After the 72-hour ultimatum that was given to the leaders of the Tigris People’s Liberation Front (FLPT) to surrender, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, this Thursday gave orders to the army to advance over the north of the country. .
The soldiers of the Federal Government will thus start the “final phase” of the military offensive on Tigre, which includes the seizure of the region’s capital, Mek’ele, a city of about 500 thousand people.
“The last peaceful gate that was open for the FLPT to enter is now firmly closed,” announced Abiy on Twitter. “Our rule of law guarantee campaign has reached its final stage”.
The prime minister advised the population to “stay at home”, but warned that the army will act “without mercy” if civilians do not distance themselves from FLPT fighters. “We will be very careful to protect civilians,” he guaranteed, even so.
Saviano Abreu, spokesman for the United Nations humanitarian mission, says, however, that the Government and the FLPT have not put in place any plan for a humanitarian corridor between Mek’ele and the areas of the region that have already stabilized.
“Since the beginning of the conflict, we have not been able to send any provisions [para os civis] because of the blockages imposed by all parties ”, laments Abreu, quoted by Deutsche Welle. “The population of Tigré is terrified”.
Yesterday, the 2019 Ethiopian Prime Minister and winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize had already rejected the international community’s calls for a ceasefire in Tigré and for dialogue with the FLPT, denouncing what he considers to be attempts at interference in the affairs in the African country.
The 72-hour ultimatum decreed ended on Wednesday night and received no response from the FLPT, but the fact that communications are cut in the region, makes it difficult to confirm the position of the tigers’ leaders.
The military offensive started at the beginning of the month, after months of growing tension between the federal government and the FLPT, which had as their maximum point of tension the holding of a regional election in Tigré, not recognized by Addis Ababa. Since then, the region has been the scene of violent clashes between the armed forces on both sides of the conflict.
An independent organization investigating allegations of violence against civilians in Ethiopia on Tuesday corroborated Amnesty International’s report denouncing the slaughter of at least 600 people in Tigre and said that “human rights violations that could represent crimes are at stake. against humanity and war crimes ”.
More than 40,000 people left the region for Sudan, and nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees living in camps in North Tigre were exposed to the lines of fire.
Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world and has more than one million refugees in its territory. The crisis in Tigré comes at a time when the country is going through a difficult transition, since the removal of former President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.
The United Nations warns of the “very critical” situation in the region. According to his most recent report, fuel and money are running out. They also estimate that more than a million people are displaced and that the food of almost 100,000 refugees from Eritrea will disappear in a week.
More than 600,000 people have not received the food rations they depend on to survive this month, the UN adds.
“The region has become securitized”
In a recent interview with PÚBLICO, Ahmed Soliman, a researcher at Chatham House, assumed that “the prospects are dire from a humanitarian point of view” and warned of the risks of prolonging the conflict for the stability of Ethiopia and the entire Horn of Africa region .
“The worst that can happen is a scenario in which the Mek’ele conquest leads the FLPT to transform itself into an insurgent movement, to gather enormous popular support around it and to use, for its purposes, the significant amount of armed and armament forces that exist in Tigré. The region has become securitized in recent years and the potential for large-scale conflict is great ”, underlined Soliman.
According to the British researcher, the Abiy government will always need to have support in Tigré to stabilize the region, so it may not be able to control it militarily. In this sense, he believes, dialogue between the parties is essential.
“It is necessary that the majority of the tiger population want peace. Even if the government is able to install a provisional executive, it always needs the support of the people who live there to implement peace. Does it have it? If there are no negotiations, it will be difficult to avoid a prolonged conflict ”, reiterates Soliman. “The structural problems that Ethiopia has cannot be solved by armed struggle and bloodshed – there will be no winners.”
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