Canada is withdrawing families of embassy staff and non-essential personnel from Ethiopia as fighting in the northern region of Tigray escalates.
“The situation in Ethiopia is changing and deteriorating rapidly,” Global Affairs Canada said in a statement on Sunday.
“The safety of Canadians is our top priority and, as a result, a decision has been made to remove all family members of Canadian Embassy staff as well as non-essential Canadian employees from Ethiopia.”
Global Affairs says the Canadian Embassy in Addis Ababa remains open and consular officials are ready to help Canadians in need of emergency assistance.
The statement also said that “documented human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law are of deep concern,” and Canada calls for an immediate ceasefire.
The United States, the UN Security Council, the African Union, Kenya and Uganda have called for a ceasefire in recent days.
The conflict in the north of the country began a year ago when forces loyal to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF) seized military bases in the Tigray region. In response, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops, which initially drove the TPLF out of the regional capital, Mekelle, but have faced a sharp turnaround since June this year.
The deadly fighting has now spread beyond Tigray to neighboring regions, threatening to fracture the continent’s second most populous country, which in turn could destabilize the entire Horn of Africa region.
All parties to the war have committed abuses, a joint United Nations human rights inquiry said on Wednesday, while millions in the government-stranded Tigray region can no longer receive humanitarian aid .
The conflict has killed thousands of people and forced more than two million people from their homes. In addition, hundreds of thousands of people in Tigray now face conditions of famine in the world’s worst food crisis in a decade.
In a tweet on Sunday, Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said she had spoken with Canada’s Ambassador to Ethiopia Stéphane Jobin about the developments.
“Our hearts go out to all Canadians who care about their loved ones in Ethiopia.”