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Abiy Ahmed’s Call to Arms

Abiy has called on Ethiopians to show “patriotism” as TPLF forces push further into neighboring regions.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Ethiopia’s prime minister attends the Meskel Square remodeling.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attends the inauguration of the newly remodeled Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 13. Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed calls on civilians to join the war effort against Tigrayan forces, the Taliban seize three more provincial capitals, and Poland’s ruling coalition is in turmoil. 

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Abiy Calls for Civilian Reinforcements in Tigray Conflict

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed calls on civilians to join the war effort against Tigrayan forces, the Taliban seize three more provincial capitals, and Poland’s ruling coalition is in turmoil. 

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

Abiy Calls for Civilian Reinforcements in Tigray Conflict

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has called on civilians to join the ranks of the country’s military as they battle the resurgent forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), who have taken the fight beyond their home region.

“Now is the right time for all capable Ethiopians who are of age to join the defense forces, special forces, and militias and show your patriotism,” Abiy stated on Tuesday as he directed government forces to “halt the destruction of the treasonous and terrorist TPLF and the machinations of foreign hands once and for all.”

Washington reacts. U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price criticized Abiy’s comments on Tuesday, saying the “inflamed rhetoric makes it more difficult for all parties to come to the table and negotiate an end to this conflict.” His statement echoes one made by U.S. Agency for International Development administrator Samantha Power, who visited the region last week in a bid to convince the Ethiopian government to allow much needed aid to reach Tigray.

Abiy’s call to arms comes amid a steady TPLF advance since it retook Tigray’s capital, Mekele, in June in a surprise turnaround. The TPLF has since moved into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar, seizing the strategically significant city of Weldiya on Monday.

Despite the encroachment, the TPLF has maintained its operations are purely defensive rather than a conquest. The group’s spokesperson, Getachew Reda, said its advances were to break through a cordon imposed by Ethiopia’s government. Still, the TPLF has made no secret of its resolve. “We have to deal with anyone who’s still shooting,” Getachew said on Friday. “If it takes marching to Addis to silence the guns, we will. But I hope we’ll not have to.”

No backing down. Keeping with the same stance throughout the conflict, Ethiopia’s government refused another offer of mediation last Thursday, this time from neighboring Sudan in its capacity as the current president of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s East African trade bloc. Abiy rejected Sudan’s overture, citing recent incursions by Sudanese forces. Sudan recalled its ambassador on Sunday following the snub.

Humanitarian concerns. While the Ethiopian government prepares to widen its war with the TPLF, the humanitarian situation in Tigray is getting worse. A recent visit from United Nations emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths concluded 100 trucks a day would be needed to provide necessary aid, far more than the 175 trucks that have arrived to date. Meanwhile, UNICEF estimates 4 million people in Tigray, Afar, and Amhara are now at “crisis or emergency” levels of food insecurity.

What We’re Following Today

Taliban seize three more capitals. U.S. Afghanistan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad told the Taliban the international community wouldn’t recognize a government that seizes power through force on Tuesday, warning the militant group on the same day it took its seventh, eighth, and ninth provincial capitals in less than a week. Khalilzad has traveled to Doha in an attempt to convince the Taliban to continue peace negotiations with the Afghan government. Although a Taliban spokesperson has said the group is committed to the peace talks, the group has continued its rapid offensive across Afghanistan and now controls around 65 percent of the country, according to an European Union estimate. 

Lapid to Morocco. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid travels to Morocco today as the two countries seek to advance ties after they normalized relations last December. Lapid is set to meet with his counterpart, Nasser Bourita, and inaugurate a liaison office in Morocco’s capital, Rabat. The Biden administration’s position on U.S. recognition of Morocco’s claim to the disputed Western Sahara region—seen by some observers as a quid pro quo for December’s normalization deal—is still under review.

Poland’s media bill crisis. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki fired his deputy, Jaroslaw Gowin, amid a dispute over a tax cut proposal and a controversial media bill, throwing the country’s United Right coalition into turmoil. The media bill, which sparked nationwide protests on Tuesday, is opposed by the White House and would effectively prohibit overseas ownership in Polish media companies—a move seen as an attack on press freedom and a way to silence the network TVN, in which U.S. company Discovery holds a majority stake.

Poland’s parliament is due to vote on the bill today, and Gowin has directed his Accord grouping to vote against it. The United Right coalition, led by the Law and Justice party, held a one-vote majority in parliament prior to Gowin’s dismissal and will need support of Accord members or independent politicians to avoid a snap election.

Keep an Eye On

North Korea tensions. South Korean officials say a recently reopened phone hotline with North Korea has now gone quiet, soon after Pyongyang expressed displeasure at plans for joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises next week. The usually twice-daily phone calls have not been answered for the past two days, Yonhap News Agency reports, as senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol warned its southern neighbor would “realize by the minute what a dangerous choice they made and what a serious security crisis they will face because of their wrong choice.”

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price has attempted to assuage North Korean concerns about the drills, saying the United States “harbors no hostile intent towards” the country and that exercises are “purely defensive.”

Baltic borders. Latvia has declared a state of emergency along its border with Belarus as it deals with an increase in migrants from Iraq and Afghanistan attempting to cross over. Lithuania and Poland have also reported jumps in migrant crossings from Belarus in recent months. Latvia’s emergency order allows police and military units to assist border guards and authorizes the use of force to send migrants back across the border. EU officials have accused the government of Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko of purposefully coordinating the migrant surge in retaliation for EU sanctions against the country.

Odds and Ends

China’s nightlife is about to become a little more staid, Xinhua reported on Tuesday, as Chinese authorities announced plans to ban songs featuring “harmful content” from the nation’s karaoke venues. Songs deemed threatening to national unity, that promote superstitions, or that encourage drug-taking and gambling are all set to gain a spot on a government “blacklist” maintained by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The ministry, which banned 100 songs last year it said promoted violence, has encouraged venues to feature “healthy and uplifting” music instead.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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