Ethiopian Government Demonstrates Against Tigrayan Rebels.
Tens of thousands of Ethiopians have pledged to defend the capital from the rebels’ advance during a pro-military rally where attendees dismissed diplomatic efforts to end the year-long war.
The rally in central Addis Ababa on Sunday was the government’s latest attempt to shore up public support for the conflict against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and allied groups.
It came five days after the government declared a state of emergency ostensibly to protect civilians from the TPLF, which has claimed key achievements in recent days as it floated a possible march to the capital.
US official Jeffrey Feltman arrived in Ethiopia on Thursday to try to negotiate an end to hostilities.
The U.S. embassy announced Saturday that it was ordering the exit of non-emergency personnel, days after countries like Saudi Arabia, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark urged their citizens to leave Ethio.
‘Sucking our blood’
Sunday’s protests, organized by the government, were also directed against countries that have called for an end to the violence.
“We don’t need outside interference,” some of the posters said.
Those attending the demonstration also carried posters criticizing Western media for spreading “fake news” that exaggerated the achievements of the rebels.
Other signals urged the United States, one of the war’s harshest international critics, to “stop sucking our blood.”
Addis Ababa Mayor Adanech Abebe said in a speech that Ethiopia’s enemies were trying to “terrorize our people.”
“They say Addis Ababa is surrounded, but Addis Ababa is only surrounded by its amazing people, its heroic and vigilant children,” he said.
She was particularly critical of the US government, which last week announced plans to remove Ethiopia from a vital trade pact due to war-related rights abuses.
“If aid and loans strip us of our freedom, if they lead us to sacrifice our freedom, we will not sacrifice our freedom,” Adanech said, adding that the place of the TPLF “is hell.”
Ethiopian journalist Samuel Getachew, speaking from Addis Ababa, told Al Jazeera that the rally was designed to show that large numbers of people still support the government’s military operations against the rebels.
“This is [also] to show the world that Ethiopians want a local solution to the problem, ”he said, referring to the anti-Western rhetoric in the crowd.
The Ugandan president will host a summit of the East African bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, on November 16 to discuss the conflict.
Guns ‘are not the solution’
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to Tigray last November to overthrow the TPLF, then the regional ruling party, a move he said came in response to the TPLF’s attacks on federal army camps.
He promised a quick victory, but in June the TPLF retaken most of Tigray, including the capital Mekelle, and has since moved to neighbor Afar and Amhara regions.
Pressure on the central government is mounting after the TPLF said its forces were less than 350 kilometers (217 miles) from Addis Ababa. Hundreds of refugees from the northern conflict regions of Tigray, Amhara, and Afar arrived in the capital on Saturday, a witness told the DPA news agency.
On Sunday, Abiy said in a Twitter post: “When we stick together, we can overcome anything.
“We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors who made great sacrifices for us and today we are committed to laying a solid foundation for generations to come.”
Many people from Tigray have been arrested in the capital and driven out of the city in military vehicles. Police confirmed on Saturday that there had been a “clean-up operation.”
Meanwhile, several Addis Ababa residents said Sunday that they were not afraid of the TPLF.
“They will not come to Addis because I think the military can destroy them,” clothing salesman Kebede Hailu told the AFP news agency.
“There will be no negotiation. They are terrorists and should be buried and destroyed. ”
However, one artist, singer Tariku Gankisi, seemed to lose the message when he took the stage at the rally and asked for talks.
“Why do we say go ahead and die? Let the young stay, let the old go [to the front]. It is better to have negotiations, ”he said. “Enough with the weapon, it is not a solution.”