State Media: Ethiopia PM at ‘Battlefield’ Front to Fight Rebels

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reportedly joined the frontline on Wednesday where government forces are battling rebels in the Tigre region, prompting US-led international calls for a diplomatic solution and an immediate ceasefire to the conflict. to be done.

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Fighting in the north of Africa’s second most populous country has killed thousands and forced hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions.

Foreign governments have asked their citizens to leave amid escalating war and fears that Tigrayan rebels may march on the capital, Addis Ababa.

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Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, is “now leading the counter-attack” and “leading from the battlefield as it was yesterday,” Fana Broadcasting Corporate reports.

It was not clear where Abi, a former radio operator who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, was stationed in the army.

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State media did not broadcast images of him on the field, and officials did not respond to requests for details about his whereabouts.

Addressing Abiy’s report on the front, the US State Department warned late Wednesday that there is “no military solution” to Ethiopia’s civil war.

“We urge all parties to refrain from provocative and war-like rhetoric, to exercise restraint, to respect human rights, to allow humanitarian access, and to protect civilians,” a State Department spokesman said.

A day earlier, Washington’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, said that “nascent progress” is at risk of “moving ahead of military escalation by both sides”.

Other foreign envoys are also pushing for a ceasefire, although there have been some indications that a breakthrough is on the way.

On Wednesday, UN chief Antonio Guterres called for a swift end to the fighting, remarks made during a visit to Colombia to mark the fifth anniversary of a peace deal between the government and former FARC rebels.

“The peace process in Colombia prompts me to make an urgent appeal today to the heroes of the conflict in Ethiopia for an unconditional and immediate ceasefire to save the country,” he said.

FILE – People are seen in front of clouds of black smoke from a fire after the scene of an airstrike in Mekele, capital of the Tigre region in northern Ethiopia on October 20, 2021.

War broke out in November 2020 when Abiy sent troops to Tigre to topple his ruling party, the Tigre People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

He said the move was in response to the TPLF’s attacks on Confederate army camps and promised a speedy victory, but that by the end of June the rebels had retaken most of Tigre, including its capital, Mekele.

Since then, the TPLF has pushed into neighboring Amhara and Afar regions, and this week it claimed to have seized a city 220 kilometers from Addis Ababa.

Fana said Wednesday that Abiy’s announcement on Monday that he would be stationed at the front “has inspired many people … to join the survival campaign.”

Hundreds of new recruits took part in a ceremony held in his honor in the capital’s Kolfe district on Wednesday.

As officers dumped sheep and oxen into trucks headed north, the recruits broke into patriotic songs and chants.

“When a leader leaves his chair … and his throne is to save his country,” driver Tesfaye Sherefa, 42, told AFP.

Distance runner and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Feisa Llesa told state media that the rebels’ advance presented “a great opportunity” to defend the nation.

Marathon runners rose to political prominence by raising and crossing their arms while finishing the marathon at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, a gesture of solidarity with fellow ethnic Oromos while protesting the abuses suffered during the nearly three decades of the TPLF regime .

Even when it rallies citizens to fight, Abiy’s government says the TPLF’s benefits have been exaggerated, which it calls sensational media coverage and dangerous security from Western embassies. Describes as advice.

The war has sparked a humanitarian crisis with accounts of genocide and gang rape, and on Wednesday the United Nations expressed concern over reports of mass displacements from the western Tigre, where the US had previously warned of ethnic cleansing.

“Tigre regional authorities report 8,000 new arrivals, potentially up to 20,000,” the UN refugee agency UNHCR said, adding that it could not immediately confirm the figures.

Multiple witnesses have told AFP of a mass roundup of Tigreyan citizens in the western Tigre in recent days.

Amhara forces occupied the fiercely disputed area a year earlier, with Amhara officials accusing the TPLF of illegally occupying it three decades ago.

As Amhara citizens have poured in over the past year, Tigreyans have fled tens of thousands, either to Sudan to the west or, to the east, deep into the Tigre.

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