Ethiopia PM at 'Battlefield' Front to Fight Rebels

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed || Photo: Collected

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed || Photo: Collected

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday reportedly joined the front line where government forces are battling rebels from the Tigray region, prompting US-led international calls for a diplomatic solution and immediate ceasefire to the conflict.

The fighting in the north of Africa's second-most populous country has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions.

Foreign governments have told their citizens to leave amid the escalating war, and fears the Tigrayan rebels could march on the capital Addis Ababa.

Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, "is now leading the counter-offensive" and "has been giving leadership from the battlefield as of yesterday," Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported.

It was not clear where Abiy, a former radio operator in the military who rose to lieutenant-colonel, had deployed.

State media did not broadcast images of him in the field, and officials have not responded to requests for details about his whereabouts.

Addressing reports of Abiy at the front, the US State Department late Wednesday warned "there is no military solution" to Ethiopia's civil war.

"We urge all parties to refrain from inflammatory and bellicose rhetoric, to use restraint, respect human rights, allow humanitarian access, and protect civilians," a State Department spokesperson said.

A day earlier Washington's special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, said that "nascent progress" risked being "outpaced by the military escalation by the two sides".

Other foreign envoys also have been frantically pushing for a ceasefire, though there have been few signs a breakthrough is coming.

On Wednesday UN chief Antonio Guterres called for a swift end to the fighting, comments made while on a visit to Colombia to mark the fifth anniversary of a peace deal between the government and former FARC rebels.

"The peace process in Colombia inspires me to make an urgent appeal today to the protagonists of the conflict in Ethiopia for an unconditional and immediate ceasefire to save the country," he said.

The war erupted in November 2020 when Abiy sent troops into Tigray to topple its ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

He said the move was in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps and promised a swift victory, but by late June the rebels had retaken most of Tigray, including its capital Mekele.

Since then, the TPLF has pushed into neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, and this week it claimed to have seized a town just 220 kilometres (135 miles) from Addis Ababa.

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