Residents in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa were urged on Tuesday to prepare to defend their neighbourhoods after forces from the Tigray region, which has been fighting the central government for a year, indicated they could advance on the city.
The city administration issued a statement urging residents to register their weapons and gather in their neighbourhoods.
The statement said that house-to-house searches were being conducted and that troublemakers were being arrested.
“Residents can gather in their locality and safeguard their surroundings,” the statement said.
“Those who have weapons but can’t take part in safeguarding their surroundings are advised to hand over the weapon to the government or their close relatives or friends.”
The appeal came after the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) claimed to have captured several towns in recent days and announced plans to march on Addis Abeba, which is about 380 kilometres (235 miles) to the south of their forward positions.
On Tuesday, people went about their business as usual in the capital, with one woman claiming she had not heard of the latest directive.
The governments of four of Ethiopia’s ten regions have also called on Ethiopians to mobilize in order to fight Tigrayan forces.
The conflict began on the night of November 3, 2020, when forces loyal to the TPLF seized military bases in Tigray, a northern region. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responded by sending more troops there.
The TPLF had dominated national politics for nearly three decades before Abiy took office in 2018 after years of anti-government protests.
Relations with the TPLF deteriorated after they accused him of consolidating power at the expense of Ethiopia’s regional states, which Abiy denies.
TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda said that if the Tigrayan forces and their allies succeeded in removing the government, an interim government would be established.
A national dialogue would also be necessary, he said, but Abiy and his ministers would not be invited to participate.
“They will have their day in court,” he said.
The government has also stated that it intends to prosecute TPLF leaders.
In recent days, the TPLF has claimed the capture of Dessie, Kombolcha, and Burka, all in the Amhara region.
A government spokesperson denied the capture of Dessie and Kombolcha, but later issued a statement claiming that TPLF “infiltrators” had killed 100 Kombolcha youths.
On Tuesday, no one from the government, military, or Amhara region returned calls seeking comment.
On Monday night, Tigrayan forces announced that they had joined forces with fighters from an Oromo force that was also fighting the central government. The Oromo are Ethiopia’s most populous ethnic group. Many of their political leaders are incarcerated at the moment.
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