CBC News

Ethiopian PM says he'll lead army 'from the battlefront' as Tigray forces approach capital

Ethiopia new government

Ethiopia's prime minister said he will lead his country's army "from the battlefront" beginning Tuesday, a dramatic new step by the Nobel Peace Prize-winner in a devastating yearlong war.

"This is a time when leading a country with martyrdom is needed," Abiy Ahmed said in a statement posted on social media Monday night. With rival Tigray forces moving closer to the capital of Addis Ababa, his government declared a state of emergency earlier this month.

An estimated tens of thousands of people have been killed in the war between Ethiopian and allied forces and fighters from the country's northern Tigray region. The United States and others have warned that Africa's second-most populous country could fracture and destabilize the whole Horn of Africa.

The statement by the prime minister, a former soldier, does not say where exactly he will go Tuesday. His spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"Let's meet at the battlefront," the 45-year-old leader said.

In response, Tigray forces spokesperson Getachew Reda tweeted that "our forces won't relent on their inexorable advance towards bringing [Abiy's] chokehold on our people to an end." The Tigray forces say they are pressuring Ethiopia's government to lift a months-long blockade of the Tigray region of some six million people, but they also want Abiy out of power.

The prime minister's statement also claims that the West is trying to defeat Ethiopians, the latest pushback against what his government has described as meddling by the international community. Envoys from the African Union and the U.S. have continued diplomatic efforts in pursuit of a ceasefire to the fighting and talks without preconditions on a political solution.

Shortly after Abiy's announcement, a senior U.S. State Department official told reporters Washington still believes "a small window of opportunity exists" in the mediation efforts.

'Epitome of hell'

In a year's time, Abiy's government has gone from describing the conflict as a "law enforcement operation" to an "existential war."

With Ethiopia's military reportedly weakened in recent months, ethnic-based regional forces have been stepping up and Abiy's government has called on all able citizens to join the fight.

The prime minister chaired an executive meeting Monday of the ruling Prosperity Party and Defence Minister Abraham Belay told state media that "all security forces will start taking special measures and tactics as of tomorrow." He declined to elaborate.


Last edited: 2021-11-22

  • No ratings yet - be the first to rate this.

Add a comment