Ethiopia imposes new restrictions on sharing information on war

Ethiopia imposes new restrictions on sharing information on war

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government declared a nationwide state of emergency earlier this month Amanuel Sileshi AFP/File

Addis Ababa (AFP) – War-hit Ethiopia has announced new rules against sharing information on battlefield outcomes in the war against Tigrayan rebels, a move that could bring sanctions against journalists.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government declared a nationwide state of emergency earlier this month as fighters from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) advance towards the capital, the latest turn in a brutal year-long conflict.

International alarm is mounting about the escalating war in Africa’s second most populous country, with anxious foreign governments urging their citizens to leave.

The new decree issued late Thursday said it was “forbidden to distribute in any communication systems any military movements, battlefield outcomes” that were not officially published by the government.

“Security forces will take necessary measures on those who have been found to violate” the order, it said in a possible warning to news outlets and social media accounts that have reported on rebel claims of territorial gains.

The government also barred residents from “using various types of media platforms to support directly or indirectly the terrorist group” — a reference to the TPLF — and warned of unspecified consequences for anyone who ignored the decree.

The state of emergency imposed on November 2 allows the authorities to conscript citizens who own weapons or suspend any media outlets believed to be “giving moral support directly or indirectly” to the TPLF.

The latest decree also bans anyone from calling “for a transitional government”, days after a prominent opposition party, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), issued a statement urging an end to the fighting and the establishment of an interim administration to facilitate dialogue.

“During the mandate of the interim administration, all parties will begin negotiations on the formation of an all-inclusive transitional government that shall last for 18 months. No major stakeholder shall be excluded from these negotiations,” the OFC said Wednesday.

Ethiopia’s war erupted in November 2020 when Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops into the Tigray region to topple its ruling party, the TPLF.

He said the move was in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps and promised a swift victory, but by late June the rebels had retaken most of Tigray, including its capital Mekele.

Since then, the TPLF has pushed into neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, and this week it claimed to have seized a town just 220 kilometres (135 miles) from Addis Ababa.

On Wednesday state media reported that Abiy, a former lieutenant-colonel in the military, had arrived at the front line to lead a counter-offensive, handing over regular duties to his deputy.

The fighting has killed thousands of people and driven hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions, according to UN estimates.

The warning signs are there for genocide in Ethiopia – the world must act to prevent it

The warning signs are there for genocide in Ethiopia – the world must act to prevent it

Helen Clark, Michael Lapsley and David Alton
The country has been scarred by violence on all sides, but there may be much worse to come as Tigrayan civilians are targeted

‘Five warning signs for mass, ethnically targeted violence are flashing red.’ Supporters of Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed at a rally in Addis Ababa this month. Photograph: AP

(Theguardian)—Genocide happens when warning signs are not heeded. The world looks away, refusing to believe that mass ethnic killing is possible. We hope that the worst will be avoided. But to prevent genocide, we must sound the alarm before we arrive at certainty.

Rarely before has the danger of genocide been so clearly signalled in advance than in Ethiopia.

No side to this conflict is angelic. All sides in Ethiopia’s conflict have committed violations. But only one side has committed violations on a scale and nature that could credibly qualify as genocide – and that, we regret to say, is the coalition of the Ethiopian government, under the prime minister, Abiy Ahmed; the Amhara regional government; and the state of Eritrea.

Twice in the past year, the world has stood by while this coalition has perpetrated international crimes against civilians of Tigrayan identity – including murder, rape, torture and starvation.

We may now be facing a third atrocity, even larger and bloodier than what has gone before: a possible mass killing of interned civilians in Addis Ababa and elsewhere.

Five warning signs for mass, ethnically targeted violence are flashing red.

In recent weeks the government has interned more than 30,000 ethnic Tigrayan civilians in Addis Ababa

First, figures in the Ethiopian government and their allies have promoted hate speech against Tigrayan people as an ethnic group. They have stoked violence in language that identifies all Tigrayans as enemies. This hate speech is escalating – Tigrayans have been referred to as “cancer”, “weeds”, “rats” and “terrorists”.

Second, the government has mobilised the instruments for mass atrocity, in the form of militias and vigilante groups, organised on an ethnic basis and with an ethnic agenda. It has armed them and granted them impunity.

Third, the government is eliminating any middle ground. It has silenced independent and critical voices. It has prevented media access to Tigray, closed down or censored independent national journalists, and intimidated foreign reporters and their local counterparts. Individuals who try to protect Tigrayans are also attacked. People who try to remain out of politics are condemned as “fence-sitters”.

Fourth, the government has begun large-scale detention of Tigrayan civilians in areas it controls. One year ago it interned at least 15,000 ethnic Tigrayan members of the armed forces, whom, we understand, it continues to keep in detention camps. It has interned Tigrayan civilians in western Tigray. In recent weeks it has interned more than 30,000 ethnic Tigrayan civilians in Addis Ababa and unknown numbers elsewhere.

Fifth, the international community is divided, confused and indecisive. The government has protectors at the UN security council. The African Union listened deferentially to the government’s denials and obfuscations. The main European powers have dithered. The US has toned down its condemnations, perhaps for fear of being diplomatically isolated. It also has conflicting priorities, including trying to facilitate humanitarian assistance and initiate negotiations for a ceasefire and political settlement – an agenda that can preclude calling out one party to the conflict for atrocity crimes or genocide.

In the 1990s, after mass atrocities in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, there was renewed interest in the obligation to prevent genocide enshrined in the 1948 genocide convention. There have now been more than two decades of policy and institutional reforms on atrocities prevention and response. There has been a litany of mea culpas, of enjoinders to greater political will, and calls for “never again”.

Crucial reports were written in the decades after Rwanda and the wars of Yugoslavia’s dissolution that shaped the debate and policy over the use of coercive measures in pursuit of peace, humanitarian action and the prevention of atrocities. At the United Nations, the African Union, international expert commissions, and under the leadership of powerful countries – reams of paper were dedicated to analysing the past and pledging to heed warning signs and prevent genocide.

Those reports all stressed that genocide is preventable – if the political will is there to act on warnings.

Today in Ethiopia, these warnings could not be more clear. The time to act is now – to call out what is happening and for the UN security council to use every measure at its disposal to give meaning to the cry of “never again” and prevent catastrophe.

  • Helen Clark is a former head of the UN Development Programme and former prime minister of New Zealand. Fr Michael Lapsley is president of Healing of Memories Global Network and founder of the Institute for Healing of Memories. David Alton is an independent crossbench life peer and campaigner on genocide

UAE air bridge provides military support to Ethiopia gov’t

UAE air bridge provides military support to Ethiopia gov’t

Satellite images obtained by Al Jazeera show the UAE is providing extensive support to Ethiopian army in fight against Tigrayan forces.

Al Jazeera | November 25, 2021

Satellite imagery obtained by Al Jazeera has revealed that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has opened an air bridge to provide extensive military support to the Ethiopian government in its fight against forces from the northern Tigray region.

The investigation found that between September and November, there were more than 90 flights between the UAE and Ethiopia, with many intentionally concealing from where they took off and where they landed.

The UAE has carried out the extensive operation with the support of two private shipping companies: a Spanish firm which organised 54 military-support flights between the UAE and Ethiopia in less than a month, and a Ukrainian one which organised 39 military cargo flights in two months.

A satellite image showing a Wing Loong drone in Harar Meda base, south of Addis Ababa [Al Jazeera]

Flight charts and satellite images show aircraft recently arriving from Sweihan Base in Abu Dhabi, UAE, to Harar Meda base, just south of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

The images show a Chinese-made Wing Loong drone, the first ever documented in Ethiopian military bases. They also show the offloading of military cargo from Ilyushin cargo aircraft.

The imagery also reveals that the Samara and Axum bases were inoperative following clashes with the Tigrayan forces, which said this week they were some 200km from Addis Ababa.

Much of northern Ethiopia is under a communications blackout and access for journalists is severely restricted, making battlefield claims difficult to verify.

Military cargo offloaded from Ilyushin planes [Al Jazeera]

Ethiopian state media said on Wednesday that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had gone to the front lines to lead the Ethiopian army against the Tigrayan forces.

After months of tension, Abiy in November 2020 sent troops to Tigray to remove the region’s governing party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF dominated the federal government for nearly three decades until Abiy took office in 2018.

The prime minister, a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, promised a swift victory. His troops seized Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, in late November but by June, the Tigrayan forces had retaken most of the region and pushed into the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions.

In recent weeks, the Ethiopian government has intensified a mass army recruitment drive amid hopes that a reported shopping-spree acquisition of an arsenal of drones and other weapons would give it an edge.

Ethiopia’s government signed a military cooperation agreement with Turkey in August, amid reports it wanted to deploy drones in the war.

“There have already been a number of claims of the Chinese arming the Ethiopians with Wing Loong drones, and the Turks have also been providing drones for the Ethiopians,” Martin Plaut, senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London, told Al Jazeera.

“I think they [the UAE] are, in a sense, a staging post for these weapons supplies. Some of them come directly, some of them go through the UAE; but the UAE is clearly underwriting what is happening.”

Ilyushin cargo planes arriving from UAE at Harar Meda base, just south of Addis Ababa [Al Jazeera]

The year-long conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced more than two million and left hundreds of thousands facing famine-like conditions.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for an immediate end to the fighting in Ethiopia, as the United States warned there was “no military solution” to the war.

US warns of possible terror attack in Ethiopia

US warns of possible terror attack in Ethiopia

A view of Addis Ababa city.

The United States Embassy in Ethiopia has warned of a possible terrorist attack in Addis Ababa and in other parts of the country.

“The Department reminds US citizens of the ongoing possibility of terrorist attacks in Ethiopia. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting diplomatic facilities, tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, western businesses, restaurants, resorts, local government facilities and other public areas,” the embassy said

The embassy urged its citizens to maintain vigilance and avoid crowded areas and areas frequented by foreigners.

“Do not take photos of government buildings, police or other Ethiopian security officials, carry a valid form of identification and copy of your passport and visa, be aware of your surroundings, stay alert in locations frequented by Westerners, if you are stopped by security forces, stay calm and follow instructions and keep your family or colleagues informed of your whereabouts and itinerary,” the embassy said.

“The Department of State has no higher priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas. US citizens still in the country should enrol in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security update.”

Past attacks

In 2008, two bombings in the town of Negele Boran in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia left three people dead and five injured.

In January 2012, a shooting incident occurred in Erta Ale volcano of the Afar Region of Ethiopia, leaving five dead and several others injured. Four people were kidnapped in the attack.

In March 2012, the shooting of a bus in Gambella town of Ethiopia left 19 people dead and eight wounded. The victims were Ethiopian residents who were travelling on a public bus, near the town of Obang.

In 2016, eight Somali nationals were found guilty of trying to carry out terror attacks in public areas in Addis Ababa and jailed for nine years.

In 2020, an attack on a bus in Benishangul-Gumuz Region left at least 34 people dead.

In December 2020 as well, more than 90 civilians were killed in a series of attacks in western Benishangul-Gumuz regional state, according to the Addis Standard.

Source: nation.africa

War-hit Ethiopia admonishes US over security warnings

War-hit Ethiopia admonishes US over security warnings

New military recruits brandished placards attacking purported fake news at a sending-off ceremony in Addis Ababa on Wednesday Amanuel Sileshi AFP

Addis Ababa (AFP) – Ethiopia on Thursday accused the United States of spreading false information about security conditions in the war-hit country and warned such statements could harm ties.

Washington once viewed Ethiopia as a vital security partner in the volatile Horn of Africa, but relations have soured over Ethiopia’s year-long war against rebels who are now threatening to march on the capital Addis Ababa.

On November 5, the State Department ordered the withdrawal of non-essential embassy staff because of “armed conflict, civil unrest, and possible supply shortages”, and several other diplomatic missions have followed suit.

This week the US embassy further rankled Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government by posting a warning about the potential for terrorist attacks in Ethiopia.

“Previously they disseminated the information that Addis Ababa is surrounded [by rebels], now they are saying this false information that a terror attack will be conducted,” Kebede Desisa, a government spokesman, told a press conference for state media Thursday.

“These actions hurt the two countries’ historical relations,” he said.

The war erupted in November 2020 when Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops into the Tigray region to topple its ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

He said the move was in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps and promised a swift victory, but by late June the rebels had retaken most of Tigray, including its capital Mekele.

Since then, the TPLF has pushed into neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, and this week it claimed to have seized a town just 220 kilometres (135 miles) from Addis Ababa.

The African Union’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, is leading a diplomatic push for a ceasefire, but there have been few signs of progress so far.

On Wednesday state media reported that Abiy, a former lieutenant-colonel in the military, had arrived at the front line to lead a counter-offensive, handing over regular duties to his deputy.

Also on Wednesday, Ireland announced Ethiopia had demanded the departure of four of its Addis Ababa-based diplomats because of Ireland’s critism of the war.

Ethiopia has also expelled seven senior UN officials over alleged “meddling” in the country’s affairs.

The Biden administration this month announced its intention to boot Ethiopia from a key trade pact that grants duty-free access for most exports.

But it has held off on imposing sanctions against the Ethiopian government and rebels in hopes of encouraging a settlement.

UN chief calls for immediate end to fighting in Ethiopia

UN chief calls for immediate end to fighting in Ethiopia

Call comes with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reportedly on the front lines and men flocking to join military.

New military recruits to the Ethiopian National Defence Force hold Ethiopian national flags during the send-off ceremony in Addis Ababa, on November 24 [Amanuel Sileshi / AFP]

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an immediate end to the fighting in Ethiopia, as the United States warned there was “no military solution” to the African nation’s civil war.

The calls came as Ethiopian media reported that Abiy Ahmed, the country’s prime minister and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was at the front “giving leadership from the battlefield” amid an escalating year-long crisis. High-profile Ethiopian athletes, including Olympic gold medallist and national hero Haile Gebrselassie, parliamentarians, party and regional leaders have also pledged to join Ethiopian forces battling rebels from the northernmost Tigray region, with men in Addis Ababa also joining up.

Speaking in Colombia, Guterres called for an “unconditional and immediate ceasefire”.

The war broke out in November 2020 in the country’s Tigray region between Ethiopian federal troops and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). In July, the conflict spread into two neighbouring regions in northern Ethiopia, and the rebels have been advancing towards Addis Ababa, the capital.

Haile, now 48 and retired, said he felt compelled to join up because Ethiopia’s existence was under threat.

“What would you do when the existence of a country is at stake? You just put down everything,” he told the Reuters news agency. “Alas, nothing will bind you. I am sorry!”

“There is no military solution to the conflict in Ethiopia,” a spokesperson from the US State Department said in a statement, stressing that diplomacy was the “first, last, and only option”.

The statement added that all parties should “refrain from inflammatory and bellicose rhetoric, to use restraint, respect human rights, allow humanitarian access, and protect civilians”.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s promise to head for the front lines of his country’s brutal year-long war has given a boost to recruitment for the beleaguered armed forces, with officials in the Kolfe district of Addis Ababa holding a ceremony to honour 1,200 recruits for the army [Amanuel Sileshi/AFP]

Thousands of people have been killed since the conflict began with more than two million forced from their homes and 400,000 people in Tigray facing famine.

The remarks from Washington come a day after the US special envoy for the Horn of Africa reported “nascent progress” towards a diplomatic settlement between the government and Tigrayan rebels, but warned it risked being eclipsed by “alarming developments” on the ground.

The envoy, Jeffrey Feltman, had just returned from Addis Ababa where he was renewing a push to broker a ceasefire.

It was not clear where exactly Abiy had deployed, and state media did not broadcast images of him in the field.

SOURCE: Aljazeera

UN chief calls for immediate end to fighting in Ethiopia

UN chief calls for immediate end to fighting in Ethiopia

Call comes with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reportedly on the front lines and men flocking to join military.

New military recruits to the Ethiopian National Defence Force hold Ethiopian national flags during the send-off ceremony in Addis Ababa, on November 24 [Amanuel Sileshi / AFP]

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an immediate end to the fighting in Ethiopia, as the United States warned there was “no military solution” to the African nation’s civil war.

The calls came as Ethiopian media reported that Abiy Ahmed, the country’s prime minister and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was at the front “giving leadership from the battlefield” amid an escalating year-long crisis. High-profile Ethiopian athletes, including Olympic gold medallist and national hero Haile Gebrselassie, parliamentarians, party and regional leaders have also pledged to join Ethiopian forces battling rebels from the northernmost Tigray region, with men in Addis Ababa also joining up.

Speaking in Colombia, Guterres called for an “unconditional and immediate ceasefire”.

The war broke out in November 2020 in the country’s Tigray region between Ethiopian federal troops and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). In July, the conflict spread into two neighbouring regions in northern Ethiopia, and the rebels have been advancing towards Addis Ababa, the capital.

“What would you do when the existence of a country is at stake? You just put down everything,” he told the Reuters news agency. “Alas, nothing will bind you. I am sorry!”

“There is no military solution to the conflict in Ethiopia,” a spokesperson from the US State Department said in a statement, stressing that diplomacy was the “first, last, and only option”.

The statement added that all parties should “refrain from inflammatory and bellicose rhetoric, to use restraint, respect human rights, allow humanitarian access, and protect civilians”.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s promise to head for the front lines of his country’s brutal year-long war has given a boost to recruitment for the beleaguered armed forces, with officials in the Kolfe district of Addis Ababa holding a ceremony to honour 1,200 recruits for the army [Amanuel Sileshi/AFP]

Thousands of people have been killed since the conflict began with more than two million forced from their homes and 400,000 people in Tigray facing famine.

The remarks from Washington come a day after the US special envoy for the Horn of Africa reported “nascent progress” towards a diplomatic settlement between the government and Tigrayan rebels, but warned it risked being eclipsed by “alarming developments” on the ground.

The envoy, Jeffrey Feltman, had just returned from Addis Ababa where he was renewing a push to broker a ceasefire.

It was not clear where exactly Abiy had deployed, and state media did not broadcast images of him in the field.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

Ethiopia says prime minister has arrived on front lines to take charge of troops

Ethiopia says prime minister has arrived on front lines to take charge of troops

Ethiopia’s government said its prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has arrived on the front lines to take charge of troops amid the ongoing conflict with Tigray fighters, The Associated Press reported.

A government spokesperson confirmed to the newswire that Abiy arrived at the battlefront on Tuesday, while his own spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, denied a request for details on his current location.

Abiy, a former soldier and Nobel Peace Prize winner, announced earlier this week that he would head into the battlefield, saying “this is a time when leading a country with martyrdom is needed,” via the AP.

Government spokesman Legesse Tulu said Wednesday that Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister will be handling the day-to-day operations for the government as Abiy is at the battlefield.

Some have shared their disapproval of Abiy’s latest move.

“The situation is extremely dangerous,” International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance researcher Adem Abebe told the AP. “If [Abiy] gets hurt or killed, it’s not just the federal government that will collapse, the army will as well.”

Abiy has also urged able-body citizens to join him in the fight, with reports of hurried military training and allegations of forced military drafts within the past months, the AP reported.

Since November 2020, tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict between Ethiopian troops and fighters from the country’s Tigray region amid a political rift between the two sides.

The war has left millions of civilians trapped and in starvation, according to the AP.

Ethiopia’s government has blockaded the Tigray region for months over fears that humanitarian aid would end up in the hands of fighters, while citizens in the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar are struggling with little to no aid.

U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman told reporters on Tuesday that he fears “nascent” progress between the two sides would end due to military developments, the AP noted.