Tigré rebels reject the possibility of a “bloodbath” in the Ethiopian capital

The rebels in Tigré dismissed fears of a “bloodbath” in Addis Ababa should they take it to overthrow the government of Abiy Ahmed and reject that the population of the Ethiopian capital is “fiercely opposed” to them.

However, tens of thousands of Ethiopians swore on Sunday, during a pro-government rally in Meskel Square, that they would defend the capital Addis Ababa from rebels in Tigré, and denounced international diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in the north of the country. .

But for TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda, “to say that the people of Adis are fiercely opposed to us is totally exaggerated,” he said in an interview with AFP.

“Addis Ababa is a melting pot. People with all kinds of interests live there. To say that Adis will turn into a bloodbath if we go in is absolutely ridiculous. I don’t think that hypothesis … is credible,” he said.

The government denied major rebel advances and threats to the capital. However, on Tuesday he decreed a state of emergency throughout the country, to protect the population of the TPLF and its allies from the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). He also called on its inhabitants to organize and defend the city.

The United States on Saturday ordered non-essential personnel to leave its embassy in Ethiopia, where fighting intensified this week in the north between government forces and rebels in Tigré.

Saudi Arabia, Norway, Sweden and Denmark also asked their nationals to leave the country.

Pope Francis on Sunday called for a great diplomatic effort to end the conflict. “I renew my call for the path of peace and fraternal harmony for dialogue to prevail,” said the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican earlier.

Last weekend, the Tigré Popular Liberation Front (TPLF) claimed the capture of two strategic cities, 400 kilometers from the capital.

– Self-determination –

The TPLF spokesperson stressed that taking the capital is not “a target”: “We are not particularly interested in Addis Ababa, we want to make sure Abiy does not pose a threat to our people.”

But if the prime minister does not leave, “of course” the rebels will take the city, he added.

According to him, the rebels advanced towards the south and “approach Ataye”, 270 kilometers north of the capital, and also towards the east towards Mile, a town located on the road that leads to Djibouti and which is crucial for the supply. from Addis Ababa.

The TPLF does not want to take control of the country, which it held with an iron fist between 1991 and 2018. “We just want to make sure that the voice of our people is heard, that they exercise their right to self-determination, mainly in the organization of a referendum. to decide whether they should stay as a member of Ethiopia or become independent, “Getachew Reda said.

The TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s political and security structures for 27 years, after taking Addis Ababa and overthrowing the military-Marxist Derg regime in 1991.

After months of tension, Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, sent the army to Tigré in November 2020 to dismiss the regional TPLF authorities, whom he accused of attacking military bases.

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Tigré rebels reject the possibility of a “bloodbath” in the Ethiopian capital

Hank Gilbert