By Our Reporter
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed says he will now lead his troops “from the battle front” as the year-long conflict moves closer to the capital, Addis Ababa.
“Starting tomorrow, (today) I will mobilise to the front to lead the defence forces,” Mr Abiy, said in a statement posted on Twitter late on Monday.
“Those who want to be among the Ethiopian children, who will be hailed by history, rise up for your country today. Let’s meet at the front,” he added.
It came after the ruling Prosperity Party’s executive committee met on Monday to discuss the war. The defence minister told local media after the meeting that security forces would be embarking on a “different action” over the conflict.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has dismissed Mr Abiy’s statement. Its spokesman, Getachew Reda, said that “our forces won’t relent on their inexorable advance towards bringing [Abiy’s] chokehold on our people to an end”.
Since last November, the government and rebel forces have been engaged in a war that started in Tigray and spread into neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions.
The TPLF has formed an alliance with other insurgent groups including the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) as the conflict has drawn nearer to the capital.
Special envoys from the African Union and the US have been trying to broker a ceasefire in recent days but there has been little progress so far.
The conflict has killed thousands of people, forced millions from their homes and hundreds of thousands others are facing famine.
Just a few minutes ago, Abiy Ahmed said he was setting off, in person, to march on the battlefield, and to lead the defence of his country.
His startling announcement came as rebel forces claimed they were advancing on at least four fronts, towards the capital, Addis Ababa.
The Ethiopian government has denied that the rebels – led by forces from the war and famine-ravaged northern region of Tigray – are making progress.
But the tone of the prime minister’s speech – lashing out at unnamed local and foreign enemies – carried both an air of defiance and, to some, of desperation.
A state of emergency has already been declared. And there are reports that the rebels are close to disrupting the main supply route into the capital.
Just two years ago, Mr Abiy won a Nobel Prize for his leadership of a rising African giant. Today, he’s asking his countrymen to stand up and fight for the nation’s very existence.