Amhara Regional President urges residents to fight

Ethiopia’s Amhara regional president called on all armed residents to mobilize for the fight against rebels from the conflict-ridden Tigray Sunday, calling it a “survival campaign,” state media reported.

Amhara borders Tigray to the south and the two regions are involved in a decades-old land war that has become central to the eight-month-old war in Tigray.

Sunday’s statement from Amhara regional president Agegnehu Teshager echoes a call from the president of Ethiopia’s Afar region just east of Tigray.

Together, the two statements highlight the potential for the Tigray War, which Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared at the end of November, to draw in the rest of the country.

“As of tomorrow (Monday), I urge all people of age who are armed, either at the state or private level, to mobilize for a survival campaign,” Agegnehu said.

Abiy, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019, sent troops to Tigray in November last year to remove the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a measure he said was in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps.

The fighting dragged on for months before the war took a fantastic turn at the end of June, with pro-TPLF fighters recalling Tigray’s capital Mekele and Abiy declaring a unilateral ceasefire.

Conflicts have continued, however, and officials from six regions and the city of Dire Dawa have since said they would send troops to support government forces.

The war has already killed thousands and, according to the UN, hundreds of thousands have driven famine.

“We will not rest”

Rebel spokesman Getachew Reda has vowed to “liberate every square meter of the Tigray,” including its western and southern parts, disputed territories that have been occupied by Amhara forces since the beginning of the war.

Thousands of Amhara military fighters have mobilized in recent days and marched on the Tigray-Amhara border, but Getachew has boasted quick gains against what he dismisses as “poorly trained peasant militias.”

Agegnehu, the president of Amhara, said on Sunday that it was the opposite and that the TPLF was suffering heavy losses.

A communication shutdown in Tigray makes it difficult to confirm who owns which territory. “We will not rest until the TPLF is at rest,” Agegnehu said, although he said Amhara’s campaign was not against civilians in Tigray.

“The people of Tigray are our brothers. Not all Tigrayans are our enemies.”

Meanwhile, fighting in Afar has continued for more than a week, regional spokesman Ahmed Kaylota told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Sunday.

“We are still at war,” he said, adding that the TPLF continued to hold territory in the Awra, Ewa and Gulina districts.

An official told AFP last week that at least 20 civilians had been killed and 70,000 displaced.

Ahmed said he had no information on deaths but confirmed the extensive relocation.

“More than 75,000 members of the pastoral community who previously lived in the area have been displaced and are currently in various camps and shelters,” he said.

The road into Ethiopia via the port of Djibouti, east of Afar, is vital for the locked-in country, sparking speculation that Tigrayan rebels may try to stifle it.

But Ahmed said that on Sunday, the fighting has not approached that.

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