Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed gave seventy-two hours on Sunday (November 22) to leaders of dissident Tigray region, targets of a military offensive and threatened with assault “Ruthless”, so that they lay down their arms.
Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2019, Abiy Ahmed launched this operation on November 4, accusing officials of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (FPLT), in power in this northern region of the country, of seeking to destabilize the federal government and of attacking two Ethiopian military bases in the region, which the Tigrayan authorities deny.
“The road to your destruction is coming to an end and we ask you to surrender in the next seventy-two hours”Abiy Ahmed wrote in a statement to leaders of the FPLT, which runs the region. “You are at a point of no return. Seize this last chance “, he added.
The Ethiopian army had previously warned of an imminent attack on Makalé, capital of Tigray and seat of the local government that the federal power seeks to dislodge, calling on civilians to flee while there is still time. “The next decisive battle is to surround Makalé with tanks”military spokesman Dejene Tsegaye told government media. This spokesperson added for the attention of the half-million inhabitants: “Save yourself. Instructions have been communicated to you to dissociate yourself from the junta, afterwards there will be no mercy. “
Calls for de-escalation
FPLT chief Debretsion Gebremichael responded on Sunday by promising to deliver “Fierce fighting” to curb the advance of the Ethiopian army. “They will continue to pay for each movement”, he told AFP. He also warned that an attack on Makalé would not mark the end of the conflict: “As long as the occupation force is in Tigray, the fighting will not stop. “
On Saturday, the government claimed that the army was advancing towards Makalé and had taken control of several cities, including Aksum and Adigrat, some 117 km north of the regional capital. “The forces are currently advancing towards the last objective of the operation, the town of Makalé”a government agency Ethiopia State of Emergency Fact Check said on Sunday.
None of the assertions of either side can be verified from an independent source, as Tigray is virtually cut off from the world. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray assured on Saturday that civilians had been killed during a “Intense bombardment” of Adigrat by the Ethiopian army. The government says the military operation does not target civilians.
No precise record of the fighting, which has killed at least hundreds of people since November 4, is available from an independent source. But more than 36,000 Ethiopians have already reached Sudan, according to the Sudanese Refugee Commission.
So far, the two camps have not responded to calls for de-escalation from the international community, worried about the risks of destabilization in the Horn of Africa. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked “The opening of humanitarian corridors” to come to the aid of the population trapped in the fighting.
The Addis Ababa military operation crossed the country’s borders, with FPLT rockets in the north targeting Eritrea’s capital, Asmara. The PFLT accuses the Eritrean authorities of letting the forces in Addis Ababa use its territory and the Eritrean army of letting them assist in the fighting.
After having dominated for fifteen years the armed struggle in Ethiopia against the military-Marxist regime of the DERG, overthrown in 1991, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray controlled with an iron fist for nearly three decades the political and security apparatus. of the country, before being gradually ousted by Mr. Abiy, since he became Prime Minister in 2018. Its officials have taken refuge in their stronghold of Tigray, from where they have challenged the authority of the government in recent months. federal.
Several months of tensions culminated with the organization in Tigray of a qualified poll “Illegitimate” by the federal government and the refusal of the FPLT to let a general of the federal army take office in Tigray. By sending the army to Tigray, Mr. Abiy claims to have responded to attacks on two military bases in the region by PFLT forces.