Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, on Friday, reiterated the federal government’s commitment to the protection and security of civilians in the ongoing fighting between the National Defence Forces and the regional Tigray People’s Liberation Force (TPLF).
He was speaking to members of an African Union Mission, in Ethiopia to mediate in the fighting, about the establishment of a high-level committee of federal stakeholders to access and respond to essential humanitarian needs of citizens in the Tigray region.
He also briefed the mission on the identification and humanitarian assistance routes for the provision of necessary relief materials to citizens in the region coordinated through the Ministry of Peace and in collaboration with UN agencies.
The AU Mission, sent by AU chairman South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, includes three former heads of state – Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa.
He said the federal government is ready to receive, rehabilitate and resettle citizens who had fled by setting up four camps to rehabilitate returnees before sending them back to their original areas.
A statement issued from the prime minister’s office said Abiy expressed his profound gratitude to AU Chairperson Ramaphosa for the utmost concern and understanding shared in Ethiopia’s efforts “to end impunity and bring the TPLF criminal clique to justice”.
Meanwhile, the Ethiopian National Defence Forces announced on Friday they had taken control of “strategic positions” around Mekelle, the regional capital of Tigray, that would enable them “to seize members of the TPLF junta”.
The Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) quoted a senior military officer, Lt.-Gen. Hassan Ibrahim, as saying the defence forces had “fully liberated Hawzen, al-Najashi, Adikeyeh, Maimesanon, Hewane and Wukro”.
He said they were advancing towards Mesobo Mountain, near Mekele, adding that this strategic place would enable it to liberate the regional capital within a few days.
In another development, a plane carrying 32 tons of UNHCR emergency aid from the agency’s global stockpile in Dubai landed Friday in Khartoum.
Another airlift is scheduled to leave Dubai on Monday with 100 tons of additional relief items.
Friday’s cargo included 5,000 blankets, 4,500 solar lamps, 2,900 mosquito nets, 200 plastic sheets and 200 plastic rolls.
A second airlift will carry 1,275 family tents and 10 prefabricated warehouses.
Violence erupted at the start of November in Tigray involving federal and local forces, following the reported takeover of an army base in Mekelle, which prompted the prime minister to order a military offensive.
Prior to the Tigray escalation, dozens of people in western Oromia region had been killed and injured in attacks.
The Ethiopian Federal Government has also declared a six-month state of emergency in the Tigray Region which is controlled by the TPLF.
The TPLF has accused Prime Minister Abiy, who is from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, of forcing them out of the government and security posts since taking office in 2018.