EU calls for ‘immediate’ and ‘meaningful’ ceasefire in Ethiopia

The European Union on Thursday called for an immediate and meaningful ceasefire in Ethiopia as rebel forces cast their eyes on the country’s capital a year after the start of conflict in the northern Tigray region.

Thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced in the war between government forces and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF) and its allies.

The EU warned against “fragmentation and generalized armed conflict” and urged parties to enter into political negotiations without any preconditions.

The call echoed statements from the United States, the United Nations and other African nations. It came as the US special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, arrived in Addis Ababa to urge the government to negotiate with Tigrayan and Oromo forces who have captured various key towns near the capital.

What did the international community say?

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he had spoken to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed “to offer my good offices to create the conditions for a dialogue so that the fighting ceases”.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni announced that the East African bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), would meet on November 16 to discuss the war.

“The fighting must stop! Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said.

African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said he had spoken to US envoy Feltman about possible political solutions to the conflict.

Maria Gerth-Niculescu, journalist in Addis Ababa, said DW that the US special envoy is trying to convince Ethiopia to stop the fighting and start talking. “If the conflict continues, it may have an impact on political stability and the economy [of the region],” she said.

How did the warring factions react?

Despite the international outcry, the Ethiopian prime minister remained provocative.

An adviser to the Ethiopian Congress told the Associated Press the news agency that “there have been talks with officials, but when it comes to the Abiy level and senior officials [Tigray forces] level, the demands are broad and Abiy does not want to speak.

On Tuesday, Abiy declared a state of emergency across the country and urged citizens on social media to join the fight to “bury” the Tigrayan forces. The next day, Facebook withdrew its post, claiming it was violating its policies against incitement to violence.

The declaration of emergency came as TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda tweeted that his forces had “joined hands” with their allies, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) in taking the town of Kemise, 325 kilometers (200 miles) from Addis Ababa.

Oromo youths chant slogans during a protest outside the home of Jawar Mohammed, an Oromo activist and leader of the Oromo protest in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, October 24, 2019. Reuters / Tiksa Negeri.

Over the weekend, the TPLF attacked two neighboring towns on the way to the port of Djibouti in an attempt to cut off supplies to the capital.

Ethiopian security forces have also stepped up arrests of TPLF supporters in the capital.

A Tigrayan lawyer, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, told the Associated Press that the authorities had detained thousands of people “from all over the city”. Like many others of Tigrayan origin, he locked himself in his house out of fear for his life.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Photo: Reuters.

How did the fighting affect the region?

The fall of Kemise in Amhara State is the latest development in a war that has claimed thousands of lives.

Over the past year, the TPLF has fought hard to gain control of the northern Tigray region.

The government responded by stepping up its aerial bombardments on key targets and halting aid convoys in the region – a move aid agencies say has put 400,000 people at risk of starvation.

The TPLF’s push through Amhara left towns without electricity and people drinking in rivers, said a university staff member called Alemayehu who fled Woldiya town.

The escalation of hostilities prompted the United States to allow non-essential embassy staff to leave the country.

A joint UN human rights investigation said on Wednesday that all sides had committed war crimes in the conflict.

The UN Security Council was due to meet on Friday to discuss the situation in Ethiopia.

This article was originally published on DW.

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