NAIROBI, Kenya – The conflict in Ethiopia could escalate in the coming weeks following strong statements from Amhara regional forces and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who blamed the Tigray Defense Force [TDF] of “challenge” throughout the unilateral ceasefire declared a few weeks ago.
On Tuesday, the Tigray Defense Forces, also known as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray [TPLF] captured the southern city of Alamata, dislodging regional Amhara forces that had been in control for several months.
The Tigray Defense Forces are also capturing Western Tigray, which is conveniently controlled by Amhara troops, but Amhara forces have now vowed to attack, accusing TDF of defiance and provocation, in the latest development in Ethiopia. .
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed abruptly withdrew central government troops from most of Tigray last month, citing a unilateral ceasefire that the TPLF called a “joke” intended to justify the withdrawal of its forces. Wednesday’s statement marked a change in rhetoric, as Abiy said the ceasefire had not been respected.
A spokesman for the Amhara regional government also said that authorities there were gathering their own forces for a counterattack against Tigrayian forces.
“The regional government has now gone from the defensive to the offensive,” Amhara spokesman Gizachew Muluneh said, quoted by state-owned Amhara Media Corporation. “The Amhara militia and special forces have systematically tried to defend themselves, but now our patience is running out and from today we have launched an offensive attack.”
He did not respond to requests for further comment. On Tuesday, the Amhara National Movement, a large regional political party, called on irregular volunteer militias – known as Fano – to mobilize.
When Abiy sent troops to fight the TPLF last year, the Amhara militia fought alongside the central government, taking the opportunity to take control of part of the territory the Tigrayans ruled for decades.
Since Abiy’s abrupt withdrawal on June 28, the TPLF has continued to push outward, taking over most of Tigray. His forces recaptured Alamata, the main southern city, on Monday and crossed the deep ravine of the Tekeze River to take Mai Tsebri from control of Amhara on Tuesday. Read more
On Wednesday, Abiy Ahmed indicated his intention to redeploy troops to the Tigray region, where they had been accused of orchestrating the genocide, arguing that TDF had shown itself to be rebellious despite its commitment to end the operation which was against them. had been targeting since the end of last year.
“The ceasefire has not been able to bear the expected fruits,” he said. “The TPLF … poses a great danger to the sovereignty of the country. The federal government, by mobilizing the Ethiopian people, is determined to stem this threat.”
According to Abiy Ahmed, the TPLF decided to continue the fighting rather than allow aid or observe the ceasefire and accused them of recruiting, drugging and deploying child soldiers.
Getachew Rada, spokesman for the Tigray and TPLF presidency, rejected Abiy Ahmed’s claims, arguing that their troops had facilitated aid teams in the region.
“We don’t have child soldiers because mature soldiers are never in short supply,” he told Reuters by satellite phone.
Getachew also reiterated that the TPLF welcomed the aid and would not observe a ceasefire as long as parts of Tigray remained under the control of the central government or its allies.
A refugee from Adi Harush camp told Reuters that Tigrayan militias were searching refugees’ homes and confiscating cell phones, Reuters reported.
“There is always shooting all around the camp,” he said.
The Tigrayan militia took 19 refugees from Adi Harush to an unknown location on Wednesday and one refugee – a Muslim – was killed after telling him to carry arms and he refused, another refugee told Reuters.
“Our forces are not looking for Eritrean refugees. We will ensure that refugees are protected and we are more than ready to investigate any claims,” TPLF’s Getachew said, adding that refugees would be allowed to leave the area if they wanted it.