Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s vow this week to go to the front lines during his country’s years of brutal war has increased recruitment for the beleaguered armed forces.
At least one prominent long-distance runner – a marathon runner and Olympic silver medalist Feyisa Lelisa – has joined thousands of ordinary Ethiopians interested in following Abiy’s example.
World powers have raised alarms over a military escalation that could undo ceasefire efforts as the rebels claim to be advancing towards the capital, Addis Ababa, and foreign governments are telling their citizens to leave.
On Wednesday, hundreds of new army recruits attended a ceremony in their honor in the Kolfe district of Addis Ababa .
When officials drove sheep and oxen into trucks heading north, the recruits broke into patriotic songs and chants out.
“I was amazed to hear” that Abiy was planning to join the soldiers in the field of recruits, 42-year-old driver Tesfaye Sherefa told AFP.
“When a leader leaves his chair … and his throne, it is to save his country. His focus is not on living but on saving this country and I sobbed when he said, “Follow me” and went to the front. “
Abiy announced his plan on Monday evening,” to lead the defense “. Forces” from the front, but officials and state media have not released any details about his movements since then.
The recruits in Kolfe took his statement to heart and wore T-shirts a picture of Abiy in uniform and the words “We have a historical responsibility to defend the free name of Ethiopia.”
“I am proud and stand by him,” said the 25-year-old Essubalew Wale Another recruit, opposite AFP.
Ethiopia’s war broke out in November 2020 when Abiy sent troops to the northernmost region of Tigray to defend his ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front ( TPLF) to overthrow.
The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate said the move was a response to TPLF Ang reefs on federal army camps and promised a quick victory, but by the end of June the rebels had had most of T. recaptured igray, including its capital, Mekele.
Since then, the TPLF has advanced into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar, claiming this week it captured a city just 220 kilometers (135 miles) from the capital.
Feyisa, the long-distance runner, told state media that the rebel advance was “a great opportunity” to defend the country.
The marathon runner gained political notoriety by raising his arms and entangled as he ran the marathon at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro – a gesture of solidarity with ethnic Oromos killed while protesting the abuses committed over nearly three decades of TPLF rule.
< In the state media interview broadcast on Wednesday, Feyisa said he would enjoy the chance to fight the TPLF himself.
“When a country is injured, there is no way I can watch,” said he.
A separate state media report quoted Ethiopia’s most famous long-distance champion Haile Gebreselassie as saying that he, too, would fight at the front.
But the footage of the interview was not broadcast and AFP could not do it independently check.