Foreign nationals urged to leave as Ethiopian emergency intensifies

Just over a month since a UN report detailed the brutal rape, torture and kidnapping of civilians in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict, countries are urging their nationals to leave Ethiopia as the conflict continues to expand beyond the northern regions.

The UK, US, France, and Germany all insist on citizens taking the next available flights out of the landlocked African nation. Numerous countries including the UK have already withdrawn all non-essential diplomatic staff.

With the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) offering interest-free loans for travellers, Minister for Africa Vicky Ford has stressed: “The conflict in Ethiopia is deteriorating quickly. In the coming days we may see the fighting move closer to Addis Ababa, which could severely limit options for British Nationals to leave Ethiopia.”

The war between Ethiopian forces, their Eritrean allies, and militias from the north, namely the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has claimed over 10,000 lives. Within the barriers of a government-sanctioned blockade and an internet blackout, the UN’s troubling report illustrated that figures have reached mercilessly beyond combatants.

When Prime minister Abiy Ahmed initiated an assault on the TPLF in their Tigray stronghold, few, least of all the Ethiopian leader, would have envisaged the recent surge of rebel forces towards the capital, Addis Ababa. In late October, control of Dessie and Kombolcha gave rebels access to a key road running into Addis Ababa. More recent advances into Shewa Robit place forces within just 220km of the capital.

The Prime Minister, a previous recipient of the Nobel peace prize, has already called upon citizens to defend their neighbourhoods. Now, a Twitter post calling on people to rise up and be “hailed by history” hints at a destabilising situation likely to produce more victims than heroes.

The humanitarian crisis unfolding for civilians is already plain to see. From October 18th, conflict and military roadblocks had denied aid convoys access to affected northern regions. For the first time in a month, last week, aid was able to be delivered into the conflict zone. According to the UN, more than five million people still need assistance.

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Hamish Davis

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May 2022
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