By Theodore Jones –
In an apparent rebuttal to international ceasefire appeals, Ethiopia’s government said Thursday it was on the verge of triumph in its year-long battle against Tigrayan rebels and pledged to fight on.
“This is not a country that will disintegrate under the weight of foreign propaganda! We are in the midst of an existential conflict! “Following rebel groups’ advances towards the capital, the government’s communications office posted on Facebook.
The belligerent declaration might derail prospects for a negotiated settlement between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.
It came on the first day of a two-day visit by Jeffrey Feltman, US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, that is intended to facilitate dialogue among the warring parties.
On Wednesday the TPLF announced it had reached the town of Kemissie in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, 325 kilometres northeast of Addis Ababa.
Spokesman Getachew Reda said the TPLF was working in the area alongside the Oromo Liberation Army rebel group, which on Wednesday predicted Addis Ababa could fall in a matter of weeks.
But Thursday’s statement from the government painted an entirely different picture of the current battlefield dynamic, saying the TPLF was “encircled” and close to defeat.
“A rat that strays far from its hole is nearer to its death,” the statement said, apparently referring to TPLF offensives that have advanced well beyond the northernmost Tigray region in recent months.
“Our people, realising that we are in the final chapter of saving Ethiopia, should continue their heroic struggle,” the statement said.
Lawmakers earlier Thursday endorsed a six-month state of emergency that could empower officials to conscript “any military age citizen who has weapons”.
“After a year of war, the Ethiopian conflict is at an incredibly dangerous point, with no side showing signs of backing down,” said William Davison, a senior analyst on Ethiopia with the International Crisis Group.