France on Tuesday called on its nationals to leave Ethiopia “without delay”, where fighting is approaching the capital after more than a year of war between government forces and rebels in the north of the country. “All French nationals are formally called upon to leave the country without delay,” said the French Embassy in Addis Ababa in an email sent to members of the French community. The embassy, which says it is taking this decision in view of “the evolution of the military situation”, adds that it plans to facilitate the departure of nationals on commercial flights by reserving seats and “if necessary” to charter a charter flight.
Before France, several countries including the United Kingdom and the United States urged their citizens to leave the country. The latter also evacuated their non-essential personnel. An embassy official told AFP that “voluntary” departures of staff could take place, especially among families. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the federal army to Tigray in early November 2020 to dismiss the authorities in this region, from the Tigray Liberation Front (TPLF), who challenged his authority and whom he accused of having attacked military bases.
A conflict that has lasted for more than a year
Nobel Peace Prize 2019, Abiy Ahmed proclaimed victory three weeks later, after taking the regional capital Mekele. But in June, pro-TPLF fighters recaptured most of the region and continued their offensive in neighboring Amhara and Afar regions. At the end of October, the TPLF claimed the capture of two key towns in Amhara, thus getting closer to the capital – which the Ethiopian government had denied. The TPLF, which has allied itself with an Oromo rebel group active in the region surrounding the capital, claimed this week to be in Shewa Robit, 220 km northeast of Addis Ababa. The government has not commented on this information.
According to diplomats familiar with the security situation, some rebel fighters have reached the locality of Debre Sina, about 30 km closer to the capital. In recent weeks, diplomatic efforts by the international community have intensified in an attempt to secure a ceasefire agreement. The AU envoy for the Horn of Africa, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and his American counterpart Jeffrey Feltman visited Ethiopia again on Thursday. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently warned of the risks of “implosion” in Ethiopia if no political solution to the conflict is found.