Residents of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia are reacting to news of a nationwide state of emergency that ordered them to prepare and defend their neighbourhoods amid fears that Tigrayan rebels were heading for the capital.
The nationwide state of emergency was declared by the government on Tuesday- a measure that came after several days of reported advances by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group, which is locked in a brutal year-long war against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.
“The state of emergency is aimed to protect civilians from atrocities being committed by the terrorist TPLF group in several parts of the country,” state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported.
“We do not want the fate of Dessie here in Addis Ababa. Some insurgents have entered the capital. We need to identify them, otherwise, I do not doubt that what happened in Dessie will happen in Debre Berhan and Addis Ababa”. Azmeraw Berhan, a self-employed resident to our reporter.
“These people are eating and drinking with us and they are enemies of Ethiopia and they need to dismissed and to do that, all of us need to cooperate with the state of emergency accordingly.” he warned.
For Tenu Melesse an accountant. The latest development is troubling. “It worries me a lot because Dessie and Kombolcha are near Addis Ababa. They travelled many kilometres to get there. I think they will control Addis Ababa as well.”
Possible restrictions include a curfew, road closures and searches of “anyone suspected of collaborating with terror groups”, according to state-affiliated Broadcaster Fana.
Meanwhile, an Oromo group allied with Tigrayan fighters told AFP Wednesday that Addis Ababa could be overrun by rebels within “months if not weeks”, as they advance southwards.
Odaa Tarbii, spokesman for OLA, which has also claimed recent advances in Amhara and in the Oromia region surrounding Addis Ababa, said his group intended to topple Abiy’s government, calling his removal “a foregone conclusion”.
“If things continue in the current trajectory, then we are talking about a matter of months if not weeks,” he said, referring to OLA’s move on Addis Ababa.
The comments came hours after the nationwide state of emergency declared in Addis.
In a statement released Wednesday, Abiy accused the rebel alliance of trying to turn Ethiopia into Libya and Syria, adding: “They are set to destroy a country – not to build it.”
He also urged citizens to support the war effort, saying: “Victory over the threat posed by our enemies is unattainable if we do not work together.”
– UN appeal –
Responding to the escalating situation, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday urged both sides to step back from the brink.
Guterres called “for an immediate cessation of hostilities, unrestricted humanitarian access to deliver urgent life-saving assistance, and an inclusive national dialogue to resolve this crisis and create the foundation for peace and stability throughout the country,” his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said.
Several Western powers have repeated their calls for an immediate ceasefire and for the African Union to broker peace talks.
The US embassy published an advisory Tuesday suggesting citizens reconsider travelling to Ethiopia and that those there “consider making preparations to leave”.
The fighting has already killed thousands and forced hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions, according to the UN.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell expressed alarm over the emergency declaration. “Mass mobilisation from the government will only drag the country and its citizens further into civil war and disintegration,” he warned.
US President Joe Biden said his government would remove Ethiopia from a vital trade pact due to human rights concerns related to the war.
Ethiopia, which in recent weeks had lobbied to stay in the programme, known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act, said it was “extremely disappointed” by Biden’s decision and called for its reversal.
Jeffrey Feltman, US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, said on Tuesday that Washington opposed “any TPLF move to Addis or any TPLF move to besiege Addis”, and that officials had conveyed that message to the rebels.