At a rally to support the military campaign, Ethiopians denounce the US.

Tens of thousands of Ethiopians demonstrated in Addis Ababa on Sunday in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government as federal troops fight rebel forces threatening to march on the city.

Some protesters denounced that the United States, which is among the foreign powers that have called for a ceasefire, as a year-long war that has killed thousands of people escalated amid rebel advances last weekend.

The UN Security Council, the African Union and Kenya and Uganda have also called for a ceasefire in recent days.

The Abiy government has pledged to continue fighting. On Friday, the government said it had a responsibility to secure the country and urged foreign powers to support Ethiopia’s democracy.

Some of those gathered in Meskel Square in central Addis Ababa wrapped themselves in the national flag. Many criticized the United States.

Villagers return from a market to the city of Yechila in south-central Tigray walking among dozens of burned vehicles, in Tigray, Ethiopia, on July 10, 2021 (credit: REUTERS / GIULIA PARAVICINI / FILE PHOTO)

The administration of US President Joe Biden on Tuesday accused Ethiopia of “gross violations” of human rights and said it planned to remove the country from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade deal.

“Shame on America,” one protester’s poster read, while another said America should stop “sucking Ethiopia’s blood.”

Other protesters expressed anger at the US call for the government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to start talks.

The conflict in the north of the country began a year ago when forces loyal to the TPLF seized military bases in the Tigray region. In response, Abiy sent troops, which initially drove the TPLF out of the regional capital, Mekelle, but have faced radical change since June this year.

“Why doesn’t the US government negotiate with terrorists like al Shabaab?” Tigist Lemma, 37, said, referring to a militant group linked to al Qaeda in Somalia.

“They want to destroy our country like they did Afghanistan. They will never succeed, we are Ethiopians.”

Speaking at the rally, Addis Ababa Mayor Adanech Abiebe invoked Ethiopia’s history of resisting colonial power to justify war.

The conflict has killed thousands of people, forced more than 2 million from their homes and left 400,000 people in Tigray facing famine.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths traveled to Mekelle on Sunday and met with women affected by the fighting and humanitarian partners, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

“(He) made a commitment to the de facto authorities on the need for humanitarian access and protection of civilians throughout all areas under his control, and respect for humanitarian principles,” OCHA said.

A humanitarian source in Ethiopia and a person familiar with the matter told Reuters that the AU’s special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, was also on the trip.

AU spokesperson Ebba Kalondo did not respond to a request for comment. TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda told Reuters that both Griffiths and Obasanjo visited Mekelle.

Government spokesman Legesse Tulu did not respond to a request for comment on the officials’ visit.


During the Addis Ababa rally, there was a call for restraint, by popular musician Tariku Gankisi, whose songs call for the unity of all Ethiopians.

“Let no young man go to the front to fight, let the elders leave holding the fresh grass and ask for reconciliation,” Tariku told the crowd, before they turned off their microphone, it was not clear by whom. The fresh grass is a symbol of peace in the country.

Under a state of emergency declared Tuesday, the government can order citizens of military age to undergo training and accept military duties.

Reuters has not been able to independently confirm the extent of the TPLF advance. The TPLF and its allies told Reuters last week they were 325 kilometers (200 miles) from the capital. The government accuses the group of exaggerating its achievements.

The government has also complained about coverage of the conflict by foreign media and some people at the demonstration carried posters denouncing “fake news” in Ethiopia.

Billene Seyoum, a spokesperson for Abiy, said in a Twitter post late Saturday: “The media propaganda orchestrated against Ethiopia is increasing … Regardless, Ethiopia will outperform!”

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