The Zambian government has become the first on the continent to evacuate its nationals out of Ethiopia over security concerns in that country.
The United Nations has warned that there is a risk that the conflict in Ethiopia might descend into a full-blown civil war.
Earlier today, the Zambian government chartered an Ethiopian airlines commercial aircraft in order to evacuate 31 of its citizens living in the capital, Addis Ababa.
The evacuation comes as Ethiopia teeters on the edge of outright civil war over the worsening conflict in the Tigray region.
President Hakainde Hichilema confirmed that he ordered the evacuation.
“Fellow Zambians, on my orders, we have today safely evacuated our fellow citizens from Ethiopia. We thank the Ethiopian authorities for their cooperation and everyone involved in this operation. We pray that the conflict in Ethiopia is resolved as soon as possible,” President Hichilema said.
He has since called on the African Union and the United Nations to work with the Ethiopian Authorities to quickly address the situation.
“We will remain fully engaged on the matter as a conflict free Africa is good for everyone. For us, the life of our Zambian citizens matter wherever they are, we will do everything to get them home safely when faced with insecurity.”
President Hichilema’s move has pleased the affected Zambians who were staying in that country.
One such citizen, Brenda Chikwe Helen Mofya, shared her joy over the airlift on social media, praising President Hakainde Hichilema for his decisive action.
“Bally is the one,” she wrote. “He won’t charter plane for his presidential trips but charters one to rescue citizens in Ethiopia. Leadership!
Her comments refer to President Hichilema’s recent trips to New York and Glasgow, for which he booked seats on a commercial flight rather than using the presidential jet.
According to the UN’s head of political and peace-building affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, no aid trucks have reached Tigray’s capital Mekelle since October, despite seven million people being in urgent need of food aid. 400,000 of these people are already living under famine-like conditions.
The UN’s Security Council has called for troops and militias to withdraw from the area to enable access to much needed food and medicine.
Speaking to the council yesterday, the African Union’s envoy to the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, said he had met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the leader of the Tigray region Debretsion Gebremichael.
He said both sides had agreed the conflict was political but there had been no mention of direct talks.