thousands flee conflict in Ethiopia, protests against Tigray rulers planned | World news


(This story from November 11 is passed on to clarify the title to show that the planned protests are against the leaders of Tigray)

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopian refugees poured into Sudan on Wednesday as federal troops under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed clashed with well-armed local forces in Tigray and protests against leaders in the northern region were planned elsewhere.

With foreigners stranded and communications interrupted, it was unclear how Abiy’s offensive was progressing against regional leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF).

But security sources and state media spoke of hundreds of deaths in the mountainous state over 5 million of people, where federal warplanes shelled weapons and fuel depots while soldiers fought on the ground.

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Both sides have claimed successes, including Federal troops taking an airport and Tigrayans claiming to have shot down a jet, but verification was not possible. The government has, however, confirmed that the TPLF controls a powerful northern military command complex in Tigray’s capital, Mekelle.

Given the deep antipathy between the Tigrayans and Abiy, which comes from the Oromo, the largest ethnic group, as well as ethnic friction across Ethiopia, there are fears of a civil war and repercussions in the Horn of the Valley region. ‘Africa.

Ethiopia struck a peace deal with neighboring Eritrea two years ago, for which Abiy won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, and the Asmara government shares its hostility to the TPLF.

Abiy’s government has also deployed troops to Somalia to help fight an Islamist insurgency.

Sudan said more than 10,000 Ethiopians had already crossed the border.

“We are in a very critical humanitarian situation because these numbers, which we plan to increase, are beyond our capacities, and there is a serious shortage of food, shelter and care,” said Alsir Khaled of the Refugee Commission in Eastern Sudan.

Abiy, who at 44 is Africa’s youngest leader, launched operations in Tigray last week after accusing the local government of attacking a military base.

The United Nations, the African Union and others want a ceasefire, but diplomats believe Abiy intends to crush the Tigrayan leadership. “We will not rest until this junta is brought to justice,” he tweeted Tuesday evening.

The U.S. State Department’s top diplomat for Africa, Tibor Nagy, spoke on the phone with Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen, state-affiliated broadcaster Fana said.

“The conflict must be prevented from spreading to the region,” the German foreign ministry said.

Abiy, a former soldier who once fought alongside the Tigrayans against Eritrea, took office in 2018 after a Tigrayan-led government dominated politics since rebels in their region spearheaded of the overthrow of the Marxist military regime in 1991.

But his efforts to ease a repressive political climate have also led to ethnic clashes, with hundreds killed and hundreds of thousands forced from their homes in the past two years.

Leaders of Oromiya, the largest of Ethiopia’s nine ethnic regions with around 35 million people, and Amhara scheduled anti-TPLF protests on Thursday as part of what appeared to be a government campaign to instigate the support.

The rallies will protest against the “atrocities” and “betrayal” of the TPLF, according to Gizachew Muluneh, spokesman for the Amhara regional government which supports Abiy.

The Addis Ababa mayor’s office also announced protests in the coming days and urged residents to donate blood and money to show their support for the Tigray soldiers.

There was no public statement Wednesday from the Tigrayan leadership.

The state-appointed human rights commission said six Ethiopian journalists had been arrested. The International Committee to Protect Journalists has warned of “a dangerous reversal” of Abiy’s past measures to improve press freedom.

Spokesmen for the federal police and attorney general’s office, where the prime minister’s spokeswoman referred Reuters for comment, did not respond to calls and messages.

Suppressing Tigray can be difficult for Abiy, experts say.

The TPLF is a seasoned movement, having been at the forefront of the 1998-2000 war with Eritrea and the defeat of dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991. Their forces and militias are well equipped and number up to 250,000.

Although there were few details on the ground this week, the fighting was worsening the humanitarian situation in Tigray, where there were already 100,000 internally displaced people and 600,000 dependent on food aid.

The charity International Rescue Committee said there was only one month of fuel left for water pumps serving refugees in Tigray.

(Reporting by Giulia Paravicini in Addis Ababa, Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum, the Nairobi press room; written by Maggie Fick and Andrew Cawthorne; edited by Nick Tattersall, William Maclean and Mark Heinrich)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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