- Abiy announced the “third and final phase” of the country’s army invasion of the regional authorities of the TPLF.
- According to humanitarian agencies, the number of refugees could rise from the current 43,000 to 200,000 in the coming months.
- Tigray is practically isolated from the world, which makes it difficult to verify information therein with independent sources.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reaffirmed on Friday that his duty as the Ethiopian head of government is to “maintain order” in the country after meeting with African Union (AU) envoys on the conflict in Tigray. Abiy ordered the army to attack the rebel-held region in northern Ethiopia.
Abiy, who received the Nobel Peace Prize last year for an agreement with neighboring Eritrea, yesterday announced the “third and final phase” of the country’s army invasion of the regional authorities of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been in conflict with the federal government of Ethiopia.
The conflict, which started on November 4 and caused more than 40,000 Ethiopians from the Tigray region to flee to Sudan, has caused hundreds of deaths, but there is no precise assessment of the victims of the fighting. The final offensive focused on Mekele, the capital of Tigray, home to some 500,000 people.
The international community, concerned about the situation of civilians in Mekele, has been putting pressure on the Ethiopian Prime Minister, but he has rejected “any interference in his country’s internal affairs.”
Among the initiatives is that of the AU, which is based in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and which has appointed three special envoys to try to allay the situation: former presidents Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique), Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia) and Kgalema Motlanthe (South Africa), which have been in the Ethiopian capital since Wednesday.
The Ethiopian government pledged to receive them “out of respect,” but rejected any proposal for mediation. This Friday, Abiy expressed in a statement his “thanks” to the South African head of state, Cyril Ramaphosa, who takes over the temporary AU presidency, and to the special envoys for their commitment to present “African solutions to African problems.”
He also recalled, however, that his government has “the constitutional responsibility to maintain order (in Tigray) and in the rest of the country”, before highlighting the patience he showed in the face of “provocations” and the “destabilization agenda” of TPFL.
Isolated from the World
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced today that it has flown 32 tonnes of emergency aid to Sudan, home to the thousands of refugees who fled fighting in neighboring Ethiopia.
According to humanitarian agencies, the number of refugees could rise from the current 43,000 to 200,000 in the coming months.
On Friday morning, 24 hours after the order given to the army, however, it was not possible to know whether the offensive against Mekele had actually started. Tigray is practically isolated from the world, which makes it difficult to verify information therein with independent sources.
Tigray Regional officials said today that the army was bombing cities and towns, but told local broadcaster Tigray TV that “the fight will continue until the invader is expelled from Tigray.”
Ethiopian official TV EBC said yesterday that TPLF leaders were entrenched in various places in Mekele, including a cemetery, a museum and an auditorium, and that they communicated by “military radio.”
Abiy Ahmed justified sending the army in November to Tigray after accusing the TPLF of attacking two federal military bases in the region, information denied by local authorities.
Since 1991, after toppling a military-Marxist regime in Addis Ababa, the TPLF has controlled power in Ethiopia for more than 25 years. It was progressively marginalized by Abiy when he came to power in 2018.