to a “carte blanche to jail or kill Tigrayans at will.”

Two lawyers monitoring arbitrary detentions of Tigrayans in Addis Ababa told AFP Wednesday they had received reports of dozens of people, and likely many more, rounded up by city police since the emergency was declared, some of whom were taken from their homes.

In recent days the TPLF has claimed control of two key cities in Amhara, about 400km north of Addis Ababa. 

The government has denied claims of TPLF territorial gains which, if confirmed, would represent a major strategic advance.

Much of northern Ethiopia is under a communications blackout and access for journalists is restricted, making battlefield claims difficult to verify independently.

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