ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday met with African Union envoys to discuss the conflict in Tigray, where the army is poised for what he has called the final offensive against regional forces.

Abiy, the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, on Thursday announced a “third and final phase” in his campaign against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), whose forces have been battling federal troops in the defiant northern region for three weeks.

The violence has killed many hundreds and displaced tens of thousands more, but there are grave fears for half a million civilians in Mekele, the regional capital, which the army says it has encircled ahead of a threatened attack.

The international community has warned such a strike could violate rules of war and has called for urgent mediation.

The federal government launched a military campaign on Nov 4 after months of friction between Addis Ababa and the TPLF, which governs Ethiopia’s northernmost region.

Abiy has refused to negotiate with the TPLF and rebuffed calls for dialogue as “interference” in Ethiopia’s internal affairs.

But the prime minister received at his office in Addis Ababa on Friday three African ex-leaders — Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa — dispatched this week by the AU as mediators.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2020

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