The foreign policy advisor to US President-elect Joe Biden urged today to end the fighting and protect civilians in the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia, where battles are raging with government forces trying to advance towards “Mikkeli”, the provincial capital.
“We are extremely concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia, reports of targeted ethnic violence and the threat to peace and security in the region,” Biden advisor Anthony Blinken said on Twitter.
According to observers, the conflict in the region has killed hundreds, possibly thousands, and prompted about 30,000 people to seek refuge in neighboring Sudan.
Ethiopia is a federation from a group of regions administered by different ethnicities, and the war is between the central government and one of the most heavily armed regions. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front effectively ruled Ethiopia for decades as the largest force in the multi-ethnic alliance, until Abiy Ahmed assumed power two years ago.
Refugees who fled the fighting said that armed factions from the neighboring Amhara region – which is in conflict with Tigray for parts of the border – are supporting government forces.
On the ground, the leader of the “Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray” said that his forces are still controlling the strategic town of “Axum”, but they lost the town of “Shire” to the government forces seeking to advance towards “Mikkeli”, the provincial capital.
On the other hand, a government statement accused the Tigray Front of carrying out “brutal acts in locations such as Mecadra that represent serious crimes, whether under Ethiopian law or international law.”
A diplomat following the conflict said that the Ethiopian federal forces were trying to advance on major roads from the south to the northwest of “Mikkeli”, and were nearly 200 kilometers from the capital of Tigray.
After a 3-day cessation of fighting, due to the deadline given by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for the Tigray Front forces to surrender, military officials confirmed that their forces were making military progress in the southern regions of the region, noting that multiple axes on the outskirts of the city of “Almata” had been seized. After battles in which the army penetrated the fortifications of the Tigray Front.
Counts for Tedros
In the context, the Ethiopian army accused the Director of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, of trying to buy weapons and mobilize diplomatic support for the dominant political party in the Tigray region.
“This man is a member of that group and he is doing everything to support it,” Army Chief of Staff General Berhanu Gula said in a televised statement.
Tedros is an Ethiopian who hails from the Tigray region and served as Minister of Health and Minister of Foreign Affairs in a previous coalition government led by the TPLF from 2005 to 2016.
On 4 November, armed confrontations began between the Ethiopian army and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in the region.
Oromo is the largest ethnicity in Ethiopia with 34.9% of the population, which is about 108 million people, while Tigrayans are the third largest with 7.3%.
The front, which complains of the marginalization of the federal authorities, split from the ruling coalition, and challenged Abiy Ahmed to conduct regional elections last September, which the government considered illegal, in light of a federal decision to postpone the elections due to the Corona pandemic.