The Ethiopian government has declared a six-month state of emergency and local officials are urging the capital’s 5 million residents to register their weapons and prepare to defend their neighbourhoods.
Justice Minister Gedion Timothewos told the media that the country was facing a grave danger to its existence, and the “usual law enforcement systems and procedures” were not enough.
“Our country is facing a grave danger to its existence, sovereignty, and unity. And we can’t dispel this danger through the usual law enforcement systems and procedures,” Timothewos said at a state media briefing.
His statement echoed a similar general call for people and resources from the Amhara regional government, north of the capital, where fighting has been concentrated in recent weeks.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Sunday issued a broader call to arms saying it was every citizen’s duty to join the war effort, and promising victory.
The two largest rebel groups fighting Ethiopia’s government have linked up on a front line about 370 kilometres north of the capital Addis Ababa, according to their spokesmen.
“We are both moving forward with a unified coordinated military strategy to conclude this war as quickly as possible to prevent further bloodshed,” said OLA spokesman Odaa Tarbii. “This will become clearer over the coming weeks.”
Getachew Reda, spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, would not say whether marching on Addis Ababa, which hosts the headquarters of the African Union, was part of their strategy to wrest control of the country from Abiy’s government, though Getachew said, “I can’t rule out marching to Addis together.”
Forces from the Tigray region as well as fighters with the Oromo Liberation Army claim to have seized key strategic towns in Amhara along the highway to Addis Ababa over the past few days. On state media, government spokespeople have denied losing any territory but did not respond to requests for comment.