Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power promising real democracy, promoting women and feverishly planting trees across his vast country, snapping up the Nobel Peace Prize along the way.
But Abiy’s image of a modern, peacemaking reformer risks shattering entirely now that he has sent troops and warplanes into Ethipia’s Tigray region, a move analysts fear could push Africa’s second most populous country into a long, devastating civil war.
Abiy, 44, announced the campaign last week, saying it came in response to an attack by Tigray’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), on two federal military camps, an accusation the party denies.
A communications blackout in Tigray has made it difficult to verify competing claims on the ground.
Yet officials say hundreds of people have been killed, and the UN is warning of a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation as thousands flee across the border into neighbouring Sudan.
With world leaders calling for an immediate halt to fighting and for dialogue, Abiy has held fast to his position that, as his office said Thursday, the “cruelty” of the TPLF “cannot be addressed or redressed by sitting at a table for a negotiation”.
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