Ethiopian lawmakers on Thursday endorsed a state of emergency after rebels advanced on the capital, sparking a US warning that an aid crisis that has already plunged hundreds of thousands into hunger could worsen further.
A year to the day since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed deployed troops in the northernmost region of Tigray, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel fighters are now just a few hundred kilometres from Addis Ababa.
Abiy’s government has been locked in a war for the past year with the TPLF, which dominated national politics before he took office in 2018.
The 2019 Nobel Peace laureate promised a swift victory, but by late June the rebels had retaken most of Tigray and expanded into the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara.
The TPLF announced late Wednesday it had reached the town of Kemissie in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, some 325 kilometres (200 miles) northeast of the capital.
Spokesman Getachew Reda said the TPLF was working in the area alongside the Oromo Liberation Army rebel group, which on Wednesday predicted Addis Ababa could fall in a matter of weeks.
But a senior official from Washington’s humanitarian arm USAID warned of grave repercussions for Ethiopia’s already acute aid problems.
“We can only assume that any march towards Addis would spread increased displacement, increased need and increased suffering for the Ethiopian people,” the official told AFP.
“It would certainly increase the need for humanitarian assistance while also complicating the ability to provide that assistance.”
The US has called on all parties to cease hostilities, and its top envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, was due to arrive in Addis Ababa Thursday for two days of talks promoting peace and dialogue.
On Tuesday Abiy’s cabinet announced a six-month state of emergency that would allow authorities to conscript “any military age citizen who has weapons” and suspend media outlets accused of supporting the TPLF.
Lawmakers formally approved the measure Thursday, state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported