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Ethiopian troops “liberate” a key city in Tigrei, officials say World news

Ethiopian troops are advancing further into the northern Tigray region, capturing a key city on the way to its capital, Addis Ababa officials said.

The conflict between national forces and troops loyal to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigre (TPLF) is heading towards the end of the second week.

There are widespread fears that the war will exacerbate ethnic tensions elsewhere in Africa̵

7;s second most populous country, attract regional forces and destabilize the Horn of Africa.

On Sunday, the cabinet of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the war in Tigrei was irreversible and aimed at “imposing the rule of law”.

A working group set up by Abiy to deal with the government’s response claims troops have liberated the city of Alamata. “They [the TPLF] escaped, taking about 10,000 prisoners, “the statement said, without specifying where the prisoners came from.

Although officials confidently announced an impending victory, Monday’s announcement that federal troops had reached the Alam did not necessarily reinforce the message that the government offensive was advancing rapidly.

The city of about 50,000 people is located 180 miles from Mekel, the capital and administrative center of Tigrei, and only six miles from the border with the neighboring Amhara region, a starting point for troops.

Map of Ethiopia

Government forces are also seeking to move further west, securing the border with Sudan and the strategically important city of Humera.

As communications are largely closed and the media is banned, it remains difficult to independently verify allegations made by all parties.

Abbey launched military operations in Tigrei 12 days ago after accusing local authorities of attacking a military camp and attempting to loot military assets. The TPLF, which is in power in the region, denies the accusation and accuses the prime minister of fabricating the story to justify the offensive.


The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) overthrows Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, leader of the communist junta that has ruled the country since 1974. The coalition group is led by the People’s Front for the Liberation of Tigrei (TPLF), guerrilla fighters marching from their homeland north. part of Ethiopia to the capital Addis Ababa.

Proclaimed Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

The EPRDF comes to power in a poorly contested election, and TPLF leader Meles Zenawi becomes Ethiopian’s prime minister. Tigers dominate senior government ranks.

Ethnic federalism

Meles introduces a system that gives the country’s major ethnic groups a chance to govern the areas they dominate. Although Tigers make up about 5% of the population, they benefit disproportionately, other regions complain, as roads and other infrastructure are built in their sparsely populated area.

Meles is dying

The prime minister died in office and was succeeded by another ethnic group.

ERPDF split

The EPRDF is divided over how quickly to carry out political reforms in response to street protests that threaten the coalition’s grip.

Abiy Ahmed comes to power

Abi Ahmed, Oromo, takes over as prime minister, earning praise at home and abroad for opening one of the most restrictive political and economic systems in Africa.


Tigers complain that they have been persecuted as part of repression against corruption and past abuses. Former senior military and political officials are on trial.

Peace Prize

Abbey was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his peacekeeping efforts, which ended two decades of hostility to Eritrea. The TPLF continues to view Eritrea as an enemy.


Ethiopia’s ruling coalition agrees to form a party, but the TPLF refuses to merge with three other ethnically based parties, calling it hasty and undemocratic.

Electoral order

Tigrei is holding regional elections in defiance of the federal government, which is postponing national polls due in August over Covid-19. Abi’s government says the vote is illegal.

Withheld funds

The federal government has begun withholding some funds earmarked for social assistance programs in Tigrei as part of a regional government starvation plan in response to the vote.

Fights break out

Abiy sends troops to Tigray, accusing the TPLF of attacking federal troops based in the region. The TPLF accuses Abiy of punishing the region for the September vote. Reuters

Since then, air strikes and ground fighting between government forces and the TPLF have killed hundreds of people and sent some 25,000 refugees to Sudanese. The violence has raised international concerns about Abbey, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, for risking a protracted civil war against the region’s well-armed forces.

Although only 7 million people live in Tigrei with a total Ethiopian population of 110 million, much of the equipment of government troops is stored in the province and local forces are considered experienced fighters. Military experts say the difficult terrain in the region is ideal for guerrilla warfare.

Debretsion Gebremichael, the leader of the TPLF, called on the United Nations and the African Union to condemn the offensive, accusing federal troops of “waging this war against the people of Tigrei” by attacking civilian infrastructure.

“We are not the initiators of this conflict, and it is obvious that Abi Ahmed was waging this war in an attempt to consolidate his personal power,” he added, adding that Ethiopia could become a failed state or fall apart.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abi Ahmed at the signing ceremony with the President of the European Commission.  Ursula von der Layen.  in Addis Ababa in December 2019

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abi Ahmed at the signing ceremony with the President of the European Commission. Ursula von der Layen. in Addis Ababa in December 2019. Photo: Tiksa Negeri / Reuters

Fears that the conflict could escalate into a wider regional war were heightened over the weekend when TPLF forces fired rockets into Eritrea after accusing the neighboring country of sending tanks and thousands of troops in support of Ethiopian federal troops. which Asmara denies.

There is deep animosity between the leadership of Tigrayan and Isayas Afwerki, who has ruled Eritrea with an iron fist for more than 30 years, but analysts say the main goal of the strike, which caused limited or no damage, was likely to draw international attention that pressure from foreign forces could force Abbey to sit at the negotiating table.

For now, Abiy, 44, has ignored calls for a ceasefire and talks from the UN secretary general, the United States, European powers, the pope and others.

Abiy Ahmed became Ethiopia’s prime minister after a ruling election among the ruling coalition following the surprise resignation of Hailemariam Desalenn in February.

Abiy has released thousands of political detainees, including opposition leader Andargachew Tsege, who was facing the death penalty. Abbey invites him to his office within 24 hours of his release.

Parliament approved the lifting of the national state of emergency in Ethiopia two months before it expired.

Abbey agrees to adopt a 2002 border decision giving disputed territory to Eritrea. The war between the two has been raging and shutting down since Eritrea gained independence in the early 1990s.

A grenade attack aimed at Abiy killed two people and wounded more than 165. The blame fell on internal factions that opposed the reform.

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki has been hosting Abi in Asmara for more than two decades since the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea last met in person. Welcoming crowds line the streets and direct telephone communications are restored between the countries.

The two leaders signed a joint declaration stating that “the state of war that existed between the two countries is over.”

As both countries reopened their embassies and trade flights between the two capitals resumed, the land border crossings between Ethiopia and Eritrea were reopened for the first time in 20 years. Five days later, a peace agreement was signed in Saudi Arabia.

Abiy appoints women to half of the country’s ministerial posts, including Sahle-Work Zewde as the first woman president. He received an African Gender Excellence Award from the African Union for this move.

Abbey’s rule is not without its problems. More than one million Ethiopians are estimated to have been forced to flee their homes by ethnic violence in 2018, and it has drawn criticism for initiating a program that appears determined to bring people back to their homes, even if it does not seem safe.

Ethiopia is making headlines around the world to plant 350 million trees a day as part of the government’s national green heritage initiative. According to the UN, the forest cover in Ethiopia was 4% in the 2000s, compared to 35% a century earlier, and to address this, citizens are encouraged to plant at least 40 seedlings per plant to grow 4 billion. Trees.

An Ethiopian government spokesman said Monday that mediation would now “only encourage impunity”.

The Ethiopian National Defense Force has about 140,000 personnel and extensive experience in fighting Islamist militants in Somalia and rebel groups in the border regions, plus two years of confrontation on the border with Eritrea.

But many senior officers were Tigrayan, much of his most powerful weapon in the hands of the TPLF, as well as the powerful headquarters of the Northern Command in Mekel.

The TPLF has a gruesome history, leading a rebel march to Addis Ababa, which overthrew the Marxist dictatorship in 1991 and bore the brunt of the 1998-2000 war with Eritrea, which killed hundreds of thousands.

Abi once fought with the Tigers and was a partner in the government with them until 2018, when he took office. He won his Nobel Prize in pursuit of peace with Eritrea, beginning to liberalize the economy and open a repressive political system.

Although his broad political reforms have won widespread praise, they have allowed old ethnic and other grievances to surface.

The TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for decades before Abiy came to power, and Tigrayan leaders complained that they were being unfairly prosecuted for corruption, removed from high positions and blamed for the country’s problems.

The postponement of the national elections due to heightened tensions over the Covid-19 pandemic and when lawmakers in Addis Ababa voted to extend the term of office of officials, Tigrayan’s leaders continued with the regional elections in September, which the Abi government considered illegal.

Amnesty International has condemned the killing of dozens and possibly hundreds of civilian workers in a massacre blamed on both sides.

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