Ethiopia is pushing to change the Tigray government as the threat of civil war grows

Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Laureate prime minister stunned the world when he declared he would be heading to the battleground.
Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Laureate prime minister stunned the world when he declared he would be heading to the battleground.
Image: REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
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Ethiopia’s House of Federation has passed a decision to form an interim government for its northern Tigray region in a political escalation of its conflict with the ruling Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) party which has brought the country to the brink of civil war.

The announcement follows a decision by the federal government to send its military into the region to take on the armed forces of TPLF, which the Ethiopian government has accused of attacking its military camps and stealing arms. That decision sparked widespread fears at home and abroad of a full-scale armed conflict.

Ethiopia says it is taking action after what it deems “unconstitutional” action by an “illegitimate” TPLF. “The prime minister is thus tasked to deploy federal police and national army in Tigray,” said the House, in its statement released on Saturday (Nov. 6). It also outlawed the region’s lawmakers and executives.

The decision was passed just a day after the lower house of the Ethiopian parliament unanimously approved the implementation of state of emergency in the region for the next six months which will seek to disarm any security forces in the region, impose restriction on transportation and curfew. It was also allow the detention of suspects without due process for those suspected of engaging in illegal activities that endanger the constitutional order.

On Friday, prime minister Abiy Ahmed said the national army achieved a 100% victory against TPLF and an airstrike carried out by the Air Force destroyed heavy weaponries, radar equipment, missiles, and rockets with a range of 300 kilometers. But senior leaders of TPLF denied there was no such damage, while acknowledging there had been an airstrike.

Abiy also warned there will be another airstrike, while advising people of the region to avoid large gatherings, or being in nearby petrol stations, military camps, and airports to avoid collateral damages.

“We will make sure that rule of law is respected and operation will continue until the junta made accountable by law,” Abiy said.

Meanwhile, TPLF still claim that it is in a position to defend Tigray and respond to any kind of attack with force.

“One thing for sure, we will undertake defensive offensive measures twice any attack that will be carried out by Abiy,” said Getachew Reda, a senior TPLF official.

Tensions between the Ethiopian federal government and Tigray leaders started to ratchet up in September after the TPLF claimed an overwhelming victory in a regional election which was not recognized by Addis Ababa. The ruling Tigray party and the Ethiopian federal government have been at loggerheads since soon after prime minister Abiy, an Oromo, came to power in April 2018. The federal government has repeatedly alleged the TPLF is attempting to weaken the national unity of the country.

Tigray is one of Ethiopia’s 10 autonomous regional states and is a home to over 6 million people. It is the only region where the ruling party of the federal government, Prosperity Party, has no political power or influence.

TPLF, in its latest statement released on its official Facebook page, urged federalist forces to push the federal government to accept its proposal to resolve the crisis using peaceful means.

Yet the federal government is in a firm position saying criminal elements cannot escape the rule of law under the guise of seeking reconciliation and a call for dialogue.

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