Johannesburg — Tens of thousands of people took part in massive rallies in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Sunday. It was a show of support for the government as itthreatening to march on the city, but there was strong anti-American sentiment at the gatherings, too.
The fighting in Ethiopia has raged for just over a year now, but what started as an isolated battle between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and rebels in the northern Tigray region has snowballed into a.
The Tigrayan rebels formed an alliance last week — announced while a senior U.S. envoy was in Ethiopia — with eight other militant groups, including the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) based in the country’s south. Over the weekend, the OLA commander warned Abiy that forces loyal to the government were defecting, and he claimed the rebels were close to victory.
“What I am sure (of) is that it is going to end very soon,” Jaal Marroo told the French news agency AFP on Sunday. “We are preparing to push for another launch, and for another attack. The government is just trying to buy time, and they are trying to instigate civil war in this country, so they are calling for the nation to fight.”
During the pro-military rally in Adis Ababa, thousands of Ethiopians pledged to defend the capital from the new coalition of rebels advancing from both north and south, and they dismissed diplomatic efforts to end the year-long war. The rally was organized by the government — the latest attempt to shore up public support for Abiy’s forces in their fight against the rebels.
Those attending also turned their anger toward other countries, including the United States, which have called for an end to the violence and for all sides to engage in ceasefire talks.
“We don’t need interference from abroad,” read some of the placards. Rally-goers also blasted Western media for broadcasting “fake news,” accusing outlets of overstating rebel gains.
The U.N.that all parties to the conflict had violated international humanitarian law, citing reports of massacres, gang-rapes and ethnic cleansing. Most of the offenses have been carried out by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.
The U.S. has been one of the harshest critics of the conflict, with President Joe Biden’s administration accusing Ethiopia of gross human rights violations and threatening to remove the country from a U.S. trade pact.
In response, some demonstrators held signs saying, “Shame on you USA,” while another said the U.S. should stop “sucking Ethiopia’s blood.”
The U.S. and other countries have ordered non-essential embassy staff and citizens to leave Ethiopia immediately. That came after Prime Minister Abiy declared a state of emergency last week, and amid a deepening humanitarian crisis. United Nations aid agencies say more than 900,000 people are facing starvation, with hunger allegedly being used as a weapon of war.
Diplomats have been scrambling to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, with the U.S. envoy to the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman visiting Ethiopia last week. But so far, Abiy has not been swayed by tough talk from his international critics, the African Union or the United Nations.