US Africa Envoy To Visit Saudi Arabia, Sudan And Ethiopia

In this file photo taken on September 4, 2019 the new US Ambassador to Turkey David M. Satterfield pays his respects as he attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Mausoleum of the Turkish Republic's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (Anitkabir), in Ankara. Adem ALTAN / AFP
In this file photo taken on September 4, 2019 the new US Ambassador to Turkey David M. Satterfield pays his respects as he attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Mausoleum of the Turkish Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (Anitkabir), in Ankara. Adem ALTAN / AFP

 

The US special envoy for the Horn of Africa will visit Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Ethiopia next week amid ongoing crises in the two African nations, the State Department announced Friday.

David Satterfield and Assistant Secretary of State Molly Phee will travel to Riyadh, Khartoum and Addis Ababa from January 17-20.

In Riyadh, the pair will meet with the Friends of Sudan, a group calling for the restoration of the country’s transitional government following a military coup in October.

READ ALSO: Myanmar Junta Slams Suu Kyi With Five New Charges Over Helicopter Purchase

The meeting aims to “marshal international support” for the UN mission to “facilitate a renewed civilian-led transition to democracy” in Sudan, according to the statement.

Satterfield and Phee will then travel to Khartoum, where they will meet with pro-democracy activists, women’s and youth groups, civil organizations and military and political figures.

“Their message will be clear: the United States is committed to freedom, peace, and justice for the Sudanese people,” the statement read.

In Ethiopia, the pair will talk with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to seek a resolution to the deepening civil war.

“They will encourage government officials to seize the current opening for peace by ending the air strikes and other hostilities,” the statement read.

They will also ask for the establishment of a ceasefire, the release of political prisoners and the restoration of humanitarian access.

Satterfield, the former US ambassador to Turkey, was appointed to replace Jeffrey Feltman as special envoy on January 6.

Feltman quit just as he visited Ethiopia in a bid to encourage peace talks to end more than a year of war following the withdrawal of Tigrayan rebels.

The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, which last year threatened to march on Addis Ababa, by December had withdrawn to its stronghold, and the government has not pursued the rebels further on the ground.

Feltman had also sought to tackle the crisis in Sudan, but he was treated unceremoniously in October when Sudan’s military ruler, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, carried out a coup just after the US envoy had left the country.

Feltman’s resignation came days after Sudan’s civilian prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, quit, leaving Burhan as the undisputed leader of the country despite Western calls to preserve a democratic transition launched in 2019.

 

AFP

AFCON 2021: Indomitable Lions Devour Ethiopia To Reach Knockout Stage


Cameroon’s forward Karl Toko Ekambi (2nd L) celebrates with teammates after scoring his team’s fourth goal during the Group A Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Cameroon and Ethiopia at Stade d’Olembé in Yaounde on January 13, 2022. Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP

 

Hosts Cameroon brought a goal-shy Africa Cup of Nations to life on Thursday as captain Vincent Aboubakar and Karl Toko-Ekambi both scored twice in a 4-1 defeat of Ethiopia that takes the Indomitable Lions through to the knockout stages with one group game to spare.

Cameroon were the only team out of 24 at the tournament to score more than a single goal in the opening round of group matches when a brace of Aboubakar penalties saw them beat Burkina Faso 2-1 on Sunday.

READ ALSORefereeing Chaos Tarnishes Image Of Africa Cup Of Nations

Back at the same Olembe Stadium in the capital Yaounde, they ran riot, although only after Dawa Hotessa gave Ethiopia a shock lead.

Aboubakar quickly equalised and then headed in the second in the 55th minute, before Lyon forward Toko-Ekambi — who had earlier hit the post — added his own brace.

The five-time African champions are now well-placed to finish top of Group A, although they must still play Cape Verde, who themselves face Burkina Faso later on Thursday.

AFP

Tigray Rebels Claim Dozens Killed In Drone Strike On IDP Camp

The Tigray Region, officially the Tigray National Regional State, is the northernmost regional state in Ethiopia.
The Tigray Region, officially the Tigray National Regional State, is the northernmost regional state in Ethiopia. Google Maps

 

Tigrayan rebels claimed Saturday that dozens of people had been killed in a drone strike on a camp for civilians displaced by the brutal war in northern Ethiopia.

Reports of the attack emerged just a day after the government declared surprise pardons for a number of detained opposition leaders, including senior Tigrayan figures, in what it said was a move to foster national reconciliation.

The amnesty has been welcomed by the international community as a possible way out of 14 months of brutal fighting between forces loyal to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Friday’s announcement followed a dramatic shift on the battlefield, with the rebels retreating to their Tigray stronghold at the end of December in the face of a military offensive that saw government forces retake a string of strategic towns.

READ ALSO: Ethiopia Frees High-Profile Political Prisoners

Although there appeared to be a lull in fighting since, the rebels have accused the government of continuing to conduct deadly drone attacks on Tigray.

TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said on Twitter that an attack on the camp in the northwestern town of Dedebit “has claimed the lives of 56 innocent civilians so far”.

His claim could not be independently verified, with access to Tigray restricted and the region under communications blackout, and there was no immediate response to requests for comment from Ethiopian government officials.

However, a senior official at the main hospital in Tigray’s capital Mekele told AFP that the hospital in the town of Shire where the victims were taken had reported 55 people dead and 126 injured.

The EU also briefly referred to the air strike in a statement Saturday, saying it had killed and wounded many civilians.

Earlier this week the United Nations said three Eritrean refugees including two children had been killed in an air strike Wednesday on a refugee camp in Tigray.

Mixed messages

The conflict in Africa’s second most populous country has killed thousands of people and created a deep humanitarian crisis in the north, with fears it could tear apart a country where ethnic tensions are never far from the surface.

Tigray itself is under what the UN calls a de facto blockade that is preventing life-saving food and medicine from reaching its six million people, including hundreds of thousands suffering famine-like conditions.

While Friday’s amnesty statement also spoke of national dialogue, it did not say if Abiy was considering any negotiations with the TPLF, the party that dominated politics for three decades until he took power in 2018 but is now considered a terrorist group by Addis Ababa.

Abiy — a Nobel peace laureate who reportedly went to the battlefront in November to direct his troops — called for “national reconciliation” and “unity” in a message for Orthodox Christmas.

However, in another statement Saturday he lashed out at “foreign and internal enemies” and described the TPLF as “snakes”.

‘Seize the moment’

The amnesty coincided with a new peace mission to Ethiopia by US envoy Jeffrey Feltman, and was welcomed by the United Nations, the EU and the African Union, which has been spearheading efforts to end the conflict.

Among those pardoned were prominent politicians rounded up after deadly protests that erupted in mid-2020 over the killing of Hachalu Hundessa, a popular Oromo singer and activist.

They included Eskinder Nega, a veteran Amhara journalist and fierce government critic who has spent many years in prison under various administrations since 2005.

Also freed was Jawar Mohammed, a former media mogul and one-time Abiy ally, and his colleague in the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, Bekele Gerba.

In all, 239 people were killed in the 2020 bloodshed that saw Abiy — who had himself swept to power on the back of anti-government protests — wrestling to keep a lid on the simmering ethnic tensions.

It was not immediately known if the TPLF stalwarts granted amnesty — including one of its founders Sibhat Nega and former Tigray president Abay Woldu — had been released by Saturday.

The fate is also unclear of thousands of people reportedly detained in sweeps that appeared to target Tigrayans under a wartime state of emergency declared in November.

African Union Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat described the amnesty as an “important gesture” and voiced hope it would pave the way for a “genuinely inclusive” national dialogue.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also welcomed the release of the opposition leaders and the establishment of a National Dialogue Commission as “positive steps”, but said the IDP camp strike showed the fighting was still going on.

“All parties must seize the moment to swiftly end the conflict and enter into dialogue,” he said.

 

AFP

Ethiopia’s Rebels Announce Retreat To Tigray

In this file photo taken on February 26, 2021 A damaged tank stands on a road north of Mekele, the capital of Tigray. EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 26, 2021 A damaged tank stands on a road north of Mekele, the capital of Tigray. EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP

 

Tigrayan rebels announced on Monday they had withdrawn from northern Ethiopia’s Amhara and Afar regions and retreated to Tigray, marking a new turning point in the 13-month war which has left thousands of people dead.

“We decided to withdraw from these areas to Tigray. We want to open the door to humanitarian aid,” Getachew Reda, spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), told AFP.

The decision was made a few weeks ago, Getachew said, later tweeting: “We have just completed the withdrawal of our forces from both #Amhara&#Afar regions.”

READ ALSO: Policeman Dies As Teargas, Bullets Are Fired At Protesters In DRC

The move marks a major reversal by the rebels, who previously dismissed the government’s insistence on their withdrawal from Afar and Amhara for talks to begin as “an absolute non-starter”.

But Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokeswoman Billene Seyoum said Monday’s rebel announcement was a cover-up for military setbacks.

“The TPLF have sustained great losses over the past weeks and hence are claiming ‘strategic retreat’ to make up for defeat,” she told AFP.

“There are still pockets in the Amhara region in which they remain as well as other fronts they are attempting to open the conflict.”

The war between pro-Abiy forces and the TPLF has triggered a severe humanitarian crisis and last week the UN’s top rights body ordered an international probe into alleged abuses.

Since late October, the two sides have each declared major territorial advances, with the TPLF at one point claiming to be around 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the capital Addis Ababa by road.

Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, headed to the front last month, according to state media, and the government has since claimed to have retaken several key towns.

Communications have been cut in the conflict zone and access for journalists is restricted, making it difficult to verify battlefield claims.

Appeal to UN

The fighting has sparked alarm among the international community, as diplomatic efforts led by the African Union to broker a ceasefire failed to yield any visible breakthrough.

Getachew said TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael had written to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to inform him about the decision, with the Security Council expected to hold a closed-door meeting about Ethiopia later Monday.

Ireland’s UN envoy Geraldine Byrne Nason, who called the meeting, told reporters the TPLF pullout offered “a welcome opportunity to hopefully create political space for dialogue”.

According to copies of the letter circulating on social media, Debretsion asked the Security Council to ensure the withdrawal of Amhara forces and Eritrean troops from western Tigray.

“I can confirm that the letter is being studied,” said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for Guterres.

Both Amharas and Tigrayans lay claim to western Tigray, which has been occupied by Amhara forces since the war erupted, triggering large-scale displacement and US warnings of ethnic cleansing.

“We need the international community to take action,” Getachew said.

Amnesty and Human Rights Watch last week accused Amhara forces of systematically detaining, torturing and starving Tigrayan civilians living in the contested region.

Humanitarian ‘siege’

Previously TPLF leaders had refused to pull out of Amhara and Afar unless the government ended what the rebels describe as a humanitarian “siege” of Tigray.

Aid workers have repeatedly complained that security and bureaucratic hurdles are impeding access to the region, where some 400,000 people are thought to be on the verge of famine.

The UN also suspended humanitarian flights from Addis Ababa to Tigray’s capital Mekele in October amid a campaign of government air strikes in the region. The flights resumed in November.

Fears of a rebel march on the capital prompted countries such as the United States, France and Britain to urge their citizens to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible, although Abiy’s government insisted the city was secure.

The war broke out in November 2020 when Abiy sent troops into Tigray to topple the TPLF, accusing it of attacking army camps.

The Nobel Peace laureate vowed a swift victory but the rebels mounted a shock comeback, recapturing most of Tigray by June before advancing into Afar and Amhara.

The fighting has displaced over two million people while 9.4 million need food aid, according to UN estimates, with reports of massacres and mass rapes by both sides.

On Friday, the UN Human Rights Council voted to send international investigators to Africa’s second most populous nation amid warnings of looming generalised violence, in a move slammed by Addis Ababa.

UN Rights Council Opens Probe Of Abuses In Ethiopia Conflict

United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif gestures during an extraordinary meeting on Ethiopia at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council on December 17, 2021 in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

The top UN rights body agreed Friday to send international investigators to conflict-hit Ethiopia amid warnings of looming generalised violence, in a move slammed by Addis Ababa.

Following an emergency meeting, the 47-member UN Human Rights Council narrowly voted in favour of ordering the probe into a wide range of alleged violations by all sides in Ethiopia’s 13-month conflict.

Ethiopia had strenuously objected to the special session and the resolution, with Ambassador Zenebe Kebede saying ahead of the vote that the council was “being used as an instrument of political pressure” and had been “hijacked by a neo-colonialist mentality”.

READ ALSO: France Court Jails Rwanda Driver For 14 Years Over Genocide

The council decision came after the UN and dozens of countries took the floor to voice alarm at alleged atrocities, including mass killings and sexual violence, since the conflict erupted in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in November 2020.

The conflict has left thousands dead, displaced more than two million people and pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine, according to the UN.

Deputy UN rights chief Nada al-Nashif on Friday expressed concern at growing hate speech and incitement to violence, saying the conflict could “escalate into generalised violence”.

This, she said, would have “major implications, not only for millions of people in Ethiopia, but also across the region”.

‘Alarming scale’

The EU, which had requested Friday’s special council session, warned that abuses were being committed “in an alarming scale”.

“It is essential that perpetrators are held accountable in an independent, transparent and impartial manner,” Lotte Knudsen, the EU ambassador in Geneva, said Friday.

The resolution called for the creation of “an international commission of human rights experts on Ethiopia”, made up of three experts with a renewable one-year mandate.

They will be asked, among other things, to investigate alleged violations and “collect and preserve evidence, to identify those responsible, where possible… in support of ongoing and future accountability efforts”.

They will build on the work already done by a joint investigation by the UN rights office and Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the resolution said.

That investigation determined last month that possible war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed by all sides during the conflict.

Al-Nashif said Friday the rights office had since continued “to receive credible reports of severe human rights violations and abuses by all parties”.

She expressed particular concern about surging rights abuses after a nationwide state of emergency was declared on November 2, with mass arrests mainly of ethnic Tigrayans.

“While some of those arrested over the past six weeks have been released, we estimate that between 5,000 and 7,000 remain detained, including nine UN staff members,” she said.

Ethiopia has said that it had cooperated with the joint investigation and had launched its own probe.

“We do not see any merit in this politically-motivated… resolution,” Kebede said, insisting his country was “firmly committed to peace and human rights”.

A number of nations came to Ethiopia’s defence, saying that the country was being singled out by the council.

Cameroon’s ambassador Salomon Eheth insisted on behalf of African countries that the requested investigation would be “counterproductive and susceptible to exacerbating tensions”.

Ethiopia’s conflict began when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray in November 2020 after accusing the region’s dissident ruling party of attacks on federal army camps.

The Nobel Peace laureate declared victory over the TPLF but rebel fighters staged a shock comeback, recapturing most of Tigray and pushing into neighbouring Afar and Amhara.

 

AFP

Ethiopia PM Abiy Returns From War Front

In this handout video grab released by the Ethiopian TV broadcast, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addresses the public on television on June 23, 2019, after a failed coup. HO / Ethiopian TV / AFP

 

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Wednesday that he was returning to Addis Ababa from the battlefront after pro-government forces claimed major advances in their fight against Tigrayan rebels.

The government on Monday said pro-Abiy forces had retaken the strategic towns of Dessie and Kombolcha, the latest turn in the 13-month-old war.

After the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group reported significant territorial gains as part of a march towards Addis Ababa, Abiy announced last month that he would head to the battlefront, handing over his regular duties to his deputy.

Since then, state media has broadcast images of a uniformed Abiy, a former lieutenant colonel in the military, as fighting reportedly raged on at least three fronts.

On Wednesday, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner said: “I am returning to the office as I have completed the first phase (of the conflict).”

“The struggle isn’t yet finished. We have areas that haven’t been freed. We should offer a long-lasting solution to make sure the enemy that has tested us doesn’t become a danger to Ethiopia again,” he warned in a statement published on social media.

In recent days, the government has announced the recapture of several small towns, including the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lalibela which is famed for its 12th-century rock-hewn churches.

The TPLF has dismissed the government’s claims, saying the rebels were making strategic withdrawals and remained undefeated.

Fears of a rebel march on Addis Ababa have prompted countries such as the United States, France, and Britain to urge their citizens to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible, although Abiy’s government says the city is secure.

READ ALSO: Ethiopia Government Claims Recapture Of Key Towns

 Ceasefire Push 

In this file photo taken on August 01, 2019, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed gives a press conference at the Prime Minister’s office in the capital, Addis Ababa. MICHAEL TEWELDE / AFP

 

Olusegun Obasanjo, the African Union’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, is leading a push to broker a ceasefire, but little progress has been reported so far.

The surging conflict has fuelled fears of a potential spillover into the fragile East African region, with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta last month urging both parties to lay down their arms.

Obasanjo visited Kenya on Wednesday, Kenyatta’s office announced, saying the two men “discussed several subjects of importance to Kenya, the region and the African continent”, without offering further details.

The war erupted in November 2020 when Abiy sent troops into Tigray to topple the TPLF — a move he said came in response to rebel attacks on army camps.

But the rebels mounted a shock comeback, recapturing most of Tigray by the end of June before expanding into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.

The fighting has killed thousands of people, displaced more than two million and driven hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions, according to UN estimates.

AFP

Ethiopia Government Claims Recapture Of Key Towns

Members of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) are seen on a truck as they transport a Saeer KS-19 automatic 100mm anti aircraft gun in Shewa Robit, Ethiopia, on December 05, 2021. Amanuel Sileshi / AFP
Members of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) are seen on a truck as they transport a Saeer KS-19 automatic 100mm anti aircraft gun in Shewa Robit, Ethiopia, on December 05, 2021.
Amanuel Sileshi / AFP

 

Ethiopia’s government said Monday it had recaptured two strategic towns from rebel fighters, the latest in a rapid series of battlefield victories claimed by forces loyal to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The announcement marks another dramatic twist in the 13-month-old conflict that has killed thousands of people and triggered a deep humanitarian crisis in the north of Africa’s second most populous nation.

The government’s communications service said on Twitter that Dessie and Kombolcha had been “freed by the joint gallant security forces” that had also taken control of several other towns on the eastern front.

READ ALSO: Sudan Police Fire Tear Gas As Thousands Protest

The two cities, which lie in the Amhara region on a highway about 400 kilometres (250 miles) by road northeast of the capital Addis Ababa, were reportedly taken by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) at the end of October.

Their capture had sparked fears that the TPLF and its ally, the Oromo Liberation Army, would march on the capital, leading alarmed foreign governments to urge their citizens to leave the country as soon as possible.

The state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation quoted Abiy as saying the rebels had sustained “heavy losses and (were) unable to cope with the strike by allied forces”.

“The enemy will be hit and the victory will continue,” he said.

Abiy — who won the Nobel Peace Prize two years ago — announced last month he would head to the battlefront following a series of advances claimed by the rebels, as fighting reportedly raged on at least three fronts.

And over several days last week, the government said the military and its allies had retaken the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lalibela, which had fallen to TPLF fighters in August, as well as the town of Shewa Robit which lies only 220 kilometres from Addis Ababa by road.

TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said on Twitter late Monday that rebel forces had left towns including Kombolcha and Dessie “as part of our plan”.

On Sunday, TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael had denied the government was scoring major victories, saying the rebels were making strategic territorial adjustments and remained undefeated.

“The enemy is getting stronger so we also have to be strong and intensify our struggle,” he said.

Shock comeback

The government declared a nationwide state of emergency in early November after the TPLF fighters claimed the capture of Dessie and Kombolcha as they advanced towards the capital.

But Abiy’s administration described the gains by the TPLF as overstated and insisted that the city of more than five million people was secure.

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

The war broke out in November 2020 when Abiy sent troops into Ethiopia’s northernmost region of Tigray to topple the TPLF after months of seething tensions with the group that had dominated politics for three decades before he took office.

He said the move was in response to attacks on army camps by the TPLF, and vowed a swift victory.

But the rebels mounted a shock comeback, recapturing most of Tigray by June before advancing into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.

The fighting has displaced more than two million and driven hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions, according to UN estimates, with reports of massacres and mass rapes by both sides.

But intense diplomatic efforts led by the African Union to try to reach a ceasefire have failed to achieve any visible breakthrough.

Risk of ‘fracture’

Last week, the UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, warned that Ethiopia risked descending into sectarian violence that could “fracture” the country if the conflict spread to Addis Ababa.

Earlier Monday, the United States and Western allies sounded the alarm over reports the Ethiopian government has unlawfully detained large numbers of citizens on ethnic grounds and called for the arrests to “cease immediately”.

“Many of these acts likely constitute violations of international law,” Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and Britain, along with the US, said in a statement.

“Individuals are being arrested and detained without charges or a court hearing and are reportedly being held in inhumane conditions.”

The statement cited reports by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International, which “describe widespread arrests of ethnic Tigrayans,” including the elderly and young children.

Ethiopia Denies Attack On Sudan, Blames Rebels For Unrest

In this file photo taken on August 01, 2019 Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed gives a press conference at the Prime Minister’s office in the capital, Addis Ababa. MICHAEL TEWELDE / AFP

 

Ethiopia has denied it staged an attack over the weekend along its shared border with Sudan, blaming unrest in the disputed zone on rebels from its war-hit Tigray region.

On Saturday Sudan’s military said “several” soldiers had been killed in an attack by armed groups and militias linked to the Ethiopian military in the fertile expanse known as Al-Fashaqa.

The area has long been a source of tension between Addis Ababa and Khartoum, sparking deadly clashes over the last year.

But in comments that aired on state media Sunday, Ethiopian government spokesman Legesse Tulu dismissed claims the military had attacked Sudan as “groundless”.

Instead, he blamed the violence on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the insurgent group that has been locked in a gruesome war against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government since November 2020 and claims to be approaching the capital Addis Ababa.

“A large group of insurgents, bandits and terrorists had entered [from Sudan],” Legesse said in comments aired by the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, without providing evidence.

“The Ethiopian National Defense Force and the local militia have destroyed them,” he added.

Legesse also said the TPLF was training in Sudan and receiving support from unspecified “foreign backers”.

The land in Al-Fashaqa has for years been cultivated by Ethiopian farmers, though Sudan claims it falls within its territory.

In November 2020, around the time Abiy sent troops into Tigray to oust the TPLF, Khartoum stationed troops in Al-Fashaqa, a move Addis Ababa has described as an invasion.

Yet Legesse said Ethiopia was keen to resolve the matter peacefully.

“The Ethiopian National Defence Force doesn’t have an agenda to open an attack on any sovereign country,” he said, referring to the military.

“There is land that the Sudanese forces have invaded. The government is sitting down to resolve [the dispute] in a peaceful process, through dialogue and negotiation.”

 Ethiopia claims advance

The war in northern Ethiopia has killed thousands of people and driven hundreds of thousands more into famine-like conditions, according to UN estimates.

Last week Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, announced he would head to the front to lead operations against the TPLF.

On Sunday state media reported that the military and special forces from the Afar region had taken control of the town of Chifra.

The area around Chifra has been the site of fierce fighting in recent weeks, with the TPLF apparently trying to seize control of a critical highway that brings goods into Addis Ababa.

A TPLF source disputed the state media report Monday, saying “active fighting is going on”.

AFP

Canada Urges Citizens To Leave Ethiopia ‘Immediately’

In this file photo taken on September 21, 2021 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his victory speech after snap parliamentary elections at the Fairmount Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, Quebec. -(Photo by ANDREJ IVANOV / AFP)

 

Canada’s foreign minister on Friday urged citizens to immediately leave Ethiopia over concerns about security conditions in the war-hit country.

“Canada is very concerned by the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Ethiopia,” Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement.

Since November 18, she reminded, Ottawa has been asking Canadians to avoid all travel to Ethiopia.

READ ALSO: Ethiopia’s Abiy Vows To ‘Bury The Enemy’ At War Front

“We are now asking Canadians who are already there to leave immediately if it is safe to do so,” she said, citing the possibility of commercial flight disruptions “should the situation continue to worsen.”

For now, Canada’s embassy in Addis Ababa remains open, but consular services are limited, officials said.

Ottawa’s notice to Canadians in Ethiopia comes after the United States and other nations told their citizens to leave the country amid fears that Tigrayan rebels could march on the capital.

The war erupted in November 2020 when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops into the Tigray region to topple its ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

He said the move was in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps and promised a swift victory, but by late June the rebels had retaken most of Tigray, including its capital Mekele.

Since then, the TPLF has pushed into neighboring Amhara and Afar regions, and this week it claimed to have seized a town just 220 kilometers (135 miles) from Addis Ababa.

The civil war has left thousands dead and displaced more than two million people.

On Friday, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said the number of people requiring food aid in the country’s north had surged to 9.4 million, while hundreds of thousands are on the brink of famine as aid workers struggle to deliver supplies in Tigray, Amhara, and Afar.

AFP

Ethiopia’s Abiy Vows To ‘Bury The Enemy’ At War Front

In this handout videograb released by the Ethiopian TV broadcast, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addresses the public on television on June 23, 2019 after a failed coup. 
HO / Ethiopian TV / AFP

 

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed vowed Friday to “bury the enemy” in his first message from the battlefront, state media said, after he announced plans to lead a counter-offensive against Tigrayan rebels.

As the rebels report major territorial gains, claiming this week to have seized a town just 220 kilometres (135 miles) from Addis Ababa, international alarm over the escalating conflict has deepened, with foreign countries urging their citizens to leave.

State media reported Wednesday that Abiy, a former radio operator in the military who rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, had arrived at the front line to lead a counter-offensive, handing over regular duties to his deputy.

In an interview shown on the state-affiliated Oromia Broadcasting Corporation channel, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner said he was certain of achieving victory in the battle against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

“Until we bury the enemy… until Ethiopia’s independence is confirmed, we won’t reverse course. What we want is to see an Ethiopia that stands while we die,” he said.

He added that the military had secured control of the town of Kassagita in the Afar region northeast of Addis Ababa and planned to recapture the nearby towns of Chifra and Burka.

“You’ve seen the victory we brought in one day’s battle. It will continue tomorrow, there are very big victories. The enemy doesn’t have the standing to compete with us, we will win,” he said.

The interview was broadcast hours after the government announced new rules Thursday against sharing information on battlefield outcomes that were not officially published by the authorities, a move that could bring sanctions against journalists.

Abiy’s government, which has presided over the year-long war, insists the TPLF’s gains have been overstated, criticising what it describes as sensationalist media coverage and alarmist security advisories from Western embassies.

-AFP

Ethiopia PM, Olympic Medalist Ready To Join Tigray War

In this handout videograb released by the Ethiopian TV broadcast, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addresses the public on television on June 23, 2019 after a failed coup. Ethiopia’s army chief and the president of a key region have been shot dead in a wave of violence highlighting the political instability in the country as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tries to push through reforms.
HO / Ethiopian TV / AFP

 

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s vow this week to head for the front lines of his country’s brutal year-long war has boosted recruitment for the beleaguered armed forces. 

At least one prominent distance runner — marathoner and Olympic silver medallist Feyisa Lelisa — has joined thousands of ordinary Ethiopians keen to follow Abiy’s lead.

World powers have voiced alarm about a military escalation that could scuttle efforts to broker a ceasefire, as rebels claim they are advancing towards the capital Addis Ababa and foreign governments tell their citizens to leave.

On Wednesday hundreds of new army recruits took part in a ceremony held in their honour in the Kolfe district of Addis Ababa.

As officials corralled sheep and oxen into trucks bound for the north, the recruits broke into patriotic songs and chants.

“I was amazed when I heard” Abiy planned to join soldiers in the field, one of the recruits, 42-year-old driver Tesfaye Sherefa, told AFP.

“When a leader leaves his chair… and his throne it is to rescue his country. His focus is not to live but to rescue this country, and I sobbed when he said ‘follow me’ and went to the front line.”

Abiy announced on Monday night his plan “to lead the defence forces” from the front, but officials and state media have not provided details on his movements since then.

The recruits in Kolfe nevertheless took his statement to heart, sporting T-shirts emblazoned with a picture of Abiy in uniform and the words “We have a historic responsibility to defend the free name of Ethiopia.”

“I feel proud and I stand with him,” 25-year-old Esubalew Wale, another recruit, told AFP.

 ‘Great opportunity’ 

Ethiopia’s war erupted in November 2020 when Abiy sent troops into the northernmost Tigray region to topple its ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

The 2019 Nobel Peace laureate said the move was in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps and promised a swift victory, but by late June the rebels had retaken most of Tigray including its capital Mekele.

Since then the TPLF has pushed into neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, and this week it claimed to have seized a town just 220 kilometres (135 miles) from the capital.

Feyisa, the distance runner, told state media the rebels’ advance presented “a great opportunity” to defend the country.

The marathoner gained political prominence by raising and crossing his arms as he finished the marathon at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro — a gesture of solidarity with fellow ethnic Oromos killed while protesting abuses committed during nearly three decades of TPLF rule.

In the state media interview which aired Wednesday, Feyisa said he would relish the chance to fight the TPLF himself.

“When a country is violated, there is no way I will stand by and just watch,” he said.

A separate state media report quoted Ethiopia’s most famous distance-running champion, Haile Gebreselassie, as saying he, too, would fight at the front.

But footage of the interview did not air and AFP could not independently verify it.

AFP

Tigray Conflict: Scores Of Children In Hospitals Die Of Starvation

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 22, 2020 a member of the Amhara Special Forces stands at the border crossing as people cross from Eritrea, in Humera, Ethiopia. AFP

 

Nearly 200 young children have died of starvation in hospitals across Ethiopia’s Tigray region as malnutrition soars one year after a brutal conflict broke out, according to a new survey.

The data collected from 14 hospitals offers a rare look at the scale of suffering in Tigray, which is grappling with a communications blackout and what the UN describes as a de facto aid blockade, meaning most essential medical supplies are no longer available.

Yet the toll is hardly comprehensive, given that most health facilities are not functional and Tigrayan health workers have only been able to reach roughly half of the region’s districts, said Dr Hagos Godefay, head of the health bureau in Tigray’s pre-war government.

Hagos described the unpublished findings, some of which were collected in partnership with Mekele University in Tigray’s capital, in an interview with AFP this week.

“We have registered more than 186 deaths,” Hagos said, referring to fatalities caused by severe acute malnutrition in children younger than five. “We collected this information from hospitals only.”

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Some 29 per cent of children are acutely malnourished, up from nine per cent before the war, Hagos said.

(FILES) Children look at books in the library of an elementary school that was damaged during the fighting that broke out in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, in the village of Bisober.  AFP

 

For severe acute malnutrition, the figure is 7.1 per cent, up from 1.3 per cent before the war, he said.

Only 14 per cent of surveyed households report having enough access to food, down from 60 per cent, he said, adding that he fears what is unfolding in areas his teams have so far been unable to reach.

“For those areas that are not accessible, you can only imagine how many children are dying because of starvation. They are living in remote areas, there is no water… there is no food, no communication, no health facility,” he said.

“So I am telling you if we go to the remote areas it will double for sure.”

 ‘It’s catastrophic’

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray last November to topple the regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a move he said came in response to TPLF attacks on army camps.

The 2019 Nobel Peace laureate promised a swift victory, but by late June the TPLF had retaken most of the region including Mekele and has since advanced south.

Since mid-July less than 15 per cent of needed aid has been able to enter Tigray, according to the UN, raising the spectre of the kind of mass starvation that turned Ethiopia into a byword for famine in the 1980s.

AFP has previously documented scattered starvation deaths in multiple parts of Tigray, describing how mothers feed leaves to their children in a desperate bid to keep them alive.

The survey findings Hagos described covering the four months from late June, when the TPLF retook control of Mekele, to late October.

The 14 hospitals still functioning in the region are each recording between three and four deaths weekly due to ordinarily treatable illnesses like pneumonia and diarrhoea, Hagos said.

He added he was especially worried for tens of thousands of Tigrayans under “chronic follow-up”, including 55,000 HIV-positive patients and others battling conditions like cancer, hypertension and diabetes.

“If we are not able to manage them, if we are not able to provide them drugs… it’s catastrophic,” he said.

 ‘Frustrated’ doctors

Abiy’s government has rejected claims it is blocking aid to Tigray, saying access has been restricted because of TPLF advances into neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions.

In an interview with CNN last week, Abiy’s spokeswoman Billene Seyoum said “the onus of responsibility on humanitarian access… is on the TPLF”.

The US, however, has said access to essential supplies and services was “being denied by the Ethiopian government” while denouncing “indications of a siege”.

And aid workers have sounded the alarm about government-imposed restrictions on medicines entering the region.

Hagos said that with health facilities damaged across Tigray, banking services suspended and supply stocks now empty, there is little health workers can do.

“The commitment from the health workforce is really amazing. They just want to work even without having a salary, but they don’t have food to eat,” he said.

As foreign envoys scramble to end the conflict, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken due in neighbouring Kenya early Wednesday, the TPLF has said lifting the “siege” of Tigray is a condition for any ceasefire.

Hagos, too, said it was a must, describing the current situation as “collective punishment”.

“The rights of the people of Tigray are not what we are negotiating here,” he said.

“If negotiations are to be done, they can only be on issues concerning a political settlement.”