Ethiopia deploys military to volatile northern region

2020-11-04 14:29:50
Ethiopia deploys military to volatile northern region

Ethiopia has deployed the military to the northernmost region of Tigray, in response to a deadly attack on an army base over the weekend that escalated a long-running dispute between ethnic groups in the East African country.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Wednesday that he had ordered a military response to an offensive that killed at least 54 people from the ethnic Amhara group in the Oromia region on Sunday.

Ahmed accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) — the region’s ruling party — of being responsible for the attack.

Ahmed’s office said in a statement that early on Wednesday, the TPLF had also attempted to steal artillery and other equipment from federal forces stationed in the region.

“The last red line has been crossed with this morning’s attacks and the federal government is therefore forced into a military confrontation,” his office said.

The Ethiopian National Defense Forces have been ordered to carry out “their mission to save the country and the region from spiraling into instability,” it added.

Later in the day, the government declared a state of emergency in the region, saying that “illegal and violent activities within the National Regional State of Tigray are endangering the constitution and constitutional order.”

Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, had said earlier on Monday that “Ethiopia’s enemies” were determined to either “rule or ruin the country.”

In September, Tigray held regional elections in defiance of the federal government, which said the voting was illegal.

The national electoral board has said general elections should go ahead in May or June of next year.

Meanwhile, Tigray’s regional president, Debrestion Gebremichael, accused the federal government on Monday of planning an attack.

The Tigrayans held most of Ethiopia’s political power from 1991 to 2018, when Ahmed was elected.

Since then, his government has introduced a number of reforms, including legalizing previously banned opposition groups and making peace with neighboring Eritrea, a longtime foe.

Many senior Tigrayan officials have also been detained, fired, or sidelined, in what the federal government describes as a clampdown on corruption.

The once-powerful party, however, complains of being unfairly singled out in corruption prosecutions.

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