What you need to know:
- In a speech targeting the international community, Dr Abiy Ahmed said his administration lost patience after the TPLF continuously disregarded the law, including court orders.
- He named his Deputy Demeke Mekonnen as Foreign Affairs minister replacing Gedu Andargachew, who was appointed the Prime Minister’s National Security Advisor.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Sunday appeared to rule out any dialogue with leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, terming its members criminals who must face the law.
In a speech targeting the international community, Dr Abiy said his administration lost patience after the TPLF continuously disregarded the law, including court orders.
He asked the international community to “understand the context” under which his administration has declared war on the TPLF.
The premier further announced that he had replaced his top security officials. He named his Deputy Demeke Mekonnen as Foreign Affairs minister replacing Gedu Andargachew, who was appointed the Prime Minister’s National Security Adviser.
He named Gen Berhanu Jula the new Chief of the Armed Forces replacing Adem Mohammad) and Lt-Gen Abebaw Tadesse as Deputy army chief.
Temesgen Tiruneh, who had been military commander in Amhara region, was named the new Director-General of the National Intelligence and Security Service. He replaced Demelash Gebre Michael, who will be the Commissioner of the Federal Police.
The officials will begin their new duties immediately.
According to a local media report, Tiruneh, who was serving as president of the Amhara regional state, submitted his resignation during a regular session of the regional council.
He said he was resigning because he was needed for a federal post.
"Given the current situation in the country, the President has asked members of council to accept his resignation so he can contribute to the party's efforts to rescue the country,"
After discussing the resignation letter, the council members have accepted his request.
According to reports, the council has nominated Agegnehu Teshager for the presidency. Later Sunday, Agegnehu was sworn in as the new President of the Amhara region.
Tiruneh was appointed to replace former Amhara Regional State President Ambachew Mekonnen, who was murdered in Bahir Dar during last year's failed coup attempt.
Later that same day, the chief of the staff of the national security forces, General Seare Mekonnen, was killed in his home by his bodyguard in Addis Ababa.
The tension between Addis Ababa and the TPLF began last week after the group ambushed the northern command of the Ethiopian National Defence Forces on Wednesday, adding to a series of daring moves against the federal government in Ethiopia.
Dr Abiy responded by imposing a state of emergency and launching a disarmament programme as well as aerial strikes on the group’s military installations. TPLF denies attacking the command.
On Saturday, the Ethiopian Parliament installed an interim government in Tigray, replacing the TPLF that won all seats of the local legislative assembly in August, forming a government.
Addis Ababa rejected the elections as illegal, given the entire country had postponed the exercise to next year.
Abiy suggested the TPLF syphoned public funds, passed illegal laws that contradict the Ethiopian Constitution and hired child soldiers to fight its wars with neighbouring autonomous regional governments including Amhara.
“They sponsored, trained and equipped any force that was willing to engage in violence and illegal acts to derail the transition. The objective was clear: to make the country ungovernable by instigating violence along ethnic and religious lines,” he said in a speech that was also posted on his Facebook page.
“No federation and constitutional order can tolerate such illegality. That is why the federal government is compelled to undertake a law enforcement operation to defend and protect the constitutional order.”
The PM's speech came after the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) called for de-escalation of tensions.
“Igad calls on the government of Ethiopia and concerned parties to show restraint, work on de-escalating tensions and work on resolving their differences through dialogue and reconciliation,” said a statement from the seven-member bloc currently chaired by Sudan.
Abiy’s government says the world will be making a mistake if it treats his government and “criminal groups as equals.” His move, he argues, is meant to end impunity.
On Friday, the PM ordered aerial raids on the Tigray region.
“I urge residents not to gather around the city to reduce the risk of unforeseen accidents," he said that night.
The PM earlier told the country the federal government has a duty to defend the Constitution and that he directed a special task force headed by the military chief to conduct a “large scale law enforcement operation” in Tigray.
The TPLF has been at loggerheads with Abiy’s government since he came to power in April 2018.
In December 2019, TPLF refused to dissolve and join the Prosperity Party formed by Dr Abiy, to replace the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, the coalition that had been running the country.
TPLF has accused Abiy of targeting the Tigrays through government purges and corruption investigations.
In August, the group went ahead to hold local elections even after the federal government postponed the national polls citing the Covid-19 pandemic.
The group has since called the Ethiopian National Defense Force “invaders” and rejected a new commander Addis Ababa posted to Tigray to lead the local ENDF Command.