Ethiopia recalls retired military officers as anti-government alliance advances

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The Ethiopian army on Friday called on former personnel to rejoin the military to fight the advance of Tigrayan forces, state media said, as nine anti-government factions formed a new alliance to push out Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.

Called the United Front of Ethiopian Federalist and Confederalist Forces, the alliance includes the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been fighting Abiy’s government for a year in a war that has killed thousands of people and forced more than two million more from their homes.

Faced with a spreading conflict and threats by Tigrayan and allied forces to march on the capital Addis Ababa, the federal armed forces appealed to retired soldiers and veterans to rejoin the military, setting a Nov. 24 deadline to register.

African and Western nations have called for an immediate ceasefire in Ethiopia after Tigrayan forces from the north said they had moved closer to Addis Ababa this week.

The new anti-government alliance includes political, military and diplomatic cooperation and expands an existing agreement between the TPLF and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), one of the organisers, the TPLF’s Yohanees Abraha, told Reuters.

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“We are considering establishing a transitional arrangement and we have agreed that the regime in power at this time must go as soon as possible,” he said.

Abiy’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, asked for a reaction to the formation of the alliance, referred Reuters to a comment she posted on Twitter in which she defended Abiy’s rule since he took office in 2018.

She said in the post the opening of political space after Abiy took office provided ample opportunity for the opposition to settle differences at the ballot box. Abiy’s party was re-elected in June. She did not refer directly to the new alliance.

Attorney General Gedion Temothewos called the alliance “a publicity stunt” and said some of the groups had a track record of “ethnic cleansing2.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday called for a ceasefire, saying: “The conflict in Ethiopia must come to an end.”

The spokespeople for the Ethiopian government and the TPLF did not respond to requests for comment on Blinken’s call. On Thursday, the government’s communication department said in a statement: “This is not a Country that Crumbles under Foreign Propaganda! We are fighting an existential war!”

Prior to the new alliance, the OLA had already joined with the Tigrayan forces. The two groups told Reuters they are in the town of Kemise in Amhara state, 325 km (200 miles) from the capital.

He also said there was fighting at least 100 km (60 miles) north of Shewa Robit, a town in the Amhara region that is on the A2 highway, which links the capital to Ethiopia’s north. That would put fighting about 57 km (36 miles) south of Kombulcha, one of two towns that the TPLF said it captured last weekend.