Africa World

Fri 06 October 2020:

Fears of civil conflict as air raids and artillery battles reported in TPLF and federal government standoff

“Our country has entered into a war it didn’t anticipate. This war is shameful, it is senseless,” Berhanu Jula Gelalcha, Ethiopia’s deputy chief of defence staff, told a press conference in Addis Ababa on Thursday.

He said the Ethiopian military has been sent into Tigray to foil any more attacks and is now “discharging its responsibility of bringing the region back to constitutional order.”

According to Berhanu, the Ethiopian defense forces will conduct operations focused on eliminating the extremist forces of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF).

Analysts and diplomats have been warning for weeks that a standoff between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) could plunge Ethiopia into a bitter and bloody civil conflict.

On Wednesday, the prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, accused the TPLF of attacking a military camp in the region and attempting to loot military assets.

The TPLF denies the attack occurred and accuses Abiy of concocting the story to justify deploying the military against the organisation.

“What has been initiated against us is clearly a war, an invasion …. This is a war we’re conducting to preserve our existence,” Debretsion Gebremichael, chair of the TPLF and president of the Tigray region, said at a press conference.

Debretsion said fighting persisted in western Tigray and that federal troops were gathering on the border in the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions.

There were also claims that military aircraft had conducted air raids around its capital, Mekele.

Diplomats in Addis Ababa said there were casualties on both sides, but with internet and phone connections in Tigray cut for a second day there was no confirmation or details of the reports.

The fighting in Tigray has drawn expressions of concern from the UN, US and EU. Experts fear a “protracted and disastrous,” conflict that could “seriously strain an Ethiopian state already buffeted by multiple grave political challenges, and send shockwaves into the Horn of Africa region and beyond”.

“A war that many Ethiopians feared was possible but hoped would never happen appears to be under way. …. Unless urgently halted [it] will be devastating not just for the country but for the entire Horn of Africa,” the International Crisis Group said in a briefing on Thursday.

Tigray’s people make up 5% of Ethiopia’s 109 million population, but the region is wealthier and more influential than many other, larger, regions.

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