The UK government is urging British people to leave Ethiopia immediately as the security situation is “deteriorating”.
Africa minister Vicky Ford said that the government is advising against travel to the whole country.
She called on all British nationals in Ethiopia to leave “now while commercial flights are readily available”.
The Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice change follows the UN’s warning that Ethiopia was heading towards civil war.
The US earlier this week ordered all non-emergency US government employees in Ethiopia to leave, warning that “incidents of civil unrest and ethnic violence are occurring without warning”.
The Ethiopian government’s conflict with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) began a year ago.
A nationwide state of emergency was declared last week on 2 November, and residents of capital Addis Ababa have been told to be ready to be armed to defend their neighbourhoods.
Thousands of people have been killed, and at least two million people have been displaced since November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive against the TPLF.
The FCDO wrote on its website: “There is a military conflict ongoing in the north of Ethiopia. Military clashes are now occurring in Tigray, Amhara and Afar regional states. The conflict has potential to escalate and spread quickly and with little warning.
“The FCDO advises against all travel to Ethiopia, except Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, because of the risk of the conflict spreading to new areas without prior warning.
“You should leave Ethiopia now while commercial options are still available. It is likely to become much more difficult to leave Ethiopia in the coming days. Consular support is severely limited across Ethiopia.
“In the event of deterioration in the political or security situation, the British Embassy may be limited in the assistance that it can provide. Do not rely on the FCDO being able to evacuate you in an emergency.
“Currently, there remain good commercial options to most destinations from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, with most domestic flights operating normally (except Semera, Dessie, Weldiya and Tigray).”
The UK government added: “If you are in the vicinity of military activity and you cannot leave safely, you should stay indoors, away from windows and remain alert to developments that would enable you to leave safely.”
In a separate development, at least nine United Nations staff and dependents have been detained in Addis Ababa, a UN spokesperson said on Tuesday.
UN security officials have visited the detained staff and the United Nations has asked the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to immediately release them, the UN spokesperson told Reuters. Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not respond to a request for comment.
On Monday, UN under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs Rosemary DiCarlo said at a Security Council meeting that the risk of Ethiopia “descending into widening civil war is only too real”.
She said more than seven million people needed humanitarian assistance in northern Ethiopia alone, with an estimated 400,000 people in Tigray living in famine-like conditions.
A report of the Joint Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights or OHCHR-Ethiopian Human Rights Commission investigation into the conflict in Tigray released last week concluded that there are reasonable grounds to believe that all parties to the conflict committed violations of international human rights.
It also stated that war crimes and crimes against humanity may have been also committed.
Parties in the conflict include the Ethiopian National Defence Force, Eritrean Defence Force, Amhara Special Forces and allied militia on one side and Tigrayan forces on the other.
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