Civilians bear brunt of conflict as Ethiopia issues ultimatum on Tigray

An Ethiopian woman who fled the ongoing fighting in Tigray region, carries her child near the Setit river on the Sudan-Ethiopia border in Hamdayet village in eastern Kassala state, Sudan November 22, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Another warning by Ethiopia’s Federal government as it issues a 72-hour ultimatum to the embattled Tigray region. A senior official Redwan Hussien said Monday the slightest strike could take precious lives.

“The Mekele people would have a number of choices to collaborate with National Defense Forces, to avoid any strike. Because a slightest strike is a loss for us. Even if we hit one school, even if we hit one residence, even if we hit one road, it is a loss. So by collaborating we can save the city and also one life. Because now that they (TPLF leadership) are hiding out in densely populated city, a slightest strike would end up losing lives or properties or sacred places”, the State of Emergency Spokesperson told reporters.

Leaders of the Northern Tigray region seem adamant about the repeat threats by the Federal state, at least for now. Getachew Reda is the advisor to Tigray Regional President and Tigray Command Post Spokesperson.

“On the part of Tigray, we are saying this is a civil war, and if you have heard today, militias in Adigrat went behind and did what needed to be done. And the people in Adwa, people in Raya, people in Tembien, are disrupting enemy movement because these invaders do not have a backup force. When a force like the Ethiopian army consider authoritarian regime of Eritrea as its ally, then it obvious that they will aim to destroy our cities. And when its main military task has started beating and killing civilians, then every Tigrayan, whether armed or not, will resist this unjust war by using a spear and knife”, Reda told a local Television network.

On Sunday, Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed issued a 72-hour ultimatum for leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to surrender.Ethiopia’s government is urging Mekele residents to separate themselves from the TPLF leaders in time. Redwan said that Mekele, a city of some half-million people, is now encircled at a distance of some 50 kilometres (31 miles).

The heavily-armed TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for more than three decades before Abiy came to power and introduced sweeping political reforms and sidelined TPLF officials.

Now, each government sees the other as illegal, with the TPLF objecting to the delay of national elections because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Abiy’s government is infuriated by the Tigray region defiantly holding its own vote in September. Civilians are caught in the middle of what some experts have described as a conflict akin to an inter-state war.

The TPLF alone has been estimated to have a quarter-million fighters.

Amnesty International has warned that deliberately attacking civilians and civilian objects is prohibited under international humanitarian law and constitutes war crimes.