‘Spare Tigray civilians’: Ethiopia urged as PM gives rebels 72 hours to surrender
Spare Tigray civilians: Ethiopia is facing humanitarian crisis to extremity, attracting international cries of sparing civilians in the Tigray region. Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed has given the Tigrayan rebel forces 72 hours to surrender as military advances on the capital, Mekelle. The rebels of region, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which control the mountainous region have pledged to keep fighting.
The United Nations has warned of extreme humanitarian crisis in Tigray as hundreds and thousands of people have already succumbed to the conflict so far with thousands displaced. Over 36,000 people have reportedly fled to nearby Sudan and others are moving withing Tigray to escape from the war-torn region. Warning issued by Ethiopian government regarding attack on Mekelle may prompt further displacement of over half million inhabitants of the capital.
On Sunday night, PM Abiy Ahmed posted on Twitter, “We urge you to surrender peacefully within 72hours, recognizing that you are at the point of no return.”
Country’s military has warned civilians to separate themselves from the rebels who are believed to be hiding withing the civilian areas or no mercy will be offered in the assault. Military has said that tanks are encircling Mekelle and artillery too might be used on the highland capital city situated in northern Tigray region, that lies on a plateau at altitude of over 2,500 metres.
Col. Dejene Tsegaye said that till now military has avoided targets that might risk civilians but noted that Mekelle might be a different case. He said, “The next phases are the decisive part of the operation, which is to encircle Mekelle using tanks, finishing the battle on mountainous areas and advancing to the fields.”
Abiy Ahmed hinted last week of future attacks as “final push” to end the conflict withing few days. But assessment by UN says otherwise. UN suggests that Ethiopian military forces are facing resistance than is being communicated officially. Though troops were deployed days before, they are still struggling to secure territory. This, as per UN experts, raises chances of a lengthy and bloody guerilla war.
The war is result of consummation of months of turmoil and conflicts between TPLF and ruling party in Addis Ababa. TPLF held the polling even after national elections were cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic. This further aggravated the tensions. Ahmed, last year’s winner of Nobel Peace Prize and Ethiopia’s youngest leader, commenced his aggressive operation after alleging TPLF to have attacked a military camp.
African Union (AU), who were appointed to mediate the conflict have not been allowed to visit the war-hit region by Ethiopian government. The envoy was appointed by AU President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, including in envoy former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano, former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. The former presidents of envoy will only meet Abiy Ahmed and not visit the region, said senior advisor to the Ethiopian PM.
Explaining the reason of not allowing the envoy to visit the war-torn region, the government official said, “Tigray is currently under military operation. We believe that the military operation will come to an end soon. If this disgruntled TPLF wants to bring an end to the current conflict all they need to do is peacefully surrender and for that nobody needs to go to Tigray or Mekelle to make that clear to them.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged to spare Ethiopian civilians who are inhabiting the Tigray capital city of Mekelle. The rising humanitarian crisis is leading to massive influx of refuges from Ethiopia to Sudan. UN fear that this will force Sudan to edge of the cliff as it is already supporting millions of displaced from other African nations.