Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict forces refugees to flee
NAIROBI (KENYA) – Refugees fled to Sudan on Tuesday and the African Union appealed for a ceasefire in a north Ethiopian region where Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is waging a military offensive against local leaders defiant of his authority.
About 2,500 Ethiopians have escaped across the border to Sudan from fighting in the restive Tigray region, with the exodus likely to swell fast, an official said.
Hundreds have died in air strikes and fighting amid fears that Ethiopia could slide into civil war given deep animosity between the Tigrayans and Abiy, who comes from the largest Oromo ethnic group.
With access blocked to Tigray and communications largely down, it was hard to verify the state of the conflict.
State media said federal forces had captured Humera airport, near the borders with Sudan and Eritrea, along with a road leading from the town. The Ethiopian Press Agency posted photos that it said showed federal soldiers, backed by forces from the neighbouring Amhara region, at the airport.
However, Humera residents were going about their lives normally, according to a communications office of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which governs the state of more than 5 million people.
State affiliated broadcaster FANA said Ethiopia had arrested 17 military officers for disrupting communications systems used by federal forces in Tigray, exposing them to potential harm.
Abiy, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, ordered air strikes and sent troops into Tigray last week after accusing the TPLF of attacking a military base. Tigrayans say Abiy’s government oppresses and discriminates against them and behaved autocratically in postponing a national election.