Ethiopia urges citizens to join armed forces as conflict spreads

A torched tank stands near the town of Adwa in the Tigray region of Ethiopia on March 18, 2021. REUTERS / Baz Ratner / File Photo

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  • Prime Minister’s office calls to arms
  • Tigrayan forces push beyond their own region
  • The fighting has forced 2 million people to flee their homes

NAIROBI, Aug. 10 (Reuters) – The Ethiopian government on Tuesday urged citizens to join the fight against the resurgence of Tigrayian forces who are now pushing back their own region in a nine-month-old war that has sparked a major refugee crisis.

The call to arms came in a statement from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office: “The time has come for all able and adult Ethiopians to join the defense forces, special forces and militias to show their patriotism.

The declaration came six weeks after the government declared a unilateral ceasefire in the northern Tigray region on the day that Tigrayian forces retook the regional capital Mekelle, in a sharp turnaround after eight months of conflict. Read more

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War erupted in November between federal troops and the forces of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray, which ruled Ethiopia for three decades and now controls Tigray. The fighting has forced more than two million people from their homes and more than 50,000 people have fled to neighboring Sudan. Read more

The Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire in June with the aim of allowing farmers to plant, the statement reiterated on Tuesday. The statement came after Tigray forces retook the regional capital of Mekele.

Tigrayan forces rejected the ceasefire, saying the government should agree to its terms for a truce. Spokesmen for the Tigrayan forces and Abiy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

After regaining control of most of Tigray in late June and early July, Tigrayan forces pushed into neighboring Afar and Amhara regions, capturing the United Nations World Heritage site of Lalibela last week. Read more

The new fighting has displaced more than 250,000 people in Afar and Amhara, the UN aid chief said last week. Read more

In an attack in the Afar region on Thursday, 12 people who had been forced out of their homes by violence were killed, said Mohammed Yesuf, head of Dubti hospital.

Another 46 people were treated for injuries in hospital, he told Reuters by telephone. It appears they were injured in an explosion, he said, citing burns to some of the injured.

Those who were killed and injured had taken refuge in a school and clinic, he said.

It was not possible to verify the allegations. The Afar region government said on Friday that Tigray forces were responsible for the attack in the Galikoma region.

(This story is corrected to clarify that the Prime Minister’s statement did mention the ceasefire)

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Report by Ayenat Mersie; Additional reporting by the Addis Ababa Newsroom; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Maggie Fick and Giles Elgood

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