October 3, 2023

New opposition alliance formed in Washington against Ethiopian Prime Minister to begin meeting foreign diplomats

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and eight other opposition groups on Friday formed an alliance in Washington against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali to seek what they described as a political transition as the one-year conflict rages at home.

The signing ceremony in Washington included Tigray forces, the Oromo Liberation Army and seven other groups from around Ethiopia.

Organizer Yohanees Abraha told the Associated Press that the new alliance, known as the United Front of Ethiopian Federalist Forces, seeks to establish “a transitional arrangement in Ethiopia” so that Abiy can go as soon as possible.

“The net step will be, of course, to start meeting and communicating with countries, diplomats and international actors in Ethiopia and abroad,” he said.

Berhane Gebrechristos, a former foreign minister and Tigray official, told reporters in Washington that “There is no limit for us.”

“Definitely we will have a change in Ethiopia before Ethiopia implodes,” he said.

The new alliance was announced just hours before the United Nations Security Council for the first time called for an end to the conflict in northern Ethiopia. The call was made by all 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, who asked all parties to refrain from “inflammatory hate speech and incitement to violence and divisiveness.”

They urged them to “put an end to hostilities and to negotiate a lasting cease-fire, and for the creation of conditions for the start of an inclusive Ethiopian national dialogue to resolve the crisis and create the foundation for peace and stability throughout the country.”

U.S. establishes task force

The United States government has established a new task force to oversee the departure of U.S. citizens and some Embassy personnel from Ethiopia, as fighters from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) say they are advancing toward Addis Ababa, the capital.

The creation of the task force, first reported by Foreign Policy, was confirmed by a State Department spokesperson to CNN. It would oversee the “planning, management and logistics related to events in Ethiopia,” the spokesperson said.

The task force is a recognition by the United States that the conflict in Ethiopia is worsening and the government is taking steps to protect U.S. citizens ahead of what may turn out to be chaotic days or weeks ahead.

The State Department on Wednesday authorized the departure of non-emergency U.S. government personnel and family members from the embassy in Addis Ababa, the capital. It said the departure was “due to armed conflict, civil unrest, and possible supply shortages.

A day earlier on Tuesday, the State Department advised Americans not to travel to Ethiopia, raising its travel advisory to level 4.

On Friday, the United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to discuss regional security issues of mutual interest, including the escalating conflict in northern Ethiopia. 

“The Secretary thanked the President for his continued leadership to promote peace and prosperity in the region,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

The call between Blinken and Kenyatta comes only two days after the Kenyan leader on Wednesday called on Ethiopian warriors to “put down their arms and cease fighting.”

Mr. Kenyatta, who was the first African President to be hosted by President Joseph R. Biden Jr. last month and discussed Ethiopia, urged the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to “talk, and find a path to sustainable peace in Ethiopia.”

He said “the crisis has now escalated into a nationwide social convulsion of historical proportions for Ethiopia,” asserting that “the origins of the crisis, bitter and unacceptable as they might appear, can no longer be used as a justification for the continued suffering, killings and the extended open warfare that now engulfs the nation.”

Kenyatta added, “I have lent the full weight of my office in insisting that despite the pertaining circumstances surrounding this crisis, the fighting must stop!”

In his letter was titled ‘an appeal to the government and the people of Ethiopia’, Mr. Kenyatta said he had consulted with leaders in Africa and beyond to bring an end to the crisis, and was concerned that “after one year the crisis has not abated but has in fact deteriorated.”

“The fighting has continued, the deaths have accumulated, the displacement persists, and crisis and humanitarian emergency has taken root in the country.”

“It is highly regrettable that this is all happening amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with its attendant risks and disruptions, particularly for the most vulnerable,” Kenyatta added.

The crisis in Ethiopia, which began on November 4, 2020, has now lasted one year, killed thousands of people and displaced tens of thousands others into neighboring Sudan. The United Nations estimates that hundreds of thousands of people or millions are at an increased risk of famine, while the United States has been warning that a civil war in the country would be devastating to Africa’s second most populous nation.

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