Nairobi, Kenya (AFP) – Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed once again ruled out dialogue with the leaders of the Tigray region on Friday but said he was prepared to speak to representatives “working legally” there during a meeting with three African Union special envoys trying to end the bloody conflict between Federal and Territory forces.
The meeting took place as people fled the Tigray capital in fear of an imminent attack after my father said the army had received orders to act in the “final stage” of the offensive. To arrest the leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front who run the region. Both the Abiy government and the other regional government are illegal.
There was no immediate news from the three African Union envoys, who are former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano and former South African President Kjalema Motlanthe. African Union spokeswoman Iba Kalondo did not say whether the envoys could meet with the leaders of the TPLF, something Abe’s office rejected.
The prime minister appreciated the “elderly concern” of the AU envoys and told them that his government’s failure to enforce the rule of law in Tigray would “foster a culture of impunity with a devastating cost to the country’s survival,” his office said.
My father, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, rejected international “interference.”
The fighting reportedly remained outside Mikkeli, a densely populated city of half a million people, that the Ethiopian government warned them of “no mercy” if they did not separate themselves from the leaders of the TPLF in time. On Thursday, Abiy told residents to stay home and disarm, as the army had orders for tanks to move. His government pledged to protect civilians.
With communications and transmission lines cut off, it remains difficult to verify allegations of the fighting that broke out on 4 November between Ethiopian troops and the heavily armed forces of the TPLF, which once dominated the Ethiopian government but was sidelined under Abiy’s rule.
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of people have been killed. The fighting threatens to destabilize Ethiopia, which has been described as the main axis of the strategic Horn of Africa, and could destabilize its neighbors.
Food and other supplies are beginning to run out in the Tigray region, which has a population of 6 million. The United Nations continues to urge immediate access to neutral and impartial humanitarian workers. The Ethiopian government said that the “humanitarian access road” would be opened under the administration of the country’s Ministry of Peace, without details.
Multiple crises are increasing. Some tens of thousands of refugees from Eritrea living in camps in northern Ethiopia remained caught in the crossfire as they entered the fighting.
Refugees also told the AP that Ethiopian troops near the border with Sudan are preventing people from leaving Ethiopia, while refugee crossings have slowed down considerably. The government of Ethiopia has not commented on this.
More than 40,000 refugees crossed into a remote area of Sudan as local communities and humanitarian workers struggle to provide food, shelter and care. Almost half of the refugees are children. The spread of COVID-19 is just one concern.
“We cannot continue social distancing here in the camp,” said Muhammad Rafiq Nasri, of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. “It is really challenging among the many needy issues that are increasing due to the increasing number. Today we are receiving a convoy of 1,000 arriving to the camp. Shelter is one of the biggest challenges we face at the moment.”
And the refugees are still afraid, sometimes without talking about their loved ones behind them, sharing horrific accounts of the fighting and demanding an end to it.
“This makes me very sad. The country has no peace. You see one tribe killing another. One of them said,” Call her and give her a friend.
Contributed to Abul Qasim in Umm Rukuba, Sudan