Blinken says fighting in Ethiopia ‘needs to stop.’

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Blinken Calls for End to Conflict in Ethiopia

Speaking from neighboring Kenya, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken pressed for an end to a violent civil war in Ethiopia that has threatened to destabilize the region. He also urged Americans in Ethiopia to leave.

The way the conflict has progressed, more and more parts of the country have become involved and/or are in jeopardy with their citizens bearing the, bearing the consequences, and whether that’s in Tigray over the last year, more recently in Amhara and moving further south toward Addis, the people who suffer are the people. And we have to make sure that they are getting the assistance they need, and that the fighting ceases and the talking starts. In addition to that, the conflict in Ethiopia is a threat to peace and security in the Horn of Africa, and that is of deep concern to us too, and it’s of deep concern to our partners, including here in Kenya. So we’re looking for all sides, as I said, to step back, the T.P.L.F. and the O.L.A. should halt their advance on Addis. We’d like to see the parties come together at the table to put in place a cessation of hostilities. We need to see humanitarian assistance flow freely now. We need to see people detained released, and we need to see everyone engaging in an effort to resolve the differences that exist peacefully and constitutionally. We have urged Americans who are in Ethiopia to take advantage of the opportunity to leave, and my strong hope and conviction is we will help move things back to a place where it will be very safe for them to return, and for Ethiopia to continue to move forward.

Speaking from neighboring Kenya, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken pressed for an end to a violent civil war in Ethiopia that has threatened to destabilize the region. He also urged Americans in Ethiopia to leave.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Andrew Harnik

Nov. 17, 2021Updated 1:32 p.m. ET

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken called on Wednesday for a halt to the violence in Ethiopia, where a civil war threatens to engulf the Horn of Africa nation and destabilize a volatile region where the United States has struggled to prevent a series of democratic reversals.

Speaking in neighboring Kenya, on the start of a three-country swing through Africa, Mr. Blinken declined to say whether the ethnically driven conflict in Ethiopia constitutes a genocide. But he said there would be consequences for what the United Nations and human rights groups have described as brutal attacks against civilians in the year-old conflict between Ethiopian government forces and fighters from the northern Tigray region.

“The fact is that we have seen, and continue to see, atrocities being committed, people suffering,” Mr. Blinken said at a news conference with Kenya’s cabinet secretary for foreign affairs, Raychelle Omamo. “Regardless of what we call it, it needs to stop. There needs to be accountability, and we are determined there will be.”

Mr. Blinken arrived in Nairobi overnight Wednesday, making him the highest-ranking Biden administration official to visit sub-Saharan Africa. Among his top priorities was to advance diplomacy to resolve the conflict in Ethiopia, part of wave of political upheaval that has fueled questions about the Biden administration’s approach to the continent.

Reiterating a State Department travel warning, Mr. Blinken urged Americans in Ethiopia to leave as soon as possible using commercial airlines. In a conversation days ago with Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister, Demeke Mekonnen, the secretary of state called on him to open up humanitarian access to northern Ethiopia.

The expanding conflict was a danger not just to Ethiopia but to the wider region, Mr. Blinken said, and a source “of deep concern to us and to our partners, including here in Kenya.”

On a stop in Nigeria this week, Mr. Blinken will outline a vision for U.S. policy toward Africa, one that is expected to focus on the value of democracy to the continent’s future. Counterterrorism is also expected to be a key topic: Hours before Mr. Blinken’s arrival in Nairobi, suicide bombers detonated two bombs in the heart of Kampala, the capital of neighboring Uganda, killing at least three people and injuring at least 33 others. The Islamic State, which has been active in East Africa for years, took responsibility for the attack.

Some critics say the Biden administration has been inattentive to Africa, a common complaint about U.S. foreign policy but one that has gained more currency as China, America’s top strategic competitor, plants deeper political and economic roots on the continent and anti-American jihadist groups continue to thrive there.

American officials are concerned about democratic backsliding across the continent, which has seen a wave of military coups in recent months — including in Sudan, where a coup last month quashed a democratic transition that followed the 2019 ouster of the country’s longtime autocratic ruler, Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Mr. Blinken said the transition to democracy in Sudan needed to be “put back on its tracks,” beginning with the reinstatement of the civilian prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok.

Experts say the four successful military coups in Africa this year — including in Guinea, Chad and Mali — are the highest number in more than 40 years.

Kenya has played a key role in diplomatic efforts to peacefully resolve a conflict between the Ethiopia’s central government and Tigray rebels.

“This is Rwanda-esque,” added Patricia Haslach, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia from 2013 to 2016. Ms. Haslach stopped short of saying that a genocide might be occurring, but other experts have called that a realistic possibility in a conflict increasingly defined by ethnic identity.

The Clinton administration’s failure to intervene and potentially prevent the massacre of as many as 800,000 ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 has haunted former U.S. officials for decades.

Mr. Blinken plans to conclude his trip with a visit to the Senegalese capital, Dakar.

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