There are reports of escalating tension and a deteriorating situation in Ethiopia over the weekend. In towns such as Dessie and Kombolcha, in the Amhara region, there has been ongoing fighting, which has resulted in large-scale displacements and a more emergent humanitarian crisis, because the two towns have become centers for displaced people to flee to. The TLPF has recently claimed to have recaptured the two towns from government forces. There is still a de-facto blockade on the delivery of humanitarian aid into the Tigray region, with food, water and sanitation, hygiene and other non-food items being bottlenecked in their delivery, even though officially the government says aid is free to travel to needed areas. There has for example, been no fuel since early August, so some humanitarian partners have had to suspend activities.

The government of Ahmed Abbey has declared a state of emergency in Ethiopia. This after the TLPF seized control of Dessie and Kombolcha, strategic towns not more than 400kms away from Addis Ababa, in an apparent push towards the capital. “The state of emergency is aimed to protect civilians from atrocities being committed but the terrorist TLPF group in several parts of the country”. Most of the north of the country is currently also under a communications blackout, making access to up-to-date information very difficult to access and confirm. On Tuesday, state officials in Addis Ababa ordered residents to register their firearms in preparation for the need to be citizen defenders of their neighbourhoods in case the TLPF advances into the city. Door-to-door searches are also being conducted in neighbourhoods and suspected troublemakers detained, although the government has emphatically denied that they are only targeting Tigrayans. “Residents can gather in their locality and safeguard their surroundings. Those who have weapons but can’t take part in safeguarding their surroundings are advised to handover the weapon to the government or their close relatives or friends”. This was detailed in a statement carried by the Ethiopian News Agency. On the streets of the capital however, people don’t seem to be aware of the latest instructions but would prepare nonetheless. A woman, who asked not to be named said “I will try to buy commodities in advance. But so far I haven’t yet purchased anything.” Another resident said he was frightened, particularly because of a seeming increase in ethnic slurs and threats of violence to ethnic Tigrayans; “They may come up with stories that could create violence against Tigrayans. Additionally, the regional governments of four of the ten regions in the country have called on Ethiopians to mobilize and prepare for a fight against Tigrayan forces.

The USA has suspended duty-free access that Ethiopia had for its exports to US ports, as a sanction for the year-long war that’s caused an unmitigated humanitarian crisis in the East-African country. As Ethiopia, due to its war, is in violation of the compliance eligibility requirements of the African growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the US has decided to withdraw the free exports incentive it enjoyed because of the recent gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. The decision can be reversed however, if the government of Abiy makes concrete steps to address these violations by 1 January 2022. For a country that exported goods worth $245 million to the US under AGOA, this sanction will be a major blow to its economy, which is already under severe stress due to the war, as well as COVID ramifications to its previously thriving tourism industry.

The government of Ethiopia has allegedly barred and limited access to human rights watchdogs, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, from accessing the Tigray region, where they were conducting a UN human rights investigation into the atrocities being committed in the blockaded Tigray region. Initially, there was a joint effort between the humanitarian bodies and the state created Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, however, in recent days, the humanitarian bodies have not been allowed to continue their work. The government has severed flights and communication into and out of the region during the planned investigation period made it difficult to access key locations for the report, both logistically and from a security point of view.

Ethiopian military officers and soldiers have held a candlelit vigil to commemorate the one year anniversary of the beginning of the trouble in the Tigray region. “We won’t forget their deed. We will struggle, fight, and win them. Ethiopia , our country will win.” So says the mayor of Addis Ababa, Adanech Abebe. He was reiterating the call to arms by the country’s prime minister, who urged citizens to support the war effort and take up arms against the TLPF and rebels, in an effort to “stop them turning Ethiopia into Libya and Syria”. “Ethiopians, what we should understand is that Ethiopia has always been tested over the years when many forces from inside and outside were testing her to divide her, destroy and impoverish her. Until Ethiopia is free and peaceful, this is the time for every citizen to say: ‘ I’m an Ethiopian soldier,’ to condemn this mischievous plan while standing next to the Ethiopian National Defence forces to humiliate the enemy. They are set to destroy a country-not to build it. Victory over the threat posed by our enemies is unattainable if we do not work together” This stark warning was issued after the TLPF and its ally, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), captured two strategic towns near the capital. According to Odaa Tarbii, spokesperson of OLA, the groups intend on toppling Abiys government, saying it is a “forgone conclusion. If things continue in the current trajectory, then we are talking about a matter of months if not weeks.” The ongoing conflict, which does not look to have any resolution, is gravely affecting the country of 114 million people, of whom over 20 million are now in need of assistance, and approximately 7 million are now displaced due to the fighting.

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