US urges Ethiopia to release people detained under state of emergency

Call follows Ethiopian Cabinet's decision to lift six-month measure early

Ethiopians from the Tigray region living in South Africa stage a protest outside the US embassy in Pretoria to demand the withdrawal of Ethiopian, Amhara and Eritrean forces from Tigray. AFP

The US called for Ethiopia to release people detained under a state of emergency after the government decided to lift the six-month measure early in light of changing security conditions.

Washington welcomed the Ethiopian Cabinet's decision on Wednesday and hoped it would be approved by parliament soon, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Ethiopia declared a state of emergency in November after forces from the northern region of Tigray said they had gained territory and were considering marching on the capital Addis Ababa.

The Horn of Africa country has been gripped by war for more than a year, with the federal military and its allies battling forces loyal to the Tigray People's Liberation Front, the political party that controls Tigray.

For months there has been an uneasy stalemate between the two sides, punctuated by sporadic fighting.

TPLF forces control most of Tigray but are surrounded by hostile forces from neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara, which are allied with the federal military.

The conflict, which broke out in November 2020, has displaced millions and caused widespread hunger.

Mr Price said reports of renewed fighting in the Afar region were “very concerning”.

“We repeat our calls to all actors to cease all offensive operations, which also hinder that humanitarian access that we all know is so crucial,” he said.

Updated: January 28, 2022, 7:24 AM