Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Saturday in a video claiming to show it on the battlefield that the army would “destroy” the rebels in Tigray, with whom his government has been at war for more than a year.
The announcement this week of his departure to the front to carry out military operations has notably attracted the support of artists and athletes, including the legendary marathoner Haile Gebreselassie, who took part in a ceremony on Saturday in Addis Ababa, the capital on which threaten to march the rebels.
“You are completely destroying the enemy, there is no turning back without victory,” Mr Abiy told the military, in a 34-minute video posted on Twitter on Saturday. by the Prime Minister’s office.
“We are going to win, the enemy is dispersing, there are areas that we must control,” added the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner. “Until we destroy the enemy, there will be no rest”.
On Wednesday, the authorities announced on state media that Abiy had left the management of “current affairs” to his deputy prime minister Demeke Mekonnen.
Another state outlet on Friday aired what it said were the first images of Mr. Abiy, a former lieutenant colonel, in uniform, at the front line.
In addition to promising to “bury” the enemy, the Prime Minister assured that the army had taken control of the town of Kassagita (in the Afar region, which borders eastern Tigray) and in particular planned to resume nearby the district of Chifra, further north.
These statements come at the end of a week when the rebels of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) claimed major territorial gains, claiming to be 220 km from Addis Ababa.
Communications are cut off in combat zones and access to independent media is restricted, making it difficult to verify information.
– “Sacrifice” –
On Wednesday, hundreds of new army recruits took part in a ceremony in Addis Ababa, where one of the conscripts told AFP “to have cried” when the prime minister announced he was joining the front line.
On the same day, marathon runner and Olympic medalist Feyisa Lilesa told official media that he would fight, the advance of the rebels representing a “great opportunity” to defend the country.
On Saturday, a new demonstration brought together athletes and artists leaving to visit the troops. Among them, the famous runner Haile Gebreselassie told AFP to be determined “to sacrifice himself and to defend Ethiopia”.
The TPLF, he added, “destabilizes our country beyond its region”.
The war started in Tigray in November 2020 when Mr. Abiy sent the federal army there to remove the authorities, from the TPLF, who challenged his authority and whom he accused of having attacked military bases.
Mr. Abiy proclaimed victory three weeks later, after the capture of the regional capital Mekele. But in June, the TPLF retook most of Tigray and continued its offensive in the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar.
Marked by atrocities and famine, the war has left several thousand dead and more than two million displaced.
– 79 trucks –
On Saturday, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said on Twitter that 79 trucks carrying food aid and equipment arrived in Mekele this week.
“And more are on the way,” adds WFP.
On Friday, the organization said the humanitarian situation had deteriorated rapidly in Tigray, where aid has struggled to arrive for months, but also in Amhara and Afar.
According to the UN, 9.4 million people suffer from hunger in these three regions.
The international community is concerned about the recent escalation of the conflict and several states, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy, have called on their citizens to leave Ethiopia.
Among them also, France plans to repatriate some nationals on Sunday in a charter flight.
The African Union’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, is leading the international community’s diplomatic efforts to achieve a ceasefire, but little progress has been made. recorded so far.