Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has called on his supporters to take up their own weapons to defend themselves against the Tigray People‘s Liberation Front (TPLF). He says that because Tigrean rebels claimed to have taken two major cities along the highway to the capital Addis Ababa last weekend.
Abiy acknowledged last weekend that the Ethiopian army is not up to rebels from Tigray. As the conflict, which arose in the northern region of Tigray, moves towards the capital, the Prime Minister believes that citizens should also arm themselves. “Our people must march, with all the weapons and resources they have,” said Abiy, “to defend themselves and repel and bury the TPLF.”
A spokesperson for the rebels told AP news agency this weekend that they may be joining another rebel movement, Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). The Oromo are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic minority. The battles could thus reach the Oromia region, which encloses capital Addis Ababa.
Prime Minister Abiy belongs partly to the Oromo minority. He was praised for being the first prime minister in that population group. But he has been discredited with them because his government has put outspoken members of that minority in jail.
Battles in the Tigray region started about a year ago. Last November, war broke out in Tigray, between the Ethiopian government and the rebels. In the following months, the conflict also expanded to other places in the country. The Ethiopian government announced a ceasefire in June, but it remained unsettled in the country.
Thousands of people have been killed since the beginning of the battle and about two million people have been fleeing. Both government forces and the Tigrean rebels are accused of war crimes and both camps send mixed signals about the willingness to accept a peaceful solution.
Tigray was far from accessible to journalists, but correspondent Elles van Gelder was still allowed to enter the area last summer: