Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has given the rebel forces of Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) 72 hours to surrender before an offensive by the government troops is launched. According to BBC, the Ethiopian Army has warned some 5,00,000 residents of Mekelle, Tigray's capital, to leave the city as there would be heavy military action after the next 72 hours.
The Ethiopian prime minister has rejected an offer for talks initiated by South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is currently the African Union chairman, saying that his administration doesn't "negotiate with criminals". Abiy has urged the Tigray people to come forward in support of government forces in bringing the "criminal group" to justice.
The conflict, which started earlier this month, has so far killed hundreds and displaced thousands of people. The conflict has caused civilians to flee to neighbouring Sudan and has raised concerns about health safety amid the ongoing pandemic. The immediate tensions in the region were sparked after the ruling TPLF party, which is a heavily armed group, allegedly attacked a military base of the federal forces on November 4.
Relations between TPLF and the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in the centre soured after the latter announced reforms to end ethnic federalism in the country. Ahmed dissolved the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, which had ruled the country for 30 years, and created a new Prosperity Party by merging all regional parties. The creation of the Prosperity Party meant a reduction of TPLF's influence at the federal level, which prompted the powerful regional organisation to refuse to join the party.
The relations worsened after Prime Minister Ahmed postponed all elections in the country due to COVID-19 concerns, however, the TPLF held the parliamentary polls in Tigray in September defying the central government's orders.
Now with the federal government forces launching an offensive in Tigray, the international community and all concerned parties are closely watching the development. The United Nations has warned of a humanitarian crisis if the fighting is not stopped, estimating some more than 2,00,000 people to be displaced.
(Image Credit: AP)