Doubt and sacrifice as fighting spreads in Ethiopia

Volunteers on a nightly patrol looking for suspicious activity earlier this month

After dark, in a residential neighborhood in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, dozens of civilian volunteers were busy patrolling their streets one night last week, stopping and searching cars and checking documents.

An old man who seemed to be coordinating the searches said, “Our neighborhood committee has about 180 people. We’ve arrested several people. We found a lot of suspicious items, including rifles and explosive devices.”

Volunteers are searching for the Tigrayan rebels, and their supporters, under the new state of emergency regulations introduced by the Ethiopian government in response to a military offensive by the Tigrayans.

Critics say thousands of people have been unjustly arrested, but the crackdown appears to have broad support in the capital.

“Hurry up, he’s trying to escape,” another man suddenly said while talking into his mobile phone.

A few streets away, a new group of elderly volunteers, mostly elderly, gathered for training, and walked fairly step by step and listened to instructions.

The mood in the capital seems to be calm.

Although Britain and other countries have warned that the security situation is “deteriorating”, with Tigrayan and other rebel groups reporting that they are advancing on Addis Ababa, the Russian embassy has sent a very different message on social media.

And she declared that “the application of the state of emergency did not make any major changes in the rhythm of daily life in the Ethiopian capital.”

Prime Minister with the rank of lieutenant colonel in the army

The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, recently announced that he is heading to the front lines to lead his forces.

Video footage provided by the government showed him in military uniform surrounded by soldiers, apparently in the arid Afar region northeast of the capital.

“Now we have cleared the entire area,” Prime Minister Abe said in the video.

“The morale of the defense forces is really great. We will continue to guarantee Ethiopia’s freedom,” he added.

The Prime Minister said that his forces were in the process of capturing several towns from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

But it is difficult to verify these claims by restricting access and communications in conflict zones, and introducing new rules prohibiting the publication of any military movements or “battlefield results” not sanctioned by the government.

A man riding a horse in the color of the Tigray flag with a Tigray flag in hand

A man holding a Tigray flag celebrates the territorial gains of the Tigray Liberation Front in June

Tigray People’s Liberation Front officials – who recently released drone footage of thousands of Ethiopian prisoners – insist they are continuing to advance on several fronts, with heavy focus now on a key city, Debre Berhan, widely seen as Ethiopia’s last defensive outpost. Big on the outside. Capital.

But some analysts warn that Tigray’s forces may be overstretched, vulnerable to a counterattack, and a possible attack from neighboring Eritrea.

People fall into ‘terrible’ situations

Regardless of who wins, it is clear that the conflict is widening and with it the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia.

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) now estimates that 9.4 million people need support.

“With the explosive conflict spreading across northern Ethiopia, we are seeing more and more people falling into a dire situation,” said Claire Neville, a WFP official in Addis.

It blamed “several factors” currently limiting humanitarian access, including rebel attacks in Tigrayan, insecurity, and persistent bureaucratic delays by the Ethiopian authorities.

But the World Food Program recently managed to reach thousands of people in two towns in Amhara that were captured by Tigrayan forces.

Women cheer and clap, wearing the colors of the Ethiopian flag

These women take part in a march to support government forces against the Tigrayan rebels

At war with the “traitors”

In Addis Ababa, the ruling Prosperity Party continues to organize public ceremonies to thank those who volunteer to fight.

“We are at war with the local traitors, and with their foreign backers,” said Etissa Diem, a member of the city council.

“I have been called to go and fight for the honor of my country. You can cry if your family is killed, but where will you go if you lose your country? That is why I am willing to sacrifice my life. I am not afraid that a 22-year-old man, Babush Situtao, said: “We had no No training yet.

A gray-haired woman, named Dinkinesh Nigatu, was also introduced to the audience.

“I love my country,” she said. “I wanted to go to the front, but my son and my husband told me to stay at home and they would go to fight on my behalf.”

“I trained as a volunteer and am now patrolling the streets where my sons and husband are fighting on the front lines. Whenever I see people in the streets, I tell them to go and fight. We shouldn’t wait for (the enemy) to come here to kill us all.”

“It’s an icon. A beacon to all of you,” said Aida Owl, an official from the ruling Prosperity Party, her arm around the shoulder of the Denkinish Nigato.

“We expect many young people to follow suit. The spirit of Ethiopia is now stronger than ever. More than seven thousand people (from the Arada district of the capital) have volunteered to help their country,” continued Aida Owl.

Women at a protest holding signs saying #No more

Some Ethiopians are demonstrating against what they call foreign interference in the conflict

Accusations of neo-colonial disinformation

The Ethiopian government has complained of a deliberate campaign by Western governments and media organizations to discredit the nature of the conflict.

Many Ethiopians seem to agree, on social media to criticize “colonial” attempts to undermine their nation and exaggerate the successes of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

“we [are] Under attack on two fronts. said Ethiopian political analyst Ashamelih Iunitu, who has described himself as a bitter critic of the Ethiopian government but is a defender of his country’s sovereignty.

The Ethiopian government has repeatedly refused BBC requests for interviews.

But the Ethiopian government has come under widespread criticism for clamping down on domestic and foreign media, using increasingly violent rhetoric, and restricting access and communications.

Prime Minister Abe, who won praise before the conflict for releasing political prisoners and journalists, was recently accused of re-imposing a climate of intimidation on media departments.

Meanwhile, the BBC says it remains committed to providing independent, accurate and impartial reporting from the region and the world at large.

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