South Africa, Kenya urge 'immediate' Ethiopia ceasefire

The year-long war has already killed thousands and pushed hundreds of thousands into famine-like condition, according to the UN.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Pretoria on Tuesday, 23 November 2021 during Ramaphosa's state visit. Picture: GCIS.

PRETORIA - South Africa and Kenya on Tuesday urged warring parties in Ethiopia to commit to an immediate ceasefire, a day after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed vowed to head to the front to lead soldiers battling rebels.

The year-long war has already killed thousands and pushed hundreds of thousands into famine-like condition, according to the UN.

Following talks with his visiting Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta, South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa said they had discussed the "grave situation" in Ethiopia.

"We expressed our conviction that there is scope for dialogue among the warring parties in Ethiopia and that there is an urgent need for all parties to the conflict to commit to an immediate indefinite, negotiated ceasefire, and an all inclusive political dialogue," said Ramaphosa.

On Monday, Abiy said he would "mobilise to the front to lead the defence forces" and called on Ethiopians to "rise up for your country".

The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) has said it is pressing towards Addis Ababa, claiming control of Shewa Robit town, 220km northeast of the capital by road.

Abiy sent troops into Ethiopia's northernmost Tigray region to topple the TPLF rebel group in November 2020, saying the move came in response to TPLF attacks on army camps.

Though he promised a swift victory, by late June the TPLF had regrouped and retaken most of Tigray including its capital Mekele, prompting the federal army to largely withdraw from the region.

Since then the TPLF has pushed into the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara.

It has also formed an alliance with other insurgent groups including the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which is active in the Oromia region surrounding Addis Ababa.

In early November Abiy's government declared a six-month state of emergency.

Fears of a rebel advance on the capital have prompted several countries including the US and Britain to pull out non-essential diplomatic staff.

Kenyatta landed in South Africa late on Monday for a three-day working visit.