Stop Ethiopia war and help civilians, Biden team urges
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s foreign policy aide on Thursday urged an end to fighting in north Ethiopia, where federal troops are battling rebels and pushing towards the regional capital.
A two-week-old war in the Tigray region has killed hundreds, sent 30,000 refugees into Sudan and called into question whether Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Africa’s youngest leader and last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, can hold his fractured nation together ahead of national elections next year.
Hundreds of foreign aid workers have left Tigray, warning of a spiralling crisis in an area where hundreds of thousands of people relied on food aid even before the fighting.
“Deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia, reports of targeted ethnic violence, and the risk to regional peace and security,” tweeted Antony Blinken, a veteran diplomat and longtime Biden confidant.
Africa’s second most populous nation with 115 million people, Ethiopia is a federation of 10 states run by separate ethnic groups. The war has pitted the central government against one of the most heavily militarised regions.
The northern Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) effectively ruled Ethiopia for decades as the strongest force in a multi-ethnic coalition, until Abiy took power two years ago.
Ethiopia is a major U.S. ally whose soldiers serve in peacekeeping missions in South Sudan and Somalia. Its military and intelligence services are among the most capable in Africa.
“The TPLF and Ethiopian authorities should take urgent steps to end the conflict, enable humanitarian access, and protect civilians,” added Blinken, who is expected to play a senior role in the incoming U.S. administration.
On the ground, the TPLF leader said his soldiers still held the important town of Axum, though they had lost Shire as federal troops aimed for the state capital Mekelle.