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PM Abiy Tells AU He Stands By Tigray Military Campaign

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By Robbie COREY-BOULET
November 28 2020

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told African Union envoys Friday he will continue military operations in the restive northern Tigray region, resisting calls for dialogue as his army prepared for what he called a final offensive against regional forces.

Abiy, the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, on Thursday announced a “third and final phase” in his campaign against leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Ethiopia and the region of TigrayEthiopia and the region of Tigray  AFP / Jean-Michel CORNU

For more than three weeks now, the two sides have engaged in fierce fighting in Tigray that the International Crisis Group said Friday had left thousands dead “including many civilians as well as security forces”.

Global concern is centred on the half a million residents of Mekele, the regional capital, which the army says it has encircled ahead of the threatened attack.

Ethiopian troops on a road near the Tigrayan city of HumeraEthiopian troops on a road near the Tigrayan city of Humera  AFP / EDUARDO SOTERAS

World leaders and human rights groups have warned such a strike could violate rules of war and are calling for urgent mediation.

Pope Francis is among those worried about the intensifying fighting, growing loss of life and displacement, Vatican media head Matteo Bruni said Friday.

A blood-stained sandal lies next to the grave of an alleged victim of a massacre that unfolded in the Tigrayan town of Mai Kadra November 9A blood-stained sandal lies next to the grave of an alleged victim of a massacre that unfolded in the Tigrayan town of Mai Kadra November 9  AFP / EDUARDO SOTERAS

Abiy announced military operations in Tigray on November 4 after months of friction between his government and the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before Abiy took office in 2018.

The prime minister has refused to negotiate with the TPLF and dismissed calls for dialogue as “interference” in Ethiopia’s internal affairs.

A youngster in Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara region, stands in front of a wanted sign showing members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), who are being sought for alleged treasonA youngster in Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara region, stands in front of a wanted sign showing members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), who are being sought for alleged treason  AFP / EDUARDO SOTERAS

On Friday he received at his office in Addis Ababa three African ex-leaders — Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa — dispatched this week by the AU as mediators.

In a statement issued after their meeting, Abiy said he appreciated “this gesture and… the steadfast commitment this demonstrates to the principle of African solutions to African problems”.

A medic disinfects tools at a medical facility in Um Raquba, a camp that has been set up for Ethiopian refugees in eastern SudanA medic disinfects tools at a medical facility in Um Raquba, a camp that has been set up for Ethiopian refugees in eastern Sudan  AFP / ASHRAF SHAZLY

Even so, the government has a “constitutionally mandated responsibility to enforce rule of law in the region and across the country,” his office said in a statement.

“Failure to do so would further a culture of impunity with devastating cost to the survival of the country,” it said.

Unrest continues in Ethiopia in the wake of a massacre of hundreds of civilians in the Tigray region in the north of the country, as conflict continues between government forces and the Tigray People's Liberation FrontUnrest continues in Ethiopia in the wake of a massacre of hundreds of civilians in the Tigray region in the north of the country, as conflict continues between government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front  AFPTV / Solan KOLLI

The Tigrayan government, meanwhile, said Friday the federal army was bombarding towns and villages and inflicting heavy damage, although it did not specifically mention Mekele.

“Our struggle will continue from every direction until the self-determination of the People of Tigray is guaranteed and the invading force is driven out,” Tigrayan authorities said in a statement read on regional television.

A communications blackout in Tigray has made it difficult to verify claims from both sides on how the fighting is going.

Ethiopian refugees walk through a transit centre at the Sudanese border town of Hamdayit on Thursday.Over 43,000 refugees have crossed into Sudan since fighting broke out in Tigray on November 4, the UN saysEthiopian refugees walk through a transit centre at the Sudanese border town of Hamdayit on Thursday.Over 43,000 refugees have crossed into Sudan since fighting broke out in Tigray on November 4, the UN says  AFP / ASHRAF SHAZLY

Hostilities have erupted in a year when the 55-member AU — which is headquartered in Addis Ababa — resolved to play a more prominent role in resolving conflicts across the continent under the slogan “Silencing the Guns”.

 

At least one rocket fired from Tigray targeted neighbouring Eritrea Friday night, four regional diplomats told AFP, the second such attack since Ethiopia’s internal conflict broke out earlier this month.

There was no immediate confirmation of how many rockets were fired, where they landed, and any casualties or damage caused.

The TPLF has accused Ethiopia of enlisting Eritrean military support in the fighting, a charge Ethiopia denies.

The TPLF claimed responsibility for similar strikes on Eritrea two weeks ago, but there was no immediate comment from its leaders Friday.

On the ground in Tigray, it was unclear whether the promised attack on Mekele had begun, or how close federal forces were to the city.

Abiy, who ordered the “final” offensive on TPLF forces in Mekele after the lapsing of a deadline for their surrender earlier this week, said “great care” would be taken to protect civilians and spare the city from severe damage.

 

The prospect of a full-scale attack accelerated diplomatic efforts this week to resolve the conflict, with the UN Security Council holding its first meeting on Tigray and US and European officials urging restraint.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who met his Ethiopian counterpart Demeke Mekonnen in Paris on Thursday, called for urgent measures to protect civilians as the humanitarian fallout from the crisis worsened across the region.

The UNHCR said Friday that nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees in Tigray could run out of food as early as Monday if supplies could not reach them.

In eastern Sudan, meanwhile, where more than 40,000 refugees have escaped the fighting in Tigray, local authorities are struggling to meet the sudden surge in demand for food, shelter and other life-saving essentials.

2 Comments

  1. Ethiopia’s Abiy Tells AU He Stands By Tigray Military Campaign… yes, they should stand with the military campaign of Ethiopian forces as it is a mission to liberate people of Ethiopia and specifically Tigray people. This tyrant junta group is not only a threat to Ethiopia but to entire regions also. Once for all it shall vanish. Those criminals are hiding at the expense of their people. No way, it is an internal affairs no interference is needed by AU & others.. This is the right time to make independence from tyrant junta group.

    UNHCR shall identify those criminals & killers that hide in refugee camp and is responsible to transfer to Ethiopian Government or to sue on International Criminal Court. Sudanese government has to take action also. Urgently, refugee camp must not hide killers and murderers!!!

  2. Ethiopia’s Abiy Tells AU He Stands By Tigray Military Campaign… yes, they should stand with the military campaign of Ethiopian forces as it is a mission to liberate people of Ethiopia and specifically Tigray people. This tyrant junta group is not only a threat to Ethiopia but to entire regions also. Once for all it shall vanish. Those criminals are hiding at the expense of their people. No way, it is an internal affairs no interference is needed by AU & others.. This is the right time to make independence from tyrant junta group.

    UNHCR shall identify those criminals & killers that hide in refugee camp and is responsible to transfer to Ethiopian Government or to sue on International Criminal Court. Sudanese government has to take action also.

    Urgently, refugee camp must not hide killers and murderers!!!

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