Ethiopia conflict: Tigray forces claim march to Addis Ababa 'now possible'

In this file photo taken on November 26, 2020 A youngster stands in front of a sign that depicts members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) as wanted by the Ethiopian Federal Police and accuse them of treason, in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia.

Photo credit: Eduardo Soteras | AFP

What you need to know:

  • In a statement on Saturday, the Prime Minister called upon the people of Tigray to stand with the Ethiopian government.

The armed group fighting the Ethiopian army and its allied regional forces in Tigray claims it is now in a position to march towards the country's capital, Addis Ababa.

General Tsadkan Gebretensae, the top military official of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), alleges that Tigrayan forces have completed a three-day battle and destroyed divisions of the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) in the Amhara region's Kobbo-Weldiya area.

TPLF forces have advanced deeper into the Amhara region and captured two more towns in offensives launched over the past three days.

The General claimed Saturday that Presidential Guard forces sent by Addis Ababa to fight them had been destroyed.

“The balance of forces is now completely in our favour. We are in a position to march into Addis Ababa with no real opposition,” he said.

"Engagement on the road from Chercher town to Mille, inside Afar region, was successful" he added.

The well-known former Ethiopia army General further said TPLF forces will now move swiftly to control the Addis Ababa-Djibouti main road and will be in a position to accept direct humanitarian assistance to Tigray.

Tigray

Captive Ethiopian female soldiers arrives at the Mekele Rehabilitation Center in Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia, on July 2, 2021. According to the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF), more than 7,000 captive Ethiopian soldiers have walked from Abdi Eshir, about 75 km southwest of Mekele, for four days.

Photo credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP

Abiy's vow against TPLF

The Ethiopian government did not immediately comment on the claim about a march to Ethiopia, but last week, PM Abiy vowed to wipe out TPLF, a group that was once the country's ruling party, but which Addis Ababa now considers a terrorist movement.

Using alarming words like “weeds”, “cancer” and “disease” to refer to the group, the Ethiopian leader seemed to confirm the final collapse of the unilateral ceasefire he had declared two weeks ago, which was meant to aid humanitarian access in the region now controlled by fighters allied to TPLF.

“The enemy we are facing is Ethiopia's cancer," Abiy said in a tweet referring to TPLF, led by Debretsion Gebremichael, whom Addis Ababa has proscribed alongside other senior Tigrayan leaders.

He said TPLF probably is the first and the only group in Ethiopia's history that is trying to disintegrate the country.

“But certainly the junta will be uprooted in a way it will not regrow again…This will happen if we all rise to remove the Emboch," he declared.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

In this file photo taken on April 2, 2018 Abiy Ahmed, newly elected Prime Minister of Ethiopia, addresses the house of Parliament in Addis Ababa, after the swearing-in ceremony. 

Photo credit: Zacharias Abubeker | Pool | AFP

Government's plea

In a statement on Saturday, the Prime Minister called upon the people of Tigray to stand with the Ethiopian government.

He said the unilateral ceasefire was meant to allow unrestricted supply of aid and see Tigray farmers start their agricultural activities peacefully.

Abiy said the Ethiopian government has been providing Tigray farmers with seeds, fertilisers and tractors via the interim government.

He asked them to focus on their agricultural actives and not to be part of TPLF's “destructive role”.

He also said it is impossible for the government to restore electricity, internet, telecom and banking services in the region “because TPLF prefers to continue fighting”, hence hindering those plans.

“The Junta which is recruiting children is the enemy of the Tigrayan people,” he said.

Pro-Tigray protesters

Ethiopians from the Tigray region hold placards while they gather and protest outside the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in Pretoria, South Africa, on November 25, 2020.

Photo credit: Phill Magakoe | AFP

Talks possible

Jeffrey Feldman, the US special envoy to the horn of Africa, and other US officials reportedly held a meeting in Addis Ababa on Saturday with the Multi-stakeholders Initiative for National Dialogue (Mind).

The subjects of discussion not immediately revealed but the hope was that focus was on bringing the warring parties to peace talks.

The forum was established in 2020 with the primary goal of creating national consensus in Ethiopia.

Recognised by Ethiopia's Ministry of Peace, it aims to discuss political, economic, social and other issues that can help create national consensus.

Mind has signed an agreement with the ministry to provide the necessary administrative, political and security support to a country of over 110 million, and at least 80 ethnic groups.

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