The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) termed as a “sick joke,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s announcement that he would lead the army on the frontlines as rebels advance toward the capital.
“Abiy’s mimicry of Ethiopia’s wartime Emperors has taken on an all too palpable schizophrenic overtone,” TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda said in a statement. “He has vowed to join ‘his forces’ in the battlefield in the honourable tradition of his ‘glorious predecessors/’ I would have dismissed this is yet [as] another sick joke any day.”
Reda said Tigray forces “won’t relent on their inexorable advance towards bringing his chokehold on our people to an end. We will coordinate our efforts with other like-minded groups to send these child killers to the jailhouses they belong.”
What Reda is terming “like-minded groups” is the fact that the TPLF, which has been fighting the Ethiopian government for nearly a year, has joined hands in an alliance with opposition groups to form a party against Abiy.
Reda also posted drone footage allegedly showing hundreds of thousands of people who he said were prisoners of war (POW).
He said the POW “came out en-masse yesterday to express solidarity with the people of Tigray. They also expressed their gratitude to the people and government of Tigray for the humane treatment it has accorded them.”
Abiy, who is the commander in chief of the armed forces, said in a statement covered by local media that beginning Tuesday he will be on the battlefield in person to lead the army.
He made the announcement in the face of intensified fighting between government forces and TPLF rebels, who in recent months have gotten backing from other groups in Ethiopia.
Abiy claimed that the rebels have backing from outside forces.
The government has been embroiled in armed conflict with the rebels since last November.
He described the current conflict as one waged in coordination with internal and foreign enemies — the latter wishing to subdue Ethiopia in a neocolonial move.
Earlier this month, Ethiopia’s 547-seat parliament met and almost unanimously endorsed a six-month nationwide state of emergency declared by the Cabinet.
The UN is reportedly drawing up criminal charges against warring sides and has decried reported mass detentions, killings, systematic looting and sexual violence with widespread civilian suffering.
According to a UN report, more than 5.2 million people in Tigray, more than 90% of the region’s population, require life-saving assistance.
Nearly 400,000 people are facing famine-like conditions and more than 100,000 children in Tigray could suffer life-threatening malnutrition in the next 12 months.