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As Tigrayan rebels approach on the capital, France has encouraged its people to flee Ethiopia. South Africa and Kenya have called for an urgent truce between the rebels and the government, who have been battling since last year.
In an email to French people, the French embassy in Addis Ababa stated, “All French nationals are formally asked to leave the country without delay.”
Fears of a rebel assault on the capital have spurred some countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, to withdraw non-essential diplomatic personnel.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has said it is pressing towards Addis Ababa, claiming control of Shewa Robit town, 220 kilometres northeast of the capital by road.
On Monday Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said he would “mobilise to the front to lead the defence forces” and called on Ethiopians to “rise up for your country.”
Moving towards the capital
The government has been fighting the TPLF since November 2020, when it sent troops to Tigray, Ethiopia’s northern most province, in response to what it said were TPLF attacks on army camps.
Abiy promised a swift victory, but the TPLF had regrouped, and by June had retaken most of Tigray, pushing the army to largely withdraw from the region.
Since then the TPLF has pushed into neighbouring regions and formed alliance with other insurgent groups including the Oromo Liberation Army, which is active in the Oromia region surrounding Addis Ababa.
In early November Abiy’s government declared a six-month state of emergency.
South Africa, Kenya call for ceasefire
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, following a visit to South Africa by the Kenyan president, said they had discussed the “grave situation” in Ethiopia.
“We expressed our conviction that there… is an urgent need for all parties to the conflict to commit to an immediate indefinite, negotiated ceasefire, and an all inclusive political dialogue,” said Ramaphosa.
The war has already killed thousands of people, and pushed hundreds of thousands into famine-like condition, according to the United Nations, which on Tuesday launched a major drive to deliver food aid to two towns in northern Ethiopia.
The World Food Programme operation is aimed at more than 450,000 people over the next two weeks in the Kombolcha and Dessie in the northern Amhara region, which were the scene of fighting in recent weeks, as they lie at a strategic crossroads on the main highway to Addis Ababa.
The aid will be distributed, despite looting of warehouses in Kombolcha.
The WFP called on all parties to respect humanitarian operations and assets and allow unimpeded passage of relief to civilians in need.
To date, WFP has delivered emergency food and nutrition assistance to 2.6 million people in the Tigray region, 124,000 people in Afar and 220,000 people in Amhara, despite fighting hampering access.