The Ethiopian leader said he would bury his enemy. His spokesperson does not believe that it was incitement to violence

“We will bury this enemy with our blood and bones and make Ethiopia’s glory high again,” Abiy said at the military headquarters in the capital Addis Ababa on Wednesday, a day later. declare a state of national emergency and urging the Ethiopians to take up arms to fight the advancing Tigrayan forces.

The speech was doubled with comments made by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate in a previous Facebook post urging his followers to “march … with whatever weapons and resources they have to defend, repel and bury the terrorist TPLF.” The Tigray Popular Liberation Front (TPLF), which ruled the country for more than three decades before Abiy came to power in 2018, has been designated a terrorist group by the current government.

Abiy’s post was deleted by Facebook for violating its policies against incitement and support for violence. But the prime minister’s spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, denies that she and other recent statements by Abiy constitute calls for violence.

“The prime minister calling on the Ethiopian people to defend their city, defend their communities, defend their country” is part of the government’s constitutional responsibility to prevent any attack, Billene told CNN’s Becky Anderson in an interview on Tuesday, adding : “The prime minister is not asking people to go and attack their counterparts and their brothers and sisters.”

Billene also said the Ethiopian government has contested Facebook’s removal from Abiy’s post, adding that it was “not necessarily” a call “to arm everyone and descend into civil chaos, but … about being vigilant in their communities. “.

More than a year of war

The TPLF has been fighting the Ethiopian army since the prime minister accused the group of attacking a federal army base and ordered an offensive in Tigray last November. The war has left thousands dead, displaced more than 2 million and fueled hunger.

A series of CNN Investigations They have also uncovered a series of atrocities committed by Ethiopian and Eritrean government forces during the year-long war in Tigray. All actors in the conflict have been accused of committing human rights abuses.

Throughout the interview, Billene repeatedly accused CNN and other Western media outlets of misrepresenting the conflict in Ethiopia and contributing to the “hysteria” that Addis Ababa was under siege.

On the TPLF’s side, spokesman Getachew Reda also told Anderson on Tuesday that the group “was not interested in power, we are not interested in territory.”

“The Abiy bombers are killing our children day after day, for God’s sake, and we have to make sure those ‘war dogs’ are restricted and we will continue to take action,” Getachew said, referring to the ongoing conflict in Tigray. .

The Ethiopian army has urged veterans to rejoin the military when the TPLF and allied rebels approached the capital in recent days. Nine groups that oppose the government – a broad coalition of armed groups and political actors representing different regional and ethnic interests, including the TPLF – formed a new alliance last Friday “in response to the dozens of crises that the country is going through” and to fight against the “genocidal regime of Ethiopia”, according to the leader of one of the groups.

Getachew said that fighters aligned with the TPLF would continue to fight until there was “willingness on the part of the Abiy government” to negotiate a ceasefire, and that the TPLF would be “more than happy to extend the olive branch as well.”

However, the TPLF categorically rejected a unilateral ceasefire declared by the Ethiopian government in June, when Tigrayan forces retaken the regional capital, Mekelle. Since then, the fighting has spread beyond the borders of Tigray into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar.
The ongoing conflict has taken an undeniable toll on the civilian population. In a statement last week, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for unrestricted humanitarian access to Tigray, Amhara and Afar. The UN also said that no aid convoy with supplies had been able to enter Tigray since mid-October.
TO joint investigation by the UN Human Rights Office and Ethiopia’s state-appointed human rights commission (ECHR) in the conflict in Tigray published on November 3 found that atrocities had been committed on all sides, including denial of access to humanitarian aid.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said that while the investigation had uncovered violations linked to the Ethiopian military and allied forces, it had also observed “huge allegations of abuse by Tigrayan forces” since Ethiopia declared the ceasefire in June.

Getachew told CNN that he “categorically” rejected the joint report due to EHRC involvement and called for an independent investigation. Tigrayans, human rights groups and other observers have also raised concerns about the independence of the investigation from government influence, although the UN has reaffirmed its impartiality.

Complaints of ethnic attacks

Witnesses and the EHRC have accused the Ethiopian authorities to arrest people in the capital, Addis Ababa, based on their ethnic origin, using the broader powers granted by the current state of emergency.

“We know for a fact that Abiy is trying to increase violence not only against the Tigrayans, but also against others who are unwilling to fight his desperate cause,” Getachew said of the arrests.

Billene told CNN on Tuesday that he would need to get more details on the reports of alleged arbitrary detentions in the capital, but that the purpose of the state of emergency was “not to target any particular person based on the identity with which they are aligned. . “

Instead, the policy is designed to “protect the Ethiopian people” and “protect the residents of Addis Ababa” who have been told they will be besieged, he said.

Young mother and elderly priest among Tigrayans arrested in Addis Ababa, witnesses say

At least 16 UN staff members and their dependents are among those detained, according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Speaking to press in New York on Tuesday, Dujarric declined to detail the ethnic origin of the detainees. “These are United Nations staff members, they are Ethiopians … and we would like to see them released, regardless of ethnicity on their identity cards,” he said.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the reports were “concerning” and that “if confirmed” the United States would condemn them. He added that the United States reportedly understood that those arrested were Tigrayans and that “detention on ethnic grounds is completely unacceptable.”

CNN’s Richard Roth and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

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