The African Union Commission says it is deeply concerned about the escalating fighting in Ethiopia, where the army is battling an uprising by Tigray rebel forces from the north.
Tigray’s rebel forces claim they have the upper hand in the war that erupted a year ago in northern Ethiopia.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has declared a nationwide state of emergency and ordered the use of the air force to bomb areas occupied by rebels.
On Wednesday the African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said the escalation of the military confrontation in Ethiopia was deeply concerning.
“In this regard, the chairperson calls for the immediate cessation of hostilities, the full respect for the life and property of civilians, as well as state infrastructure,” said the commission in a strongly-worded statement.
“The chairperson further calls on the parties to urge their supporters against acts of reprisal against any community and refrain from hate speech and incitement to violence and divisiveness.
“The chairperson reminds the parties of their international obligations regarding compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law, with particular regard to the protection of civilians and ensuring access to humanitarian assistance
“To this end, the chairperson calls on the parties to engage with the African Union high representative for the horn of Africa, former Nigerian president, H.E Olusegun Obasanjo.”
The BBC is reporting that as rebels are advancing towards the capital, the government has asked residents of Addis Ababa to mobilise and protect their neighbourhoods.
Fighters from Tigray, led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), took the cities of Dessie and Kombolcha over the weekend, reports the BBC.
They are in the Amhara region, which neighbours Tigray, and are about 400km (250 miles) from the capital.
The battle for Dessie was believed to have been one of the most ferocious in the war as the city is seen as the gateway to Addis Ababa, in the south, and the border with Djibouti, in the east.