Ethiopia declared a state of emergency on Tuesday after the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces said they were gaining territory and planning a march on Addis Ababa, the capital.
The announcement was made on state-run media two days after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed urged citizens to take up arms in order to defend themselves against the TPLF.
Authorities in Addis Ababa had earlier instructed residents to register their firearms and prepare to defend their neighbourhoods.
The state of emergency was declared after the TPLF claimed to have captured several towns in recent days and stated that it was considering marching on Addis Abeba, which is approximately 380 kilometres to the south of their forward positions.
Ethiopia last imposed such a measure in February 2018, six months before Abiy’s assumption of power. Curfews were imposed, and people’s movements were restricted, while thousands were detained.
Ethiopia’s rebellious Tigrayan forces have joined forces with an Oromo force also fighting the central government, according to a spokesperson for the Tigrayan forces, who are considering marching on the capital.
The forces from Tigray’s northern region claim to have advanced further south into the neighbouring Amhara region this week in an attempt to put pressure on the central government to meet their demands, though the government disputes how far they have advanced.
If Tigrayan fighters join forces with rebel forces from Oromiya, Ethiopia’s most populous region, they could strengthen their ability to threaten the capital, deepening the conflict in Africa’s second-most populous nation and adding to the turmoil in a volatile region.
“We have linked up with the OLF/OLA and if achieving our objectives in Tigray will require that we march to Addis Ababa, we will. But we are not saying we are marching to Addis Ababa,” Getachew Reda, a TPLF spokesperson said.
The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) is a banned armed group that split from the opposition party the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The Oromo are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, and many of their leaders are in jail.
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