Ethiopia says Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister is on the battlefront
Nairobi – Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister has gone to the battlefront, his government announced on Wednesday, after the leader said martyrdom may be necessary in the year-long war as rival fighters approach the capital.
State media showed no photos of Abu Ahmed, a 45-year-old former soldier, and his spokeswoman, Pelin Seyoum, declined a request for details about his location, calling it “unbelievable.” A government spokesman said he arrived at the front on Tuesday.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the war between Ethiopian federal and allied forces and fighters from the country’s Tigray region. The prospect of the ancient nation’s disintegration alarmed Ethiopians and observers who fear what could happen to the often turbulent Horn of Africa. Countries including France, Germany and Turkey have asked their citizens to leave immediately.
Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just two years ago for his sweeping political reforms and for making peace with neighboring Eritrea. His trajectory from winning the Nobel Prize to heading into battle now shocked many.
Christopher Clapham, a retired professor associated with Cambridge University, said the move to the front would follow the tradition of Ethiopian leaders, including Emperor Haile Selassie and Emperor Johannes IV, who was killed in battle in 1889.
“It seems to me that it is a very traditional Ethiopian effort to lead,” Clapham said. “It may be necessary to salvage what appears to be a very faltering Ethiopian military response.”
The Tigrayan forces, which had long dominated the national government before Abiy came to power, seem to be gaining momentum. They have approached the capital, Addis Ababa, in recent weeks with the aim of strengthening their negotiating position or simply forcing the prime minister to step down.
Although a leader’s move to the front is unusual, it has occurred elsewhere in Africa, but sometimes with fatal results: Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno was killed while fighting rebels in April, according to the army.
“The situation is very serious,” said Adam Abebe, a researcher at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. If (my father) is injured or killed, not only will the federal government collapse, but the army will collapse as well.
The prime minister announced earlier this week that he would go to the battlefront, saying, “This is the time when the leadership of a nation is required to be martyred.” On Wednesday, a spokesman for Legisi Tulu said the deputy prime minister is in charge of managing the government’s day-to-day operations in the meantime.
Abiy also called on Ethiopians to join him – the latest call for every citizen in the country of more than 110 million people capable of fighting. There have been reports of rapid military exercises and allegations of forced conscription in recent months, while analysts have warned that with the military seemingly weakened, ethnic militias are on the rise.
“Maybe he’s seriously considering becoming a martyr,” said the man who nominated my father for the Nobel Prize, Ole Allo, a senior lecturer in law at Keele University in Britain.
Allo said the move fits with the prime minister’s view of himself and his sense that he is destined to lead. But he also did not rule out the possibility that my father had simply left the capital for a safer position – not the front – and was directing the war from there.
US envoy Jeffrey Feltman told reporters on Tuesday that he feared “nascent” progress in mediation efforts with the warring parties might be preceded by “disturbing” military developments.
The war began in November 2020, when a growing political rift between Tigray leaders and Abe’s government erupted into open conflict. Abiy quietly allowed soldiers from Eritrea to enter the Tigrays and attack the ethnic Atgrays, leading to some of the worst atrocities of the war. He denied the presence of the Eritreans for months.
Among other demands, the Tigray forces said they wanted Abi’s departure. Abiy’s government wants the Tigrayan forces, which they have designated a terrorist group, to withdraw to their region as part of their terms.
“Unless there is some kind of divine intervention, I don’t see any opportunity for a peaceful solution through dialogue because the situations are very polarized,” said Kasahun Berhanu, professor of political science at Addis Ababa University. About going to the front “aims to raise popular morale.”
Millions of civilians are trapped and starving in the middle of the fighting. The Ethiopian government has besieged the Tigray region for several months, saying it fears humanitarian aid will end up in the hands of fighters, while hundreds of thousands of people in neighboring Amhara and Afar regions are out of reach of significant aid as Tigray’s forces advance. through those areas.
One of the objectives of the Tigrayan forces appears to be the supply line from neighboring Djibouti to the Ethiopian capital, and the American envoy warned the fighters not to cut this route or enter Addis Ababa.
This could be “disastrous” for the country, Feltman told reporters on Tuesday.
African Union envoy Olusegun Obasanjo also mediated but has not spoken publicly about his work in recent days.
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