A 72-hour deadline for rebels in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region to lay down their arms has expired, as the federal government threatens to use more military force to crush the insurgency.
The United Nations Security Council is calling on Ethiopia to embrace the African Union-led mediation initiative pushing for dialogue.
The government of Ethiopia says it is moving to the next phase in its military operation against North Tigray rebels and, is taking control of the region’s capital city, Mekelle.
The central government believes this is where some of the leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front have been hiding.
Its plan is to strike some time after the 72 hours’ ultimatum for surrender passed. It has asked civilians there to “save themselves” by leaving.
A Spokesperson for the newly established State of Emergency task force, Redwan Hussein says, “To save yourself or to save your city means, by alienating themselves by leaving the city if they wish to the surrounding and the periphery whereby the ring leaders would be left alone so that could be an option. They can inform our defence forces where the actual leaders are hiding and their armaments so that there could be a precise strike on the city. So the Mekelle people have a number of choices to collaborate with national defense forces.”
But the TPLF has said they will not surrender.
The United Nations Security Council has asked for Ethiopia to embrace dialogue. The UN says at least 40 000 Ethiopians have fled for safety into neighboring Sudan. Others have reportedly been hit in the crossfire.
President Cyril Ramaphosa as the Chair of the African Union has initiated an African Union-led process to convince the warring factions in Ethiopia to embrace dialogue.
Prime Minister Abiy’s government says it will not have any discussion with the TPLF.
Hussein says ” The government made it clear that the Prime Minister would receive and talk to these envoys as a matter of respect for African initiative and the African leaders ….There could be several scenarios, mechanisms whereby the lasting peace issue could be discussed but not with this particular group. Because this particular group has now become fugitive and actually remained in Mekelle because by and large, most Tigray has fallen under the hands of our defence forces.”
Prime minister Abiy Ahmed has asked the international community not to interfere in the internal matters of Ethiopia asking that they should respect the non-intervention policy.
Communication and access to the Northern region remain impossible. Both the TPLF and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed refer to each other’s leadership as illegitimate.