The European Union on Thursday announced that it was stepping up security for essential staff remaining at its missions in war-torn Ethiopia.
The bloc has ordered non-essential staff to leave Addis Ababa, where it has diplomatic missions to both Ethiopia and the African Union.
“In coordination and in accordance with the instructions given by our member states we have asked our non-essential personnel and dependants to leave the country,” spokeswoman Nabila Massrali said.
“We have also increased security measures for EU and local staff,” she said.
Several European countries have urged their citizens to leave Ethiopia if they can, and the EU spokeswoman urged travellers to heed their government’s advice.
According to UN estimates, thousands of people have been killed, two million displaced and hundreds of thousands driven into famine-like conditions since the conflict erupted in November 2020.
The conflict began when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into the northern region of Tigray to topple the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) — a move he said came in response to rebel attacks on army camps.
The rebels mounted a comeback, recapturing most of Tigray by June before expanding into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.
The conflict took a sharp turn around a month ago, when the TPLF claimed to have captured strategic towns on a key highway to the capital.
This has heightened international concerns of a total breakdown in order if the conflict spreads to the capital.
In an interview with AFP, UN undersecretary for humanitarian Martin Griffiths expressed deep concern for the stability of a nation of 115 million people composed of more than 80 ethnic groups.
“The worst I think from a humanitarian perspective (would be) if there is a battle for Addis or turmoil around there, leading to increased communal violence across the country,” Griffiths said.
“If that were to happen, we’re facing something I don’t think we have faced before for many, many years: We’re facing a fracture … of the fabric of Ethiopia.”