Foreigners rush out of Ethiopia as the war escalates

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As the fighting in Ethiopia’s civil war draws closer to the capital Addis Ababa, foreign nationals are struggling to leave the country as soon as possible. Jowharspoke to a French expat about the impact of having to leave suddenly.

The large “danger” symbol and unequivocal warning on the website of the French embassy in Ethiopia say it all: “In light of the situation in Ethiopia, French citizens are formally asked to leave the country without delay.” .

Paris fears for the safety of the more than 1,000 French living in Ethiopia, as the conflict between government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) draws ever closer to Addis Ababa.

France has been asking its citizens since November 23 to leave Ethiopia without delay; the French Foreign Ministry has reserved and paid for seats on flights to Paris until the end of the week.

The UK has also urged its citizens to leave: “I urge all British citizens, regardless of their circumstances, to leave immediately, while commercial flights are available and Addis Ababa Bole International Airport remains open, “Britain’s Africa Minister Vicky Ford said in a Nov. 24 statement. UN employees have also been strongly advised to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible.

Bruno, a 29-year-old French business executive who moved to Ethiopia two years ago to work for a French media company in Addis Ababa, landed in Paris early Thursday morning. “If someone had told me a month ago that I would have to go back to France like this, I would not have believed it,” said Bruno. At that time he doubted that the conflict would spread from the north of the country.

But on Monday, before the French embassy urged him to leave, he left Ethiopia along with most of the French expats. “As far as I know, there are only embassy workers, journalists and teachers left, and the teachers should be leaving soon too,” Bruno said.

It was a similar sentiment for Alexandre, another young French expat: “All of our friends are gone,” he said.

‘Fearful of Tigrayans’

The hasty exodus of Westerners from Ethiopia was triggered by the rapid rise of rebel forces into the capital in recent days. Secessionist troops have reportedly approached the Debre Sina pass, some 190 kilometers north of Addis Ababa.

“The situation has deteriorated rapidly since the end of October,” said Bruno, who intended to settle permanently in Addis Ababa after the end of his contract next month. He temporarily stays with his sister in Paris and has to find a new job in France.

But Bruno has not given up on the idea of ​​returning to Ethiopia as soon as the security situation improves. “I will wait and see how the situation evolves,” he said. “I think there are many things to discover in this country, which I have really fallen in love with.”

Meanwhile, Bruno hopes nothing bad happens to his former teammates from Tigrayan. “Almost all the Ethiopians in the company I worked for knew of someone arrested in a raid or taken God knows where. As a white man in Ethiopia, I didn’t really fear for myself, but I do fear for the Tigrayans. ”

For its part, the Ethiopian government continues to claim that reports of the TPLF’s progress are exaggerated, denouncing what it sees as sensationalist media coverage and alarmist security warnings from foreign embassies.

Addis Ababa even sanctioned the Irish embassy on Wednesday by expelling four of its six diplomats stationed in Ethiopia in response to Dublin’s stance on the conflict. Ireland has joined the UN Security Council calls for a ceasefire and dialogue between the parties to the country’s civil war.

This came after Ethiopia expelled seven senior UN officials on September 30 for allegedly “meddling” in the country’s internal affairs.

Bruno had an ironic vision of the current situation from his sister’s sofa, where he was about to spend his first night since he returned to Paris: “We feel quite helpless, there is nothing that expats can do about it. In Ethiopia, there is a feeling that war is a great waste, along with the fear of raids. Here, we don’t know what will happen, but obviously we can afford to be a bit fatalistic. “

This article was translated from the original in French.