Is the US backing rebels in Ethiopia as they advance towards Addis Ababa?

2021-11-04 19:10:54
Is the US backing rebels in Ethiopia as they advance towards Addis Ababa?

Ethiopian TPLF rebels and forces allied against Ethiopia's central government are rapidly advancing on Addis Ababa, raising concerns that the capital could fall amid reports that they are receiving foreign backing.

The rapid rebel advance comes after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed pledged on Wednesday to bury his government's enemies "with our blood" as he marked the start of the war in the Tigray region one year ago.

This statement has been issued one year to the day since Abiy Ahmed deployed troops in the northernmost region of Tigray to dislodge forces loyal the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Abiy’s government has been locked in a war for the past year with the TPLF, whose forces and their allies are now just a few hundred kilometers from Addis Ababa.

“We will sacrifice our blood and bone to bury this enemy and uphold Ethiopia’s dignity and flag,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said at the military headquarters in the capital, Addis Ababa, a day after he had declared a national state of emergency and called on Ethiopians to pick up arms and repel approaching forces from the northern Tigray region.

The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), One of the rebel groups in Ethiopia allied to TPLF claims to have forces about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the center of the capital Addis Ababa and says government troops are defecting to the rebels,

The OLA is an outlawed armed group from Oromia, Ethiopia's most populous region.

Calls for ceasefire

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta has appealed to the Ethiopian government and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to stop fighting and end the suffering of their people.

In a statement sent to newsrooms on Wednesday evening, President Kenyatta urged the country’s leaders to stop inciting the public and move beyond the original causes of the conflict to find a solution.

“The crisis has now escalated into a nationwide social convulsion of historical proportions for Ethiopia. The origins of the crisis, bitter and unacceptable as they might appear, can no longer be used as a justification for the continued suffering, killings and the extended open warfare that now engulfs the nation,” said Mr Kenyatta.

“It, therefore, concerns me deeply that after one year, the crisis has not abated but has in fact deteriorated. The fighting has continued, the deaths have accumulated, the displacement persists and suffering and humanitarian emergency have taken root in the country.”

The United Nations has also called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and unrestricted humanitarian access to Tigray, Amhara and Afar in addition to dialogue amongst the warring factions.

He said it is highly regrettable that the conflict is happening in the middle of a pandemic with its attendant risks and disruptions, particularly for the most vulnerable.

US meddling

Meanwhile, credible sources indicate that TPLF is receiving intelligence support from a foreign country on the movement of the Ethiopian army including satellite imageries.

In May this year, Ethiopia accused the United States of meddling in its affairs after Washington announced restrictions on economic and security assistance over alleged human rights abuses during the conflict in the northern Tigray region.

Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians of all walks of life took to the streets to protest what they described as interference by the US administration.

In the capital Addis Ababa, the protesters filled the city's old stadium and the surrounding streets in a well-organized, peaceful demonstration dubbed Voices of Freedom and Sovereignty.

Neighboring Eritrea has also accused the United States of and the European Union of supporting Ethiopia's TPLF rebels.

Biden reviving TPLF regime

In a letter to the UN Security Council circulated early June, Eritrea’s foreign minister blamed US administrations that supported the (TPLF) for the last 20 years for the current conflict in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region, adding that blaming Eritrea for the fighting was unfounded.

Osman Saleh accused President Joe Biden’s administration of “stoking further conflict and destabilization” through interference and intimidation in the region, apparently to “resuscitate the remnants of the TPLF regime”.

US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman is said to be leading Biden’s administration meddling in Ethiopia.

The US-backed TPLF led the coalition that ruled Ethiopia for nearly 30 years until Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed rose to power in 2018.

Abiy further alienated the TPLF by making peace with longtime foes Eritrea as soon as he took office, and tensions were rising.

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