Ethiopia’s government has declared a nationwide state of emergency, following a Tuesday cabinet meeting. Ethiopian state media reports that the declaration is effective immediately, with the law declaring it to receive official parliamentary approval within 48 hours.
The Addis Ababa city administration had urged residents of Ethiopia’s capital to prepare to defend their neighbourhoods earlier on Tuesday, following a declaration by rebel groups fighting against the Ethiopian government that they aimed to advance upon the capital.
Reuters reports that the state-run Ethiopian News Agency published a statement by city authorities on Tuesday, calling for residents to register their weapons and gather in their neighbourhoods. The statement said that those who owned weapons but were unable to take part in safeguarding their surroundings should hand them over to government forces, their close relatives or friends. Additionally, city authorities claim that house-to-house searches were being conducted, with “troublemakers” arrested.
The statement follows claims on Monday night by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front that it had linked up with forces of the Oromo Liberation Army, with both rebel groups now aiming to take Addis Ababa, according to TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda in a conversation with BBC Africa. Reda had previously denied claims that the TPLF intended to take the capital, saying that its priorities were to break the siege of Tigray province that has been in place since the start of the war in November 2020.
The TPLF had claimed to have captured the town of Kombolcha and its airport on Monday, after seizing the town of Dessie on Sunday. Both towns are located on the A2 highway, the main road leading into Addis Ababa. The OLA claimed late on Sunday to have taken the town of Kemise, also located on the A2, 325 kilometers (200 miles) away from Addis Ababa.
The TPLF and OLA forged a military alliance in August, based on a shared goal of overthrowing the government of Abiy Ahmed. The OLA is a splinter group of the Oromo Liberation Front, which refused to accept a peace deal offered by the Abiy government in 2018 that legalized the previously outlawed OLF.
International reactions have remained muted despite accusations of severe human rights abuses by government forces and warnings by experts of imminent famine. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated on Monday that the US was “alarmed” by reports of the TPLF capture of Dessie and Kombolcha, urging that “all parties must stop military operations and begin ceasefire negotiations without preconditions”. However, between calls by Abiy for all Ethiopians to use anything and everything they may have to “defend, repulse and bury the terrorist TPLF” and requests for Addis Ababa residents to arm themselves, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister seems anything but willing to negotiate.