Ethiopia declares state of emergency as Tigrayan forces gain ground
- The emergency will be in effect for six months
- Statement follows territorial gains by Tigray rebels
- Rebels say they plan to march on Addis Ababa
- Ethiopia’s existence in great danger – Minister of Justice
- US suspends duty-free access to Ethiopia over tariff issues
ADDIS ABABA, Nov. 2 (Reuters) – Ethiopia declared a six-month state of emergency on Tuesday after forces in the northern Tigray region said they were gaining territory and considering marching on the capital Addis Ababa.
The announcement came two days after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed urged citizens to take up arms to defend themselves against the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF).
Earlier on Tuesday, authorities in Addis Ababa asked residents to register their weapons and prepare to defend their neighborhoods. Read more
A state of emergency was imposed with immediate effect after the TPLF claimed to have captured several towns in recent days and said it could march on Addis Ababa, about 380 km (235 miles) south of their positions. advances.
“Our country faces a grave danger to its existence, its sovereignty and its unity. And we cannot dispel this danger through the usual systems and procedures of law enforcement,” said the Minister of Justice. Gedion Timothewos at a state press conference.
He said anyone violating the state of emergency could face three to ten years in prison, for offenses such as providing financial, material or moral support to “terrorist groups”.
Ethiopia last imposed such a measure in February 2018 for six months before the transition of power to Abiy. Curfews were enforced and the movement of people restricted, while thousands of people were detained.
The Addis Ababa city administration said people should register their guns and gather in their neighborhoods. House-to-house searches were underway and troublemakers arrested, according to a statement.
“Residents can come together in their locality and protect their environment. Those who have weapons but cannot participate in safeguarding their environment are encouraged to hand over their weapons to the government or to their relatives or friends.”
Before the announcement, people traveled normally in the capital.
“I will try to buy groceries in advance. But so far I haven’t bought anything yet,” said a woman who asked not to be named.
The governments of four of Ethiopia’s ten regions have also called on Ethiopians to mobilize to fight Tigray forces, state-affiliated Fana TV said.
Conflict in what was once seen as a stable Western ally in an unstable region has plunged an estimated 400,000 people in Tigray into starvation, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 2.5 million people in the north to flee their homes. houses.
It erupted on the night of November 3, 2020 when forces loyal to the TPLF – including some soldiers – seized military bases in Tigray, a northern region. In response, Abiy sent more troops there.
The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades, but lost a lot of influence when Abiy took office in 2018 after years of anti-government protests.
Relations with the TPLF deteriorated after they accused it of centralizing power to the detriment of Ethiopian regional states – a charge Abiy denied.
TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said if the Tigrayan forces and their allies succeed in overthrowing the government, they will establish an interim government. “If the government falls, we will certainly have an interim arrangement.”
There would also need to be a national dialogue, he said, but Abiy and his ministers would not be invited to participate.
“They will have their day in court,” he said.
The TPLF has claimed responsibility for the capture of Dessie, Kombolcha and Burka, all in the Amhara region, in recent days.
A government spokesperson challenged the capture of Dessie and Kombolcha, but then released a statement saying TPLF “infiltrators” killed 100 young people in Kombolcha.
Government, military and Amhara region spokespersons did not respond to calls for further comment on Tuesday.
On Monday evening, Tigrayan forces said they linked up with fighters from an Oromo force also fighting the central government. The Oromo are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia. Many of their political leaders are currently in prison.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is “extremely concerned” by the latest developments in Ethiopia, UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said. “The stability of Ethiopia and the wider region is at stake,” Dujarric said.
The United States special envoy for the Horn of Africa said on Tuesday that Washington was alarmed by the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the north, including signs of famine, and urged all parties to find ways to defuse and let in help.
Also on Tuesday, the administration of US President Joe Biden accused Ethiopia of “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” and said it planned to withdraw the country from the AGOA trade deal (African Growth and Opportunity Act), which gives it duty-free access to the United States.
Ethiopia’s Commerce Ministry said it was “extremely disappointed” with the US decision and called for a reversal by January.
“The Ethiopian government takes all human rights allegations seriously: we investigate and investigate them and we are committed to ensuring accountability,” he said.
Report from the Addis Ababa Newsroom, Maggie Fick and Katharine Houreld in Nairobi, Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis in Washington, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Mark Heinrich
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