While the country observes a year of fighting, urgent fresh efforts to calm Ethiopia’s worsening war are happening Thursday, as a US special envoy comes and the president of neighboring Kenya urges for an immediate cease-fire.
The absence of engagement “has been extremely distressing,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement, as the battle in Ethiopia threatens to envelop the capital, Addis Ababa, which has killed hundreds of people and displaced millions since November 2020.
In recent days, rival Tigray troops captured major cities and allied with another armed group, prompting the government of Africa’s second most populous country to proclaim a state of emergency.
When asked if Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will meet with US special envoy Jeffrey Feltman, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, did not immediately react Thursday.
On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he called with Abiy “to offer my good offices in order to establish the circumstances for a discussion so that the fighting ends.”
However, attempts to conduct such dialogues have thus far failed. “There have been discussions of conversations with officials,” a congressional aide told The Associated Press last week, “but when it reaches to the Abiy level and the senior (Tigray forces) level, the demands are vast, and Abiy doesn’t want to talk.”
Instead, the prime minister has urged civilians to stand up and “bury” the Tigray forces that had long dominated the national government before to his election. Facebook stated on Wednesday that a post by Abiy using similar wording had been deleted because it breached its standards against encouraging violence. It was an unusual act of defiance directed towards a leader of state or government.
Separately, Kenya’s foreign ministry stated that remarks urging ordinary Kenyans to join the war “must be avoided.” Kenya has also beefed up border security, fearing a swarm of Ethiopians escaping the conflict as one of the world’s biggest humanitarian disasters grows.
In a tweet late Wednesday, Tigray forces spokesperson Getachew Reda claimed that they had “joined hands” with another armed group, the Oromo Liberation Army, to take the city of Kemisse, which is even closer to the capital.
“In the days and weeks ahead, joint operations will continue,” he added. The assertion could not be verified right away.
According to a joint U.N. human rights study released Wednesday, both parties in the battle have committed violations, and millions of people in the government-blockaded Tigray province are no longer able to receive humanitarian relief.
With the new state of emergency’s broad detention powers, ethnic Tigrayans in the capital told the Associated Press that they were hiding in their homes in fear as authorities conducted house-to-house searches and stopped people on the streets to check identity cards, which are now required for everyone.
“The (Tigray troops) are our only chance now,” said Rahel, a young lady whose husband was held on Tuesday while on his way to work as a trader but has not been prosecuted. “To be honest, they might not be able to save us.” I’ve already given up on my life, but I believe that saving our family is enough.”
Yared, a Tigrayan in the capital, claimed his businessman brother was imprisoned on Monday, and when he went to visit him at the police station, he spotted scores of other Tigrayans.
“It’s ridiculous; my non-Tigrayan friends in Addis are contacting me and urging me not to leave the house,” Yared said, adding that police visited his home on Wednesday, the latest in a series of similar inspections since the conflict began.
“They search through your phone and if you have any material concerning the Tigray conflict that suggests you are supporting the fight, they will just imprison you,” he explained. “By far, the last four days have been the worst; the scale with which they’re arresting individuals is terrifying.” We no longer feel comfortable in our own houses.”