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Ethiopians answer call to arms as rebel forces advance on the capital

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A man holds the Ethiopian national flag during a pro-government rally in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday. Photo: REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

A man holds the Ethiopian national flag during a pro-government rally in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday. Photo: REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Ethiopian military parade at a rally in downtown Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo: AP

Ethiopian military parade at a rally in downtown Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo: AP

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A man holds the Ethiopian national flag during a pro-government rally in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday. Photo: REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Tens of thousands of Ethiopians rallied in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed yesterday as rebel forces advancing on Addis Ababa confirmed they intended to enter the city and overthrow him.

The demonstration came after Mr Abiy warned Ethiopians to be ready to take up arms and make “sacrifices” to “salvage” the country, which has been locked in a brutal civil war with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) for the past year.

To expect victory from “our army and its battle alone is foolishness”, Mr Abiy said. “Unless we co-operate to defend against the threats posed co-operatively by our enemies, victory is unthinkable.”

The TPLF seized two strategic cities on the road to the capital last week and unveiled an alliance with other factions on Friday, aiming to remove the prime minister from power by force if necessary.

The rebels confirmed on Saturday that taking the city was not “an objective” but insisted they would not meet popular resistance if they did so to overthrow the prime minister.

“The story that the population in Addis is vehemently opposed to us is absolutely overstated,” Getachew Reda, a TPLF spokesman, told AFP.

“The claim that Addis will turn into a bloodbath if we enter Addis is absolutely ridiculous.”

Residents of the city have been dusting off old Kalashnikov rifles and antique swords since Mr Abiy issued his desperate call to arms.

All citizens have been ordered to register any type of arms they own at nearby police stations and told to unite and “help the security” of their area.

One local said he had taken a Kalashnikov inherited from his father to the police amid fears that Addis Ababa – home to five million people – could fall in a matter of weeks.

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“I am told if I am not going to make use of it, I have to hand it over to the district so they can make use of it,” he said.

So far “bombs and heavy weapons” have been handed in, alongside “antique swords and machetes”, a police spokesman said.

“Everyone should stand to safeguard their neighbourhoods. We should be the police of our own neighbourhood; we should be its keepers, and its defence forces,” Adanech Abiebie, Addis Ababa’s mayor, said.

 The UN called for a ceasefire. The Ethiopian government declared a nationwide emergency on Tuesday. 

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]


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