Leave Ethiopia now, UK government tells citizens

The British government has urged its citizens to leave Ethiopia on commercial flights as the country's civil war draws closer to Addis Ababa.

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Image : Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock.com

The UK government has advised its citizens to leave Ethiopia immediately as the government’s war with rebels from the Tigray region draws closer to Addis Ababa, warning that it is “likely to become much more difficult to leave Ethiopia in the coming days”.

“The conflict has potential to escalate and spread quickly and with little warning. The FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office] 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,” says the UK government’s official Ethiopia travel advice page.

In recent weeks, rebel forces from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and its allies have made advances towards Addis Ababa in a bid to remove the government of prime minister Abiy Ahmed after a bloody conflict marked by ethnic massacres, starvation and the deaths of tens of thousands. 

On 23 November, Ahmed vowed that he will lead his country’s army on the battlefront, the latest in a series of aggressive messages from the once-feted Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader.

“Leave Ethiopia now”

In light of recent events, the UK has advised its citizens to leave on commercial flights given “good commercial options to most destinations from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport.”

“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.”

The UK government’s message is the latest blow to Ethiopia’s diplomatic standing. In recent weeks, Ethiopia’s international relations have deteriorated as the war has further escalated with no sign of a diplomatic solution.

On the morning of 23 November, it was reported that Ethiopia had expelled four of the Republic of Ireland’s six diplomats in the country due to positions Ireland has articulated on the crisis.

In early November, Ethiopia was one of three African countries to be suspended from the United States’ African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) due to what President Joe Biden said were “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights”.

UK Minister for Africa Vicky Ford said: “The conflict in Ethiopia is deteriorating quickly. In the coming days we may see the fighting move closer to Addis Ababa, which could severely limit options for British Nationals to leave Ethiopia.

“I am urging all British Nationals – whatever their circumstance – to leave immediately, while commercial flights are readily available and Addis Ababa Bole International Airport remains open. Interest free loans are available to help British Nationals to return to the UK who may otherwise struggle to afford flights.

“Those who choose not to leave now should make preparations to shelter in a place of safety over the coming weeks. We cannot guarantee there will be options to leave Ethiopia in the future.”

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