War-stricken Ethiopia berates US over security warnings

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Addis Ababa (AFP) – Ethiopia on Thursday accused the United States of spreading false information about security conditions in the war-affected country, warning that such statements could damage relations.

Crowds of government supporters demonstrated outside the US and UK embassies in the capital Addis Ababa, waving Ethiopian flags and chanting “Stop foreign interference” and “Stop fake news”.

Ethiopia’s assertion highlighted growing tensions between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and world powers that once viewed him as a reformer, but are now alarmed by the year-long war destabilizing the government. second most populous country in Africa.

Washington in particular once viewed Ethiopia as a vital security partner in the volatile Horn of Africa.

But their relationship risks reaching new lows even as rebels threaten to march on the capital Addis Ababa.

On November 5, the State Department ordered the removal of non-essential Embassy personnel due to “armed conflict, civil unrest and possible supply shortages,” and several other diplomatic missions followed suit. .

Ethiopian government accuses US of spreading “false information” Amanuel Sileshi AFP

This week, the U.S. Embassy further angered Abiy’s government by issuing a warning about the potential for terrorist attacks in Ethiopia.

“Hurting relationships”

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

“These actions damage the historic relations of the two countries,” he said.

The Biden administration this month announced plans to withdraw Ethiopia from a key trade deal that grants duty-free access to most exports.

Woman holds poster of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during protest
Woman holds poster of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at protest Amanuel Sileshi AFP

But he refrained from imposing sanctions against the Ethiopian government and the rebels in the hope of encouraging a ceasefire.

War in Ethiopia erupted in November 2020 when Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops to the Tigray region to overthrow his ruling party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF).

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

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

The fighting has claimed thousands of lives and pushed hundreds of thousands into near starvation conditions, according to UN estimates.

Ceasefire push

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

On Wednesday, state media reported that Abiy, a former army lieutenant colonel, had arrived at the front line to lead a counteroffensive, handing over regular duties to his deputy.

The TPLF wants the government and allied forces to withdraw from the western part of Tigray, while the government of Abiy wants the TPLF to withdraw from Amhara and Afar.

TPLF leaders have also said they intend to smash what they describe as a humanitarian “siege” in Tigray, where very little aid has been provided over the past month.

Map of Ethiopia locating the northern regions of Amhara, Tigray and Afar, and the towns of Debre Sina and Shewa Robit
Map of Ethiopia locating the northern regions of Amhara, Tigray and Afar, and the towns of Debre Sina and Shewa Robit Aude GENET AFP

A week ago, the government announced it would allow 369 relief trucks to enter Tigray.

On Wednesday, the UN Humanitarian Coordination Office said nearly 40 trucks carrying food and other aid had left for Tigray from the capital Afar Semera.

“This is the first convoy since October 18,” he said in a statement.

“Trucks containing fuel and medical supplies are still waiting in Semera awaiting authorization from the authorities.”

The UN also made its first humanitarian flight from Addis Ababa to Mekele this week since service was suspended in October amid a campaign of government airstrikes in the region.

France this week joined the long list of countries urging their citizens to leave on commercial flights, and on Thursday an email to French citizens announced that a charter flight to Paris would leave on Sunday.