Australians in Ethiopia are urged to “leave immediately” in the midst of escalating conflicts

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A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said they were “aware of cases where police have arrested and detained people, including Australians” and that “searches of individuals and homes can take place at any time”.

“The Australian Government is seriously concerned about the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Ethiopia and calls on all parties to the conflict to end hostilities immediately and work for a negotiated solution,” they said in a statement on Thursday.

“We advise Australians to leave Ethiopia immediately while commercial alternatives are available.”

The spokesman said that flight availability can be changed or switched off at any time and without warning.

“Australians should not rely on an expectation of emergency evacuation flights,” they said.

“DFAT calls all registered Australians in Ethiopia, or family representatives, to offer assistance in connecting to commercial flights.”

The travel advice for Ethiopia is currently set to ‘do not travel’ (level 4) due to “ongoing civil unrest, armed conflict in the north of the country and the risk of further conflicts spreading to new areas without warning.”

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has reportedly joined the front line where government forces are fighting rebels from the northern Tigray region.

Mr Abiy, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 2019, “now leads the counter-offensive” and “has provided leadership from the battlefield since yesterday”, reported the state-affiliated media Fana Broadcasting Corporate.

It was not clear on Wednesday (local time) where Abiy, a former radio operator in the military who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, had been deployed. State media did not send pictures of him in the field and officials have not responded to requests for details of his whereabouts.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Source: AP

To address reports on Abiy on the front lines, the US State Department warned late Wednesday “there is no military solution” to Ethiopia’s civil war.

“We urge all parties to refrain from inflammatory and belligerent rhetoric, to exercise restraint, to respect human rights, to allow humanitarian access and to protect civilians,” said a State Department spokesman.

A day earlier, Washington’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, said that “incipient progress” risked being “surpassed by the military escalation of the two sides”.

It calls for a ceasefire

Other foreign envoys have also frantically pushed for a ceasefire, although there have been few signs that a breakthrough is on the way.

On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an end to the fighting – comments made during a visit to Colombia to mark the fifth anniversary of a peace agreement between the government and rebels from the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

“The peace process in Colombia inspires me today to make an urgent appeal to the protagonists of the conflict in Ethiopia for an unconditional and immediate ceasefire to save the country,” he said.

The war broke out in November 2020 when Abiy sent troops to Tigray to overthrow its ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

He said the move was a response to the TPLF’s attacks on federal army camps and promised a quick victory, but by the end of June the rebels had retaken most of Tigray, including its capital Mekele.

Since then, the TPLF has infiltrated nearby Amhara and Afar regions, and this week they claimed to have taken a city just 220 kilometers from Addis Ababa.

With further reporting by AFP.

Australian citizens in need of emergency consular assistance, including assistance to leave, should call the Consular Emergency Center at +61 2 6261 3305.

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