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U.S. President-Elect Joe Biden’s foreign policy adviser on Thursday urged an end to fighting and protection for civilians in north Ethiopia, where federal troops are battling rebels in a war rocking the Horn of Africa and sending refugees fleeing Reuter has reported Reuters has reported.
‘Deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia, reports of targeted ethnic violence, and the risk to regional peace and security,’ tweeted Antony Blinken.
The conflict in Tigray region has questioned whether Prime Minister Abiy Ahmen, Africa’s youngest leader and last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, can hold the nation together. The conflict which has killed hundreds, and sent 30,000 refugees into Sudan has attracted attention from international groups.
Ethiopia is a federation of states run by separate ethnic groups, and the war pits the central government against one of the most heavily militarised regions. The northern Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) effectively ruled Ethiopia for decades as the strongest force in a multi-ethnic coalition, until Abiy took power two years ago. Refugees from the fighting say militias from neighbouring Amhara state, which has a border dispute with Tigray, are also backing government troops.
The country is a major U.S. ally whose soldiers serve in peacekeeping missions in South Sudan and Somalia. Its military and intelligence services are among the most capable in Africa and regularly work alongside U.S. personnel.
‘The TPLF and Ethiopian authorities should take urgent steps to end the conflict, enable humanitarian access, and protect civilians,’ added Blinken, a veteran diplomat and longtime Biden confidant.
He is expected to play a senior role as the incoming U.S. administration looks to jettison President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda and build up relations with allies.
On the ground, Ethiopia accused Tigrayan forces of atrocities. The TPLF leader said his soldiers were still holding the important town of Axum, though they had lost Shire as federal troops sought to close in on the state capital Mekelle.
‘Shire has fallen three days back but Axum is with us, but there is an army sent to control Axum … there is a fight,” Debretsion Gebremichael said in a text to Reuters.’
There was no immediate response from the government which has issued arrest warrants for 76 senior military officers on treason charges for their links to leaders of the Tigray region, state-affiliated Fana TV said on Wednesday.
AFRICA TODAY NEWS, NEW YORK