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Tigray's Addis gambit

Thousands Demonstrate in Ethiopia Against Rebels, Interference

Ethiopian members of Republican March band gather in the capital Addis Ababa on 3 November 2021, among leaders from the military, government and civil society for an event marking the first anniversary of the war in Tigray. (Photo: EPA-EFE/STR)

(Bloomberg) --Tens of thousands of residents of Addis Ababa took to the streets on Sunday to denounce rebel forces that have threatened to march on Ethiopia’s capital city and to reject foreign involvement in the country’s civil war.

By Samuel Gebre and Simon Marks

Word Count: 477
Speaking at the rally, the city’s Mayor, Adanech Abebe, accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and its allies of planning to “dismantle” Ethiopia.

“There can be no freedom, no fairness, or no honor if the red line in a country’s sovereignty is crossed,” she said. “We are the generation that will confirm our country’s freedom, honor, unity, and togetherness,” Adanech said, and he called on young people to join the fighting.

There were similar pro-government demonstrations in Jigjiga, the capital of the Somali regional state, as well as in Adama, Ambo and Harare. The regional president of Somali State Mustafe Mohammed on Saturday said his people fully support the federal government and would not accept a return of TPLF rule in Ethiopia.

The yearlong war has killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands. Tensions with the TPLF, the country’s pre-eminent power brokers for decades, intensified after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018 and began so sideline the group. The tensions exploded into violence last November, when Abiy ordered a military incursion into Tigray after accusing forces loyal to the TPLF of assaulting a military base.

A year on, the rebels have formed an alliance with eight other groups and called for the establishment of a transitional government.

Read More: How Ethiopia’s Rift With Tigray Rebels Has Deepened: QuickTake

The demonstrations follow the government declaring a nationwide state of emergency last week as the TPLF captured more territory and moved closer to Addis Ababa. The rebels are still in control of key towns of Dessie and Kombolcha and are said to continue their advance.

“Our young soldiers who are paying sacrifices at the battles are achieving numerous victories. Ethiopian farmers knew who they were and turned their guns against them. They will see the response,” Adanech said.

The mayor also accused foreign nations of supporting the TPLF in an attempt to set up a puppet government. The government has previously accused foreign entities of assisting the TPLF by providing satellite images and has said that humanitarian agencies have aided the rebels with logistics.

Attempts for a negotiated cease-fire are underway with involvement from both the African Union and the United States. Olusegun Obasanjo, the African Union special envoy to the Horn of Africa traveled to the Tigray region on Sunday, according to diplomats briefed on the matter.

Similarly, the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa traveled to Nairobi, Kenya on Sunday after meeting Ethiopian and African Union officials in Addis Ababa. The U.S. embassy has ordered all non-essential staff to leave the country. Both the African Union and the U.S. State Department declined to comment.

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