Ethiopian army calls on former members to join army as rebels advance towards capital | Latest News Headlines

Ethiopian army calls on former members to join army as rebels advance towards capital

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It comes as a new state of emergency allows broad powers of arrest and conscription for Ethiopians over 18. These measures contrast with public statements by the government that coverage of the conflict – which has claimed thousands of lives and displaced more than 2 million people – is “alarmist”.

The Ethiopian Defense Forces call for volunteers is addressed to military veterans under 55, officers under 60 and commanders under 64, who will take “a stand against the advance. rebels, “according to a statement posted on the army’s official Facebook. page.

State media echoed the official military appeal on Friday, calling on former servicemen in good physical and mental health to report locally to resume their duties, according to state television Fana. The return to arms is voluntary and involves a two-week registration period, he said.

The army’s call comes after nine groups opposing the government – a broad coalition of armed groups and political actors representing different regional and ethnic interests – formed a new alliance on Friday “in response to the many crises the country is facing. confronted “and to fight against the” genocidal regime of Ethiopia “, according to a statement released by the organizers.

The bloc, called the United Front of Ethiopian Federalist and Confederalist Forces, has said it no longer recognizes Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government as legitimate and will seek to establish transitional arrangements, in search of a democratic future.

The alliance includes fighters loyal to the former ruling Tigray party that once dominated the country, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF) – known as the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) – who are fighting the Ethiopian army since Abiy ordered an offensive in the northern region of the country last year.

The government on Friday called the measures a “publicity stunt” and said many of those included had limited support on the ground in the country.

The TPLF have been pushing back the front line further south of Tigray for months and have allied themselves with the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a rebel group fighting for the rights of the people of Oromia, the most populous region of Ethiopia.

Over the past week, the rebels say they have taken three towns outside the Tigray region, including Dessie and Kombolcha, two key towns on the road to the capital, raising concerns among Ethiopian leaders of the fall of the capital.

As rebel fighters move towards Addis Ababa, government airstrikes on Tigrayan towns, including the regional capital, Mekelle, have intensified, with Abiy pledging to bury his government’s enemies “with our blood.”

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Abiy urged citizens to take up arms and fight Tigray forces. “Our people should march (…) with all the weapons and all the resources at their disposal to defend, repel and bury the TPLF terrorist.”

The inflammatory post was later removed by Facebook for inciting violence.

On Saturday, Abiy adopted a different tone, saying in a tweet: “A nation of great potential and immense cultural, historical and national richness, #Ethiopia will persevere through our present challenges. In steadfast unity we will remain. on our way to higher heights. #Resilently Forward. “

ODA spokeswoman Odaa Tarbii told CNN on Thursday that the joint rebel fighters were still “weeks or months” away from taking the capital.

The question of entering the capital is “purely based on what will happen if it comes to negotiations,” with the federal government, Odaa said, adding that the group hopes to avoid a direct military conflict in the densely packed city. populated.

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The rebels said they intended to overthrow Abiy’s government if a peace deal could not be reached.

On Friday, Abiy’s government said it was engaging with the TDF and captured a key commander.

Despite the state of emergency and the voluntary appeal, the government said daily life in the capital had not been affected.

Ethiopian Attorney General Gedion Timothewos said in a video conference with reporters on Friday that members of the anti-government alliance, including fighters loyal to the TPLF, are “deeply unpopular among the overwhelming majority of Ethiopians.” He added that the state of emergency had been declared “out of excess of caution” on the basis of reports that the TPLF could try to wreak havoc in the capital or other cities.

Asked by CNN about the conditions for the central government to engage with the TPLF in any kind of talks, Timothewos said: “At the very least, the TPLF must withdraw from the areas of Amhara and the region. ‘Afar where he brutalizes innocent civilians. Abiy spokeswoman Billene Seyoum said “the capital moves with a sense of normalcy” and accused the international media of distorting the situation.

As the conflict and its impact on civilians worsens, the United Nations, United States, European Union, neighbor to southern Ethiopia, Kenya, Canada and human rights groups have increased calls for an immediate and lasting ceasefire.

The Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire in June, when Tigrayan forces retook the regional capital Mekelle. But the TPLF has categorically ruled out a truce, and the fighting has spread beyond Tigray’s borders into neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet told CNN on Wednesday she was “very concerned” about the recent escalation of violence in the multi-ethnic federation, “which could lead to a full-blown civil war. with much blood and much more pain and suffering. ” It also risks fragmenting Ethiopia as a state, she said.

A joint investigation into the Tigray conflict led by the UN Human Rights Office and the Ethiopia-appointed human rights commission, released on Wednesday, accused all parties to the conflict of having committed possible war crimes.

Thousands of people have died in 12 months of fighting, by many estimates, with reports of refugee camps razed, looting, sexual violence, massacres and extrajudicial killings.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated when Abiy sent his last tweet. He posted it on Saturday.

CNN’s Eliza Mackintosh and Kara Fox contributed to this report.

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