Ethiopian PM reportedly on frontline in battle against Tigrayan forces

State-affiliated broadcaster shows Abiy Ahmed wearing military fatigues

People hold papers showing messages of ‘No More’ as they protest against purported fake news during the send-off ceremony for new military recruits who are joining the Ethiopian National Defence Force in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on November 24th. Photograph: Amanuel Sileshi/AFP via Getty

People hold papers showing messages of ‘No More’ as they protest against purported fake news during the send-off ceremony for new military recruits who are joining the Ethiopian National Defence Force in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on November 24th. Photograph: Amanuel Sileshi/AFP via Getty

 

Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed is on the frontline with the army fighting rebellious Tigrayan forces in the northeastern Afar region, state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting reported on Friday.

Mr Abiy was wearing military fatigues and speaking to the television station in the Afaan Oromo and Amharic languages, according to the broadcast. Reuters could not independently verify exactly where it was filmed.

“What you see over there is a mountain that was captured by the enemy until yesterday. Now we have been able to fully capture it,” Mr Abiy said, wearing a hat and sunglasses.

“The morale of the army is very exciting,” he said, promising to capture the town of Chifra, on the border between Tigray and Afar, “today”.

“We won’t flinch backward till we bury the enemy and ensure Ethiopia’s freedom. What we need to see is an Ethiopia that stands by itself, and we will die for it,” Mr Abiy said.

Mr Abiy announced late on Monday night that he was going to the frontlines to direct the fight against rebellious forces from the northern region of Tigray and their allies.

Mr Abiy’s government and Tigrayan rebels have been fighting for more than a year, in a conflict that has killed thousands and displaced millions in Africa’s second most populous nation.

The Tigrayan forces have threatened to push into the capital Addis Ababa or to try to cut a corridor linking landlocked Ethiopia with the region’s largest port.

US special envoy Jeffrey Feltman said this week that the Tigrayan forces had been able to make progress south towards the capital but that the military had beaten back several attempts to cut the transport corridor on the eastern front.

The spread of the year-old conflict into the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions mean that 9.4 million need food aid as a direct result of ongoing conflict, the UN’s World Food Programme announced on Friday. More than 80 per cent of those in need are behind the battlelines, it added.

“Corridors into Tigray had been closed due to the recent Tigrayan offences on Afar and Amhara, as well as severe disruptions in clearances from federal government. Since mid-July, less than a third of the supplies required ... have entered the region,” the organisation said.

On Thursday Ethiopia’s government has asked the United States to stop spreading falsehoods against the country, after the US state separtment issued an alert about potential “terrorist attacks”.

Earlier this month, tens of thousands of Ethiopians rallied in the capital to denounce the United States for alleged interference in Ethiopia’s internal affairs.

On Thursday, dozens of protesters took their anger to the US embassy in the city, where they displayed banners saying “Interference is Undemocratic” and “Truth Wins”.

This week, the Irish Government said Ethiopia had expelled four of six Irish diplomats because of Ireland’s stance on the conflict. – Reuters