Less than 24 hours after sending troops to fight against the local government of Tigray, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that the army has succeeded in containing “a rebel attack” in the northern region.
According to the PM’s allegations, this was needed to stop an uprising by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that sparked fears of a civil war.
The fears of war are still present.
The government also placed the Tigray region, which borders Eritrea, under a six-month state of emergency following what it said was an attack by the TPLF, on an army base. The TPLF is in control of the local government, following elections.
“The army not only repulsed the attacks but has managed to control important and key locations,” the Nobel-laureate leader said in an address on the evening of November 4th.
The TPLF doesn’t specifically recognize Ahmed’s authority, as it has repeatedly proven so.
The TPLF attack poses the latest challenge to Abiy from the party which held local elections in defiance of the federal government in September.
“TPLF has chosen to wage war,” he said. “The last red line has been crossed with this morning’s attacks and the federal government is, therefore, forced into a military confrontation.”
Regional broadcaster Tigray TV reported that the Ethiopian army’s northern command, which had a headquarters in the attacked base, had defected to the Tigray rebels, a claim the prime minister’s office denied.
Somalia, which is an ally of the TPLF and the Tigray region, saw Ethiopian troops being withdrawn from the country.
Hundreds of soldiers vacated their bases in the border town of Dolow in Gedo, and crossed the border back into Ethiopia, to likely take part in the operation against TPLF.
Hundreds of Ethiopian troops pulled out of other bases in Somalia, in order to return home. This could potentially complicate the war against al-Shabaab, who are al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists operating in Somalia.
A UN statement said the body’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed “alarm over the reported armed clashes in the Tigray region of Ethiopia and calls for immediate measures to de-escalate tensions and ensure a peaceful resolution to the dispute”.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US was “deeply concerned” about the attacks.
“We are saddened by the tragic loss of life and urge immediate action to restore the peace and de-escalate tensions,” Pompeo said in a statement. “The protection of civilian safety and security is essential.”
The International Crisis Group, meanwhile, said Ethiopia was facing “grave political challenges”.
“This war is the worst possible outcome of the tensions that have been brewing,” it said in a statement.
On November 4th, Ethiopia came on the brink of a war, as Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister Abiy Ahmed ordered the military to confront the country’s Tigray regional government after he accused it of carrying out a deadly attack on a military base, declaring “the last red line has been crossed” after months of alleged incitement.
Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has, for a while, been dominant in Ethiopia’s leadership, until Abiy took office in 2018 and announced sweeping political reforms that won him the Nobel in 2019.
A report by the United States Institute of Peace said the fragmentation of Ethiopia “would be the largest state collapse in modern history, likely leading to mass interethnic and interreligious conflict … and a humanitarian and security crisis at the crossroads of Africa and the Middle East on a scale that would overshadow the existing conflicts in South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen.”
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