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Friday, December 3, 2021

Ethiopian leader vows to lead troops as war threatens expansion

NAIROBI, Kenya – Abiy Ahmed has been haunted by the Nobel Peace Prize since he went off to war a year ago, sparking outrage from critics who viewed the 2019 award to the Ethiopian prime minister as a terrible mistake.

But this week, Mr. Abiy went even further, claiming that he himself was heading to the front to lead an army trying to stave off a rebel advance into the capital.

By Thursday, there was no sign of Mr. Abiya delegating the day-to-day management of Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country, to his deputy. His office declined to reveal where he was. But this has exacerbated a growing sense of urgency in the wake of the war, which displaced two million Ethiopians, starved at least 400,000 and now threaten to tear the country apart.

Foreigners are leaving in droves, and the American-led diplomatic struggle to bring about peace has stalled. Ethnic Tigerian rebels who launched their march to Addis Ababa in July from northern Ethiopia say they are now 120 miles down the road from the capital.

As fears grow that the capital’s airport – one of the busiest in Africa – could soon close, two U.S. military officials have confirmed reports that C-17 military cargo planes have been stationed in neighboring Djibouti in case the need arises to evacuate American citizens. …

Officials stressed that this is unlikely to happen over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. But beyond that, few were prepared to predict what would happen next.

Although his army has suffered a series of humiliating defeats, Mr. Abiy retains a great deal of public support. His challenge was publicly endorsed Wednesday by Ethiopia’s national hero, two-time Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie, who announced that he would also go to the front lines.

Mr. Gebrseless is 48 years old. But many young Ethiopians are supporting Mr. Abiy’s campaign, offering to defend Addis Ababa or join the battle in the north, even if they never fired.

“I’m following the prime minister,” said Sintayehu Mulgeta, 28, a taxi driver who has joined a newly formed group of vigilantes that roam the streets of Addis Ababa at night, armed with sticks, tracking down suspected insurgents.

Mr Sintayehu blamed the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which dominated Ethiopia for 27 years until 2018 and controls rebels approaching the capital, for the death of his cousin during a political protest in 2016.

“They have my cousin’s blood on their hands,” he said. “I don’t want to return them anymore.”

This militant stance reflected the sharp turn that Mr. Abiy took just two years ago when he stood on stage in the Norwegian capital Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. “War is hell incarnate,” Mr. Abiy said at the time.

However, in the past year, references to hellish suffering in Ethiopia focused on Tigray, the northern region where Mr. Abiy’s forces and their allies from Eritrea and the neighboring Amhara region faced charges of massacre, sexual assault and ethnic cleansing.

The Tigrayans also faced accusations of abuse, albeit on a smaller scale.

The Biden administration is making diplomatic efforts to end hostilities and prevent the collapse of a key US security partner in the Horn of Africa. While visiting Kenya last week, Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken discussed the crisis with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

But the Tigerians continued to push south this week, claiming to be outside Debre Sina, a key city perched on a high ridge about 120 miles down the road from Addis Ababa.

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The Ethiopian government hesitated between condemning foreign media for exaggerating their losses and displaying dramatic gestures that seem to indicate vulnerability and strength.

Before heading to the battlefield this week, Mr. Abiy said he was ready to “accept martyrdom.”

On Wednesday, his government expelled four Irish diplomats – out of six in the country – for outspoken Irish criticism of Mr. Abiy’s actions. They have joined a roster of foreign journalists, humanitarian workers and senior United Nations officials who have been forced to leave Ethiopia since the summer when the war began to change.

Security forces launched a violent raid of ethnic Tigrayans, in which thousands of people were arrested, many of whom were held in temporary detention centers.

At daily recruitment ceremonies, elderly Ethiopians listen carefully to speeches denouncing the Tigrayan “junta,” as the NPLT is called, when young men and women volunteer to go to the front lines.

“I don’t want to see the junta in power again,” said Tilahun Mamo, 32, a parking attendant who leads a group of 30 vigilantes in the urban area of ​​Bole, and waiting for a call to war.

Deep fears over Tigrayan’s rule underpin some of Mr. Abiy’s support. In its 27 years of political dominance, NPLT has brought economic progress to Ethiopia, but has also rigged elections, imprisoned and tortured critics, and suppressed the free press.

But analysts say Mr. Abiy has also been involved in a concerted campaign to vilify the Tigers, which senior UN officials have warned could lead to ethnic violence or even genocide.

“Why would I sit back and wait for terrorists to take over my city?” said Derezhe Tegen, a 42-year-old security guard and member of a vigilante group in Addis Ababa. “I will go and fight them.”

Ethnic fault lines are most prominent among the Oromo, which account for about one third of Ethiopia’s 110 million people. Although Mr. Abiy, whose father is Oromo, came to power in 2018 in the wake of street protests led by an angry young Oromo, many in the movement now say he has betrayed their cause.

Some took up arms against him, most notably through the Oromo Liberation Army, which joined the Tigerians in the march to Addis.

In a telephone interview, Jaal Marroo, leader of the Oromo group, rejected Abiy’s promise to join the fight as a “joke” and predicted that the country was “heading for chaos.”

“The government is frustrated that it is using human waves to play its final card, ethnic mobilization,” he said.

Oromo political prisoners say their lives are in danger. Javar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba, two prominent Oromo leaders imprisoned last year, issued a statement through their families this week saying they fear their prison guards are trying to kill them.

This week, France and Germany joined the list of Western countries urging their citizens to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible while there are still scheduled flights. The US Embassy has ordered all non-essential personnel to leave and this week warned of the possibility of unspecified “terrorist attacks” in Ethiopia.

At a press conference on Thursday, a spokesman for the Ethiopian government called the American warning “false information.”

The report was provided Eric Schmitt in San Francisco and a New York Times reporter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
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