By Faith Nyasuguta
“The youth of Tigray is perishing like leaves. Knowing it is defeated, it is being led by one who does not have a clear vision or plan,” Abiy, the winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, said in comments aired on state media.
“It should surrender today to the Ethiopian National Defence Force, to the special forces, to the militias and to the people.”
A footage released on Tuesday was the latest in a series of clips showing the PM, in uniform with soldiers, in what appeared to be the northeastern region of Afar.
The region has been the site of fierce fighting in recent weeks as the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group has been reported to make efforts towards seizing control of a significant highway that supplies Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.
Over the weekend, state media revealed that federal troops controlled the lowland Afar town of Chifra, and on Tuesday Abiy indicated that such gains would be replicated to the west, in the Amhara region.
“The enemy has been defeated. We scored an unthinkable victory with the eastern command in one day… Now in the west, we will repeat this victory,” he said.
The announcement made by Abiy, an ex-lieutenant colonel in the military, last week that he would head to the battlefield came after the TPLF claimed to control Shewa Robit, a town just 220 kilometers (135 miles) northeast of Addis Ababa by road.
Fears over a looming rebel march on the capital have sparked the United States, France, the United Kingdom and other nations to call on their citizens to leave Ethiopia soonest possible, despite an assertion by Abiy’s government that TPLF gains are overstated and the city is secure.
On Monday a TPLF spokesperson dismissed Abiy’s deployment as a “circus” involving “farcical war games”.
In November 2020, a war erupted between the two sides with Abiy sending troops into the northernmost Tigray region to topple the TPLF – a move he claimed came as a response to TPLF attacks on army camps.
Thousands have been killed, over two million displaced and hundreds of thousands forced into famine-like conditions, according to UN estimates.
Currently, diplomats led by Olusegun Obasanjo, the African Union’s special ambassador to the Horn of Africa, are trying to broker a ceasefire, though there has been minimal progress so far.