Conflicts & War

Thousands more displaced as Ethiopia’s conflict spreads

By Desalegn Sisay

Addis Ababa, Aug 20 (EFE).- When rebels from Tigray battling Ethiopia’s central government seized control of his hometown in the neighboring region of Amhara, Derebe Wonde fled to avoid being forcibly recruited into the Tigrinya army.

“After taking the city (Kobo), the Tigray Defense Forces convened a meeting with the young men, but they didn’t allow any of them to return, instead they were taken to other places and gave them military training for three days,” Derebe told Efe by telephone.

The war that broke out last November between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the government of President Abiy Ahmed expanded last month into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar.

Derebe made his way 160 km (99 mi) from Kobo to Dessie, an Amhara city of more than 200,000 people where roughly 55,000 conflict refugees are currently being housed in makeshift shelters, Deputy Mayor Sayed Yusuf confirmed to Efe.

Last November, Abiy ordered a full-scale offensive after the TPLF seized an army base in Tigray, the culmination of months of tensions between the federal and regional governments.

TPLF troops retreated to secure redoubts in the face of the rapid advance of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF), only to re-emerge later and renew the conflict.

On June 28, Abiy announced a “unilateral humanitarian cease-fire” and the withdrawal of the ENDF from Tigray’s capital, Mekele, and other cities.

But Amhara regional militias fighting alongside the ENDF decided to remain in Tigray with the aim of maintaining control of seized Tigrinya territory.

The TPLF responded with a major operation to re-take the lost areas and soon pushed into Amhara and Afar.

Another Kobo resident who found a haven in Dessie is Bezuye Feleke, a young mother who managed to get out with her child.

“Well, I came here because the war escalated so much in my region and we were watching painful things that I can’t bear. So I escaped and came here to Dessie,” she told Efe.

She said that she feared a repetition of the atrocities that occurred last November in Mai-Kadra, Tigray, where the TPLF massacred as many as 700 Amharas, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.

“Pregnant women were delivering babies on the middle of the road. We were so dried up. There is no water, no food, some people died because of that along the road in,” Bezuye said, recounting her journey from Kobo.

Authorities in Dessie say the federal government is not providing them with any assistance to deal with the influx of war refugees.

“We have received support from the federal government nor from any humanitarian organization,” the deputy mayor said. “We are now mobilizing the public and the store owners to support and feed the internally displaced people.”

Gebrekidan Asrat, an ethnic Amhara, came to Dessie from Alamata, a city in southern Tigray to which the Amhara region lays claim.

“We came here in Dessie because the junta (TPLF) has captured Alamata now and among us who live there are many supporters of TPLF. So if we stayed there we will be their first target and they will kill us,” he explained to Efe. EFE ya/dr

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