ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s military on Sunday warned of an all-out assault on Mekele, capital of the Tigray region, telling civilians to flee while they still can.

“The next decisive battle is to surround Mekele with tanks,” Dejene Tsegaye, a military spokesman, told state broadcasters on Sunday, threatening a siege of the city.

He added a warning for Mekele’s half a million residents: “Save yourself. A directive has been communicated for you to dissociate yourself from this junta, after that there will be no mercy.”

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed — last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner — launched a military campaign against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on November 4, accusing it of attacking two federal military camps in the region, and of defying his government and seeking to destabilise it.

A communications blackout in the region has made claims from both sides difficult to verify but hundreds of people are reported to have been killed while tens of thousands have fled the fighting into neighbouring Sudan.

Abiy’s government has claimed the capture of a string of towns in recent days, including the ancient city of Aksum and the town of Edega Hamus, 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Mekele.

“Defence forces have controlled Edaga Hamus city, which is on the road from Adigrat to Mekele,” the Ethiopia State of Emergency Fact Check, a government agency, said on Sunday.

“The defence forces are currently marching on the campaign’s last goal, Mekele city.” TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael promised “fierce fighting” to hold up the Ethiopian Defence Forces (EDF) advance. “They’ll continue to pay for every move,” he said.

Debretsion warned that an assault on Mekele will not be the conflict’s endgame. “As long as the occuption force is in Tigray, fighting will not stop,” he said. The TPLF led the overthrow of Mengistu Hailemariam, head of Ethiopia’s military Derg regime, in 1991 and dominated the country’s politics until Abiy became prime minister in 2018.

The party continues to rule Tigray, one of 10 regional states under Ethiopia’s system of federalism whereby regions are delineated by ethnicity and language.

TPLF leaders have complained of being sidelined by Abiy and blamed for the country’s woes.

The bitter feud with the central government led the TPLF to hold their own elections this year despite the postponement of national polls due to the coronavirus pandemic. Abiy has spurned all calls for peace, including from the African Union — which plans to send three former national presidents as special envoys in the coming days — and from the US and the UN which has warned of a looming humanitarian disaster.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2020

Opinion

Farewell Roosevelt Hotel
21 Jan 2021

Farewell Roosevelt Hotel

It is worth noting that massive plans have been upended and assets are now on the verge of being seized.
A horned dilemma
21 Jan 2021

A horned dilemma

Trump would rather ‘reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n’.
Violence & Afghan peace talks
Updated 20 Jan 2021

Violence & Afghan peace talks

Many of those killed in recent weeks have actively been campaigning against rampant violence and rising human rights violations

Editorial

Updated 21 Jan 2021

Agosta kickbacks trial

A POLITICALLY significant trial opened in Paris yesterday. Former French prime minister Edouard Balladur is in the...
Updated 21 Jan 2021

Indian media scandal

Common sense, factual reporting and ethics are all chucked out the window in the maddening race for ratings, influence and power.
21 Jan 2021

Rising food prices

FOOD inflation continues to challenge the resolve of the government to control the prices of essential kitchen items...
Updated 20 Jan 2021

Broadsheet judgement

There are plenty of skeletons in the Broadsheet cupboard and they must be brought out into the open.
20 Jan 2021

Unequal justice

IT seems no one wants to testify against former SSP Malir, Rao Anwar. At least five prosecution witnesses, all ...
20 Jan 2021

Schools reopening

THE disruptive impact of Covid-19 on education will be felt for years to come. For countries like Pakistan, where...