The Ethiopian government is claiming that its military is nearing victory against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) fighters, saying that “a rat that strays far from its hole is nearer to death.”
In a statement it posted on Facebook, the Ethiopian government said TPLF “and its puppets are being encircled by our forces,” adding that “this is not a country that crumbles under foreign propaganda.”
The government asserted that it was fighting an “existential war.” This is happening even as TPLF forces joined by Oromo fighters said they were advancing toward the capital, Addis Ababa, and that it could fall within months, or even weeks.
In Washington D.C., State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at a briefing on Thursday the U.S. government remains “gravely concerned by the expanding conflict, by the violence, the expansion of the fighting throughout the country, and the growing risks that it poses to the unity, to the integrity of the Ethiopian state.”
Price added that “the safety, the security of U.S. citizens, U.S. Government personnel, their dependents, and also the security of our facilities is among our highest priorities.”
He called “on the TPLF, we call upon the Oramo Liberation Army, the OLA, to halt their advance Addis, and we call on all parties to engage in dialogue on a cessation of hostilities. We note the nationwide state of emergency that was declared by the Ethiopian Council of Ministers, and we urge all parties to use restraint, to end hostilities, and to ensure civilians’ rights are respected.”
Price also announced that U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman who arrived in Ethiopia on Thursday has met with Ethiopian officials and others.
“As you know, Ambassador Feltman traveled to Ethiopia yesterday (Wednesday). He has been engaged in meetings with Ethiopian officials today. Today he met with the African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki, he met with the Minister of Defense Abraham Belay, he met with Minister of Finance Ahmed Shide, and he met with Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen,” Price said.
As the situation continues to worsen, the United States government on Tuesday advised Americans not to travel to Ethiopia citing “armed conflict, civil unrest, communications disruptions, crime, and the potential for terrorism and kidnapping in border areas.”
The U.S. Department of State raised the travel advisory level for Ethiopia to level 4 (Do Not Travel) on November 2, 2021, replacing the previous travel advisory issued on June 7, 2021.
The U.S. government said “travel to Ethiopia is unsafe at this time due to the ongoing armed conflict. Incidents of civil unrest and ethnic violence may occur without warning.”
“Further escalation is likely, and may cause supply chain shortages, communications blackouts and travel disruptions. The Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency on November 2, 2021. The Government of Ethiopia has previously restricted or shut down internet, cellular data, and phone services during and after civil unrest. These restrictions impede the U.S. Embassy’s ability to communicate with, and provide consular services to, U.S. citizens in Ethiopia. The U.S. Embassy has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside of Addis Ababa. U.S. Embassy personnel are currently restricted from traveling outside of Addis Ababa city limits,” the U.S. government added.
Amnesty International warns a human rights catastrophe is looming
Amnesty International warned on Friday that Ethiopia was on the brink of a human rights and humanitarian catastrophe as the war in Tigray worsens.
The warning came only a day after the country marked the one-year anniversary of brutal fighting between government forces and regional Amhara militiamen aligned with Eritrean forces against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) fighters.
TPLF fighters, who have joined forces with the Oromo regional combatants against the central government, have said they were advancing on Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and could fall within months or weeks.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed Ali, said on Wednesday that government forces would prevail and would exist forever.
“Ethiopia will not collapse. Ethiopia will prosper,” he said in Addis Ababa. “Ethiopia will forever exist with her honor by defeating all (those) who test her through the blood and bones of her children.”
The government declared a six-month state of emergency on Wednesday and called on citizens to pick up arms and prepare to defend Addis Ababa.
“Our country is facing a grave danger to its existence, sovereignty and unity. And we can’t dispel this danger through the usual law enforcement systems and procedures,” Justice Minister Gedion Timothewos said during a state media briefing.
Ethiopia’s federal parliament adopted a state of emergency on Thursday, November 4, exactly a year after armed conflict with the TPLF began, granting the government sweeping new emergency powers which Amnesty International warned would “arbitrarily restrict human rights and threaten the independence of the judiciary.”
The human rights organization also noted that there has been an “alarming rise in social media posts advocating ethnic violence, and government officials have implored civilians to take up arms against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which have recently joined forces against the central government.”
“The dire humanitarian and human rights crisis which began one year ago in Tigray has been spilling into other areas of the country. To stop the situation spiraling out of control, the Ethiopian authorities must urgently take serious action to ensure human rights and international humanitarian law are respected,” said Deprose Muchena, Regional Director for East and Southern Africa at Amnesty International.
Amnesty said violations by the warring parties have included massacres, extrajudicial killings of captives and sexual violence targeting women and girls, noting that barriers to access for humanitarian organizations to areas affected by the conflict and attacks targeting aid workers and facilities have greatly worsened the dire humanitarian situation resulting from the conflict.
“African leaders and other international actors with influence must make clear to all the parties in Ethiopia that they must step back from the brink, protect civilians, end incitement, allow unhindered humanitarian access and monitoring, and respect human rights,” said Deprose Muchena. “The parties must understand that those responsible for war crimes and other violations will be held accountable.”