ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s military is planning to enter the Tigray regional capital of Mekelle and “eliminate” rebellious forces, a top military official said late on Friday amid diplomatic efforts to end conflict in the country’s north.
The Horn of Africa country has been gripped by war for more than a year, with federal troops and their allies battling forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party that controls Tigray.
This week, two senior U.S. diplomats flew to Addis Ababa to push for a ceasefire based on early signs of a thaw in relations between the warring parties, including the release of political prisoners.
The country will not be peaceful until the TPLF is wiped out, General Abbebo Tades, deputy army chief of the Ethiopian Defense Forces (EDF), said in an interview with state media Fana late on Friday.
“Tigray is part of Ethiopia and no force will stop us from entering. We will enter and we will eliminate the enemy. There shouldn’t be any confusion about this,” he said.
“The people of Ethiopia shouldn’t think that it is over, it is not over. The main thing here is we have stopped because we have to prepare ourselves. This enemy is still there, and it has to be absolutely eliminated. We will not negotiate with them.”
The TPLF’s spokesman, Getachew Reda, could not be reached for a comment on the military official’s remarks.Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The TPLF says Abiy wants to end the country’s ethnically-based federal government system while Abiy says the TPLF is hungry to seize the national power it once held.
For months, the two sides have been in a precarious stalemate, with sporadic fighting from time to time. TPLF forces controlled most of Tigray, but were surrounded by hostile forces from neighbouring Afar and Amhara allied with federal forces.
The conflict, which erupted in November 2020, has displaced millions and sparked widespread hunger.
There have been several diplomatic and political efforts to end it in recent months, including pressure from the United States to reconcile the two countries.