Ethiopia urges citizens to join armed forces as conflict spreads


Ethiopia’s government on Tuesday urged citizens to join the fight against resurgent Tigrayan forces now pushing beyond their own region in a nine-month-old war that has sparked a major refugee crisis.

The call to arms came in a statement from the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed: “Now is the right time for all capable Ethiopians who are of age to join the Defence Forces, Special Forces and militias to show your patriotism.”

The statement came six weeks after the government declared a unilateral ceasefire in the northern region of Tigray on the day Tigrayan forces retook the regional capital Mekelle, in a sharp reversal after eight months of conflict.

War broke out in November between federal troops and forces from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which ruled Ethiopia for three decades and now controls Tigray. Fighting has forced more than two million people from their homes, and more than 50 000 people have fled into neighbouring Sudan.

The Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire in June in an effort to enable farmers to plant, Tuesday’s statement reiterated. That declaration came after Tigrayan forces recaptured the regional capital of Mekele.

Tigrayan forces have dismissed the ceasefire, saying the government should agree to its conditions for a truce. Spokespeople for the Tigrayan forces and for Abiy did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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.

This new fighting has displaced more than 250 000 people in Afar and Amhara, the U.N. aid chief said last week.

In an attack in the Afar region on Thursday, 12 people who had been forced from their homes by violence were killed, said Mohammed Yesuf, head of the Dubti Hospital.

An additional 46 people were treated for injuries at the hospital, he told Reuters by phone. It appeared they had been injured in an explosion, he said, citing burns on some of the injured.

Those who were killed and injured had been sheltering at a school and health clinic, he said.

It was not possible to verify the claims. The Afar region’s government said on Friday that Tigrayan forces were responsible for the attack in the Galikoma area.