The Tigray people aren’t afraid to die, so says the leader of the Tigray region, who are locked in on the warpath with the central government of Ethiopia. He called the bluff of President Abiy Ahmed, who had given the region just three days to surrender, Yahoo reports.
The Ethiopian federal government began military operation early this month in Tigray after it accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of being behind the attacks on military installations in the northern region of the country.
The federal government said it is close to the seat of government of the Tigray region and plans to launch airstrikes on a city that houses about 500,000 thousand people.
Abiy said the military campaign is far too gone to be recalled, and if the region does not surrender in 72 hours, they will face bombardment.
However, Debretsion Grebremichael, leader of the region, mocked the president and said the president was trying to excuse the devastating failures encountered by his troops in the hand of Tigrayan forces. He said that by giving the ultimatum, the president was trying to recoup his losses. He reiterated the fact that the Tigrayan people are ready and capable of defending themselves and would die doing so. He noted that there was no going back on the self-determination of the people to govern themselves.
Tigrayan forces said on Tuesday that they had the upper hand in the conflict, having completely decimated the federal army’s 21st mechanized division. However, with communication lines cut off from the region, there was no way to verify these claims. Many people have already been displaced in the emerging conflict. Reports say over 40,000 people have sought refuge in Sudan, the Guardian reveals.
The federal military said it would unleash all of its firepower on the TPLF leaders. It warned civilians to leave to avoid being victims in the crossfire. However, human rights groups have expressed concern that many international military rules of engagement would be broken in the conflict.
Laetitia Bader of the Human Rights Watch said the federal troops had taken the whole city of Tigray as a military target, which was a disservice to civilians in the area. The United States had called for a cessation of hostilities while Abiy, a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner on his part, had refused entreaties from the African Union to come to dialogue.
Members of the US Senate have appeared to have intervened, including Sen. Chris Coon, who sits on the foreign relations and appropriation committees. The federal troops may have gained a tactical advantage when they entered Mekelle, a few distances from the city. Federal officials are tagging the campaign a police action to remove dissident leaders in Tigray. The TPLF said it has a right to self-determination.
Critics said the federal government might have brought an ethnic coloration to the conflict by bringing leaders, administrators, and civil servants from the Amhara region to oversee the affairs of the Tigray region. Amhara has a decade-long land dispute with Tigray.
Amnesty International has already documented cases of massacres by Tigrayans against Amharans, which happened in the town of Mai-Kadra. The United Nations is expected to meet to deliberate on the conflict. The meeting would be an open session.