The Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed has declared a six-month state of emergencyon after forces from the northern region of Tigray said they were gaining territory and considering marching on the capital Addis Ababa.
The announcement came two days after he urged citizens to take up arms to defend themselves against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The six-month state of emergency allows, among other things, for roadblocks to be established, transport services to be disrupted, curfews to be imposed and for the military to take over in certain areas. Anyone suspected of having links with “terrorist” groups could also be detained without a court warrant.
Earlier on Tuesday, authorities in Addis Ababa told residents to register their arms and prepare to defend their neighbourhooThe state of emergency was imposed with immediate effect after the TPLF claimed to have captured several towns in recent days and said it might march on Addis Ababa, about 380 km (235 miles) to the south of their forward positions.
“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,” Justice Minister Gedion Timothewos told a state media briefing.
He said anyone violating the emergency would face three to 10 years in prison, for offences such as providing financial, material or moral support to “terrorist groups”.
Ethiopia last imposed such a measure in February 2018 for six months ahead of the transition of power to Abiy. Curfews were enforced and people’s movements restricted, while thousands of people were detained
Much of northern Ethiopia is under a communications blackout and access for journalists is restricted, making battlefield claims difficult to verify independently.