The government in Addis Ababa has sent out the clearest warning yet to regional forces of the beleaguered Tigray government to lay down their weapons or face Ethiopia‘s army in the regional capital Mekelle when a 72-hour ultimatum expires.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed issued a statement announcing what he called the commencement of the “final and third phases” in the altercation with Tigray. Ethiopians forces have previously launched attacks on strategic Tigrayan positions in the north over the last few weeks.
“Realizing that we are now in the last stages of the law enforcement action, we call upon them (the Tigrayan forces) to take advantage of this last opportunity and surrender peacefully to the government in 72 hours,” the statement said.
Abiy also called on civilians in the region to stand with national forces against a “few greedy individuals that are seeking impunity”. Ethiopia believes Tigray’s government is hoping to bolster its side of the story by leading national defense forces into committing collateral damage to lives, property as well as historical and cultural sites.
Tigray is eponymously named after the ethnic group who call the northern regional state their home. The Tigray ethnic group constitutes only about 5% of the country’s population but it is thought to probably the richest. Tigray is represented by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which used to be led by former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
The TPLF backed out of a governing coalition headed by the current prime minister over disagreements with Ahmed. These disagreements have since devolved into violent tensions.
Lawmakers in the country’s parliament have also proposed deliberating on a motion that seeks to characterize the TPLF as a terrorist organization.
The north of the country holds the bulk of Ethiopia’s military installations, a situation that resulted from the 1998 war with northern neighbor Eritrea. This has generated widespread fears that a full-on confrontation between the government and Tigrayan forces would only spark a civil war.
Ethiopia’s security is already fragile with different ethnic groups in other parts of the country clamoring for everything from inclusion in the national government to secession.