Kenya’s Telco Giant Safaricom Pulls Staff and Employees out of Addis Ababa as Security Fears in the Ethiopian Capital Grow
Kenyan telecommunication giant Safaricom has pulled out its staff and employees from Addis Ababa. The move comes as security fears over the Ethiopian capital continue to grow. Right now, the government of Prime Minister Aby Ahmed is fighting Tigrayan and allied rebels in the north.
Safaricom noted that it made the decision due to the increased risk of armed conflict and civil unrest in the city. The United States, Italy, Denmark, and other Western countries have also urged their citizens to leave Ethiopia while commercial flights are still available.
Security Fears over Addis Ababa
The government of Ethiopia has been fighting Tigrayan and allied rebels for a year now. The war was largely confined to the country’s northern region. However, in recent years rebel advances in neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara marked a decisive turning point in the conflict.
International media outlets also reported that Tigrayan fighters had captured key strategic towns on a major highway leading to the capital Addis Ababa. This has raised real concern that the fighters could make a play for the capital in an effort to topple the government of Prime Minister Aby.
A spokesman for the Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front or TPLF told Reuters that the rebel fighters are willing to do anything to “end the siege of Tigray”, including “matching into Addis Ababa”.
Show of Defiance by The Government
Despite the growing threat of all-out war in the capital city, the government of Ethiopia remains defiant. Just recently, a huge pro-government rally was organized at the heart of Addis Ababa in solidarity with Prime Minister Aby.
Street protests in the city against the TPLF have also been organized, attracting tens of thousands of Ethiopians. There were also reports that the government was calling on ordinary citizens as well as retired servicemen and women to join the fight.
The government also declared a three-month state of emergency in Addis Ababa. It also called on city residents to stand ready and defend their neighborhoods.
Is a Rebel Advance towards Addis Ababa Possible?
It is not clear whether the TPLF has the capacity to advance into Addis Ababa. Right now government forces appear to be stretched beyond measure. But a rebel advance towards the capital city could trigger an all-out civil war in Africa’s second-most populous nation.
The international community has also warned TPLF and allied rebel groups against any such action. It says that it risks destabilizing the entire country.
But despite this, it seems like there is no end in sight for the yearlong conflict. Both sides have made it clear that they are not ready for a ceasefire or any negotiated political settlement to this crisis.
What is Next for Safaricom?
Pulling staff out of Ethiopia will come as a huge blow to Safaricom. The Kenyan company recently won a huge license to operate telecom services in the horn of Africa nation. The license fee was valued at $850 Million, one of the biggest in Africa.
Safaricom was poised to begin operations next year. But based on current conditions, it seems that plan is in jeopardy.