Thousands of civilians are fleeing Ethiopia to the neighboring country of Sudan as violence erupted in the country’s northwestern region of Tigray.
Internet and telecommunication services in the region have also been cut, placing millions of Tigrayans at risk. The UN’s aid coordination body, OCHA, reports estimates that as many as nine million people living in and around the region are at “high risk” from the conflict.
The national armed forces have killed 550 members of the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) the state broadcaster in Ethiopia has stated, although the official number is yet to be confirmed.
Debretsion Gebremichael, the president of Tigray, has accused Eritrea of supporting the Ethiopian federal government’s military invasion in their region. Gebremichael made the claims during a televised national address.
“We have been suspecting and expecting Isayas’s forces (Isayas Afwerki, President of Eritrea) to join him (Abiy Ahmed Prime Minister of Ethiopia) and it (Eritrea) has started taking military action since yesterday,” Gebremichael said at a news briefing.
He alleged that heavy weaponry was being used in Baeker and surrounding areas.
“Isayas’s forces’ used heavy weaponry and they fired at Humera so that our people will be shocked, so that our people would panic, so that our people would scatter. To support Abiy’s force on the Amhara side, he (Isayas Afwerki) began action backed with heavy weaponry from behind us as we were fighting in front of us. Therefore the war has now progressed to a different stage.”
The tension comes a week after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military intervention against TPLF.
Abiy refutes speculation that the country is headed for civil war:
“Concerns that Ethiopia will descend into chaos are unfounded & a result of not understanding our context deeply.Our rule of law enforcement operation, as a sovereign state with the capacity to manage its own internal affairs, will wrap up soon by ending the prevailing impunity,” he tweeted on Monday.
Abiy is rejecting all peace talks until his military’s objections have been met.