US envoy to visit Ethiopia to try to halt fighting


US President Joe Biden is sending his special envoy for the Horn of Africa to Ethiopia amid international alarm at the escalation of a war that has killed thousands and created a humanitarian crisis in one of the world’s poorest regions.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, announcing the trip by envoy Jeffrey Feltman, urged Ethiopia’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to come to the negotiating table after nine months of conflict.

“Months of war have brought immense suffering and division to a great nation that won’t be healed through more fighting,” he tweeted late on Thursday.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Feltman’s travel.

Abiy’s federal troops and forces from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which control Tigray, have been battling since November in a war that has killed thousands of people, sparked a major refugee crisis and been marked by ethnic killings, rape as a weapon of war and a humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations warned in July that more than 100 000 children in Tigray could suffer life-threatening malnutrition in the next 12 months.

This week, the rebellious Tigrayan forces said they were in talks to forge a military alliance with insurgents from Ethiopia’s most populous region, Oromiya, heaping pressure on the government in Addis Ababa.

The leader of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), told Reuters by phone on Thursday that the group had opted to join forces with the TPLF, whom they had bitterly opposed during their three decades in power in Ethiopia, because they now have now have a common cause.

“I hope we are going to squeeze this government, and if possible – and I know it’s possible – we are going to overthrow this regime and stop this crisis,” said OLA leader Kumsa Diriba, who goes by the nom de guerre Jaal Marroo.

The government has designated both the TPLF and the OLA as terrorist organisations.

Also this week, the government urged citizens to join the fight against the resurgent Tigrayan forces. It said all capable Ethiopians should join the army, special forces and militias to show their patriotism.

After retaking control of most of Tigray in late June and early July, Tigrayan forces have pushed into the adjoining Afar and Amhara regions, capturing the United Nations World Heritage site of Lalibela last week.