Latter-day Saint missionaries transferred out of Ethiopia as war escalates

The Blue Nile river flows near the site of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam near Assosa, Ethopia.

The Blue Nile river flows near the site of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam near Assosa, Ethopia. (Elias Asmare, Associated Press)

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NAIROBI, Kenya — The United States is ordering nonemergency government employees and their families to leave Ethiopia and urging other U.S. citizens that they should "depart now" as the country's war escalates and fighters approach the capital of Addis Ababa.

"Incidents of civil unrest and ethnic violence are occurring without warning," a statement on Saturday says, and it warns of possible communications blackouts and supply chain shortages.

Ethiopia's government this week declared a national state of emergency as rival Tigray forces and allied fighters seized key cities and moved toward Addis Ababa.

On Friday, the Tigray forces who long dominated the national government before a falling-out with the current government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, signed an alliance with eight other armed and opposition groups. They said they are seeking a political transition but left open the possibility of using force to make Abiy go.

Amid the civil unrest, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has moved full-time missionaries in the area out of the country and into Kenya.

"Sixty missionaries — including mission leaders President Robert J. and Sister Darice B. Dudfield — are temporarily being housed in Kenya," said church spokesman Sam Penrod in a statement.

The Ethiopia Addis Ababa Mission was created in 2020 and is the first mission in the landlocked nation located in the Horn of Africa. The U.S. warning also comes a day after the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa met with Ethiopia's prime minister amid growing calls for an immediate cease-fire and talks.

"Decisions concerning the 10 missionaries from Ethiopia were made to best meet the individual needs of the missionaries and their families," Penrod said. "Our prayers are with the members of the church and the people of Ethiopia as they face these difficult and unknown circumstances."

Missionaries will continue to serve under their mission president and further decisions will be made as the situation in Ethiopia unfolds, the statement said.

Contributing: Ashley Fredde

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