The army of the Ethiopian central government takes territories and thousands flee. Supply bottlenecks are increasing in the regional capital Mekelle.
BERLIN taz | The situation in the Tigray region in the north of Ethiopia, which is contested between central and regional governments, is becoming increasingly dramatic. The information from both sides about the military situation can still not be verified, but apparently the Ethiopian army has conquered larger areas and is moving towards the capital Mekelle, which is located in a mountain range that is barely conquerable.
By Wednesday evening 36,000 people from Tigray had fled to Sudan, with an average of 4,000 being added every day. An unknown number of people are on the run within the Ethiopian borders. Several thousand refugees have arrived in the Amhara region south of Tigray.
With its local troops, the Amhara regional government is supporting the Ethiopian army as it marches into Tigray, whose regional government is no longer recognized by the central power in Addis Ababa and is defending itself against Ethiopia’s military with its own security forces and militias.
For many people in Tigray, this brings back gloomy memories of the bloody guerrilla war of the 1980s, when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) fought against the Amhara generals in Addis Ababa and finally overthrew them in 1991. The TPLF was then in power in Ethiopia until 2019, but then lost its supremacy when the reform leader Abiy Ahmed took office and withdrew to its Tigray bastion, where it was confirmed in power in September in elections that the central government called illegal let. That was the trigger for the conflict, which is now being carried out militarily.
Blockade by central government
As in the 1980s, Tigray now suffers Ethiopian air strikes. The capital Mekelle was hit again on Thursday. Relatives and friends of residents of Mekelle report to the taz of desperate attempts to get the people there to safety. The International Red Cross (ICRC) in Mekelle has set up a hotline for this and, according to its own information, has already been contacted over 1,000 times.
“The telecommunications blackout in Tigray is making it practically impossible for people to contact their family members,” explains the ICRC in Addis Ababa, and also points out that the central government’s blockade of Tigray is preventing vital medical supplies. News from Tigray also reports of rapidly rising food prices, while at the same time the banks have hardly any cash left.