Rebel Forces Are Advancing On Ethiopia's Capital
On Tuesday, November 2, Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers declared a nationwide state of emergency following the seizure of two key towns in the Amhara region by Tigrayan forces.
Almost a year ago to the day, on November 4, 2020, Prime Minister Abiy of Ethiopia launched an attack on the Tigray region in response to what the TPLF, the Tigrayan ruling party, claimed was a pre-emptive strike on an Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) base in the area. Troops from Eritrean and Somali joined the ENDF in launching a pincer movement against the Tigrayans. Communications to the region were cut and remain disrupted to this day.
As Tigrayan forces retreated and regrouped in the mountains, brutality was unleashed on civilians – particularly by Eritrean soldiers and Amhara militiamen – including massacres of men and boys, mutilations, the use of mass rape and starvation as weapons of war, and the destruction of infrastructure, hospitals, and farmlands. Churches were targeted during services, and ancient heritage was looted, including irreplaceable religious artifacts. By June 2021, researchers at Belgium’s University of Ghent had documented 10,000 deaths and 230 massacres, with many more incidents yet to be thoroughly investigated and victims identified.
In June, Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces staged a rushed withdrawal following a Tigrayan military advance. Prime Minister Abiy announced a humanitarian ceasefire while maintaining a blockade on humanitarian aid. The fighting continued, with Tigrayan forces advancing into the Amhara and Afar regions to break a blockade that has now induced famine in Tigray.
The war is going badly for Ethiopia. On October 30 and 31, the critical towns of Dessie and Kombolcha fell to Tigrayan forces, placing them within 400km (roughly 250 miles) of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Meanwhile, another rebel movement, the Oromo Liberation Army, is advancing towards Addis Ababa from the south and has made a common cause with the Tigrayan forces.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is now asking people in the capital city to arm themselves “to prevent, reverse and bury the terrorist TPLF.” Ethnic hatred has stirred up against ordinary Tigrayan civilians via social media, including senior leaders and church leaders, with calls for Tigrayan residents outside of the region to be rounded up and detained.
The US Embassy in Addis Ababa is urging US citizens not to travel to Ethiopia, adding that those already in Ethiopia should consider making preparations to leave.
- African leader with knowledge of what is happening on the ground
- New York Times, Ethiopia Declares State of Emergency as Rebels Advance Toward Capital, November 2, 2021
- BBC News, Ethiopia’s Tigray war: The Short, Medium and Long Story, June 29, 2021.
- University of Ghent, Tigray: Atlas of the humanitarian situation