Prime Minister Nobel Peace Prize winner says he will lead troops fighting Tigrayan rebels from Tuesday.
Ethiopia’s Nobel Prize-winning prime minister has said he will launch his country’s army “from the battle front”, from Tuesday, a dramatic new step as the year-long conflict moves closer to the capital Addis Ababa.
“From tomorrow, I will mobilize to the front to lead the defense forces,” Abiy Ahmed said in a statement posted on Twitter late Monday.
“Those who want to be among the Ethiopian children who will be honored by history, stand up for your country today. Let’s meet at the battle front. “
Tens of thousands of people are estimated to have died in the war between Ethiopian and allied forces, and fighters from the country’s northern Tigray region, who dominated the national government before Abiy took office. The United States and others have warned that Africa’s second-most populous country could break and destabilize the rest of the region.
The statement by the 45-year-old prime minister, a former soldier, did not say exactly where he would go on Tuesday. His spokeswoman Billene Seyoum did not respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press news agency.
Abiy’s remarks came as the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group continued to push for Addis Ababa, demanding control of the town of Shewa Robit, just 220 kilometers (136 miles) northeast of the capital by road.
It also followed a meeting of the ruling Prosperity Party’s executive committee to discuss the war.
Defense Minister Abraham Belay told state-affiliated media after the meeting that security forces would take “another action” without providing details.
“We can not continue like this, it means there will be change,” Belay said.
“What has happened and is happening to our people, the abuses perpetrated by this destructive, terrorist, group of robbers cannot continue.”
Tigray Forces spokesman Getachew Reda tweeted that “our forces will not give in to their relentless march to end (Abiy’s) stranglehold on our people.”
The Tigray forces say they are pressuring Ethiopia’s government to lift a month-long blockade of the Tigray region of about six million people, but they also want Abiy out of power.
The Prime Minister’s statement also claimed that Western countries were trying to defeat Ethiopia, the latest setback against what his government described as interference by the international community. Envoys of the African Union and the United States continued diplomatic efforts in the pursuit of a ceasefire for the fighting and talks without preconditions on a political solution.
Shortly after Abiy’s announcement, a senior State Department official told reporters that the US still believes there is a small window of opportunity in mediation efforts.
Within a year, Abiy’s government went from describing the Tigray conflict as a “law enforcement operation” to an “existential war”. With Ethiopia’s army allegedly weakening in recent months, and with its withdrawal from Tigray in June, ethnic – based regional forces intensified their campaign, and Abiy’s government called on all capable civilians to join the fight. close. Earlier this month, the government declared a six-month state of emergency.
Abiy’s announcement came as a shock to the man who nominated him for the Nobel Prize, Awol Allo, a senior lecturer in law at Keele University in Britain. “The announcement is chock-full of languages of martyrdom and sacrifice,” he said in a tweet. “It’s so extraordinary and unprecedented, shows how desperate the situation is.”
Abiy was awarded the Nobel for making peace with neighboring Eritrea, whose border he fought while stationed in the Tigray region.
The terms of that peace agreement were never made public.