A "danger" sign is displayed in large on the website of the French Embassy in Ethiopia, flanked by an unequivocal warning message: "The military situation in Ethiopia implies a departure of the French community without delay. Seats are reserved and funded by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs on flights to Paris until the end of the week. Since November 23, Paris has indeed called on its nationals to leave "without delay" this country in the Horn of Africa, where fighting is approaching the capital after more than a year of war between government forces and rebels in the north of the country. According to the embassy, ​​more than 1,000 French people live in Ethiopia. 

The UK, too, on Wednesday urged British expats to leave Ethiopia urgently, as many other Western countries have done.

"I urge all British citizens - whatever the circumstances - to leave immediately while commercial flights are readily available," Secretary of State for Africa Vicky Ford said in a statement.

Ditto for international UN employees.  

>> To read: War in Ethiopia: "The United States no longer trust Abiy Ahmed"

Reluctant departures 

Among the many expatriates invited to leave the country, Bruno, a 29-year-old French executive who left two years ago to carry out a two-year fixed-term contract in the distribution of a French media group in Addis Ababa. Like many other French people, the young man arrived by flight in Paris on Thursday early in the morning. "If I had been told a month ago that I was going to be forced to return to France, I would not have believed it", explains to France 24 the young man, who for a long time thought that the conflict would not exceed not the north of the country. However, on Monday and even before the French embassy called him to leave, he regrettably took the decision to leave Ethiopia like the majority of French expatriates. "To my knowledge, there are only the members of the embassy left,journalists and teachers. The latter should also leave soon too. "The same goes for Alexandre, another young French expatriate, who is packing his suitcase." All our friends have left. Those who stay do it out of necessity of work or by choice, ”he explains on France 24.  

ETHIOPIA - The UN is evacuating the families of its employees, expatriates called upon to leave the country.

pic.twitter.com/qfFkhN05OV

- ECHOES FROM THE DRC (@ViveCongo) November 24, 2021

If Western expatriates are leaving the country in a hurry, it is because the rebels have made a meteoric breakthrough in recent days, approaching dangerously close to the capital. The secessionist troops are said to be near the Debre Sina pass, about 190 kilometers north of the Ethiopian capital. "The situation has deteriorated very quickly since the end of October", observes Bruno, who intended to settle more permanently in Addis Ababa at the end of his contract which was to end in a month. Temporarily hosted by his sister in Paris, he is now forced to find a new job in France. But he is not giving up on the idea of ​​one day returning to Ethiopia, as soon as security conditions are met again. "I'll wait and see how the situation unfolds. I have the feeling that I still have plenty of things to discover about this country for which I really fell in love. "In the meantime, Bruno hopes that nothing will happen to his former Tigrayan colleagues. "Among the many local employees employed directly by the company, almost everyone knew someone caught in a roundup or moved to who knows where. In Ethiopia, as a white man, I didn't risk much and I wasn't really afraid for myself, but I feared for the fate of the Tigrayans in society. "nothing will happen to his former Tigrayan colleagues. "Among the many local employees employed directly by the company, almost everyone knew a person caught in a roundup or moved to who knows where. In Ethiopia, as a white man, I didn't risk much and I didn't risk much. was not really afraid for me, but I was afraid for the fate of the Tigrayans in society. "nothing will happen to his former Tigrayan colleagues. "Among the many local employees employed directly by the company, almost everyone knew a person caught in a roundup or moved to who knows where. In Ethiopia, as a white man, I didn't risk much and I didn't risk much. was not really afraid for me, but I was afraid for the fate of the Tigrayans in society. "  

01:07

"A feeling of waste coupled with fear"

For its part, the government continues to affirm that the progress of the Tigray People's Liberation Front is exaggerated, denouncing sensationalist media coverage and security recommendations from embassies deemed alarmist. The government even sanctioned the Irish embassy on Wednesday by expelling four of its six diplomats following "positions that Ireland has expressed internationally (...) on the conflict and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia". On November 5, Ireland joined in the call of the United Nations Security Council, where it sits as a non-permanent member, for a ceasefire in the face of escalating conflict and a dialogue between the parts. On September 30, Ethiopia also expelled seven senior officials from theUN for alleged "interference" in the affairs of the country. 

From his extra sofa where he will spend his first night in Paris, Bruno takes a wry look at the current situation.

"We have a feeling of helplessness, the situation is beyond us as expatriates. There, there is a feeling of great waste coupled with fear of raids. Here, we wait to know more about the turn than are going to take events, but we are necessarily a little fatalistic. "

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